Hanging work for an exhibition


The Shadow Hole

Yearly college students and employees debate over the hanging of labor. So, earlier than we hit exhibition season some issues to think about.

Hanging drawings and work is in regards to the building of a really shallow house for skinny objects to be skilled inside. Central to an understanding of this house, is the truth that bodily and perceptually all our earth certain experiential areas are ‘anisotropic’. I.e. these areas exhibit properties with completely different values when measured in numerous instructions. For these of us that inhabit a large bodily object such because the planet Earth, which means that the experiences we’ve of upwardness are very completely different to the experiences we’ve of downwardness, primarily due to the consequences of gravity. Most exhibition areas will rely on partitions, skinny objects, designed to have the ability to fight the consequences of gravity and it’s due to this fact the wall itself that shall be of preliminary concern. *

If you’re ever involved with working an expert gallery house you’ll at one time or one other in all probability have an argument in regards to the want for a ‘shadow hole’ and the shadow hole is all about how we take into consideration visible weight.  So what is that this about? 

Bauhaus instructing was based mostly on a return to elementary ideas of visible language. Artists resembling Paul Klee made diagrams to make clear what was taking place after which later theorists resembling Rudolf Arnheim, tried to take these concepts and refine them additional. 

Paul Klee

As you’ll be able to see from Klee’s drawing above, all our experiences are to begin with experiences which have to answer a power that drags every part in the direction of the centre of the Earth. (Plummet and steadiness). Nonetheless, as Klee factors on the market are additionally areas of freer motion and dynamism. Rudolf Arnheim wrote a number of books attempting to clarify intimately how this works, however earlier than we take a look at what he needed to say, maybe we have to re-look at our wall. 

Wall with shadow hole

A wall with no visible break between itself and the ground is phenomenologically extra ‘actual’ than with out. It exerts its ‘presence’ and it has ‘weight’. In the event you add a skirting board, this brings to the scenario as Klee places it, ‘a freer motion and dynamism’. The skirting board will be considered the cuff on the finish of your shirt sleeve, it visually finishes off a size of fabric, it zips across the edge and varieties a visible cease to a vertical fall. Nonetheless so as to do that it contains an additional bodily factor and in doing so, provides visible litter. 

Wall with and with out skirting.

If you’re a sculptor, the wall assembly the ground with out a hole is ok, particularly in case your work is in regards to the actuality of the supplies used and their relation to gravity. In sculptural phrases, the skirting board appears naff as a result of it’s attempting to cover the fact of the scenario. Nonetheless in an ornamental inside, the place the partitions are sometimes considered an ornamental fantasy, the skirting and because it extends itself, the dado, might be important. The modernist ideally suited begins with a horror of ornament, (locations the place germs can cover), and it espouses a fact to materials aesthetic, a kind of ‘what you see is what you get’ aesthetic sensibility. Nonetheless, the ‘White Dice’ of an exhibition house, we have been all taught by Brian O’Doherty will not be impartial, so even earlier than we get to hold something on these partitions, we enter a contested house, one which the shadow hole debate highlights as an oscillating bodily and religious drama. With out it a wall exerts its full visible weight, with it the wall is ‘floated’ right into a extra aesthetic or contemplative house. Some artists regard their work as speaking initially through a sure ‘objectness’ or a bodily presence, some regard their work extra as a window inside which they want an viewers to ponder an concept. Selection of wall and the place an object goes on that wall, is due to this fact very important to their aesthetic sensibility. 

The skirting board ‘framing’ the wall.

If you’re to treat the wall as each a bodily actuality and likewise as a particular house inside which different ‘aesthetic’ guidelines apply, the shadow can hole enable this. On the one hand it introduces no new bodily factor into the scenario, besides ‘a niche’. This hole visually separates the wall from the ground and the one different time we see this occur is when weight is supported by different issues. 

A big object with shadow gaps between the perimeters of a pallet’s wood helps

Usually if we eliminated the wood blocks that maintain up the field it should drop down, but when we do and it would not drop, we’ve a scenario whereby one thing invisible is holding it up and that is vital because it opens a query within the thoughts, maybe a small one, however one which questions gravity and weight and our perceptual consciousness. “May it’s”, our mind asks of the shadow hole, “that this wall is floating?” A query that’s each a bodily one and a metaphysical one, which is why generally the shadow hole can work for each varieties of work. It’s a very contested factor and nobody has ever had a definitive resolution. 

You will have in all probability already labored out that several types of photos or work, must be constructed on several types of floor and that you may assert or undermine the physicality of the work you might be exhibiting, by to begin with giving consideration to the wall towards which the work will sit. However what kind of consideration? Floor texture, lighting, dimensions, color, proportion or edge high quality, all of this stuff will visually form our expertise. For Rudolf Arnheim every part seen is a part of a visible subject of forces and these forces are attractors that power us to look in sure methods. Subsequently all of the formal parts that underpin visible considering will be bundled collectively as the varied parts that make up fields of visible power dynamics. 

Rudolf Arnheim believed that notion and thought act reciprocally. If he was taking a look at our wall he would in all probability direct our consideration to the diagram beneath of the visible forces at play.

If we’re confronted with only a sq. wall with nothing hooked up to it, Arnheim would to begin with visualise the forces working as concentric circles emanating out from the centre. Nonetheless he would level out that on the similar time we’ve an consciousness of verticality, therefore a sequence of vertical traces of power function in relation to the vertical edges of the wall and horizontal ones in relation to prime and backside. Thus power each radiates from a centre and strikes horizontally and vertically. New centres start to radiate out when new moments of consciousness come into focus. For example the corners of the wall are dynamic spots as a result of a robust horizontal meets a robust vertical. These are the wall’s radiating forces and are what we disturb after we start hanging work. We in impact puncture the dynamics by inflicting adjustments in visible weight as we usher in work to place onto the wall.

As quickly as you started placing something onto the wall, Arnheim would in all probability direct your consideration to the gestalt idea of visible steadiness. 

Gestalt idea of visible steadiness

As you’ll be able to see from this, Arnheim if hanging photos on the wall, would take a look at steadiness in relation to an invisible fulcrum. If utilized to a wall and its cling, you might need a scenario such because the one beneath. The bigger tall rectangle is nearer to the centre as a result of it has extra visible weight and due to this fact it may be balanced by a smaller sq. additional off centre. 

The invisible fulcrum is central to the width of the wall

Nonetheless if the smaller sq. begins to exhibit an additional visible high quality, resembling a color, this adjustments its visible weight. In an effort to steadiness this, the bigger rectangle has to maneuver to the proper.

A much less color saturated bigger rectangle balancing a extremely color saturated smaller sq.

Nonetheless this doesn’t take into consideration our intuitive consciousness of gravity or the total vector impact in relation to the fields of enticing power within the diagram additional above. 

Taking a look at our intuitive consciousness of gravity first; the spacing of a body round a picture typically takes that into consideration. In “Framing Photos” by J.T. Burns, it states {that a} margin round an image must be 7.5 cms on the prime and sides and eight.8 cms on the base. The rationale for not having the margin equal on all 4 sides is defined like so: “The additional width on the backside creates an optical steadiness with out which the bottom seems to be narrower than it truly is.” (p.40) In ‘An Introduction to Image Framing’ by Vivien Frank, the recommended dimensions of the edges and prime are given as 8 cms, and the underside 9 cms. (p. 30) and Peter Bingham’s “Image Framing” states, ‘if a mat is minimize with all its borders equal in width, the underside border will seem narrower than the highest. That is an optical phantasm, however one which must be compensated for.’ (p.34) Non of those books on framing attempt to clarify how or why this ‘optical phantasm’ exists. 

As a result of every part on the planet has a deep relation to gravity, specific varieties have come about. In an effort to stand up towards gravity, moderately than crawl alongside the bottom, human beings, like so many shifting animals have developed with bi-lateral symmetry. If you wish to stand erect, you have to align your self to the plumb-line of gravity. Think about a wall trying to maintain standing if it was constructed off vertical. If a wall is constructed upright or on flat floor, the centre of gravity (blue dot) is instantly above the centre level of the wall’s foundations (yellow dot), so the wall is steady. But when a wall is constructed on sloping floor, the centre of gravity is now not above the centre of the bottom. Now gravity (crimson arrow) creates a second (inexperienced arrow) that ideas the wall over. The upper the wall, the better the mass above the centre of gravity, the better the turning power and the extra probability the wall will collapse. Bilateral symmetry permits the wall and ourselves to face up tall with out having to have a large base. 

We all know this proper all the way down to our bones, as a result of for this reason we’re the form we’re and all that effort to stand up, has additionally resulted to our fundamental sense organs being situated as far up as they could possibly be. 

A six foot excessive human in relation to a 12 foot excessive wall

Nonetheless, due to the facility of gravity, all of the bone engineering evolution that has been undertaken over hundreds of thousands of years has solely allowed us to boost our sense organs up just a few ft. Excellent weight-reduction plan has seen the typical top improve not too long ago, besides the typical male top within the UK is barely 5ft 9in and the typical feminine top is now 5ft 3in. Subsequently the determine within the diagram above is barely too tall even for a male, however the large difficulty would not change. Even when we have been wanting on the world’s tallest man, Sultan Kösen, who’s 8 ft 2.82 in tall, his eyes can’t be greater above the bottom than 8 ft. Our fundamental visible consciousness of gravity influenced indications is in that space beneath the eyes, and as we glance up, and up and up, we’ll in fact ultimately be capable to see so far as the solar or the celebs, an nearly compared, infinite distance. We glance down and there are limits, and inside these limits we’re additionally used to searching for issues that may impact us. Due to gravity, a big a part of the lively world lies near the bottom and right here we’d discover snakes.

Psychologically this has formed the way in which we expect. The quantity of blue sky we are able to see will be associated to our moods. We will really feel oppressed or fenced in on darkish days with low cloud cowl. It’s conversely exhilarating to climb to the highest of a hill and look down upon the world. Once we really feel down or depressed we are able to are inclined to stroll with our heads down, however when excited and joyful we preserve our heads up. 

All of this relates again to the wall that we’re about to hold work on and why framers like to go away barely more room on the backside of the picture. I bear in mind going to Glasgow College of Artwork for one among their diploma exhibits again when the Macintosh Constructing hadn’t burnt down. One of many first issues I seen was that the partitions that had been erected for the present have been 12 ft excessive. I had solely seen this as soon as earlier than for a level present and this was at Chelsea again within the late 70s. Two vertical 8 by 4 ft boards, had been topped by a horizontal one. Each Chelsea and Glasgow prided themselves on the professionalism of their presentation and the additional top modified every part when it got here to the precise expertise of the work.  

Rising the peak of the wall

I perceive that it’s not all the time life like or inexpensive to extend wall top, however in case you can embody wall top in together with your presentation considering, resembling stipulating that you have to present on a wall of at the least x ft excessive, be sure you achieve this. 

The additional top provides the exhibition house the potential to change into psychologically spiritually uplifting, at 8ft it’s nonetheless firmly rooted into our human house, 
Sultan Kösen would as an example discover it stage together with his eyes. At 12 ft the partitions are tall sufficient to visually and due to this fact mentally, launch us from gravity’s attraction. I.e. when you have any management over the scenario, be certain the partitions you present on are of a good top. On a smaller scale, in case you are framing a picture, take into consideration lifting it visually by giving more room beneath the picture than above. 

The brand new place of the 2 rectangles makes us extra conscious of the decrease a part of the wall, which can or will not be acceptable to the work; which now brings us again to these ‘fields of enticing power’. 

Ian Davenport

Beginning on the backside of the wall, work resembling Ian Davenport’s is so gravity acutely aware that the wall towards which it may be proven can’t have shadow gaps. The verticality of the paint stripes actually runs downwards, as a result of that’s the manner the paint runs. The visible dynamics of the work are compressed right into a rectangle with a damaged backside edge. The portray, in impact is handled as you’ll a sculpture. 

John McCracken

I first noticed John McCracken’s work within the ‘Artwork of the Actual’ exhibition on the Tate Gallery within the late Nineteen Sixties. His work have been strong blocks of color and he merely lent them towards the wall. Discover within the picture above the gallery has given the wall towards which the work rests a shadow hole. This permits the work two contradictory readings. It has reasserted its ‘objectness’ by turning into like a plank lent towards a wall, however this isn’t simply any wall, this can be a gallery wall, extra weightless than a standard one, topic to aesthetic regard, thus elevating the blue into the realm of color subject portray and different ‘painterly’ issues. McCracken put it like this, “I see the plank as present between two worlds, the ground representing the bodily world of standing objects, bushes, vehicles, buildings, [and] human our bodies, … and the wall representing the world of the creativeness, illusionist portray house, [and] human psychological house.”

It is vitally helpful to check McCracken’s use of the wall/ground angle with Chris Ofili’s. Ofili typically used to relaxation his photos on exhausting dried elephant dung that had a varnish utilized over it. This was in fact symbolically vital, however by elevating the work from the ground on this manner the work got a niche or house between themselves and the ground, due to this fact though the dung provides the work related earthy weight, they declare affinity to the wall, as McCracken put it, to “the world of the creativeness, illusionist portray house, the human psychological house.” 

Nonetheless Ofili’s work is figurative, ‘No Lady, No Cry’ is a portrait of an actual mom, and though the artist has solely painted the highest half of her physique, the remainder of her can within the thoughts be seen as extending down into the bottom beneath the 2 balls of elephant dung; balls that declare the bottom for a uniquely African animal, a floor from which traditionally this girl might make a declare as coming from. 

The compositional impact of incomplete figures inside a picture, complicates the lever system that’s utilized by the gestalt idea of visible steadiness. As Arnheim places it, ‘the balancing of weights inside a portray doesn’t rely merely on the purely quantitative extent of the areas….however moderately on the load and site of the centres provided by the visible objects….If, nevertheless, the given elements of an object level compellingly towards a centre outdoors the body, that centre, though not seen, will take part with its weight and site within the play of compositional forces.’ (Arnheim, 2009, P.62) Arnheim was writing about composition inside a portray, however precisely the identical factor applies to the balancing of photos when developing the composition of a wall of work.

Maybe earlier than we start to maneuver our portray onto the wall, we should always return to the concept of the peak of human beings. The three work we’ve simply checked out all had a transparent relationship with the ground in addition to the wall. They made us conscious of our ft in addition to our heads. Once we take a look at a free floating picture, whether or not its centre is above or beneath our centre of imaginative and prescient, goes to be an vital a part of the expertise. So, going again to the peak statistics, the common male 5ft 9in and common feminine 5ft 3in, common top is due to this fact 5ft 6in and common eye stage is roughly 3 inches beneath that at 5ft 3in. Which implies that something above 5ft 3 inches requires an individual of common top to be wanting upwards. This, it appears to me causes a right away drawback. We aren’t all of common top and if my private expertise is expounded to my top, an expertise designed for somebody not my top shall be incorrect for me. 

Athena Cooper displays work in ‘Can You See Us Vancouver?’ 

The hanging top was determined upon by the featured artists, who have been all wheelchair customers 

The actual fact is at Leeds Arts College the vast majority of folks wanting on the partitions shall be feminine, so ought to the peak for eye stage be 5 ft? Or is eye stage the incorrect manner to consider a selected top? In the event you log on you will see that that the golden rule for hanging an image is to have the centre of the picture at 57 inches. The web site I checked out goes on to say, “this displays the usual eye-height of the typical particular person, and is used as a normal in most artwork galleries and museums.” Which is an attention-grabbing declare because it suggests common top is barely 60 inches or 5 ft tall. For quite a lot of causes 57 inches is usually the museum normal and a measuring stick minimize to 57 inches was at one time all the time obtainable to be used within the studio every time we have been hanging work and any deviation from that as a centre needed to be fastidiously argued for. 

Centre cling at 57 inches on an 8 ft excessive wall

Through the use of the 57 inch rule and centring every part we get what I name an inside designer’s cling. It appears good and would not make something stand out, i.e. all of the work ‘suits in’. That is typically the cling of consensus as a result of it kind of is okay. 

Lets evaluate it to a horizontal rule, whereby we cling alongside a line. 

The invisible shelf

The invisible washing line

Setting photos towards an invisible line suggests some kind of invisible resistance and due to this fact means that you can give extra weight to the photographs. 

Laercio Redondo   

You might in fact as a substitute of an invisible shelf, put an actual skinny shelf alongside the gallery wall and lean the work towards it, simply as how Laercio Redondo  has executed above. After I used to run the Workshop Press Gallery, for his exhibition Benedict Phillips erected one steady slim shelf of an analogous design to Redondo’s, that went proper across the 4 gallery partitions. Guests have been allowed to then curate their very own partitions by merely carrying the work from one wall to a different, sliding works to at least one facet and inserting new work within the gaps. This works for work or photos on boards, however would not work so nicely for works on canvas.

Amy Sillman

Or within the case of Amy Sillman she has made actual the invisible washing line. This could work for un-stretched canvas or works on paper, however once more, not so good for works on stretched canvas. 

Each these approaches work nicely if you wish to give extra bodily presence to the work. Conversely when Jill Mulleady was being proven on the Arsenale in a latest Venice Biennale her canvases have been set into the wall and made flush with their surrounding floor. 

Jill Mulleady

By sinking the photographs into the wall Mulleady is ready to get away from the ‘objectness’ of the work and in doing so seeks to realize a story unity in an analogous solution to how a sequence of wordless graphic novel photos may work collectively. I wasn’t satisfied although and if she needed to emulate graphic novels, maybe she might have had the work printed and pasted up. This was for me all about technicians proving that they might make an ideal end and that then folks would spend plenty of time wanting carefully to see if they might spot the way it was executed. I.e. I remembered the type of show moderately than the character of the work. 

Color and its saturation

As quickly as we start so as to add different parts, visible weight and related dynamics change. 

Goya and El Greco: St Peter

A to not scale comparability of Goya and El Greco. Each artists require an consciousness of gravity for us to know their photos. Goya to assist the grounding of St Peter because the rock on which the church is constructed; El Greco to assist an consciousness of St Peter’s religious arising. By inserting the 2 on the invisible shelf, Goya will get the required weight and El Greco rises appropriately. You might maybe alter the spacing however not by a lot. Arnheim’s technique of utilizing an invisible central fulcrum means we’re not tempted to even the gaps out, this creates a way more dynamic composition, permitting each photos house and an off centre rhythm inside which they are often what they must be. 

So what if we do not cling to a horizontal? 

Klara Kristalova

The dynamics of extra subtle centres

Klara Kristalova: Human moth with mirror

One other manner of coping with the necessity to cling numerous photos is to cluster them as islands.

Kara Walker

Clustering eliminates distinction and makes the person items work collectively as a unit. There may be although a definite distinction between Kara Walker’s cluster of photos and Annette Messager’s ‘My Vows’. 

My Vows (1988 – 99)

‘My Vows’ consists of plenty of small framed pictures, however we do not really feel as if this can be a manner of presenting them as a collective exhibition, by hanging them on this dense configuration they change into a brand new object, successfully a low aid sculpture. 

Hew Lock: Anonymous

Hew Lock makes use of beads and their response to gravity to offer vertical construction to his wall based mostly drawing. ‘Anonymous’ is a drawing product of bead and twine glue-gunned onto the wall. As Lock states, “It’s easy: You ship any person drawings and directions, they undertaking the picture onto the wall, hint over in pencil, after which they work the picture in beads and twine over that.” In impact the hanging supplies now change into the drawing supplies. That is maybe why I might name the centre cling at 57 inches an inside designer’s cling, it’s simply too secure. A chance to hold work can be a possibility to make new responses to what you could have already made. 

Two clusters, one the the wrong way up model of the opposite

Nonetheless, the 57 rule can be utilized extra subtlety. The left cluster units the 57 inch central to the 2 small rectangles collectively on the proper facet and the proper hand cluster sits the 57 line precisely alongside the highest fringe of the 2 rectangles now on the left facet. This provides an underlying concord to each groupings. 

However what in case you do that?

Lining up every portray’s horizon line

Or this?

Making an island object alongside a diagonal

It is solely by enjoying round with potentialities that you will see that out. Dangle only one picture at an indirect angle and the remainder at proper angles and it’ll stand out. What if a picture was hung the wrong way up? Georg Baselitz has spent over 40 years pondering that query. 

So earlier than setting off to hold your last present or exhibition out within the metropolis, do keep in mind that presentation has infinite potentialities and that the way you method this might deeply form the way in which your work is acquired. 

Worldwide Surrealist Exhibition 1938

The Most important Room of the Worldwide Surrealist Exhibition of 1938 was designed by Marcel Duchamp and Wolfgang Paalen. It took the type of a grotto or womb, a darkish house with a ceiling lowered by hanging 1200 scrunched up newspaper crammed coal luggage from the ceiling and it was partly lit by burning braziers. (Well being and security did not come into the image at the moment)


Arnheim, R., (1969) Artwork and visible notion: A psychology of the inventive eye. London: Univ of California Press.

Arnheim, R. (2009) The Energy of the Centre London: Univ of California Press

Klee, P. and Moholy-Nagy, S., (1953) Pedagogical sketchbook London: Faber & Faber.

Bingham, P. (1993) Image Framing New York: Stackpole Books

Burns, J. T. (1978) Framing Photos New York: Scribner

Frank, V. (1991) An Introduction to Image Framing London: Chartwell Home

 See additionally: 

Extra on framing and hanging

Drawing and set up

Desirous about the salon cling

Lina Bo Bardis and architectural presentation strategies * A manner of presenting work with out partitions

The frame blog An ideal weblog to get you enthusiastic about the body itself as an concept

Fixings and fittings