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This spring, Linn Meyers, a D.C.–based artist known for making intricate but temporary wall drawings, will create her largest site-specific work yet: a 360-degree wall drawing for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden.
The drawing will occupy some 400 linear feet of museum wall space, spanning the entire circumference of the museum’s second-floor inner-ring galleries. “Our View From Here” will open on May 12 and run for one year—at which point the entire drawing will be painted over.
The artist will begin the drawing on February 29, working during museum hours seven days a week to execute it. She estimates that the project will take her more than 600 hours all told. The artist doesn’t have a problem with the fact that the most time-intensive work of her career has a predetermined lifespan of exactly 367 days.
“It’s part of why I started making them in the first place,” Meyers says of her temporary wall-drawings. “I don’t have any uncomfortable feelings about it, but I do find that viewers are really uncomfortable with it. The idea that this work that they can see is very labor intensive is being painted over—people have complicated feelings about it.”
Meyers’s cosmic-looking drawings are greater than the sum of their parts. She makes her works one extremely fine line at a time, tracing the contours of her marks as if she were drafting a topographical map by hand. Tiny inconsistencies in her patterns add up over time to vast ripples that appear to distort her composition.
For “Our View From Here,” the composition will draw upon the Hirshhorn’s distinctive architecture, literally and metaphorically.
“The drawing I plan to make is entirely designed around that architecture,” Meyers says. The piece will echo the circular quality of the wall as well as the four openings and recessed points along the circle. “The drawing will take all of that into account,” she says. “The architecture completely drove the design.”
Meyers says that a studio visit from the museum’s chief curator, Stéphane Aquin, shortly after he took the post in early 2015 led to the opportunity. The show is consistent with plans by Aquin and museum director Melissa Chiu to activate the Hirshhorn’s architecture in unexpected ways with site-specific shows—plans that the pair discussed with City Paper in a September cover story.
In fact, Meyers’s 360-degree drawing isn’t the only circumferential show in the works at the Hirshhorn. Mark Bradford, a painter based in L.A., is painting a 360-degree fresco along the museum’s third-floor inner galleries. (Note: City Paper first reported, and the Smithsonian Institution later confirmed, that Bradford’s piece would happen on the museum’s second level; those plans have apparently changed.) From November through May 2017, the two artists’ circular shows will be on view concurrently.
At the same time, as Aquin told City Paper last fall, the museum is also planning 360-degree outdoor projections in the mold of Doug Aitken‘s popular “SONG1” piece from 2012. The museum has commissioned Christian Marclay, the artist responsible for a critically acclaimed video installation called “The Clock” (2010), to start the outdoor projection series as soon as next year.
“Our View From Here” will be Meyers’s third-major drawing for a D.C.–area museum, following site-specific works at the Phillips Collection and the American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center. To date, she executed her largest project at the University of California-Los Angeles’s Hammer Museum, a drawing that spanned 70 linear feet across (but ranged much higher than the Hirshhorn drawing will). As with other drawing installations, Meyers will create part of it in front of live viewing audiences: While the second level will be closed off for five weeks for the installation of “Robert Irwin: All Rules Will Change,” the final six weeks of Meyers’s installation will be open to the public.
Meyers doesn’t mind the crowds, but their presence doesn’t make her work a performance. “I think that people understand labor—that’s something that most people can relate to,” she says. “I can appreciate that that’s something that people who may not even be familiar with the history of art can grab on to. The enormous undertaking, though—that’s a factual piece of the project, not a conceptual piece of the project.”
It’s a significant undertaking for the Hirshhorn as well. The museum has only rarely tapped D.C. artists for solo shows, the last one being Dan Steinhilber in 2003. (The Hirshhorn mounted a retrospective of the late D.C.-area artist Anne Truitt in 2009.) A handful of D.C. artists, including Jae Ko and former resident Iona Rozeal Brown, have been featured in permanent collection installations and rotating exhibits.
“To be a part of that programming is a huge honor,” Meyers says.