“Indigo Blue” consists of roughly 18,000 items of blue cotton work clothing, neatly folded and stacked on a “floating” steel platform at the center of a room."
Salvation of 'Indigo Blue' a triumph for all to see Hamilton's 'Indigo Blue' -- free of cultural limboMay 27, 2007|By Kenneth Baker
People who encounter an Ann Hamilton installation work tend never to forget it.
I can clearly recall pieces of hers that I saw in San Francisco, San Diego, Santa Barbara, Pittsburgh and -- in two settings -- in New York.
So it stunned me to learn from Hamilton that "very little of my installation work has survived in any way. The Hirshhorn (Washington, D.C.) has a piece, but there's not a lot. I think it's not perceived as the kind of thing that has a longer life. So to enter the conversation about what it means to revisit something like this and bring it forward is a really great thing for me to be able to do."
I recently spoke with Hamilton, 50, while she was working on reconstructing "Indigo Blue" at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the work was originally made in 1991 for a citywide show in Charleston, S.C.
SFMOMA hopes to acquire "Indigo Blue" in its current manifestation, rescuing it from recycling and cultural amnesia. Score another sharp collection-building move for curator Madeleine Grynsztejn if it happens.
Critical and curatorial consensus as to Hamilton's importance got corroboration from the MacArthur Foundation in 1993, when it put her in the select company of visual artists who have received the so-called genius grant. "It was an enormous gift," Hamilton said, "because it said 'you can keep doing this work that you really love doing.' "
The Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art had already staged a major show of her work in 1988.
"Indigo Blue" consists of roughly 18,000 items of blue cotton work clothing, neatly folded and stacked on a "floating" steel platform at the center of a room on SFMOMA's second floor.
At one end of the platform stands an old wood table and chair. From noon to 4 p.m. each day -- except Wednesdays when the museum is closed -- a volunteer sits silently at the table, erasing, thus effectively destroying, the pages of a book: "International Law Situations," a Naval War College publication pertaining to legally defined land and water boundaries. The book connects in Hamilton's thinking with Charleston's history as a seaport but she is also interested in the invisible activity of reading as a reflection of the invisible labor represented by the work clothes. "The books we originally used," as Hamilton said -- she has a boxful -- "are legal documents that mediate the relationship between land and water. That in-between space, and how you occupy the space of the in-between, is still very interesting to me."