Visitors can witness a new Hammer Museum installation before they even enter the galleries.
“Up Close in Distance,” designed by Yunhee Min, will be on display in the Hammer until Oct. 27. With a design involving pools of paint in differing colors, it is the museum’s first project to be incorporated primarily into the lobby’s floor and staircase. Min, a traditional painter and installation artist based in Los Angeles, said side projects such as “Up Close in Distance” present an opportunity to pursue projects that are not limited by the same constraints as her conventional works.
“(Designing the project) is one of the things that’s interesting for me about doing side projects, because I get to work in a way that I can’t in the studio by myself,” Min said. “So I learned about different processes, technology, fabrication and materials.”
Min’s traditional paintings focus on color, with some projects requiring days of paint mixing to achieve the desired color and consistency. Though Min said “Up Close in Distance” did not require such extensive color preparation, there were multiple other steps involved in creating the piece. Using an entire manufacturing line of enamel paints, Min started by pouring the paint onto a 1% scale model of the lobby. After it dried, a photographer took up-close digital photos of the model. A digital graphics provider then digitally stitched the photos together and printed them onto vinyl flooring for the final installation.
The assembly process also required practical considerations. Adam Peña, the Hammer Museum’s manager of exhibition design and production, said installing the project involved addressing both production and aesthetic problems. For instance, Peña said some details would be lost within the triangular wedge where each step meets the wall. To solve the problem, Min made each wedge a solid color, also placing similarly colored rectangular bars lining the stairs. Min said her design choice calls attention to the architecture while also providing visitors a reference palette of all the colors she used.
The title “Up Close in Distance” directly references the photography aspect of the installation, in that the photos needed to be taken up close in order for the project to be clearly viewed from a distance, Min said. To completely capture the details of the model, she said the camera had to be positioned very close to the surface, beyond the typical viewing distance for the human eye. When designing the layout, Min said she took the dynamic nature of the lobby into consideration, viewing it as a transitional space that evokes a sense of anticipation or excitement.
Though the project is focused mostly on the floor and stairs of the Hammer Museum’s lobby, Min said she wanted to incorporate her art throughout the entire space. Min painted the three walls surrounding the staircase a light pink color, which gives the space a subtle glow and creates a sense of volume, she said. Though any color could have been used, she said, the color had to be very close to the default white to be nearly imperceptible. Additionally, Min said she wanted the installation to have a distinct presence that worked against the architecture. For instance, Min said the pattern of the vinyl flooring contrasts the architecture of the space by not aligning itself with the steps.
Priscilla Marin, a fifth-year sociology student visiting the Hammer, said she hadn’t given much attention to the installation because of its incorporation in the floor. The variety of colors complemented each other, but despite seeing the vibrant colors, Marin said the installation’s placement on the floor gave it a subtler presence.
Min said the installation is open to interpretation since everyone experiences color differently. Given the installation’s location in the lobby, she said she hopes visitors have an unexpected experience with a piece of artwork that makes them more aware of the space around them.
“I like that with color, it involves your body,” Min said. “That it is not about a particular message or information, but that it really is anchored or grounded in feeling something through sensation.”