Art Comes to Emerson

Boylston scaffolding gets a makeover

by Jaclyn Diaz / Beacon Staff • September 6, 2012

Scaffolding ryan
Scaffolding on Boylston St.
Scaffolding on Boylston St.

The intersection of Boylston and Tremont is congested with tourists, office workers headed to their 9 to 5, and Emerson students rushing to their morning class on any given weekday morning. Ordinarily, this wouldn’t be considered a place to find the newest contemporary art exhibit.

 In an effort to transform the skeleton scaffolding surrounding the Little Building, Emerson College installed a banner and light show created by two contemporary artists, Yoon Lee and John Powell. Lee created the 300-foot banner and Powell the light show.

 Powell’s text walk hangs from the scaffolding’s interior walkway, serving as an addition to the banner surrounding the exterior scaffolding. The panels display quotes from Emerson alumni from The Emersonian, Emerson’s yearbook.

 Emerson’s visual and media arts Lois and Henry Foster chair, Joseph Ketner, the commissioning process for the installations was a long time coming. A series of administrative red tape as well as city codes that the project had to adhere to delayed installation.

 “I thought of Yoon Lee from the beginning because I was familiar with her work and knew she could create a dynamic art piece that was exaggerated and energetic because that’s the format of her work,” said Ketner.

 Lee’s pieces tend to use exaggerated lines: horizontal, vertical, and criss-crossing all merging in a rampageous scene. Beneath these lines, Lee often combines elements of bright color, sketches and photographs, all adding to the combustion of ardor.

 “He saw my work at Pierogi Gallery’s new place called The Boiler in Williamsburg. I had a large-scale painting there being shown called ‘JFK’ and he contacted me three years ago to create this piece,” said Lee.  

 Lee’s banner was installed May 14 and Powell’s text walk was installed in late August.

 “What I understood from Joe was that it was one of the busiest intersections in Boston. A lot of pedestrian traffic merging with automobile traffic and a lot of energy and chaos,” Lee said. “My idea for the work was to create a merging of energy and something very chaotic that has an underlying order and beauty.” 

 Although reactions of passers-by vary — a man wearing studded loafers stared at the work and pretended to vomit — the work seems oddly at home in its current exhibit space. It seems that to fresh eyes the scaffolding adds a certain color to the bare bones construction. 

“It brightens up the construction. I have no complaints,” said Jackson Marchant, a freshman visual and media arts major.

Chris Macken, a sophomore film major, prefers the scaffolding without the banner. 

“It takes away from the beauty of the Little Building. It adds to the madness of downtown Boston. It’s overwhelming.”

The choice to install this work by Lee is not completely unexpected. Boylston and Tremont, where overzealous drivers weave through traffic and over-caffeinated students jaywalk to Ansin, is a place where color and energy are constantly intersecting.

Despite some critisism, Ketner said he is happy with the piece. 

 Ketner disclosed plans to have an interactive laser show provided by artist, sculptor and designer Balint Bolygo. As of now the plans for the installation are still being discussed.