A door opened, and scores of people streamed out of a classroom into a two-person-wide corridor lined with colorful oil and acrylic paintings, watercolors, collages, and prints.
On their way elsewhere, unless they closed their eyes while walking, their field of vision had to pick up some of the art, even if they didn’t stop, even if the images popped into only a corner of their eye.
A music student on his way to a class had seen these images five or six times, in transit. Yet this time he stopped, and really looked.
That was the scene at Thursday night’s opening reception at “Seen,” the new exhibition mounted on a single running wall along an up-a-ramp, down-a-ramp corridor off the quadrangle at the Institute for Sacred Music (ISM).
The show runs through May 21 at 409 Prospect St.
The show makes the case that a busy, people-filled corridor, traditionally a transitional space, can be a more intense, interactive, and intimate venue to view art than a traditional gallery dedicated to quiet, hushed viewing.
That certainly is the idea that Jon Seals, the ISM student curator of the exhibition (pictured with son Leo), hoped to put out there.
“Those who pass through the corridors of Yale Divinity School and the Institute of Sacred Music are training their minds, bodies, and spirits to see and respond, both inwardly and outwardly, and to become conscious of their own perceptual limitations and advantages,” he said in a prepared statement on the theme of his show.
Seals, who aspires to run his own gallery after he graduates later this year, has turned necessity into opportunity. ISM’s traditional gallery space has been temporarily liberated for other purposes, so that all that remains for exhibiting the artwork of the 100 ISM students is that long corridor.
A teacher and a painter himself, who works at the Yale University Art Gallery, Seals gathered his corridor crew, whom he called “kindred spirits,” to show in the long hallway.
He warned them the space was unorthodox, but all the artists, like Camille Hoffman (pictured), an MFA candidate at the Yale School of Art, bought in and pronounced the idea cool.
“I was very excited,” said Hoffman, who, like Richey and Obee, were no strangers to showing in non-traditional spaces. “I’ve shown in a few hallways, but never the Divinity School,” she said, as people paused to chat with her, side-step her, and to look at “Folding Time,” one of Hoffman’s multi-layered, intricate and whimsical works in the show.
“My work is very detail-oriented. This configuration, this traffic benefits the work,” she added.
Seals seconded that as he played catch-up with his son, who found the corridor ideal for racing.
“It creates movement, intimacy with the work. People are bumping shoulders,” he said. “When that class lets out, a hundred people see the work. I’m not opposed [to a traditional gallery], but why a hallway? Because we have it.”
ISM organ student Wesley Hall agreed as he stood in front of “Vertical Stack #2” by Perry Obee.
“I’m often in a rush. I take in bits and pieces. I notice things I didn’t see [when I actually, finally stop]. I’m really confused,” he said as he pondered a detail of Obee’s geometric work that seems to mix Giorgio Morandi-influenced stillness with a chaotic architecture.
“This piece is pointing in so many directions,” said Hall (pictured).
“I’m counting nine or ten spatial roles. It’s boggling my mind. It’s becoming so much more complex,” he said as sidestepped a passerby and made sure he didn’t spill his glass of white wine. “It’s energetic. It’s maybe tipping toward me.”
Was Hall upset with the sidestepping and the interrupted viewing?
“Having distraction really helps you focus,” he answered.
Not all corridors are equal, of course. The Art Council’s Gallery 195, a dismally lit and deserted non-public floor on the fourth floor of the First Niagara Bank building, for example, is a rectangular tomb for art.
If you want to join the happy bumping, speeding, distracted, and yet intimate art-viewing crowd, the show is viewable during regular school hours.
Be sure to signal if you’re slowing down or changing lanes.