A Hole in the Wall

A Hole in the Wall Exhibit

Art historian Heinrich Wölfflin once characterized painterly architecture as a collection of “broad, vague masses.” This installation adopts a similar attitude towards form. Three eight-foot tall curved walls divide the Frances Loeb Library into smaller rooms. To design the masses, the project employs inpainting, a technique common to art restoration and imaging.

In the field of art restoration, inpainting is used to fill in areas lost to damage. Conservators refer to a painting’s facture—how the artist has handled the paint—as primary source material for repair rather than to socio-historical contexts. This distances a restorer from subjective interpretation and protects a work’s authenticity. For example, restorers systematically covered gaps in Cimabue’s Crucifix with colored lines matching the palette of its remaining surface. The hatching at once reveals an accurate historical account (that the work was repaired) and removes visual distractions that an absence would otherwise draw attention to. In computer graphics, inpainting is a similar process of insertion. However, digital inpanting, in addition to recovering lost information, creates new content. Imaging algorithms seamlessly fill holes by sampling a picture’s visual patterns. Popular applications patch poor scans and erase blemishes in portraits.

A Hole in the Wall adopts both analog and digital inpainting because the former privileges accuracy and the latter embraces artifice. Moving between modes preserves formal qualities of the existing condition and allows the viewer to imagine what could exist in its place. Whether in the fiction of a flawless face or in this case, a more intimate reading room, the tension between authenticity and artifice is essential to filling in holes.

Exhibition credits

Curator: Michelle Chang, Assistant Professor of Architecture
Design Assistant: Jacqueline Wong (MArch ’22)
Director of Exhibitions: Dan Borelli
Exhibitions Coordinator: David Zimmerman-Stuart
Exhibition Installation: Ray Coffey, Jef Czekaj, Anita Kan, Sarah Lubin, Jesus Matheus, and Joanna Vouriotis
Frances Loeb Library Librarians: Ann Whiteside, Ines Zalduendo, and Alix Reiskind
CNC Assistant: MinYoung Hong (MArch ’20)