Explore VMFA’s galleries to think about building and construction. The images provided show you a small part (a detail) of the whole work of art. Pick up a gallery map to help you find these 3-dimensional works of art that include different materials and methods of construction.
The "Build It!" gallery hunt and associated activities in "Constructing Art: Catching the Viewer’s Eye" examine 3-D structures and offer hands-on construction challenges.
Visit the American Art Galleries on Level 2 to find this Dressing Bureau. Experts believe it was made by Thomas Day, an African American cabinetmaker and business owner who was born into a free Black family in Virginia in 1801. How many different shapes can you find that make up this Dressing Bureau?
Go to the American Modernism area within the American Art Galleries on Level 2 and look upward to find this work of art that the artist described as “a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises.”
Can you sketch a plan for a mobile that balances shapes, while leaving them free to move in response to air currents?
Next, find this work of art in the 21st Century Art Gallery, which is next to the American Art Galleries on Level 2. How many different materials can you name that this artist used to make the Glass Lantern Slide Pavilion? How did the artist use these materials to make something that looks like a small room?
How would you change this construction to make it tell a story about your own life or neighborhood?
In a nearby area of the 21st Century Art Gallery, find this work by Elias Sime. He re-used electronic components and plastic-covered wire to make this work called Tightrope: Continuous Rotation Servos.
Can you tell how Sime manipulated these components to create these colorful panels? What has he done to create areas of more intense color? Does this work inspire you to experiment with non-traditional art materials?
Now, look around for this mixed-media artwork by Sam Gilliam. He added layer upon layer of materials to build a three-dimensional painting. This process of layering and rearranging materials was often compared to the art of making a quilt.
How has Gilliam changed the canvas from its original square shape? Can you see the layers, or tell how many there are? What other materials do you see that create these layers?
Cross the bridge over the Atrium to find the Mid to Late 20th Century Art Galleries. Find the work of art titled Untitled (No. 25).
What materials did this artist use to make this work of art? How would you compare it with Tightrope: Continuous Rotation Servos? Which one appeals to you the most? Why?
Finish your Build It Gallery Hunt in the Mid to Late 20th Century Art galleries and find the sculpture called 1 2 3 4 5 6. Why do you think Sol LeWitt chose this title? Can you describe the basic form he used to construct this work? How does the sculpture change from one level to the next? How would using solid blocks change what you see?
Many other works of art in the VMFA collection involve construction and engineering. How many can you find?
Attributed to Thomas Day, American, 1801–1861, Dressing Bureau, ca. 1855, mahogany, mahogany veneer, rosewood veneer; yellow pine, tulip poplar, Cedrela veneer (Spanish cedar); mirrored glass (replaced), Gift of John W. Martin and Elizabeth L. O’Leary in celebration of VMFA’s 75th anniversary, 2011.92
Alexander Calder, American, 1898–1976, Hanging Mobile, 1951, Steel and wire, painted, Museum Purchase and Gift of Phillip L. Goodwin by exchange, 51.20
Theaster Gates, American, born 1973, Glass Lantern Slide Pavilion, 2011, Reclaimed wood, linoleum tile, carpet, fire hose, wire, metal, four ceramic teacups, 254 glass lantern slides, LED light, Gift of Pamela K. and William A. Royall, Jr., 2014.369
Elias Sime, Ethiopian, born 1968, Tightrope: Continuous Rotation Servos, 2017, Reclaimed electronic components and wire on panel, Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Endowment, 2018.3
Sam Gilliam, American, 1933-2022, Untitled, 1988, Acrylic on canvas and metal, mounted to plywood, Gift of Dr. Regenia Perry, 2020.483
Lee Bontecou, American, born 1931, Untitled (No. 25), 1960, welded steel, canvas, copper wire, Gift of Sydney and Frances Lewis, 85.364
Sol LeWitt, American, 1928–2007, 1 2 3 4 5 6, 1978, Painted wood, Gift of the Sydney and Frances Lewis Foundation, 85.555