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indigo blue | 1991 / 2007

Commissioned for "Places with a Past: New Site-Specific Art at Charleston's Spoleto Festival"
Mary Jane Jacob, Curator
Charleston, South Carolina
May 24-August 24, 1991

Collection of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Ann Hamilton - indigo blue

Materials: blue work clothing, steel and wood base, wood table, chair, light bulb, books (military regulation manuals, blue bindings), saliva, pink pearl erasers, erasures, net sack, soybeans


Located in an old garage off the center of the historic district of Charleston, South Carolina, this project was a part of the 1991 Spoleto Festival USA which commissioned artists to select sites and work in response to the social history and contemporary context of the city. Hamilton responded to her perceptions of the selective memory that the city markets as a tourist industry, as well as her own concern with a history that is based more in the somatic experience of the body than in the statistical accounting of events and facts.

Hamilton selected 45 Pinckney Street, a former auto repair shop that had previously served as a carriage house, as the site for indigo blue. Appropriately, Pinckney Street was named for Eliza Pinckney who, while running her father's plantation, introduced indigo to the Charleston in 1744.

In the center of the space, a 17'x24' steel platform was piled with 14,000 pounds of blue work clothing. Built layer by layer, the pile was formed by smoothing successive strata of pants and shirts until a volume of clothing the size of a semi truck was formed. At the back of the space, obscured from view by the pile, an attendant sat and erased slim blue books at a table borrowed from the central market, which formerly housed one of Charleson's pre civil war slave markets. Using a Pink Pearl eraser and saliva, the books were erased back to front. The eraser waste was left to accumulate over the duration of the piece. Although the space was entered at ground level, a window accessible in the small upstairs office of the garage gave another view of the pile of work clothes and the activity at the table. One wall of the office was hung with udder-sized net bags of soybeans that sprouted and later rotted in the leakage of summer rains. With the humid weather, the space was filled with the musty smell of the damp clothes and the organic decompostion of the soybeans.


Ann Hamilton · indigo blue, 20072007 reinstallation of indigo blue at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

For an in-depth look at the installation process and concept behind this project, please visit SFMOMA's website here.

Photo credit: John McWilliams / Ann Hamilton / Ian Reeves


page break Related Readings:
· " Places without Past: New Site-Specific Art in Charleston." Art Papers vol. 15, no. 4 (July/August 1991): 63-64.
· Cooke, Lynne. "Charleston, South Carolina: 'Places with a Past'." Burlington Magazine vol. 133, no. 1061 (August 1991): 572-573.
· Collins, Bradford R. "Report from Charleston: History Lessons." Art in America vol. 79, no. 11 (November 1991): 64-71.
· Baker, Kenneth. "Salvation of 'Indigo Blue' a triumph for all to see; Hamilton's 'Indigo Blue' – free of cultural limbo." San Francisco Chronicle (May 27, 2007): PK - 20.

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