Truck, Bam, Dot

The traveling exhibition Project Mah Jongg—which debuted in New York City at the Museum of Jewish Heritage and opened here just last week—arrived in the largest truck that’s ever driven onto the Skirball campus. Somewhat ironic since the show was about to be installed in our smallest (yet plenty spacious) gallery.

This truck has a full kitchen and bathroom!

This truck has a full kitchen and bathroom!

My colleagues Pete Willoughby, Mike Trefzger, and Johnny Hirsch (L–R) transport just one of the many crates towards the gallery. This terrace is now the outdoor mah jongg playing area.

My colleagues Pete Willoughby, Mike Trefzger, and Johnny Hirsch (L–R) transport just one of the many crates towards the gallery. This terrace is now the outdoor mah jongg playing area.

Once everything was unloaded, the individual tile-shaped “totems” required a lot of assembly. We are big fans of Pentagram Design, which created the show, so we were looking forward to seeing how it all went together.

Our lift gives a sense of scale to the first level of the totems.

Our lift gives a sense of scale to the first level of the totems.

The text panels are adorned with mah jongg tile graphics. From what I’ve learned about the rummy-like game, mah jongg features three basic suits—characters, bamboo, and circles (which American mah jongg players refer to as crak, bam, and dot)—plus an array of tiles that depict winds, flowers, dragons, and seasons.

Pete, Gene Wyrick, and Mike (L–R) prepare to install the second level of the totem. Pictured here is a dragon tile graphic, plus a crak and a dot.

Pete, Gene Wyrick, and Mike (L–R) prepare to install the second level of the totem. Pictured here is a dragon tile graphic, plus a crak and a dot.

Each totem required four people to assemble.

Each totem required four people to assemble.

The assembled second levels, plus a peek at some bam tiles on the left and right.

The assembled second levels, plus a peek at some bam tiles on the left and right.

Once the third levels were up (thanks to our gallery’s very high ceilings), the connecting cross beams (which form a Star of David) had to be installed.

The center star is hoisted into place.

The center star is hoisted into place.

 

The second team lifts the connector beam and attaches it to both the totem and the star.

The second team lifts the connector beam and attaches it to both the totem and the star.

The fully connected structure. You can see the 2 dot and 3 dot here, too.

The fully connected structure. You can see the 2 dot and 3 dot here, too.

The title wall graphic that travels with the exhibition. We wondered, What if we made it 3D?

The title wall graphic that travels with the exhibition. We wondered, What if we made it 3D?

Mike works on fine-tuning our 3D version of the graphic. Just need to add that P.

Mike works on fine-tuning our 3D version of the graphic. Just need to add that P.

The finished product.

The finished product.

Another part of taking it up a notch is providing our guests with comfortable reading/waiting areas. We like to have these spaces function as part of the content of the exhibition instead of using more traditional museum furniture. We based the area on a painting in the exhibition, which we can’t show here. You’ll just have to come see it for yourselves. And what’s right beyond the gallery’s full-length glass windows? An outdoor space for mahj playing. More on that in a future post.

Stay tuned for more on that outdoor mah jongg playing area.

Stay tuned for more on that outdoor mah jongg playing area.

One can also play a game of mahj indoors, right inside the gallery. Here’s what Project Mah Jongg looks like in final form.

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Posted in Behind the Scenes, Design, Exhibitions, Museum and tagged .

About Tom Schirtz

Tom Schirtz is Head of Exhibition Design and Production at the Skirball. He’s also an artist, graphic designer, photographer, writer, Air Force Veteran, and onetime short order cook. As a printmaker and curator, he has worked with the likes of Richard Serra, Robert Rauschenberg, Roy Lichtenstein, and Ellsworth Kelly. His favorite memory of that period of his life is sharing zucchini with Alan Ginsberg (long story). Tom is smitten with the Southern California desert and considers a particular (secret) peak in Joshua Tree National Park his favorite place in the known universe.

2 comments on “Truck, Bam, Dot

  1. adam on said:

    Nice pictorial!

  2. sandra berube on said:

    thanks for the insider’s perspective of the mah jongg exhibition … i am a docent at the Skirball, and the visuals in the lobby and hallways caught the eye of the visitors I had on a recent tour … the heightened anticipation leading up to the entrance of the gallery helped create the “magic” … everyone moved comfortably through the space… the large wall photos created an immediate connection – leading to everyone looking at all the cases… And the most impact: 4 mah jongg players as tableau/centerpiece… people just can’t wait to get in!

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