Archive for April, 2012

Seldom Scene: Installing Form/Unformed

A look back at the installation of Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present, the first comprehensive overview of our modern and contemporary design collections, on view in the Tower Gallery. Work in the gallery began in October 2010 for the Decemeber 19, 2010 opening. Below are a few shots of the installation process.

DMA exhibition staff, including preparators John Lendvay and Lance Lander and exhibitions graphic designer Kevin Parmer, install the newly opened Form/Unformed: Design from 1960 to the Present in the Level 4 Tower Gallery.

Photography by Adam Gingrich, DMA Marketing Assistant.

 

 

Facing Off

Our exhibition Face to Face: International Art at the DMA is composed of never before seen pairs of objects drawn straight from the Museum’s collection. They are joined across cultures, great distances, and centuries of time to present an entirely new way to experience and celebrate a collection that is thrillingly diverse and over one hundred years in the making.

David Smith’s Cubi XVII and Aristide Maillol’s Flora

Organizing Face to Face required the collaboration of every member of our curatorial staff. Dr. Anne Bromberg, our curator of Ancient and Asian Art, spearheaded its sprawling course, spending weeks and weeks stalking the galleries, storage areas, and even her own colleagues to negotiate across departmental divides and ensure that what came to fruition was groundbreaking.

The result is a rare chance to see some of our “greatest hits” in lively and entirely new contexts. Visitors are welcome to speculate for themselves upon the many ways paired works might be related. I expect there are no right or wrong answers to these investigations, and that the discoveries one can have touring Face to Face are essentially limitless.

Peruvian Panel and Ellsworth Kelly’s Sanary

This is the first pair to welcome you to the exhibition. The composition of both works relied upon geometry and the stunning experience of pure color. The ceremonial textile from the Huari culture of Peru is beautifully composed of hundreds of blue and yellow macaw feathers—the yellow offering soft complement to the naturally iridescent shimmering of the blue.

Sanary, by American artist Ellsworth Kelly, presents a more complex pattern created from recycled paintings. No two colored squares repeat side by side, and like the feather panel, their summation elicits an explosive though carefully controlled punch of pure color. Their paired visual impact must be seen to be believed.

Egyptian mummy mask and Amedeo Modigliani’s Portrait of a Young Woman

Of all the pairings, Dr. Bromberg has said this one raised the most eyebrows among her colleagues, but after placing them side by side for the first time during installation, it became clear that though derived from wholly different civilizations and made for completely different purposes, they were easily relatable as unique expressions of the very human desire to immortalize beauty through portraiture.

Male figure from Nigeria and Naum Gabo’s Constructed Head No. 2

There’s much to be learned—things you may never have noticed before until you’re faced with this unique installation. This pair in particular enables audiences to reflect upon decisions the artists made in depicting their subjects abstractly. One might spend hours ruminating over their own visceral reactions to their striking features.

Eugène Delacroix’s Portrait of a Woman in a Blue Turban and Standing femail figure from the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Our Exhibition Design Coordinator, Jessica Harden, worked closely with Dr. Bromberg to create specific lighting, color, and spatial treatments for every pair in Face to Face. Its dynamic installation highlights the need to take one’s time in the exhibition. Here each artwork can be appreciated more intimately on its own terms.

This is particularly true with the pairing of Eugène Delacroix’s Portrait of a Woman in a Blue Turban and the standing female figure from the Luba peoples of Africa. Lengthy meditations over the artists distinct but relatable choices in depicting their subject’s tranquil and quintessentially feminine beauty are highly encouraged.

An entire case in Face to Face is dedicated to things that sparkle! And here it’s true that not all that glitters is literally gold. The DMA maintains a strong collection of decorative, functional, and ceremonial objects fashioned from precious materials by a variety of cultures for an even greater variety of reasons.

Shiva Nataraja from India and The Dharmapala Vajrabhairava from Tibet

Face to Face’s broad representation (albeit in a small space) of the DMA’s expansive, internationally renowned collection is inspiring. The exhibition not only draws our attention to the mysterious nature of creating and studying art but also to that lesser realized art form of building a collection.

While exploring any museum, it’s easy to forget that a collection is built by people, and at the DMA these people have for over a century now nursed a vision that not only tells the history of art but also the story of our great museum.

Auriel Garza is the Curatorial Assistant for Ancient Art, Non-Western Art, and Decorative Arts & Design at the Dallas Museum of Art.

All That Jazz

Friday, March 2nd Dallas Museum of Art members celebrated the Youth & Beauty: Art of the American Twenties in style. The evening included a 20’s themed costume contest, an introduction of the exhibition, dance lessons, and more! We thought we would share some of our favorite shots from the evening.

Show off your twenties outfits tonight at our Roaring Twenties Late Night!

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 Wendi Kavanaugh is the Member Outreach Manager at the Dallas Museum of Art

Preparing for Wanderlust

The DMA was transformed Saturday for the 2012 Art Ball, Wanderlust. Below are images of the preparation for our annual fundraiser.

L’histoire des Beaux Arts Ball

With Art Ball held this past Saturday, I thought it would be fun to take a look back at the Art Ball’s origins in the Beaux Arts Ball. The Beaux Arts Ball was first held in 1962 as a fundraising event organized by the Museum League. The Beaux Arts Ball was a lavish, themed costume ball. Here are some of my favorite Beaux Arts Ball themes and costumes from the first 30 years.

Doris Jacoby Photography

(left to right) Actress Greer Garson and Mrs. Royal Miller (Jody) at the 1967 Beaux Arts Ball, “Arabian Nights.”

From the collection of the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library

DMFA director Merrill Rueppel as the mad hatter for the 1971 Beaux Arts Ball, “The Mad Hatter’s Hoedown.”

Photo by Bob Jackson, Society Publications Inc.

(left to right) Doug and Patty Campbell, Eric Graham, George Lee, Schatzie Lee, and Eleanor Graham at the 1974 Beaux Arts Ball, “An Elizabethan Evening.”

Photo by Andy Hanson

Idelle and Leon Rabin at the 1975 Beaux Arts Ball, “A Deco Dance.”

Photo by Andy Hanson

(left to right) Unidentified, Jo Cleaver, Anne Bromberg, and Alan Bromberg at the 1981 Beaux Arts Ball, “An Evening of Fantasy.”

Photo by Tom Jenkins

Director Richard R. Brettell and Carol Brettell at the 1991 Beaux Arts Ball, “Le Grande Bal Masque des Beaux Arts.”

Photo by Tom Jenkins

An impressive peacock-esque dress at the 1991 Beaux Arts Ball, “Le Grande Bal Masque des Beaux Arts.”

Another bird-themed ensemble at the 1991 Beaux Arts Ball, “Le Grande Bal Masque des Beaux Arts”

Hillary Bober is the Digital Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Birds of a Feather

There is something in human nature that makes people want to show off. Whether it is a new pair of shoes, a nice watch, or a brand new car, we all enjoy the “oohs” and “ahhs” that stylish objects can provoke–and it has been that way for thousands of years. Ancient Peruvian cultures, for example, loved many exotic things, especially the flashy feathers of tropical birds. The collection of the Dallas Museum of Art contains fine examples of the ancient Peruvians’ fascination with birds and their plumage. Hundreds of tropical bird species live in the Amazon rainforest, miles away from the Peruvian coast. It took quite a bit of effort (and riches) to obtain these birds from so far away; therefore, they were considered extremely valuable. Feathers were used as decoration in the form of headdresses, designed collages, and pictorial mosaics.

Panel with rectangles of blue and yellow featherwork, Peru, far south coast, Ocoña Valley, Huari culture, c. A.D. 650-850, feathers (Blue and Gold Macaw), cotton cloth, and camelid fiber cloth, Dallas Museum of Art, Textile Purchase Fund, 2001.262

In this Huari piece, currently on view in Face to Face: International Art at the DMA, blue and yellow feathers are used to create a brilliant geometric composition. The Blue and Yellow Macaw, typically found in Panama and the northern part of South America, was probably the source of the materials, which were used over a thousand years ago. The feathers were individually wrapped in a cotton cord and then attached to a cloth panel, making this a very labor intensive composition. This piece was likely found along Peru’s south coast, in a site with many other textiles and feather pieces stored inside large, decorated ceramic jars. A featherwork like this was probably some kind of religious offering.

A demonstration of feather weaving from "Textiles of Ancient Peru and Their Techniques," Raoul d’Harcourt, 1962.

Featherwork neckpiece, Peru, north coast, Chimú culture, c. A.D. 1470-1528, cotton, feathers, and shell beads, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 1972.23.1.McD

This brilliantly colored feather neckpiece comes from the Chimú culture, on Peru’s north coast. The meaning of the design is unclear, but there is a human figure with a large headdress, along with fish and sea birds known as cormorants. At the bottom are rows of beads made from spondylus shell, which comes from Ecuador. The bright turquoise feathers in this work probably came from the Spangled Cotinga or the Paradise Tanager, both of which are relatively small birds with vibrant plumage. The darker blue-purple details do not seem to be woven like the other feathers; it is possible that they are from a bird called the Purple Honeycreeper, which is found in several South American locations, but not on the Peruvian coast. This piece showcases materials collected hundreds of miles away from the Chimú area, which is an indication of the power and prestige of the owner of this piece, as well as the intricate trading system that was likely in place.

Spouted vessel with tubular handle: macaw effigy, Peru, north coast, Viru, 300-100 B.C., ceramic and slip, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.91

The DMA’s very own mascot, Arturo, provides yet another great example (although slightly less colorful) of just how much ancient American cultures treasured non-native birds. This macaw or parrot vessel was made by the Salinar, a very early culture from Peru’s north coast. Real macaws and parrots are of course brilliantly colored, but ceramics from the north coast were traditionally painted using only red and white, no matter what their subject. Macaws weren’t the only animals that were depicted in vessel form. Ceramics showing monkeys, jaguars, and even killer whales have been found at sites throughout Peru.

Boogie-Woogie April – Jazz Appreciation Month

April celebrates one of the most joyous and “most American” music styles—jazz. In fact, jazz is such an important part of American culture that a whole decade in American history, the 1920s, has come to be known as the Jazz Age. In the DMA spaces, you can find connections between the visual arts and jazz every week on Thursday evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. during Jazz in the Atrium.

In our newest exhibition, Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties, you can see the work of jazz admirer and Harlem Renaissance leader Aaron Douglas. In Charleston (which references Paul Morand’s novel Black Magic), Douglas depicts the jazz scene set within the African community, in which the genre has part of its roots. Commenting on a later work, Douglas equated the figures in the painting with different types of music, describing the saxophone player as a representation of jazz and “Songs of Joy and the Dance.”

Aaron Douglas, "Charleston," c. 1928, gouache and pencil on paper board, North Carolina Museum of Art

Douglas’s contemporary and fellow jazz enthusiast Stuart Davis is featured in the American galleries with a work that, although subtly, also reveals the rhythms of the Jazz Age. Not only do the bold colors and forms of Electric Blub reflect the energy of the time, but the subject speaks to the modernism and industrialization of 1920s America.

Stuart Davis, "Electric Bulb," 1924, oil on board, Dallas Museum of Art, Fine Arts Collectible Fund, 1988.59, © Estate of Stuart Davis / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Nearby, a stunning portrait sculpture of the jazz musician Huddy “Leadbelly” Ledbetter serves as an appropriate transition in our jazz-inspired tour between Davis’s painting and William Waldo Dodge’s Skyscraper cocktail shaker with cups. Developing rapidly in the 1920s, the skyscraper became, together with jazz, a symbol of a free, modern America, inspiring designers across the country.

Michael G. Owen, Jr., "Leadbelly," 1943, black serpentine, Dallas Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Gooch Fund Purchase Prize, Twelfth Annual Texas Painting and Sculpture, 1950-1951, 1950.91

William Waldo Dodge, Jr., “Skyscraper” cocktail shaker with cups, c. 1928-1931, silver, Dallas Museum of Art, The Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, gift of Patsy Lacy Griffith by exchange, 2008.48.1-12

But if the connections we’ve made so far are too obvious or the works too representational for your taste, don’t worry; make your way toLevel 3, where you will find works by abstract artists and jazz lovers Jackson Pollock and Piet Mondrian.

With improvisation being a key feature of jazz music, some argue that the process in this genre is at least as important as (perhaps more than) the end result. The same can be said of Pollock’s and Mondrian’s work. Pollock moving around his canvas as he pours the paint can be compared to a jazz musician improvising during a performance; both represent similar artistic expressions and ultimate celebrations of their respective arts.

Jackson Pollock, Cathedral, 1947, enamel and aluminum paint on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Bernard J. Reis, 1950.87 © Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Piet Mondrian, "Place de la Concorde," 1938-1943, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation, 1982.22.FA © 2012 Mondrian/Holtzman Trust c/o HCR International Washington DC

A big fan of boogie-woogie and a seeker of balance and equilibrium, Mondrian used his intuition to place and arrange the lines in works such as Place de la Concorde—much like a jazz musician would intuitively improvise on his instrument. In fact, Mondrian identified with jazz and boogie-woogie so much that he once said:

“True boogie woogie I conceive as homogeneous in intention with mine in painting: destruction of melody, which is the equivalent of destruction of natural appearance, and construction through the continuous opposition of pure means—dynamic rhythm.”

As you can see, jazz can be a treat not only for your ears but also for your eyes! So come celebrate Jazz Appreciation Month any (or every) Thursday night in April at the DMA!

Vivian Barclay is the McDermott Graduate Curatorial Intern for Decorative Arts and Design at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Mary Jordan is the McDermott Education Intern for Family Experiences and Access Programs at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Our Quest for a Player Piano

Our upcoming Late Night on Friday, April 20, will celebrate our exhibition Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties. As we were planning for this event, we learned that Chilton Gallery I would be empty during this time, as staff prepares the space for a new installation, so we inquired about using it for one of our programs. Once we got the green light, we immediately thought: Speakeasy!

The Speakeasy will feature 1920s-inspired cocktails and live music, with an area where visitors can “cut a rug.” But we also wanted to have music playing in-between the live acts, and what speakeasy would be complete without a player piano!

We believed the easiest thing to do would be to rent one from a local piano company, but after placing a few calls we found that they didn’t have any “older-looking” player pianos, and even if they did, it would cost a lot of money to rent one for a night. We thought we were out of luck until one of the companies suggested that it would be cheaper if we just bought one online.

Surprisingly (to us at least), there were quite a few to choose from.

Welcome to Carrollton

After examining all of the listings for pianos for sale we picked our favorite four. We heard back from a couple who was selling a Rubenstein player piano that fit the feel of the 1920s. So we headed to Carrollton to take a look, make sure the player part did indeed work, and check out the instrument’s overall condition.

Checking out the inner workings of the piano.

A box of music rolls for the player piano.

Once we agreed to buy the piano we then had to work out transport to the Museum. After a few more calls, and the brief thought of moving it ourselves with a U-Haul, we ended up working with Piano Movers of Texas.

Bringing the piano into the Museum via our loading dock.

Two weeks after beginning our quest for a player piano we finally have one on-site, where it is waiting in our auditorium greenroom for its move next Friday to the Speakeasy.

Stop by during the Late Night and take a look at the newest addition to the DMA piano family, which also includes a 9-foot Steinway Concert Grand piano and a 6-foot Yamaha G Series Baby Grand white piano.

Stacey Lizotte is Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services.
Denise Helbing is Manager of Partner Programs.

Sacré Bleu! A Twisted Tale of the Ultramarine Hue

Recently I managed to get my hands on an advance copy of Christopher Moore’s newest book, Sacré Bleu. This auspicious event was followed by two days of ravenous reading, skipped meals, and neglected chores. Christopher Moore, the author who has brought us absurdly funny stories about Jesus Christ, vampires, and sassy whales, has cannonballed into the pool of art history–and has made a huge splash!

"Sacré Bleu" by Christopher Moore. On sale April 3, 2012.

When asked about the origin of his latest novel, Moore says, “I simply set out to write a novel about the color blue.” This desire brought him to Paris, London, and Italy, where “it turns out they keep a lot of the art discussed in this book.” The novel opens as the tragic news of Vincent van Gogh’s death reaches Paris. His friends, Henri Toulouse-Lautrec and Lucien Lessard, set out to solve the mystery of Vincent’s death after receiving this warning from him:

“P.S. If you see the Colorman, run. Run. You are too talented and too delicate of constitution to endure, I think. I am not mad. I promise.”
–Vincent

To solve the murder, Lucien and Henri will have to hunt down this twisted little Colorman who has a penchant for ultramarine blue. They will find love, heartbreak, forgotten memories, and, ahem, some girls in Moulin Rouge. Ultimately they will uncover the secret of the Colorman and the ordained powers he gets from Sacré Bleu, but not before having a little bit of fun with their impressionist friends.

Here are some examples of uses of Sacré Bleu from Christopher Moore’s novel. Throughout the story, each of these artists is visited by the manipulative Colorman.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, “The Swing,” 1876, oil on canvas, Museé d’Orsay.

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, “Rousse dit aussi La Toilette,” 1889, oil on cardboard, Museé d’Orsay.

Claude Monet, “Camille Monet on Her Deathbed,” 1879, oil on canvas, Museé d’Orsay.

Georges Seurat, “Bathers at Asnières,” 1884, oil on canvas, National Gallery.

Sacré Bleu, the “sacred blue,” the truest blue, was at the time the most expensive paint in history. It was extremely difficult to obtain. First, colormen would need the gemstone lapis lazuli, which, for centuries, was more rare and more valuable than gold. On top of that, lapis lazuli is only found in one place in the world, the mountains of Afghanistan–a world away from Europe! Why go to all this trouble to make a little bit of blue paint? Because the pigment derived from lapis lazuli creates the most spectacular, everlasting, ultramarine blue. It does not fade over time or blacken with age like some other blue paints. This quality of ultramarine blue, as well as the significant sacrifice one had to make to obtain it, made it the perfect color to reserve for the Blessed Virgin, the mother of Christ. In many religious scenes, Mary is seen wearing a Sacré Bleu gown.

Michelangelo, “The Entombment,” c. 1500, tempera on panel, National Gallery.

Although he spends most of his time haunting the impressionists in Montmartre, the Colorman does make his way back to 16th-century Italy to visit the masters of the Renaissance. In this example, it appears as though Michelangelo’s The Entombment remains unfinished because he was unable to obtain the ultramarine paint he needed to finish the figure of the Virgin Mary. Of course in reality this is probably due to the high cost of the paint, but in Sacré Bleu, it is a mystery that is waiting to be solved by you!

Christopher Moore will discuss his new book as part of the Arts & Letters Live program at the Dallas Museum of Art on Tuesday, April 1o, at 7:30 p.m. For more information and tickets to this event, visit our website. The DMA’s Museum Store is selling first-edition copies of Sacre Bleu, with beautiful color illustrations of the art discussed in the novel.

Hayley Dyer is the Audience Relations Coordinator for Programming at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Art in Bloom 2012 “A Blooming Success”

Last week we hosted our annual Art in Bloom event at the DMA. Former Metropolitan Museum of Art Floral Designer Chris Giftos spoke at the Floral Symposium and Luncheon before guests bid on floral arrangements from designers throughout Dallas. Below are a few highlights from the day.

Adam Gingrich is the Administrative Assistant for Marketing and Communications at the DMA.


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