Archive for June, 2012

We’ve Looked at Clouds

If you’ve come into the Center for Creative Connections (C3) within the past month you may have noticed a few changes in our space. Aside from new artworks in our Encountering Space exhibition, we have transformed one area into a Prototyping Station. What does that mean exactly? Well, in this space we use reproductions of works of art to engage our visitors in conversations. These conversations allow us to better understand visitors’ perspectives and inform our thinking in the development of exhibitions. For the past month, we have focused on three works of art from our collection.

We often have so much background information about a work of art that it is difficult to decide how much of it visitors need to know. There is a delicate balance between providing information and allowing visitors to learn through their own observations. While we did these tests, we only provided a minimal amount of information besides the image.

Our dialogues have included both face-to-face conversations and written responses to questions we’ve posed. We have documented these responses and decided to make word clouds to show you what we have received so far. Word clouds, or tag clouds, are a way of visualizing data. You enter text into a computer program, and it generates a visual representation of which words are repeated most often. The words that are used most often appear larger. Take a look at the following word clouds we generated based on visitors’ responses to the following:

“The title of this work of art is The Minotaur. Tell us what you know about the Minotaur.”

“We are looking for descriptive words for this work of art. List what comes to mind when you look at this picture.”

Marcel Dzama, “The Minotaur,” 2008, plaster, gauze, rope, fabric, chair, bucket, and paintbrushes, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2008.43.2.a-e, (c) Marcel Dzama

Jerry Bywaters, “Share Cropper,” 1937, oil on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, Allied Arts Civic Prize, Eighth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibition, 1937.1

Visitors noticed many things, ranging from objects to emotions.Why is this process important? We want to gather input from visitors. Putting this testing area in the middle of the gallery allows visitors to see the process we use to develop interpretive components for a work of art. It also gives Museum-goers a chance to contribute information and a perspective that may be different from the staff’s, which is an important component of the C3 mission.

The next time you are at the Museum, stop by the C3 and share your responses in our new prototyping area.

Jessica Nelson is the C3 Gallery Coordinator at the Dallas Museum of Art.

An Introduction by Way of Road Trip

As the newest member of the DMA’s curatorial team, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce myself to the online community. I am from Los Angeles and have been actively engaged with contemporary art in one way or another for the past ten years. While in Los Angeles, I worked as the director of Blum & Poe gallery and then as a Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Most recently, I’ve been working on my Ph.D. in art history at UCLA, and for the past year I was a Japan Foundation Doctoral Fellow, researching at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. As the new Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, I will be in charge of the ongoing Concentrations series, which organizes exhibitions of work by emerging and under-represented artists.

Gabriel Ritter, The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA

Being new to Texas, I thought a cross-country drive would be a great way to familiarize myself with my new surroundings. On our way from Los Angeles to Dallas, my wife and I decided to make a pilgrimage to the city of Marfa in West Texas, which the minimalist artist Donald Judd called home. As many of you know, the city houses both the Judd Foundation, which oversees the artist’s private estate, as well as the Chinati Foundation, which Judd founded as a contemporary art museum that presents large-scale, permanent public art installations by Judd and by artists Judd selected, including Carl Andrea, John Chamberlin, Dan Flavin, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, and John Wesley, among others. For me, a highlight of our visit was the rare glimpse into Judd’s private life. Seeing his neatly organized studio spaces used for contemplation and his winter bedroom adorned with his collection of Native American jewelry and pottery was a treat. In addition, walking through Donald Judd’s untitled works in mill aluminum (1982-1986) was a transformative experience. Installed in two former artillery sheds, which Judd adapted specifically to house this installation, the work consists of one hundred unique sculptural iterations that utilize the same outer dimension of 41 x 51 x 72 inches. Natural light floods the two sprawling exhibition halls and reflects off the metallic volumes in a way that continues to change as you walk through the space.

The road to Marfa (and ultimately Dallas) took us through Phoenix, El Paso, Midland, and Abilene. On the way, we stopped by Elmgreen and Dragset’s roadside installation titled Prada Marfa (2005), which feels as if it dropped out of the sky. Literally in the middle of nowhere, with miles and miles of open road to either side, the installation mimics the Italian fashion brand’s posh boutiques but is in fact a nonfunctional storefront. At first we almost missed it and drove right past it, but then I quickly turned around so we could grab a shot of this mirage-like space on the highway. If you ever find yourself on I-90, stop by and check it out.

Prada Marfa (2005)

All-in-all it was a fun road trip and a great way to see the Texas countryside. We also enjoyed some great Tex Mex cuisine and even caught a concert at the local bar in Marfa. Now that I am settled in at the DMA, this will hopefully be the first of many blog posts focusing on contemporary art. I look forward to your comments, and I hope to meet you during your next visit to the Museum.

Gabriel Ritter is The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Summer Art Hopping

With today being the first official day of summer, vacations are on the minds of the DMA staff. As employees of an art museum, we tend to include museums in our travel plans. Below are a few of our favorite museum visits and some we have on our “art bucket lists.”

Stacey Lizotte, Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services
One of my most memorable museum visits was to The Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy. I had always wanted to see Michelangelo’s David and walking towards it, down a hallway that was lined with more of Michelangelo’s uncompleted sculptures, was an amazing and powerful experience.

The museum(s) I am most looking forward to visit are the Tate museums in England (Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool, and Tate St. Ives). If I had to pick just one site to visit to just look at art it would be the Tate Modern, and if I had to pick one to visit for a program it would be Late at Tate Britain when that museum stays open until 10 p.m. the first Friday of every month and offers a variety of programs.

Tate Modern at night

Hillary Bober, Digital Archivist
My favorite museum is the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, for the simple reason that I really love glass. Glass is such a unique medium; you can create incredibly beautiful and delicate pieces or amazingly durable industrial stuff, and the museum covers it all. There are also glass making demonstrations, Make Your Own Glass projects – I made a blown glass bottle and a flameworked bead when I went – and extensive courses for beginner to professional. Of course, there is also a great gift shop – I do love a gift shop – and you can’t beat the Finger Lakes setting in upstate New York.

Along this same vein, a museum that I would really like to go to is the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum in Neenah, Wisconsin which holds a world-renowned collection of glass paperweights and other works in glass. Since my family lives in Wisconsin, a visit is definitely going at the top of my to-do list for my next trip home.

Wendi Kavanaugh, Member Outreach Manager
One of my favorite museums to visit outside of Dallas is the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The PMA is one of the largest Museums in the US with over 200 galleries. It’s easy to get lost in the PMA and end up in a room full of medieval armor – which I have done on one than one occasion.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

I would most like to visit the Musée National du Moyen Âge (National Museum of the Middle Ages) in Paris, France. A professor recently shared that this is his favorite museum in Paris, as someone that spent most of their life in the city – he’s one to trust.  After spending an hour (or so) on their website, it’s easy to see why you should visit.

National Museum of the Middle Ages by Giraud Patrick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hayley Dyer, Audience Relations Coordinator
I had a great experience at the SFMOMA. The summer before my senior year of college I lived in San Francisco working for a jewelry designer.  As it was my first time in the city, I spent most of my free time exploring my temporary home.  One weekend I stopped by the SFMOMA and saw exhibitions of photography from Robert Frank and Richard Avedon; what a treat!  After I soaked up all the art inside the Museum, I headed up to the rooftop garden where I got an espresso from the coffee bar and read a book.  I think I treasure this experience because I was visiting the Museum alone.  I was able to have a personal connection with the artwork, the environment, and the city, and it wasn’t something that I had to share with anyone.

SFMOMA

The Museum I would like to visit is the Magritte Museum. Located in Brussels, Belgium, the Magritte Museum is the home of Belgium’s Royal Museums of Fine Arts’ collection of works by René Magritte.  Widely known as the painter of The Son of Man, aka The Guy in the Bowler Hat with an Apple on His Face, René Magritte is my favorite surrealist painter.  His colorful paintings feature his wonderful sense of humor.  Check out the Museum on YouTube.

Magritte Museum

Brent Mitchell, Registrar, Loans & Exhibitions
My favorite museum is the Museo Nacional Del Prado in Madrid. I had the pleasure of visiting on my first trip abroad, and I make sure to stop by every time I find myself in the city. My initial aim was to see the triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, but with so many stellar works throughout the museum, every gallery holds special promise for visitors. I remember turning around after viewing a Botticelli painting and finding myself in front of the rather remarkable painting Dead Christ held up by an Angel by Antonella de Messina. It has become one of my favorite depictions of Christ.

Bosch in the Prado

If I’m ever fortunate enough to find myself in Italy, I will head to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It would be great to see Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Titian’s Venus of Urbino.

Uffizi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martha MacLeod, Curatorial Administrative Assistant/European and American Art Department
Visiting the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts was on my “must visit” list for a very long time.  The old building is a fabulous piece of architecture and houses works by many of my favorite American artists.  Three years ago, I received a research grant to go there.  When I took a break from my work to wander through the building, I came upon a large studio filled with many plaster casts.  Suddenly it struck me that I may well have been standing in the same space where Thomas Eakins once taught life-drawing classes over 140 years ago.

Another place on my “must visit” list is not a museum per se, but I want to go to the Boston Public Library to see John Singer Sargent’s mural cycle The Triumph of Religion.  I have wanted to see it firsthand ever since I wrote a paper about it when I was in graduate school.  Until I make a trek there, the poster on my office wall of Frieze of the Prophets, which is part of the mural cycle, will have to suffice.

Martha’s private Boston Public Library

Kimberly Daniell, PR Specialist
My favorite Museum in the entire world is Musée de l’Orangerie, I have to visit every time I am in Paris. The museum is located in the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre and Seine, how could you go wrong? I fell in love with Monet in elementary school and experiencing a room filled with his large Nymphéas paintings is amazing. I think it may be one of the most peaceful galleries I have ever been to.

Monet in the Musée de l’Orangerie

The Museum I desperately want to visit is Museo Nacional Del Prado. Other than being located in Madrid, I have to see Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez’s Las Meninas (The Family of Felipe IV). Luckily the Prado already has a three hour tour, with Las Meninas as a stop, ready for me!

Las Meninas (Photo Credit: Museo Nacional Del Prado)

Off the Wall: An Underground City

In our Center for Creative Connections we ask visitors to reflect on their responses to the spaces they encounter in art, as well as those they encounter in their everyday life.

For one work of art specifically, Lee Bontecou’s Untitled, we ask visitors to respond to one of three prompts:

  • To me, sharing space with this work of art feels like…
  • The words or pictures that come to mind when I look at this work of art are…
  • If this work of art was part of something larger, describe what it would be.

    Untitled (35), Lee Bontecou, 1961, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of an anonymous foundation

We have gotten a lot of great responses from visitors and want to share a few with you. Once a month we will have an “Off the Wall” post featuring three responses left by visitors.

Next time you are in the Center for Creative Connections add your contribution to the wall and maybe you will see it on Uncrated!

 

Stumbling Onto Something New

Hello there! My name is Michele Loftus, and I’m the Marketing Coordinator for The Dallas Arts District. A lot of people don’t know that my organization actually exists, so let me take the opportunity to introduce us. We are an advocacy organization for . . . you guessed it, The Dallas Arts District! Still confused? I’ll put it this way: if you’ve ever eaten at a food truck, ventured out to an artsy block party, or consulted one of our kiosks looking for directions, then you’ve crossed paths with what our organization does. We’re often the ones who close off the streets for late night parties, coordinate the programs, and most importantly, do our best to make it easy for you to be a one-stop shop for all things Dallas Arts District. We bring together all the museums, restaurants, performing arts companies, and venues to promote the neighborhood along Flora Street as a cohesive district. All this being said, we hope you’ll join us for our next big bash, the Summer Block Party, this Friday night from 6:00 p.m. to midnight.

Now in our fourth year of throwing block parties, we’ve had the fortune of attracting more and more people to our neighborhood and educating them on the various offerings of the Dallas Arts District. What’s interesting now though, as observed in our most recent block parties and art crawls, is that people will come not knowing we’re throwing these events in the first place. They’ll stumble upon them for various other reasons: food trucks, a concert at the Winspear, or just driving by. Seeing the streets all lit up with activity, it’s difficult for them to stay away. It’s become something that amazes me every time and is now one of the things I look forward to most when wandering around, sending out my usual tweets, or taking pictures of what’s going on. It’s that curious “So what’s happening over there?” look, and the subsequent “Oh, awesome!” when I tell folks that the museums are open until midnight and send them on their merry way down Flora Street, knowing they’ve caught the buzz of our neighborhood.

Often, I’ve noticed these people are the faithful food truckies who follow their favorites to the ends of the earth, and this time their journey happens to lead to the Arts District. But I’ve also met a fair share of museum-goers who are equally as surprised and excited to find out there’s an entire food court waiting for them just down the street. We even come across people who are members at one institution and have no idea there’s something going on at the others right next door.

This kind of exchange is why we do these events and one of the many reasons we thrive on nights like the Summer Block Party. We’re fortunate to have an arts district that’s all on one street, so we can foster exciting collaborations like these and make it easy for people to stumble upon something new.

To discover something new for yourself, visit us at this Friday’s Summer Block Party. The museums will all be open until midnight. For more information, visit http://thedallasartsdistrict.org.

Michele Loftus is the Marketing Coordinator for The Dallas Arts District

Picasso and African Art

Our Picasso masterwork Bust is normally considered in the context of early 20th-century modernism. Its home is in the European galleries alongside the works of Picasso’s cohorts like Matisse, Braque, and Léger; however, a recent installation in our European Galleries offers up a new reading of the painting—that it has footings not only in European modernism but also in African art.

Picasso is known to have been captivated by African art. He frequented the Trocadéro, Paris’s famed ethnographic museum, to study its holdings. He was also an avid collector of African objects and amassed over one hundred statuettes, textiles, and masks, all of which he stored in his studio.

Picasso in his studio at the Bateau-Lavoir, Paris, 1908, Musée Picasso, Paris,
Photo Credit: Réunion des Musées Nationaux

Although these so-called “primitive arts” held little monetary value—most were seen as mere trinkets and lined the shelves of curio shops, flea markets, and bistro tablescapes—their alien forms and dramatic abstractions were invaluable inspirations for Picasso. He carefully studied African works, mimicked them, and even openly copied them. He found them to be complex, conceptually sophisticated, and emotionally charged because their abstractions expressed the “unseen” and “unuterrable” in visual and quantifiable terms. Throughout his career, Picasso struggled with trying to represent the unknown or unrepresentable, and African abstract forms gave him a clear visual language to express what he couldn’t before.

In the case of our painting Bust, he appears to have lifted the entire compositional makeup of a kifwebe mask and translated it into a two-dimensional painted form:

Pablo Picasso, “Bust,” 1907-08, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Joshua L. Logan, Loula D. Lasker, Ruth and Nathan Cummings Art Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Edward S. Marcus, Sarah Dorsey Hudson, Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg, Henry Jacobus and an anonymous donor, by exchange, 1987.399.FA, © Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Democratic Republic of the Congo, Songye or Luba Peoples, Helmet mask (“kifwebe”) and costume, late 19th to early 20th century, wood, paint, fiber, cane, and gut, Dallas Museum of Art, The Gustave and Franyo Schindler Collection of African Sculpture, gift of the McDermott Foundation in honor of Eugene McDermott, 1974.Sc.42

The stylistic resonances between the two works are truly striking. Both have the same facial configuration—a convex forehead contrasted by a concave facial plane—and the same facial features, from the almond-shaped downcast eyes, to the broad band bisecting the foreheads, to the fine-lined surface relief.

Through painting a female subject in the likeness of an abstract kifwebe mask, Picasso saw himself as able to visually articulate the invisible aspects of her nature—a feat not possible through a mere depiction of a human form. Moreover, he saw this abstract representation as a “real” representation of a person; for him, reality was something beyond our eyes, so representing someone’s internalized and invisible nature meant he was representing who someone really is. Through abstraction, Picasso was able to make the female figure’s spirit not only visible but real, living, and tangible; through African art, Picasso was able to eclipse old modes of representation and was, in his words, “freed.”


Andrew Sears is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for European and American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.


Summer in the City

Now that Memorial Day and the unofficial start of summer have come and gone, I thought it would be fun to look back at some past summers spent in the courtyard of the Museum’s former Fair Park home.

Impromptu music in the courtyard draws visitors outside, circa 1963

Summer class, 1970s

Ladies meeting over boxed lunches, 1970s
(Photography by David Lawrence Photo)

Director Harry S. Parker III (far right) enjoying the courtyard, 1970s
(Photography: From the Collection of the Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library)

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


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