Archive for August, 2012

Off the Wall: Audrey Hepburn

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

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!

Pick Our Main Stage Act

September’s Late Night theme is “iMuseum,” where you can use technology to explore the DMA and participate in new, experimental, and interactive programs. We also want you to pick our September Main Stage Act by voting for your favorite performance from our Be Our Main Stage Act contest. The winner will be announced next week.

And the finalists are (click here to cast your vote):

Daniel Hart

Veronica Lopez

Jon Meyer

J. D. Whittenburg

Little Birds

Focus on: Nobuo Sekine

For the past few months, Japanese sculptor Nobuo Sekine’s (b. 1942) works have been on view in the Marguerite and Robert Hoffman Galleries. For those of you who haven’t seen them yet, or are still wondering what these works are all about, this blog post is for you.

Phase No. 10 (1968), Phase of Nothingness-Water (1969/2005), and Phase of Nothingness-Cloth and Stone (1970/1994) were originally created in the late 1960s, and what they have in common is the word “phase” in their title. In order to understand these works better, let’s first talk briefly about global art trends in the late 1960s and then explore the idea of “phase” that so interested Sekine.

In the early 1960s, artists such as Richard Serra, Donald Judd, and Robert Morris made a clear shift away from the gestural quality of abstract expressionism (Jackson Pollock) and embraced a more minimal aesthetic. Minimalist art was intended to discard the emotionality of the past along with all non-essential formal elements related to the art object. The resulting work took shape as hard-edge geometric volumes created with industrial materials that showed little-to-no evidence of the artist’s hand in its making. As minimal sculpture evolved, artists in the late 1960s began moving outside the white cube of the gallery and museum space to create large-scale outdoor works that used the earth itself as the medium. Known as Land Art, this movement was closely associated with the work of Robert Smithson, Michael Heitzer, and others. It is within this transitional moment between minimalism and Land Art that the work of Sekine Nobuo and the Mono-ha movement in Japan came into being.

Phase Mother Earth (1968/2012) (Photo courtesy of artspacetokyo.com)

The term Mono-ha (meaning “School of Things”) encompassed a variety of different forms and approaches, but at its core the short-lived movement explored the encounter between natural and industrial objects. Using natural materials such as stone, wood, and cotton in their unadulterated states, in conjunction with wire, light bulbs, glass, and steel plates, the work of Mono-ha artists presented objects “just as they are,” with the hope of bridging the gap between the human mind and the material world.

The tenets of Mono-ha are most clearly embodied in Nobuo Sekine’s famous outdoor sculpture Phase Mother Earth (1968/2012). Often cited as the beginning of the Mono-ha movement, Sekine’s sculpture consists of a 2.2 meter-tall cylinder of earth positioned beside a hole of the exact same dimensions. While clearly in dialogue with other American and European Land Art of the time, the modest scale of Sekine’s work invites the viewer to experience the earth simply as earth rather than as a grand artistic gesture writ large across the landscape.

Phase No. 10, Nobuo Sekine, 1968, Steel, lacquer, and paint, The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund

Sekine’s Phase-Mother Earth is closely related to the artist’s previous sculptures exploring the mathematical field of topology. Topology is a field of spatial geometry in which space and materials are considered malleable and can undergo countless transformations from one “phase” (state) to another without adding or subtracting from the original form/materials. In Sekine’s words, “a certain form can be transformed continually by methods such as twisting, stretching, condensing, until it is transformed into another.” This idea of manipulating form and space can be seen in Sekine’s work Phase No. 10 (1968) currently on view at the DMA. This wall-mounted sculpture closely resembles a Mobius strip, and when viewed head-on it appears to be a flat, curvilinear design, but when viewed at an angle the sculpture juts out from the wall, creating an optical illusion.

Phase of Nothingness—Water, Nobuo Sekine, 1969/2005, Steel, lacquer, and water, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund

The work Phase of Nothingness—Water (1968) continues Sekine’s engagement with topology. To illustrate these ideas, the artist juxtaposed two equivalent shapes—a cylinder and a rectangle—both containing the same volume of water. At first glance, it doesn’t appear that the shallow rectangular tank and the tall cylindrical tank both hold the exact same amount of water. Similar to his earlier outdoor sculpture Phase—Mother Earth, this work attempts to depict a sense of equivalence and emphasizes the continuity of form and material. These two shapes are not meant to be seen as opposites but as equals. As Sekine explains, “[T]he mass of the universe neither increases nor decreases. This is the universe of eternal sameness. When one becomes aware of this, then the futility of modern concepts of creation can be realized.”

I hope this blog helps explain some of the fascinating (and at times complicated) ideas that inform Sekine’s sculpture. The exhibition closes Sunday, so plan your visit to the DMA before it’s too late!

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

Marty Grosz Does the DMA

Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas closed yesterday after three months on view. Earlier this month, George Grosz’s son musician Marty Grosz joined us for a special gallery talk with exhibition curator Dr. Heather MacDonald. Below are some images from his visit, and you can listen to the talk online. Even though the exhibition is closed, you can still take George Grosz home with you with our free e-catalogue.

Photography by Adam Gingrich, Marketing Administrative Assistant at the Dallas Museum of Art

Urban Armor: Meet. Relate. Investigate.

Urban Armor is the Dallas Museum of Art’s unique, ongoing program for tweens and teens that offers students a chance to meet, relate, and investigate the world around them. Classes are designed in a way that the concept of identity is the heartbeat of each workshop. Urban Armor classes serve teens, who represent an often underserved age group in museums and are at a critical age of self-discovery.

Untitled #21, Karel Funk, 2006, Acrylic on panel, Overall: 31 x 27 in. (78.74 x 68.58 cm), The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2010.28

Each workshop is built around the concept of identity. The name Urban Armor is inspired by the Karel Funk painting Untitled #21, currently on view in Variations on Theme: Contemporary Art 1950s-Present, and the notion that we clothe ourselves in physical layers of clothing to protect us in a literal sense against the elements but also as a metaphorical means of protection. It could be to guard ourselves against the scrutiny of others, attempting to fit in, or wanting acceptance. In a similar way, the different faces we present to others depending on the environment can be seen as figurative armor to serve the same purpose. Who are we underneath these layers? That question drives us to help support teens through the program and to facilitate transformative experiences with art that allow for personal expression. They also learn new techniques, meet artists and DMA staff, and develop social bonds through their interactions with each other.

Teens participating in Urban Armor Street Art Camp with Isaac Davies

This year, Urban Armor launched its first exclusive teen summer camp in an effort to provide teens with a way to enhance their world and the space around them. Students encountered new forms of expression with the assistance of our Urban Armor teachers and guest artist Isaac Davies. They contributed to a large community “piece” on Ross Avenue Plaza, worked on their personal expression and self-statements in their sketchbooks and on their own painted panels, and explored how artists express themes of identity and space in artworks throughout the DMA’s collection.

Street Art Camp with Isaac Davies

Regardless of diverse opinions about street art, everyone can agree that it is a public way people are communicating or expressing themselves in our city. It is common now to see a tag, sticker, mural, or art bomb on any given street of Dallas. With heavy influences from artists like Keith Haring, Jean Michel Basquiat, Shepard Fairy, Banksy, and the many unnamed artists on every wall in town—it is important to recognize street art’s strong influence on our culture. For today’s generation, this is a prevalent force in their lives and a heavy part of their visual culture.

Watch participants from the summer camp Urban Armor: Street Art Camp and guest artist Isaac Davies as they demonstrate learned techniques from their camp experience tonight during Late Night at 7:00 p.m.

Amanda Batson is the Program Coordinator for the Center for Creative Connections and JC Bigornia is the Coordinator of Family Experiences.

The Wise Llama

What do a llama and an urban planner have in common? Not much actually, but they did briefly share an office.

This photo depicts the day that Nora Wise brought Sir Lancelot, a pure white llama, wearing a textile from John Wise Ltd. around its neck, to the office of Robert Moses, New York City urban planner. Sadly, it is unknown why Nora took a llama to visit the urban planner, but it looks like he found the gesture quite amusing.

The image is from the John and Nora Wise Papers.

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

Meet the DMA’s Teen Docents

The 2012-2013 DMA Teen Docents.

If you have spent any time at the DMA this summer, you may have noticed teenagers in gray DMA T-shirts leading groups through the galleries. These aren’t just any teenagers, though—they are our dedicated DMA Teen Docents. The Teen Docent program has been going strong since 2001, and this summer we have our largest group ever. Thirty-one high school students are spending their summer vacation at the Museum, and we are thrilled to have them with us.

Our Teen Docents come from across the Metroplex, attending school at TAG Townview Magnet, Episcopal School of Dallas, Ursuline Academy, Greenhill School, Fulton School, Plano West, Plano Senior High, Cedar Hill Collegiate High, Jasper High, Vines High, Lovejoy High, Mesquite High, and Lake Highlands High. We even have one volunteer who lives in Bryant, Texas, but is spending the summer in Dallas so she can be a Teen Docent. Talk about dedication!

Teen Docents Sahil and Jennifer look on as students re-create Fernand Leger’s “The Divers.”

The requirements to be a Teen Docent are simple: you have to be in high school, you must be available to volunteer for a total of twelve hours over the summer, and you have to love talking about art with kids. Our Teen Docent application asks what our applicants hope to gain from their experience volunteering at the Museum. Their answers always astound me because their passion and excitement shine through. Here are just a few of their responses:

  • “I have always loved the DMA since the very first time I went in third grade, and I am SUPER excited to be a Teen Docent!”—Grace
  • “I want to be a Teen Docent so I can be the catalyst for learning in the Museum. I can rise to the challenge of engaging diverse audiences in creative ways. I can be the bridge between visitors and the Museum.”—Sahil
  • “I have grown up surrounding myself with art, with my first art class at age five. Ever since, I have gained a passion for art and to share this with other people would be great!”—Vickie
  • “I love having the opportunity to be at the DMA and get kids interested not just in art but simply looking at things in a different way and thinking about the world around them.”—Becky
  • “I really have a great time volunteering at the DMA. It’s one of my favorite places in Dallas and I love learning about the art and sharing that knowledge with future art enthusiasts!”—Sarah

Not only are the Teen Docents passionate, but they’re also really creative. Just look at what they made during a Creativity Challenge in June.

Teen Docent Jasmine helps a visitor write a postcard.

As the summer comes to a close, I want to publicly thank our Teen Docents for their hours of service to the DMA this year. Between leading tours, volunteering at Late Nights, and assisting in a myriad of roles on First Tuesdays, these teenagers go above and beyond when it comes to volunteering at the DMA.

Shannon Karol is Manager of Docent Programs and Gallery Teaching.


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