Archive for June, 2013

Reclining Nymph Gets a New Name

You may have heard that we recently reattributed a Baroque sculpture in the Wendy and Emery Reves Collection to the artist Giovanni Bonazza. Here’s an interview with Olivier Meslay, associate director of curatorial affairs at the DMA, explaining how he discovered the true artist of Reclining Nymph:

For additional information on the sculpture and its reattribution, you can read the full press release here or see the work up close, and for free, on view in The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection on Level 3.

Listening Hard: Remembering JFK on Record

The tragedy surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s 1963 trip to Texas inspired many songwriters to remember and honor JFK through song. Listening Hard: Remembering JFK on Record is an audio-video installation produced by Alan Govenar featuring songs of a variety of genres produced in the months after Kennedy’s assassination. Swing by the C3 Theater during the run of Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy to experience these songs.*

Listening Hard: Remembering JFK on Record, Alan Govenar, © Alan Govenar

Listening Hard: Remembering JFK on Record, Alan Govenar, © Alan Govenar

Uncrated chatted with Alan, founder and president of Documentary Arts and the installation’s producer, to pick his brain about his creative process and vision for this work. Join us at the DMA during our July Late Night on Friday, July 19, at 7:00 p.m. to hear Alan discuss his installation.

When did you begin researching JFK memorial songs?
It was 1975, so nearly forty years ago. I had heard about the Mexican-American corridos and started gathering the records when I could find them. I had written a lot about blues and jazz, and this was part of it.

What was the impetus for this project?
The piece was originally commissioned by the International Center of Photography. Brian Wallis, Chief Curator at the ICP, has organized a show of photographs, JFK November 22, 1963: A Bystander’s View of History,  that look at the assassination from the viewpoint of bystanders.

All of the singers are in a way personalizing their relationship with President Kennedy, either as friend or savior, champion of the downtrodden, the advocate for the forgotten or the disenfranchised. The songs juxtapose that sense of feeling a personal relationship with the president and the great sense of loss, the tragedy of his killing.

You’ve referred to this installation as an “experience.” How do you envision DMA visitors experiencing this installation?
All of the songs are topical. All were released on record. Most were written within days of the assassination. The installation is an audio loop, and the anchor, or punctuation point, is an eyewitness account released on an LP within days of the assassination. A man just saw the assassination, and someone put a microphone in his face and asked him what he saw. He was panicked, on the verge of crying. He had his five year old standing next to him. He was ready to pounce on top of him to protect him because he thought there was a maniac on the loose. That sets a certain stage for the rest of the piece, which is startling and haunting. But, there’s an aspect of the songs that has you smiling. It throws you back in time and place. Much of what the piece is about is perception and memory.

What was your creative process behind the image of JFK that continuously dissolves into images of record labels?
It has a meditative kind of effect, seeing that image reappearing. In some senses, I intended it to be reassuring, comforting, but also, it’s a memorial. It’s like looking at a tombstone. Those slow dissolves into the record labels that go in and out of JFK’s face are haunting, I think because of the idea that he was shot. It’s a complex, emotive kind of experience.

What was the most surprising thing you discovered?
The most surprising part of my research was the sheer vastness of songs written about John F. Kennedy in so many musical genres. People felt compelled to write them. People felt like their feelings needed to be expressed. A song in the installation called The Tragedy of Kennedy, by the Southern Belle singers recorded in December 1963, ends with:

Let me tell you people what we better do,
Keep our minds on Jesus for he’s a President, too.

It identifies Kennedy in that role, as a great savior who was martyred.

Why do you think Kennedy was memorialized through such diverse musical genres?
Corridos extol the virtues of the president who excited our passion to bring equality to all. The blues singers could identify with the sadness everyone was feeling. Country songs are often about mortality. It fit neatly into traditional music forms, where the way people were feeling could be expressed.

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* “Listening Hard” runs in the C3 Theater at designated times during Museum hours and is included in free general admission.

Andrea Vargas Severin is the Interpretation Specialist at the DMA.

End of the Trail

mozley sign

We are in the final days of the Loren Mozley: Structural Integrity exhibition. It is rare to see these works by the Texas modernist on view together, so don’t miss your opportunity to visit this free exhibition, on view through Sunday, June 30.

DMA’s Cinderella Inspires New Show

In honor of Thomas Sully’s birthday on June 19, we sat down with William Keyse Rudolph, the DMA’s former Associate Curator of American Art. Now the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Dudley J. Godfrey, Jr. Curator of American Art and Decorative Arts, William is currently organizing a retrospective exhibition of the artist. Sully (1783–1872) was born into a theatrical family in England but made a career in America, capturing in paint many of the leading actors and actresses of the time. The exhibition will feature many of these portraits as well as his “fancy pictures”–paintings made for mass appeal, with literary, artistic, and/or imaginary subjects. While at the DMA, William acquired Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire for the collection; the painting will be featured in the traveling exhibition and accompanying catalogue.

Thomas Sully, Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, 1843, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation

Thomas Sully, Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire, 1843, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation

1. You were quoted in Art and Antiques magazine as saying that the DMA’s Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire took your breath away the first time you saw it. Why is this? Why do you consider this work Sully’s “finest fancy picture”?

For one thing, the picture is bigger than you expect. It’s nearly four feet by five feet. It was hanging on the wall of an art dealer’s office, surrounded by books, clutter, papers–and it just jumped out at me, even with all that distraction. It’s a beautifully painted, delicate picture, full of all sorts of grays and pinks that never reproduce well, but that are knock-out in person. And to be honest, it has this great big wonderful orange and white cat frolicking with Cinderella almost right at front and center. At that time, I had an orange and white cat, so the die was cast. I had to love it! And to be fair, former DMA director Jack Lane’s first words upon seeing an image of the painting were “Look at that cat!” He’s a cat person, too. We were also very fortunate that Mrs. Pauline Gill Sullivan, who had been a great benefactor of the DMA, saw the painting when we brought it to the Museum on approval and very graciously agreed to fund its acquisition. Besides having her own fine collection of European and American art, Mrs. Sullivan had a wonderful track record of making acquisitions available to the Museum, such as the commanding 18th-century portrait by Ralph Earl and a really dreamy late 19th-century Frank Duveneck painting of a woman in a red hat, so I was grateful that she responded so well to a big fairytale scene, which was out of her comfort zone in terms of the artist, size, and subject matter.

2. Did you have an interest in Sully and his paintings prior to this acquisition?

Yes. I had lived, worked, and gone to graduate school in Philadelphia for ten years before coming to the DMA, so I was well aware of Sully. He is so closely linked with the city of Philadelphia, where he worked for about sixty years, that it is almost impossible to spend time in Philly and not run into his work in virtually every cultural institution, from museums to libraries and hospitals.

3. How does it make you feel knowing that a key acquisition you made while working at the DMA will now be featured in Milwaukee’s exhibition and catalogue? Was it difficult to leave Cinderella behind?

I am, of course, thrilled! Cinderella at the Kitchen Fire actually gave birth to the show. After I acquired the work, my colleague Carol Eaton Soltis (a curator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art) and I began to talk about why this work was so interesting, which led to us proposing a show at the DMA that examined Sully’s total career: portraits as well as fancy pictures like this one. That show, which we began working on in 2005, was originally scheduled for 2009-2010 but ultimately didn’t happen due to timing and other issues. So we are really happy that years later the idea for the show was able to travel with me to Milwaukee and can now finally be seen here and then at the San Antonio Museum of Art. And yes, it was very difficult to leave Cinderella behind. You never, ever forget your first acquisition, and she was mine. I have missed her every day since I left the DMA, and I’m ridiculously excited to have her back with me for a brief time. If you ask gallery attendants at the DMA who remember me, they will tell you I used to go talk to her in the galleries. So my team here has been warned about that! I will probably burst into tears when she comes out of her crate and I see her again.

4. Since Sully also specialized in portraiture, is there any evidence that the figure of Cinderella was based on a real person?

Carol Soltis and I are convinced that the model for Sully was his daughter Rosalie, who posed for many of his works, several of which will also be in the show. She was a very talented painter herself, who died young.

5. Cinderella was painted when Sully was 60 years old. In your opinion, did it bring him the success and attention he hoped for in his later years? Did it help him attract new clients?

Yes and no. Sully hoped to sell the painting much faster than he did. He exhibited it several times in the Northeast and it was made into an engraving, but it took a few years to actually sell to a collector. One of the fascinating stories of this exhibition is how the fancy pictures like Cinderella functioned for Sully as a way to try to counteract the effects of economic crises on the portraiture market. Works like Cinderella were attempts to keep himself in front of the public, which he hoped would both result in sales of the subject pictures and remind clients that he could still turn it on when he wanted to.

6. A later version of Cinderella was (at least at one time) in the collection of Thomas Sully, Jr., of Naples, Florida. Is he a descendant of the painter? Did you ever track down this painting and will it be part of the exhibition and/or catalogue?

He is a descendant. I’ve seen an old reproduction of this picture, and I actually suspect it was the work of one of Sully’s grown children, whom he trained as artists. For that reason, I’ve never really worried about tracing it, as the DMA has the best one. What I’d be curious to see someday is another version of Cinderella done later that apparently shows her with the fairy godmother, but that one is completely obscure and only listed in Sully’s register. If anyone knows where it is, I would love to see it!

7. Do you know yet which works in the exhibition will be installed near the DMA’s Cinderella?

I don’t know exactly where the painting will go in the gallery, but it will be part of a section devoted to Sully’s fancy pictures. So she will live near an amazing picture of Little Nell Asleep in the Curiosity Shop from the Free Library of Philadelphia, which is based on Charles Dickens; and a gigantic, dramatic painting based on a scene from the early American novel The Pilot by James Fenimore Cooper that we’re borrowing from the Birmingham Museum of Art in Alabama. All three of them will be stunning together, and all were painted around the same time.

Thomas Sully: Painted Performance will be on view at the Milwaukee Art Museum October 11, 2013-January 5, 2014, and then at the San Antonio Museum of Art February 7-May 11, 2014. I hope some of the DMA’s visitors who love this painting will come see the show in one of these places to help celebrate this important painter and this really beautiful picture that the DMA family has been so quick to adopt as a favorite. And thank you to Sue Canterbury, Maxwell L.  Anderson, and all the DMA family for making her available for loan.

Reagan Duplisea is the Associate Registrar, Exhibitions at the DMA.

Off the Walls: Erminia and the Shepherds

The DMA’s galleries house art from around the world, and each work has a story. Olivier Meslay, the Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs and Barbara Thomas Lemmon Curator of European Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, shares insight about the recent acquisition Erminia and the Shepherds, by Guillaume Guillon Lethière. After you learn about the artist and the history of the painting, visit the work on Level 2 for free!

Swelling Seas

Not for the faint of heart, Neil Gaiman’s forthcoming novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is wondrous, imaginative, and, at times, deeply scary. We found some frightening and powerful images of the sea in our collection that we thought were appropriate for Gaiman’s upcoming DMA Arts & Letters Live event on June 24, 2013, at the Majestic Theatre. Gaiman has announced that this will be his final U.S. tour, and as of today there are fewer than 100 tickets left to his talk and book signing! Visit the DMA’s website for more information and to buy tickets.

Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl, Seaside Cemetery (Seefriedhof), 1897, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J.E.R. Chilton

Adolf Hiremy-Hirschl, Seaside Cemetery, 1897, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J.E.R. Chilton

Gerhard Richter, Kunstverein, Richard Bacht, Margreff, Sea (Meer), 1972, yellow, red, blue, and black offset print on white lightweight cardboard, cellophaned and fixed on white lightweight cardboard, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art League Fund, Roberta Coke Camp Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, and the Contemporary Art Fund: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon E. Faulconer, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant M. Hanley, Jr., Marguerite and Robert K. Hoffman, Howard E. Rachofsky, Deedie and Rusty Rose, Gayle and Paul Stoffel, and two anonymous donors

Gerhard Richter, Kunstverein, Richard Bacht, Margreff, Sea, 1972, yellow, red, blue, and black offset print on white lightweight cardboard, cellophaned and fixed on white lightweight cardboard, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Museum of Art League Fund, Roberta Coke Camp Fund, General Acquisitions Fund, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, and the Contemporary Art Fund: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Vernon E. Faulconer, Mr. and Mrs. Bryant M. Hanley, Jr., Marguerite and Robert K. Hoffman, Howard E. Rachofsky, Deedie and Rusty Rose, Gayle and Paul Stoffel, and two anonymous donors

Gustave Courbet, The Wave, c. 1869-1870, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of H.J. Rudick in memory of Arthur L. Kramer

Gustave Courbet, The Wave, c. 1869-70, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of H.J. Rudick in memory of Arthur L. Kramer

Hayley Dyer is the Audience Relations Coordinator for Programming and Education at the DMA.

Open Office: Decorative Arts and Design

Kevin W. Tucker is the Museum’s Margot B. Perot Curator of Decorative Arts and Design. He joined the Museum in the summer of 2003 and has curated acclaimed exhibitions such as Gustav Stickley and the American Arts & Crafts Movement and The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. Take a peek inside Kevin’s DMA office:

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Just One (Last) Look

Cindy Sherman’s works are not self-portraits. Despite the fact that all her images feature one model, one photographer, and one make-up artist—all of whom are the artist herself—Sherman’s work constantly denies us access to the “real” Cindy Sherman. According to Gabriel Ritter, the DMA’s Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, “for the most part, Sherman’s works are not introspective images that yield insight into the artist’s psyche. Instead, they are carefully constructed portraits that foreground the plasticity of identity and photography itself.”

Cindy Sherman is the artist who hides in plain sight.

Following is an excerpt from “Cindy Sherman” by Andy Grundberg in Art in America, July 18, 2012:
Of course, Sherman is in her photographs, literally, or at least in the vast majority of them, but the theme of her work is often said to be one of absence: what we see is not Sherman but a repertoire of roles, each reflecting a culturally determined possibility of female identity. This is essentially what has made her a poster child for a coterie of postmodernism’s theory-driven critics.

Yet the emptying out of Sherman as an individual within her work strikes me as misguided and, given the development charted in this emotionally powerful exhibition, just plain wrong…. It has long been apparent…that Sherman’s impetus in making new pictures stems in large part from her reaction to the critical reception of the last batch, her urge to avoid being typecast both as an artist and as a woman.

The acclaimed nationally touring exhibition closes this weekend at the DMA. See the many guises of  Cindy Sherman through Sunday, June 9. Below are a few images from the exhibition, from installation through today.

Jeffrey Grove is the Senior Curator of Special Projects and Research at the DMA.

Two Nights in Greece

On June 26 and 27, I will offer a two-session course on the themes raised by our current exhibition The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece: Masterworks from the British Museum.

Bronze statuette of Zeus Roman period, first–second century AD, said to be from Hungary  9 5/16 x 4 5/16 x 4 3/4 in.  GR 1865,0103.36 (Bronze 909) © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Bronze statuette of Zeus
Roman period, first–second century AD, said to be from Hungary,
© The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Objects from Greek and Roman antiquity can be challenging to decipher. What the classical world took for granted is no longer part of our language, either spoken or visual. The polytheistic religious framework that defined daily existence seems alien to a modern Western observer, for whom the myths of ancient Greece are complex, overlapping, and in many cases hard to understand.

Over the course of two evenings, I hope to make these artworks of some two millennia ago feel as accessible as possible to a modern viewer, and to share observations from a lifetime of handling and studying classical antiquities.

Black-figure neck amphora, Greek, 520–510 BC, from Vulci, Italy, GR 1836,0224.106 (Vase B224), © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

Black-figure neck amphora, Greek, 520–510 BC, from Vulci, Italy, © The Trustees of the British Museum (2013). All rights reserved.

We’ll tackle the objects in the exhibition by medium, to give insight into the creative choices made by artisans working in gold, silver, bronze, marble, and terracotta, and make our way through the stylistic transitions of the Geometric through the Hellenistic periods.

By the end of these two nights, I hope to have given you what you need to take in not only the antiquities in the DMA’s galleries but also any others you may encounter in the future.

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Visit the DMA’s website for additional information on An Illustrated Course: The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece and to register for the two-night event. DMA Friends have the opportunity to attend the course for free; earn 6,500 points and redeem that credit for the Illustrated Course reward.

Maxwell L. Anderson is The Eugene McDermott Director at the DMA.


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