Archive for July, 2014

Jazz and Jewelry: Celebrating Art Smith in August

In June, the DMA opened the beautiful exhibition From the Village to Vogue: The Modernist Jewelry of Art Smith, featuring 26 dynamic pieces of silver and gold jewelry created by artist Art Smith. 

 

 

To celebrate this show, we are making August the month of all things Art Smith. You can explore the show with a metalsmith during a  Gallery Talk; stop by the Center for Creative Connections to look at Smith’s tools; listen to the jazz that inspired Smith, every Thursday evening during Jazz in the Atrium; or, if you’re a teen, sign up for the Urban Armor Maker Club to create a programmable piece of jewelry. Be sure to check out the full schedule of events for more information.

 

Jazz in the Atrium

 

In addition to being one of the leading modernist jewelers of the mid-20th century, Smith was an avid jazz enthusiast and a supporter of early black modern dance groups. This inspired us to commission a new dance from our Arts District Neighbors, Dallas Black Dance Theatre, accompanied by a new jazz suite composed by jazz drummer Stockton Helbing.

 

 

First, we met with Nycole Ray, Artistic Director for Dallas Black Dance Theatre II, and Stockton to discuss the format of the piece—how long would the entire piece be, how many dances would comprise the whole performance, does there need to be transition music between the dances, what tempo would be best for each dance, what style of jazz would fit the feel of the piece, and more. We also agreed that a jazz trio would be best so the band and the dancers could all fit on stage together during the live performance.

 

Once those questions were answered, Stockton began composing an original piece of music he titled On 4th Street, after the location of Art Smith’s studio in New York. Stockton created MIDI demos of his music for Nycole to review before he went into the studio to make the final recording with other musicians.

 

We now have the final masters of the music, and Nycole has begun choreographing the dances and working with the dancers on the piece she titled Art on 4th Street.

 

Dallas Black Dance Theatre II

This dance will have its world premiere during the Friday, August 15 Late Night. In addition to Art on 4th Street, this evening will feature live jazz, jewelry making, a film screening of Paris Blues, tours, and more—all inspired by Art Smith!

 

Stacey Lizotte is Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services at the DMA.

 

 

Installing Slavs and Tatars

Concentrations 57: Slavs and Tatars opened two weeks ago at the DMA. Part of the DMA’s ongoing Concentrations series, which began more than 30 years ago, the exhibition features new work from the art collective Slavs and Tatars, including the first-ever full presentation of their Love Letters carpet series. See how the installation came together below, and then visit the free exhibition in person through December 14.
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#DMAVacation

Nic Nicosia, Vacation, 1986, cibachrome photograph, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Meisel Photochrome Corporation © 1986 Nic Nicosia, Dallas, Texas

Nic Nicosia, Vacation, 1986, cibachrome photograph, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Meisel Photochrome Corporation, © 1986 Nic Nicosia, Dallas, Texas

Earlier this month, the large photograph Vacation by Nic Nicosia was installed in the Center for Creative Connections (C3). Vacation is one of seven photographs that comprise Nic Nicosia’s Life As We Know It series. In this series depicting contemporary American life, Nicosia plays with everyday topics such as fashion, youth, and violence. Through his use of fabricated environments and staged scenes, Nicosia blurs the line between illusion and reality. This surreal atmosphere is enhanced by the ironic twists, such as the burning plane in the background, on what would otherwise be ordinary situations.

Inspired by this work of art, the C3 team created a photo station where visitors can pose for their own staged picnic-themed photograph. Some have embraced the surreal nature of Nicosia’s work more than others. Check out our visitors’ photographs and stop by C3 to snap a photo of your DMA vacation.

Jessica Fuentes is the C3 Gallery Coordinator

The Welcoming Party: A Van Gogh Returns

Today we at the DMA are excited to welcome home after a “sabbatical” in Paris one of our masterpieces, van Gogh’s work on paper Café Terrace on the Place du Forum. On tour at the Musée d’Orsay, this magnificent work of art was one of only seven drawings featured in Van Gogh/Artaud: The Man Suicided by Society. This exhibition was seen by nearly 655,000 visitors over the course of four months, making it the highest-attended exhibition in Musée d’Orsay history. Now prominently and proudly on view in our special exhibition Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cézanne, Café Terrace on the Place du Forum joins other masterworks by van Gogh’s peer artists including Manet, Degas, Cézanne, and Renoir. Say “bonjour” and see it now through October 26 on a visit to Mind’s Eye.

Murder Revisited

Last year, over 700 visitors participated in our Museum Murder Mystery Game during Late Night! If you were one of those determined detectives, you found out that it was Winston Churchill who killed Eros, the God of Love, in the Silk Road gallery with the Scepter from the Asian galleries.

And while justice was served last year, we have it on good authority that during our next Late Night on Friday, July 18, there will be another murder!

It will be up to our visitors to solve this third Museum Murder Mystery by figuring out who the murderer is, the weapon he or she used, and the room where the murder took place.

For one night only, the seven works suspected of the murder will come to life and answer your questions. Without revealing who the suspects are, as they are innocent until proven guilty, these photos will give you a clue to their identities.

In addition to the Murder Mystery Game, there will be a lot more mysterious and fun things to do during the Late Night; be sure to check out the full schedule of events.

Stacey Lizotte is Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services at the DMA.

Painting Without the Point: Pissarro’s “Apple Harvest” Unvarnished

A long-time favorite in the DMA’s European galleries, Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest of 1888 has returned to view this month after a visit to the Painting Conservation Studio.

Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest (1888), on Mark Leonard’s easel, in the DMA’s Painting Conservation Studio

Camille Pissarro’s Apple Harvest (1888) on Mark Leonard’s easel in the DMA’s Painting Conservation Studio

Removal of the old varnish layer began at the right side of the picture, as is seen in this image taken during the cleaning process.  Soft cotton swabs and a mild organic solvent mixture were used to remove the discolored resin.

Removal of the old varnish layer began at the right side of the picture, as is seen in this image taken during the cleaning process. Soft cotton swabs and a mild organic solvent mixture were used to remove the discolored resin.

The painting, which has been at the Museum since 1955, is in very good condition, but it was brought to Chief Conservator Mark Leonard to determine whether it was in need of cleaning. He opened a small “cleaning window” along the right side of the canvas, removing the layer of protective varnish. The bright pigments revealed by this small test confirmed that the varnish had become dark and yellowed over the past half-century, masking the true colors of the painting. It needed to be removed. The painting was carefully cleaned and its original vibrant tonality has been rediscovered.

 

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Pissarro actually made three different paintings of this subject: a group of peasants gathering apples in the shade of an apple tree. The first version dates back to 1881, when Pissarro was one of the leaders of the impressionist group, and is painted in a classic impressionist style, with open brushwork describing the dappled sunlight that falls on the figures.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881, Oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 21 ¼ in. (65 x 54 cm), Private Collection

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881, oil on canvas, 25 5/8 x 21 ¼ in. (65 x 54 cm), Private Collection

The same year, Pissarro started another, larger version of the subject, but did not complete it until 1886, when he showed it at the eighth and final impressionist exhibition.

 Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881-1886, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 x 50 in. (126 x 127 cm), Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan

Camille Pissarro, Apple Picking, 1881-1886, oil on canvas, 49 5/8 x 50 in. (126 x 127 cm), Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Okayama Prefecture, Japan

At that exhibition, Pissarro championed the participation of the young pointillist painters, Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, and Seurat showed his “manifesto painting,” A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte1884.

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—1884, 1884-86, oil on canvas, 81 ¾ x 121 ¼ in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

Georges Seurat, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte—1884, 1884-86, oil on canvas, 81 ¾ x 121 ¼ in. (207.5 x 308.1 cm), Art Institute of Chicago, Helen Birch Bartlett Memorial Collection

Pissarro had recently adopted Seurat’s neo-impressionist method as the approach to painting that was “in harmony with our epoch” and an evolution from the older, “romantic” impressionism of artists like Monet. When he began work the next year on the DMA’s Apple Harvest, Pissarro was returning to a familiar subject, but armed with the new, “scientific” principles he had learned from Seurat.
Pissarro prepared the painting with a number of drawings, oil studies, and a full compositional watercolor, which he squared for transfer.

Camille Pissarro, Compositional study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, watercolor on paper, 6 5/8 x 8 ½ in. (16.7 x 21.5 cm), Whereabouts unknown

Camille Pissarro, Compositional study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, watercolor on paper, 6 5/8 x 8 ½ in. (16.7 x 21.5 cm), whereabouts unknown

In one drawing for the apple tree, Pissarro carefully noted the local colors he observed in the grass while sketching in the apple orchard: “yellowish red-orange,” “green,” “violet,” and “pink.”

Camille Pissarro, Study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, graphite and colored pencil on beige paper, 7 x 9 in. (17.8 x 22.7 cm), The Eunice and Hal David Collection

Camille Pissarro, Study for Apple Harvest, c. 1888, graphite and colored pencil on beige paper, 7 x 9 in. (17.8 x 22.7 cm), The Eunice and Hal David Collection

In the final painting, these colors were evoked optically through a flurry of carefully selected and painstakingly applied flecks and dots of pure, unmixed color.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

The pointillist method was a source of ongoing internal debate for Pissarro during these years. Despite his methodical preparatory studies, Pissarro placed a very high value on freedom and improvisation in painting. In September 1888, around the time he was completing work on Apple Harvest, he wrote to his son Lucien, a fellow neo-impressionist: “I am thinking a lot here about a way of producing without the point,” he reported. “How to attain the qualities of purity, of the simplicity of the point, and the thickness, the suppleness, the liberty, the spontaneity, the freshness of sensation of our impressionist art? That’s the question; it is much on my mind, for the point is thin, without consistency, diaphanous, more monotonous than simple.”

In Apple Harvest, Pissarro went to great lengths to avoid the monotony of pointillism, and his dots are surprisingly active and diverse, fracturing and curling to define form as well as color.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

Robert Herbert, one of the great 20th-century historians of impressionism, described Pissarro’s complex approach to describing the deep shadow under the apple tree at the center foreground of the painting with a myriad of colored points: “The shadow has brilliant red, intense blue, intense green as well as pink, lavender, orange, some yellow, and subdued blues and greens. The pigments were not allowed to mix much together, and preserve their individuality which, because of the high intensity, results in an abrasive vibration in our eye that cannot be resolved into one tone. In order to make the contrast still sharper, Pissarro strengthens the blue around the edges of the shadow, a reaction provoked by the proximity of the strong sunlit field.”

 Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888 (detail)

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888 (detail)

By February of the next year, Pissarro informed his son that he was still “searching for a way to replace the points. Up until this moment, I haven’t found what I desire; the execution doesn’t seem to me to be quick enough and doesn’t respond simultaneously enough to sensation.” Pissarro sought nothing less than translating the immediacy of his optical sensations into the solid fact of paint on a canvas. Throughout the late 1880s, he was testing the capacity of the neo-impressionists’ methods to sustain this personal artistic goal.

Camille Pissarro taking his rolling easel outdoors to paint near his house in Éragny, France, c. 1895

Camille Pissarro taking his rolling easel outdoors to paint near his house in Éragny, France, c. 1895

The first critics who saw Apple Harvest in 1889 and 1890, when it was shown at important exhibitions in Brussels and Paris, were profoundly impressed with how Pissarro managed to convey the experience of sunlight using the pointillist approach. One early critic wrote, “Truly, the canvases of M. Pissarro are today painted with the sun.” Later writers have agreed, pointing out how Pissarro “directed the light so that it appears to radiate from the depths of the scene, to activate with color everything along its path and then to issue forth in to the viewer’s space.”

How, then, does the painting’s recent cleaning alter our understanding of Apple Harvest? For many decades, the painting has appeared more yellow than Pissarro intended because of the darkened layer of varnish on its surface. This change has no doubt influenced viewers of the painting who noted the “warm” palette of the canvas, which “positively throbs with the heat of a late summer’s afternoon.” The intensely sunlit effect of the painting was, it seems, given an additional golden glow by the amber hue of the darkened varnish. But, the dazzling luminosity of Apple Harvest—its “powerful fiat lux,” in the words of one early critic—was no accident of time. It was apparent to viewers as soon as the painting left Pissarro’s easel, and now, 125 years later, the painting’s brilliant colors and lighting effects have been restored to their original, white-hot intensity.

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest (Cuillette des pommes), 1888, oil on canvas, 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm), Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Camille Pissarro, Apple Harvest, 1888, oil on canvas, 24 x 29 1/8 in. (61 x 74 cm), Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund

Celebrate Camille Pissarro’s birthday on July 10 with a visit to the newly conserved work on Level 2.

Heather MacDonald is The Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art at the DMA.

Alles Gute Zum Geburtstag Käthe Kollwitz

Popular throughout Europe and the United States during her career, German artist Käthe Kollwitz (1867-1945) captured images of life and the tragedy of war during the first half of the 20th century. Commemorate Kollwitz’s July 8 birthday with a visit to the free focus exhibition Käthe Kollwitz: A Social Activist in the Era of World War I in the Museum’s European Art Gallery on Level 2.

 

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Kimberly Daniell is Manager of Communications and Public Affairs at the DMA.


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