Archive for the 'Conservation' Category

Olympics in the Galleries

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

No, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s ice skater is not executing a complicated triple lutz, soon to be witnessed by billions around the world during the upcoming Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. He is permanently suspended in his upside-down state, having been painted on the verso of a canvas 17 years after the main painting on the other side, Four Wooden Sculptures, which depicts small primitive sculptures. Both sides of this expressionist artist’s painting can currently be seen (the skater requiring a bit of head tilting) in the DMA’s Behind the Scenes exhibition in the Conservation Gallery.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Four Wooden Sculptures (recto), 1912, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Four Wooden Sculptures (recto), 1912, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Kirchner’s interest in the movement and agility of the human body began early in his career with depictions of Berlin and Dresden cabarets and circuses. He later found inspiration in the bicyclists who practiced racing at Berlin’s Olympia stadium. The DMA’s skater was painted after the artist moved to the Swiss Alpine mountain town of Frauenkirch, near Davos, where he would spend the last 20 years of his life. The area remains a mecca for cold-weather athletics–Davos is now home to both the Kirchner Museum and the Winter Sports Museum.

In 1930, in his essay “On Life and Work,” Kirchner reflected: “Observation of movement has been for me a particularly fruitful source of creative inspiration. From that observation comes the increased awareness of life which is the source of all artistic works.” For Kirchner, most of his sports experience was only that–observation and then the subsequent depictions thereof. The skater and other works such as Ski-Jumpers (1927) and Ice-Hockey Players (1934) were executed after his physical and mental breakdown. Archery seems to be the one sport that the artist attempted himself. In 1933, he wrote to a friend, “My wife is quite a good shot, too. It is an educational sport which makes people take up beautiful attitudes.”

And here’s a view of Kirchner’s Ice Skater that doesn’t require turning the computer upside down.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Ice Skater (verso), 1929–30

Read more about the appearance of athletic activity in Ernst Ludwig Kirchner’s work here.

Reagan Duplisea is the associate registrar, exhibitions at the DMA

Hide and Go Seek: A Behind-the-Scenes Field Trip to Permanent Collection Storage

A few months ago, the seven other McDermott Interns and I toured art storage with Anne Lenhart, associate registrar for the permanent collection. Each year, McDermott Interns explore the storage facilities and get a sneak peek inside the DMA’s collection. We spotted more than a few hidden gems during the tour, which you can find, too, through our DMA Friends program. DMA Friends points can be redeemed for an Into the Deep reward that explores art storage. See snapshots of the secrets of storage below!

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First stop, Main Storage: Adolph Gottlieb’s Orb, 1964, is rolled out for closer inspection. If you would like to see it for yourself, the painting is on view through March in the Museum’s Hoffman Galleries.
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Second stop, Conservation Office: Mark Leonard, chief conservator, works on a painting’s mounting in his old office. With the opening of the Paintings Conservation Studio in November, his work process is now on public display.
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Third stop, Photography: Here works, such as water pitchers, are photographed for publication.
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Fourth stop, Cold Storage: Marc Quinn’s blood heads have never been stored here. If they ever do come to the Museum, we’ll have the proper storage for them!
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Fifth stop: Textile Storage: Textiles are tightly packed on rungs.
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Sixth stop, Large Objects: While some artists do not designate what particular hardware and software to use for digital artworks, some do. We have a nice collection of “ancient” relics.
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Seventh stop, Prop Storage
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Eighth stop: Meso-American and Small Objects Storage: Anne gives Amy Kaczmarek a closer look.
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Temple Shipley is the McDermott Curatorial Intern for Contemporary Art at the DMA.

A Year of Launches, Anniversaries, and Free at the DMA

The year 2013 has been an exciting one at the DMA. We’ve welcomed more than 540,000 visitors, launched new programs, and hosted 11 exhibitions. Below are a few of the Uncrated team’s favorite highlights from the past year.

      • Going free!
        We returned to free general admission on January 21 and have loved every minute of opening our doors for free to the North Texas community.
      • Getting more than 41,000 new friends
        In January we launched DMA Friends, the first free museum membership program, and our new friends have been earning points on their visits and redeeming them for unique rewards for almost 12 months!
      • DMA sleepover
        Speaking of unique rewards, we hosted our first DMA Overnight in November. Ten DMA Friends redeemed 100,000 points to spend the night at the Museum with a guest while exploring the galleries after hours, participating in new DMA games and sleeping under the watchful eyes of Tlaloc.
        Overnight Guests
      • C3 got a facelift
        Come by and see new works of art and activities for all ages in the front gallery of the Center for Creative Connections on Level 1.
      • A sky of denim
        The DMA co-organized exhibition Jim Hodges: Give More Than You Take (on view through January 12!) is full of beautiful and interesting works of art, but we had the privilege of being the first venue to ever show his denim work Untitled (one day it all comes true). It was amazing getting to witness Jim Hodges viewing his completed work on display for the first time.
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      • Happy Anniversary!
        This was the year of anniversaries here at the DMA, including the 110th birthday of the DMA, the 80th anniversary of the Dallas Free Public Art Gallery becoming the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the 50th anniversary of the merger of the DMFA and DMCA, the 30th anniversary of the DMA Sculpture Garden opening, the 20th anniversary of the Hamon Building opening (which includes Level 4 and the Atrium), Arturo’s 10th birthday, and the 5th anniversary of C3.
      • From Greece to Dallas
        We had a year of amazing exhibitions, from a celebration of President Kennedy in Hotel Texas: An Art Exhibition for the President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy to the colorful world of Chagall’s sculptures, drawings and costumes in Chagall:Beyond Color, from the famous Discus Thrower from the British Museum in The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece to welcoming the local art community in DallasSITES: Available Space.
      • Art/Arte
        This fall we launched our first-ever bilingual (Spanish and English) guide for visitors, written by members of the Dallas community through a partnership program with AVANCE-Dallas and Make Art With Purpose. Pick one up at the Visitor Services Desk on your next visit.
      • Texas hops and barley
        This summer we had a Texas beer social for Museum staff and sampled brews that come from the Lone Star State. Uncrated team member Melissa Nelson Gonzales out- sipped the competition and won the beer tasting contest!
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      • Eyes of the  Ancestors
        In June we celebrated the publication of our catalogue Eyes of the Ancestors: The Arts of Island Southeast Asia at the Dallas Museum of Art and welcomed special guest Dhalang Purbo Asmoro, who hosted a public gamelan and wayang performance with musicians from Java, Bali and New York. This month, the book was named the winner of the 2013 International Tribal Art Book Prize.
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      • Creative rest stop
        We launched a new program this year, the Pop-Up Art Spot, taking C3 into the galleries and inviting visitors to enjoy a creative break while exploring the Museum. Over 12,000 visitors of all ages have participated in drawing, writing and other creative activities!
      • New digs
        In 2013 a portion of the south end of the building was under renovation for the new DMA Paintings Conservation Studio (watch the transition here). Visitors can see into the DMA’s Conservation Studio and explore the conservation process in the adjacent gallery for free during Museum hours. A recent conservation project, Daniel Buren’s Sanction of the Museum, hangs in the Concourse and leads the way to the studio.
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      • A Texas-size howdy!
        Our Visitor Services Team, which greets every guest of the DMA when they walk through our doors or visit the galleries, also got a makeover. You may have noticed their friendly smiles and new outfits during your visits this year.
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Thank you for helping us make 2013 a great year. We wish you a very happy new year!

Kimberly Daniell is the manager of communications and public affairs at the DMA.

The Man Behind the Mounts

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Over the past 23 years, visitors to the DMA have witnessed the handiwork of preparator and resident mountmaker Russell Sublette without actually seeing it: the lid of an African box seems to lift as if pulled by an unseen hand, the Tiffany windows emanate a ghostly glow from within the wall into which they are built, odd-shaped objects stand straight and tall in their cases. He has made a Yoruba Egungun costume twirl and dance in the galleries, and created a mannequin support for an equestrian Madonna to ride.

Window with Starfish ("Spring") and Window with Sea Anemone ("Summer"), c. 1885-1895, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, glass, lead, iron, and wooden frame (original), Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Window with Starfish (“Spring”) and Window with Sea Anemone (“Summer”), c. 1885-95, Louis Comfort Tiffany, Tiffany Glass and Decorating Company, glass, lead, iron, and wooden frame (original), Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

“The point of the mount is to let the object speak without the mount being the center of attention,” Sublette says. “The best compliment you can give a mountmaker is ‘What a great object.’”

A 35-year veteran of the Museum, Sublette began his journey to become the DMA’s expert mountmaker in high school metal shop class. He still has a dust pan he made in 1972. After working for several years as a general art handler at the DMA, he focused his attention on making mounts with the Gold of Three Continents exhibition in 1990. A training course at Benchmark, a national company that supplies mounts and supports for museums across the country, provided him with a solid foundation and advice that he still carries with him to this day.

Sublette’s most recent handiwork can be seen (if you look closely enough) in the Behind the Scenes installation in the DMA’s new Paintings Conservation Gallery. Unframed canvases seem to float in their cases and provide visitors the opportunity to learn about painting support systems. The mount for William Henry Huddle’s Marble Falls was his favorite because it was the most challenging. Much time and effort were needed to thread the gravity clip and a triangular brace made to provide a strong structural gusset so the painting does not wobble.

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The Huddle is indicative of Sublette’s process and approach to mountmaking: First he has to figure out the “key to the object”–how to mount the artwork securely in four points or less. Then he asks himself, “How do I make this mount as discrete as possible, invisible if I can?” Sublette achieves this unobtrusive subtlety by becoming an “amateur engineer” and figuring out how thin a piece of metal can be and still hold the weight of the piece securely. Thin pieces of metal can hold a lot of weight of they are bent, twisted and machined to strengthen and make them more rigid. Sublette says that mountmakers are “artists in service of art.” This particular artist’s preferred medium is brass: it’s cheaper than steel, very malleable, needs only a small oxygen tank, and produces no soot.

Sublette says he enjoys the mountmaking aspect of his job because it takes 100% engagement and allows for close contact with the art. He admits to revisiting an object 100-150 times before its mount is complete, measuring and re-measuring, memorizing each line and contour. “It’s important to take the mount to the piece and not the piece to the mount. You shouldn’t have to force a piece into an acrobatic dance to fit the mount. I’m anal as hell. But now I’m using it for the forces of good.”

Sublette also made the shell surround mounts for the pedestals for the double-sided works in the conservation gallery, including Ernst Kirchner’s Four Wooden Sculptures (recto)/ Ice Skater (verso) and Emile Bernard’s Breton Women Attending a Pardon (recto)/Unfinished Sketch (verso). A far cry from the dust pans of yore.

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Reagan Duplisea is associate registrar of exhibitions at the DMA.

Creating the DMA Conservation Studio

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In the summer of 2012, the Dallas Museum of Art began making plans to renovate the former Seventeen Seventeen Restaurant space and transform it into a new Paintings Conservation Studio as part of the Museum’s initiative to establish a more comprehensive in-house conservation program. Construction began in the fall of 2012, and the studio is now complete, as is the adjacent Conservation Gallery. This time-lapse film captures the building process, as seen from the vantage point of what is now a public gallery space.

The Paintings Conservation Studio features state-of-the-art technology—including a digital X-ray system—and will serve as a center for the study and treatment of works of art, as well as research into cutting-edge conservation methodologies. Brightened with natural light from new skylights and enclosed by glass walls, the studio’s design will allow visitors to observe daily activity, providing audiences with a singular behind-the-scenes experience. Activities in the studio also will be visible from both the Conservation Gallery and the adjacent outdoor Rose Family Sculpture Terrace.

The first exhibition in the gallery, Behind the Scenes, highlights the artists’ original materials and techniques, as well as the conservation histories of the works on display, exploring the various treatments they have undergone. This adjoining gallery will regularly rotate works, providing a space to explore the conservation process in greater detail through visual representations.

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Mark Leonard is the chief conservator at the DMA.

DMA Park Rangers

It’s hard to believe one whole year has passed since our neighbor Klyde Warren Park  opened its gates. In honor of the first anniversary, we created a Park Rangers guide to the DMA.

The role of a ranger is to care for and protect the flora and fauna of the park and to educate visitors about them. As a former park ranger, I can personally attest that the jobs that we do here at the DMA aren’t entirely different! We just focus on works of art instead of nature. And, there is actually quite a bit of nature to be investigated within the Museum’s walls.

Come to the DMA and explore nature on the Park Rangers self-guided tour. Print it at home before your visit or ask a friendly gallery attendant—the DMA’s own version of a park ranger—for one when you arrive.

George Inness, Summer Foliage, 1883, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Joel T. Howard

George Inness, Summer Foliage, 1883, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Joel T. Howard

One tour stop is George Inness’s Summer Foliage, which shows the artist’s unique ability to bring to life a traditional landscape scene. After your Museum visit, saunter over to Klyde Warren Park to experience nature firsthand, right in the middle of the Dallas Arts District!Practice capturing your own landscape with a camera or a phone. Don’t forget to tag your photo #DMAParkRanger.

Andrea Vargas Severin is the interpretation specialist at the DMA.

Summer Conservation at the DMA: Treatment of Sanction of the Museum by Daniel Buren

If you’ve visited the DMA lately, you may have been wondering what is going on behind the closed doors of the Chilton Galleries, the same galleries that held the recent Chagall: Beyond Color exhibition. The galleries have been transformed into a temporary conservation workspace, where we have been busily working on a massive installation artwork by Daniel Buren.

Daniel Buren in 1995. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)

Daniel Buren in 1995 (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Daniel Buren (b. 1938) has been creating dynamic public installations since the early 1970s. His conceptual artwork challenged the traditional formats at the time and frequently combined modern pieces with historical architecture. Now Buren’s large striped artworks are recognized instantly across Europe, earning him revered status in his native France.

Sanction of the Museum being unrolled for the first time at the DMA.

Sanction of the Museum being unrolled for the first time at the DMA

The DMA recently acquired Buren’s 1973 Sanction of the Museum, which consists of six enormous panels of cotton fabric with alternating white and colored vertical stripes. Each panel bears two stripes of white acrylic paint applied to both the front and back of the fabric at the far left and right edges. The panels will hang from the ceiling near the Ross Avenue Entrance (at the south end of the Museum’s main Concourse) like a series of banners that can sway slightly in the air. They will lead the way upstairs to the new Conservation Studio, where Museum visitors will soon have a window into the often-unseen world of art conservation.

Conservation Interns Diana Hartman and Jessica Ford steaming one of the large canvas panels

Conservation interns Diana Hartman and Jessica Ford steaming one of the large canvas panels

As conservation interns, our job was to stabilize and restore visual integrity to the canvas panels. They had been rolled up in storage since the artwork’s last installation in 1989, prior to their acquisition by the DMA last year. This is good in that the artwork hasn’t seen a lot of wear or fading from UV, but because it was rolled improperly a number of minor damages were incurred. (If you’re curious about how to properly care for your paintings, here is a good place to start!) The most pressing issues we encountered were the extreme creases and wrinkles that marred the artwork’s stoic appearance. We also found numerous small stains and tears.

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Before performing any treatment on the artwork itself, we made mock-ups and conducted tests to decide on the best option. In conservation practice, a “less is more” approach is always best, using minimal interference and always using reversible materials. In this particular case, we successfully steamed away most of the wrinkles in the fabric and reduced the most severe creases under custom weights. Small tears were mended with thread-by-thread reweaving and custom-made patches. Soft vinyl erasers and cellulose pulp poultices were used to reduce scuffs and dirt.

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After an intense eight weeks of preparation, installation is now underway! We are thrilled to have been a part of the team that helped bring this important contemporary artwork to Dallas. This conservation treatment is just the start of many more exciting projects that will be taking place on public view in the new Conservation Studio when it opens this fall. Be sure to check out Sanction of the Museum the next time you visit the DMA!

Diana Hartman and Jessica Ford are art conservation interns working with Chief Conservator Mark Leonard at the DMA this summer. Diana is a conservation technician at Winterthur Museum, and Jessica is a graduate fellow in paintings conservation at Winterthur/University of Delaware.

Breaking Ground

We “broke ground” today on the Museum’s new paintings conservation studio! The conservation studio is located on the top level of the DMA, near the south entrance, and will include a gallery space and sculpture courtyard (accessible to you!) designed by Samuel Anderson Architects (SAA). For the first time at the DMA, visitors will be able to see behind the scenes on a daily basis, watching artwork actively being conserved by the DMA’s first Chief Conservator, Mark Leonard. Construction is scheduled for completion this fall.

Check the DMA’s social media and Uncrated throughout the summer for updates on the construction of the conservation studio. Below are photos from today’s official first day of construction.

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