Archive for the 'Curatorial' Category

Fall Transition

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Transition in the Center for Creative Connections is always a bittersweet time. While we’re excited by the infusion of new art in our gallery because it brings new experiences for our visitors, this week we had to say good-bye to some favorites:  The Visitors by Jacob Lawrence, Frank Smith watering his horse, Cross-B Ranch, Crosby County, Texas by Erwin Smith, and Soul Three by Romare Bearden. Now we’re welcoming Ram Mask with Feather Cape by the Kom people in Cameroon, two films by Isa Genzken, and The Mother Load Project, an interactive installation by local artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio. Here’s a little more about our newest installations:

Helmet mask with feather costume, Kom peoples, North West Province, Cameroon, Africa, Early to mid-20th century, wood, fibers, and feathers, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund

Helmet mask with feather costume, Cameroon, North West Province, Kom peoples, early to mid-20th century, wood, fibers, and feathers, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund

This mask depicts a ram, an animal that is sacrificed in religious rituals. While the face of the animal is carved naturalistically, the horns are designed as two stylized spherical knobs composed of concentric rings. When the mask is worn, it fits snugly on top of the dancer’s head and the dancer’s face is concealed under a fitted hood. The dancer also wears a costume of chicken feathers. masks_of_mbuoshu_book_scan_descreenWhile we are interested in visitors being able to explore the sensory elements of this piece, including the texture of the materials, the weight of the mask, the sounds of a masquerade, and the sight of the feathers in motion, this month we will focus activities in the C3 on mask making. If you were to create a mask symbolic of yourself or an event in your life, what animal would you choose as a symbol, and why?

Additional works from our African collection have recently been installed in the African Galleries on Level 3, including the new acquisition of a sword ornament in the form of a spider.

genzken-chicagodrive
In conjunction with the current exhibition Isa Genzken: Retrospective, on view through January 4, 2015, the Center for Creative Connections is showing two films by Genzken in the C3 Theater. On weekdays you can see Chicago Drive, a 16mm film made in 1992 while Genzken was in Chicago preparing for her Renaissance Society exhibition. It reveals her fascination with local architecture, both the famous and the mundane, and also includes intermittent blues music on the soundtrack. On the weekends, My Grandparents in the Bavarian Forest will be on view. This 63-minute film has English subtitles and is a personal account of Genzken’s grandparents’ home in southern Germany. Through the recording of seemingly banal conversations and her grandparents’ quotidian rituals, Genzken draws a moving portrait of the complexity of family dynamics, and the difficulty of coming to terms with the survivors of the World War II generation.

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This week artists Lesli Robertson and Natalie Macellaio have been on hand in the Center for Creative Connections installing The Mother Load project, an interactive work that hopes to start a dialogue with visitors about the balance of nurturing in one’s life. The collaborative project began as a way to engage with women who lead the creative life of an artist while also being a mother. Through the project, Robertson and Macellaio are collecting fingerprints from artists and their children, recording experiences through written word and audio interviews, and documenting the ongoing project through their interactive website (themotherload.org). In the interactive component of the installation, visitors are asked to respond to this question: “In your life right now, what are you nurturing, and why?” Look for an upcoming post where we interview Robertson and Macellaio about The Mother Load.

Jessica Fuentes is the C3 Gallery Coordinator at the DMA.

Cold Case Closed

Prime Minister Stephen Harper (right) of Canada listens as Parks Canada’s Ryan Harris talks about an image showing one of two ships from the lost Franklin expedition, in Ottawa. Photo: Reuters. Website: http://www.smh.com.au/.

In news disclosed this week, history came to life and reached out to touch Frederic Edwin Church’s masterful painting The Icebergs (1861) in the DMA’s collection. The recent discovery of one of two ships submerged in the arctic waters off the Canadian coast also brings to closure one of the great mysteries of expeditionary navigation. In the trip led by Captain Sir John Franklin, two ships sailed in 1845 in a failed attempt to map and navigate the Northwest Passage. The captain and his men perished in the cold conditions. In 1863 Frederic Church would tap into this tragic tale in an attempt to make The Icebergs more appealing to British collectors. Before shipping the work to England, he added the broken mast of a ship in the foreground as a direct allusion to the doomed expedition. The opening for the painting’s exhibition in London was attended by many Arctic explorers, as well as the widowed Lady Franklin.

Learn more about the discovery of one of Franklin’s ships, including video of the discovered ship, on BBC.com.

Dallas Museum of Art_The Icebergs painting

Sue Canterbury is The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the DMA.

Hot Dogs at the DMA

Hot dog – tomorrow is National Dog Day! What better way to celebrate man’s best friend than to have an entire day devoted to our canine companions? We love dogs here at the DMA and have a paws-itively delightful variety of works of art depicting them. Grab your furry friend and have a tail-waggin’ good time as you celebrate National Dog Day with the top dogs of our collection.

Nicolas Mignard, The Shepherd Faustulus Bringing Romulus and Remus to His Wife, 1654, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated

Nicolas Mignard, The Shepherd Faustulus Bringing Romulus and Remus to His Wife, 1654, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated

Home is where your dog is, and this home is about to welcome two new babies to the family. This painting tells the story of a shepherd who found two babies—Romulus and Remus—in the woods. They were abandoned by their family and had been living with a she-wolf who took care of them. Luckily the babies have a four-legged family member to help watch over them!

Mythical aso (one of a pair), Borneo, Greater Sunda Islands, Kayan people, 19th century, wood (kayu tapang or Koompassia: Excelsa), Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund and the Museum League Purchase Fund

Pair of Mythical aso, Borneo, Greater Sunda Islands, Kayan people, 19th century, wood (kayu tapang or Koompassia: Excelsa), Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund and the Museum League Purchase Fund

Beware of dog! Their bark may be louder than their bite, but these two creatures certainly look strong and fierce. This is a pair of asos, a mythical animal that is a mix of a dog and a dragon. Dogs and dragons both guard and protect and for the Kayan people of Borneo, asos protected the most important people in their society.

Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Water Spaniel Confronting a Heron, 1722, oil on canvas, Lent by the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation

Jean-Baptiste Oudry, Water Spaniel Confronting a Heron, 1722, oil on canvas, Lent by the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation

Friend or fowl? Jean-Baptiste Oudry was known for painting hunting scenes, but there is a question about who is hunting whom in this picture. It looks like this bird is barking up the wrong tree. My money is on the mutt!

Nicolas de Largillière, Portrait of the Comtesse de Montsoreau and Sister as Diana and an Attendant, 1714, oil on canvas, Lent by the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation

Nicolas de Largillière, Portrait of the Comtesse de Montsoreau and Sister as Diana and an Attendant, 1714, oil on canvas, Lent by the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation

These girls are dressed up to have their portrait painted with their two pampered pooches – who wouldn’t want a painted portrait with their dog? The girls are dressed as the Goddess Diana and an attendant; Diana is the Goddess of the Hunt and her symbol is a crescent moon.

John White Alexander, Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt (later Mrs. Langdon Geer), 1901-1902, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation in memory of Pauline Gill Sullivan

John White Alexander, Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt (later Mrs. Langdon Geer), 1901-1902, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation in memory of Pauline Gill Sullivan

This pup looks dog-tired! Dogs can say a lot without ever barking—just look at their ears and tail! This dog, Shamrock, may be taking a cue from his owner as they sit and stay to have their portrait painted. The woman in this portrait is Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt, cousin to President Theodore Roosevelt. As a teenager, Dorothy visited the White House often for parties and events. One might say that Shamrock is one fashionable dog, check out his elegant gold collar!

The next time you feel like drooling over paintings depicting pups, take a two-legged visit to the DMA to search out the hounds.

Amanda Blake is the Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences at the DMA

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.

 

 

#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.

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.


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