Archive for June, 2012

Texas-sized Free Day!

Howdy, Texas!  Around these parts, we’re all pretty familiar with a fella named Big Tex, an icon of the State Fair of Texas in Dallas’ Fair Park area.  If Big Tex could take a stroll across town, you know he’d be sure to mosey up for some fun at the DMA‘s First Tuesday on July 3.  He could add some flair to his bandana in the art studio, join a roundup for stories and songs about Texas, search for Texas artwork treasures throughout the Museum, and more!  From 11:00 am to 4:00 pm, the DMA will be bustling with activities for families and kid folks.  We invite you to bring your pardners for the celebration on Tuesday, July 3, and kick off the national holiday a little early with some Texas pride.  General Museum admission is FREE!

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Texas artwork treasures featured in the slideshow include:
George Grosz, Cowboy in Town, 1952, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of A. Harris and Company in memory of Leon A. Harris, Sr.

George Grosz, Dallas Night, 1952, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, anonymous gift in memory of Leon A. Harris

George Grosz, Cattle, c. 1952-53, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of A. Harris and Company in memory of Leon A. Harris, Sr.

George Grosz, Cotton Harvest, Dallas (Cotton Pickers), c. 1952-53, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of A. Harris and Company in memory of Leon A. Harris, Sr.

Nicole Stutzman
Chair of Learning Initiatives and Dallas Museum of Art League Director of Education

We’ve Looked at Clouds

If you’ve come into the Center for Creative Connections (C3) within the past month you may have noticed a few changes in our space. Aside from new artworks in our Encountering Space exhibition, we have transformed one area into a Prototyping Station. What does that mean exactly? Well, in this space we use reproductions of works of art to engage our visitors in conversations. These conversations allow us to better understand visitors’ perspectives and inform our thinking in the development of exhibitions. For the past month, we have focused on three works of art from our collection.

We often have so much background information about a work of art that it is difficult to decide how much of it visitors need to know. There is a delicate balance between providing information and allowing visitors to learn through their own observations. While we did these tests, we only provided a minimal amount of information besides the image.

Our dialogues have included both face-to-face conversations and written responses to questions we’ve posed. We have documented these responses and decided to make word clouds to show you what we have received so far. Word clouds, or tag clouds, are a way of visualizing data. You enter text into a computer program, and it generates a visual representation of which words are repeated most often. The words that are used most often appear larger. Take a look at the following word clouds we generated based on visitors’ responses to the following:

“The title of this work of art is The Minotaur. Tell us what you know about the Minotaur.”

“We are looking for descriptive words for this work of art. List what comes to mind when you look at this picture.”

Marcel Dzama, “The Minotaur,” 2008, plaster, gauze, rope, fabric, chair, bucket, and paintbrushes, Dallas Museum of Art, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2008.43.2.a-e, (c) Marcel Dzama

Jerry Bywaters, “Share Cropper,” 1937, oil on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, Allied Arts Civic Prize, Eighth Annual Dallas Allied Arts Exhibition, 1937.1

Visitors noticed many things, ranging from objects to emotions.Why is this process important? We want to gather input from visitors. Putting this testing area in the middle of the gallery allows visitors to see the process we use to develop interpretive components for a work of art. It also gives Museum-goers a chance to contribute information and a perspective that may be different from the staff’s, which is an important component of the C3 mission.

The next time you are at the Museum, stop by the C3 and share your responses in our new prototyping area.

Jessica Nelson is the C3 Gallery Coordinator at the Dallas Museum of Art.

How It’s Made: Japanese Cloisonné

Have you ever wondered how Japanese artists created such beautiful cloisonné pieces?  Well, I have, and after a lot of research, I’d like to share what I discovered.

What is Cloisonné?

The technique of cloisonné actually dates back to the Mycenaean and early Greek cultures.  In antiquity, it was common for artists to solder the wires to a metal body and then fill the recessed areas with enamel, a compound made of sand, flint, soda, and lead.  After it is fired in a charcoal-fueled kiln at very high temperatures, the enamel compound fuses and assumes a very glossy, glass-like texture.  The Japanese process varied slightly from this, as I will describe in the next section.

“Cloisons” or wire cells used to create cloisonné.
“Box”, Japan, 19th century, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The John R. Young Collection, gift of M. Frances and John R. Young

The nomenclature of cloisonné stems from France.  The term cloisonné comes from the French word “cloisons,” or wire cells, which are used to create this technique.  Most of the enameling terms you hear will be of French origin, and that’s likely because the French dominated the enameling practice for about ten centuries.  However, the Japanese use a different term to describe cloisonné: shippōShippō references the seven treasures of the sūtra, a direct correlation to ancient Buddhist texts.  The seven treasures include gold, silver, pearl, crystal, agate, lapis lazuli, and coral.  This definition of cloisonné emphasizes the Japanese affinity with nature and religion, while the French term focuses on the technical aspect of the technique.

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What’s the Process of Cloisonné?

Namikawa Yasuyuki loading an object into the kiln. Image from Coben and Ferster’s “Japanese Cloisonné: History, Technique, and Appreciation.”

As mentioned earlier, in ancient times it was common to solder your copper or silver wires down to a metal base.  The Japanese process differs by adhering the wires to a metal base using a rice-paste or glue made from an orchid root, called biyaku-gu.  After the wires are secure on the base, the artist takes the enamel paste, a mixture of water and enamel, and gently place the paste in the wire cells using a bamboo pen.  After this step, the object must sit to allow all the moisture to evaporate from the enamel.  Once completely dried, the artist delicately places the object into a muffle kiln, or a nishiki-gama, a clay kiln that is fueled by charcoal.  After the enamel has fused, the piece can be taken out to cool.  Once cooled, the artist can go back in and add more enamel paste and fire it until the enamel is flush with the metal wires.  The final step includes sanding and polishing the enamel and wires until an even surface is acquired.  Once sanded and polished, the enameled object goes into the nishiki-gama one last time to bring the enamel to a high gloss.

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How Did Cloisonné Come to Japan?

Prior to the 16th century, very little enamelware was found in Japan.  Even with neighboring China, a society already exemplary in producing cloisonné, did the artform hit Japan until artist Hirata Hikoshiro, better known as Dōnin, was commissioned by a lord to create a cloisonné object.  Dōnin learned the ways of Chinese cloisonné and brought back the secrets of the trade to Japan.  He became well-known in the samurai community for making decorative sword furniture, but kept his cloisonné process to himself, and only let his family know the tricks of the trade.  A century later another Japanese artist, Kaji Tsunekichi, sought the mysteries of cloisonné.  In the mid-1830’s, Tsunekichi purchased a piece of Chinese cloisonné and purposely broke it apart to discover the manufacturer’s secrets.  After a lot of trial and error, he found success and became known as the “Father of Modern Japanese Cloisonné.”  Tsunekichi trained many artists, creating a cloisonné community within Japan.

The Golden Age

Because of the Western desire for Japanese cloisonné, more and more workshops opened up in small communities like Toshima.  Toshima became known as the shippō-mura, or cloisonné village.  The mass production of cloisonné wares in workshops like Toshima were part of the Japanese industrial revolution that occurred during the second half of the 19th century.  Rather than the large, boisterous factories we envision of the American and European industrial revolutions, the cloisonné workshops of Japan remained very traditional and true to the lead artist’s designs.  Alice M. Hart, an American journalist, visited one of these workshops and this is what she found:

“What an ideal, no smoke, no noise, and no hurry.  Engaged in the pursuit of delightful art, the workmen had only to lift their eyes from their work to see cherry blossoms tossed up against a blue sky…”

Japanese cloisonné workshop. Image from Coben and Ferster’s “Japanese Cloisonné: History, Technique, and Appreciation.”

All this production during the late 19th century has been coined as the “Golden Age for Japanese cloisonné.”  The Golden Age was brought on by a whirlwind of technological advances that Japanese artists were initiating.  Three instrumental leaders in the Golden Age are Namikawa Yasuyuki, Namikawa Sōsuke, and Andō Jūbei.

Namikawa Yasuyuki was known for his invention of the first transparent black glaze and his ‘traditional’ style.  This new transparent black enamel led to a whole production of transparent enamels, which provided artists more freedom with the material.  With this new application, Namikawa Sōsuke was able to rise to fame with his “painting-like” enamels.  Sōsuke also became known as the inventor of shōsen-jippō, where he would etch away the cloisonné wires with sulfuric acid to create a more natural transition, rather than the heavy outlines of wires.  Finally, Andō Jūbei brought the ‘new fashion’ to Japanese cloisonné by combining various styles and techniques such as plique-a-jour; a technique where the wires are fused together and there is no metal backing, allowing sunlight to shine through the enamel.  His company, the Andō Company, was very prolific and received several international awards.

Ando Jubei, Koro and Cover, c. 1900, Japan, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, The John R. Young Collection, gift of M. Frances and John R. Young

In the Japanese galleries on the third floor of the Museum, you can find exquisite examples from all three artists.  Many of these works instill both awe and beauty.  Even though I know how these objects were created, I’m still amazed by the amount of detail and craftsmanship involved.  Next time you are at the Museum, come explore these small treasures of Japan—I know you will be impressed by their splendor.

Loryn Leonard
Coordinator of Museum Visits

References:

  • Coben, Lawrence, and Dorothy Ferster, Japanese Cloisonné: History, Technique, and Appreciation, New York: Weatherhill, 1982.
  • Darty, Linda, The Art of Enameling: Techniques, Projects, Inspiration, New York: Lark Books, 2004.

An Introduction by Way of Road Trip

As the newest member of the DMA’s curatorial team, I thought I would take the opportunity to introduce myself to the online community. I am from Los Angeles and have been actively engaged with contemporary art in one way or another for the past ten years. While in Los Angeles, I worked as the director of Blum & Poe gallery and then as a Curatorial Assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles. Most recently, I’ve been working on my Ph.D. in art history at UCLA, and for the past year I was a Japan Foundation Doctoral Fellow, researching at the Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. As the new Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art, I will be in charge of the ongoing Concentrations series, which organizes exhibitions of work by emerging and under-represented artists.

Gabriel Ritter, The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA

Being new to Texas, I thought a cross-country drive would be a great way to familiarize myself with my new surroundings. On our way from Los Angeles to Dallas, my wife and I decided to make a pilgrimage to the city of Marfa in West Texas, which the minimalist artist Donald Judd called home. As many of you know, the city houses both the Judd Foundation, which oversees the artist’s private estate, as well as the Chinati Foundation, which Judd founded as a contemporary art museum that presents large-scale, permanent public art installations by Judd and by artists Judd selected, including Carl Andrea, John Chamberlin, Dan Flavin, Roni Horn, Ilya Kabakov, and John Wesley, among others. For me, a highlight of our visit was the rare glimpse into Judd’s private life. Seeing his neatly organized studio spaces used for contemplation and his winter bedroom adorned with his collection of Native American jewelry and pottery was a treat. In addition, walking through Donald Judd’s untitled works in mill aluminum (1982-1986) was a transformative experience. Installed in two former artillery sheds, which Judd adapted specifically to house this installation, the work consists of one hundred unique sculptural iterations that utilize the same outer dimension of 41 x 51 x 72 inches. Natural light floods the two sprawling exhibition halls and reflects off the metallic volumes in a way that continues to change as you walk through the space.

The road to Marfa (and ultimately Dallas) took us through Phoenix, El Paso, Midland, and Abilene. On the way, we stopped by Elmgreen and Dragset’s roadside installation titled Prada Marfa (2005), which feels as if it dropped out of the sky. Literally in the middle of nowhere, with miles and miles of open road to either side, the installation mimics the Italian fashion brand’s posh boutiques but is in fact a nonfunctional storefront. At first we almost missed it and drove right past it, but then I quickly turned around so we could grab a shot of this mirage-like space on the highway. If you ever find yourself on I-90, stop by and check it out.

Prada Marfa (2005)

All-in-all it was a fun road trip and a great way to see the Texas countryside. We also enjoyed some great Tex Mex cuisine and even caught a concert at the local bar in Marfa. Now that I am settled in at the DMA, this will hopefully be the first of many blog posts focusing on contemporary art. I look forward to your comments, and I hope to meet you during your next visit to the Museum.

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

Friday Photos: Summer Seminar 2012

Last Friday marked the end of Summer Seminar 2012: Teaching for Creativity, a week-long, immersive workshop for teachers of all grades and subjects to explore ways to foster creative thinking skills in their students. As a relatively fresh DMA employee, this Summer Seminar was my first. I was joined by eight educators from near and far (from Texas to Nebraska to Monterrey, Mexico!). Participants spent the week with the Museum’s resident creativity expert, Dr. Magdalena Grohman, engaging in group and independent creativity exercises, exploring creativity through art in the galleries, discussing current scholarship on creativity, and developing lesson plans to be tested in their classrooms next school year.

Thank you to this year’s participants for your insight, enthusiasm, and open-minds. Check out some of the photos from our idea-filled week.

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Andrea V. Severin
Coordinator of Teaching Programs

Summer Art Hopping

With today being the first official day of summer, vacations are on the minds of the DMA staff. As employees of an art museum, we tend to include museums in our travel plans. Below are a few of our favorite museum visits and some we have on our “art bucket lists.”

Stacey Lizotte, Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services
One of my most memorable museum visits was to The Accademia Gallery in Florence, Italy. I had always wanted to see Michelangelo’s David and walking towards it, down a hallway that was lined with more of Michelangelo’s uncompleted sculptures, was an amazing and powerful experience.

The museum(s) I am most looking forward to visit are the Tate museums in England (Tate Britain, Tate Modern, Tate Liverpool, and Tate St. Ives). If I had to pick just one site to visit to just look at art it would be the Tate Modern, and if I had to pick one to visit for a program it would be Late at Tate Britain when that museum stays open until 10 p.m. the first Friday of every month and offers a variety of programs.

Tate Modern at night

Hillary Bober, Digital Archivist
My favorite museum is the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York, for the simple reason that I really love glass. Glass is such a unique medium; you can create incredibly beautiful and delicate pieces or amazingly durable industrial stuff, and the museum covers it all. There are also glass making demonstrations, Make Your Own Glass projects – I made a blown glass bottle and a flameworked bead when I went – and extensive courses for beginner to professional. Of course, there is also a great gift shop – I do love a gift shop – and you can’t beat the Finger Lakes setting in upstate New York.

Along this same vein, a museum that I would really like to go to is the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum in Neenah, Wisconsin which holds a world-renowned collection of glass paperweights and other works in glass. Since my family lives in Wisconsin, a visit is definitely going at the top of my to-do list for my next trip home.

Wendi Kavanaugh, Member Outreach Manager
One of my favorite museums to visit outside of Dallas is the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  The PMA is one of the largest Museums in the US with over 200 galleries. It’s easy to get lost in the PMA and end up in a room full of medieval armor – which I have done on one than one occasion.

Philadelphia Museum of Art

I would most like to visit the Musée National du Moyen Âge (National Museum of the Middle Ages) in Paris, France. A professor recently shared that this is his favorite museum in Paris, as someone that spent most of their life in the city – he’s one to trust.  After spending an hour (or so) on their website, it’s easy to see why you should visit.

National Museum of the Middle Ages by Giraud Patrick (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hayley Dyer, Audience Relations Coordinator
I had a great experience at the SFMOMA. The summer before my senior year of college I lived in San Francisco working for a jewelry designer.  As it was my first time in the city, I spent most of my free time exploring my temporary home.  One weekend I stopped by the SFMOMA and saw exhibitions of photography from Robert Frank and Richard Avedon; what a treat!  After I soaked up all the art inside the Museum, I headed up to the rooftop garden where I got an espresso from the coffee bar and read a book.  I think I treasure this experience because I was visiting the Museum alone.  I was able to have a personal connection with the artwork, the environment, and the city, and it wasn’t something that I had to share with anyone.

SFMOMA

The Museum I would like to visit is the Magritte Museum. Located in Brussels, Belgium, the Magritte Museum is the home of Belgium’s Royal Museums of Fine Arts’ collection of works by René Magritte.  Widely known as the painter of The Son of Man, aka The Guy in the Bowler Hat with an Apple on His Face, René Magritte is my favorite surrealist painter.  His colorful paintings feature his wonderful sense of humor.  Check out the Museum on YouTube.

Magritte Museum

Brent Mitchell, Registrar, Loans & Exhibitions
My favorite museum is the Museo Nacional Del Prado in Madrid. I had the pleasure of visiting on my first trip abroad, and I make sure to stop by every time I find myself in the city. My initial aim was to see the triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch, but with so many stellar works throughout the museum, every gallery holds special promise for visitors. I remember turning around after viewing a Botticelli painting and finding myself in front of the rather remarkable painting Dead Christ held up by an Angel by Antonella de Messina. It has become one of my favorite depictions of Christ.

Bosch in the Prado

If I’m ever fortunate enough to find myself in Italy, I will head to the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. It would be great to see Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and Titian’s Venus of Urbino.

Uffizi (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Martha MacLeod, Curatorial Administrative Assistant/European and American Art Department
Visiting the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts was on my “must visit” list for a very long time.  The old building is a fabulous piece of architecture and houses works by many of my favorite American artists.  Three years ago, I received a research grant to go there.  When I took a break from my work to wander through the building, I came upon a large studio filled with many plaster casts.  Suddenly it struck me that I may well have been standing in the same space where Thomas Eakins once taught life-drawing classes over 140 years ago.

Another place on my “must visit” list is not a museum per se, but I want to go to the Boston Public Library to see John Singer Sargent’s mural cycle The Triumph of Religion.  I have wanted to see it firsthand ever since I wrote a paper about it when I was in graduate school.  Until I make a trek there, the poster on my office wall of Frieze of the Prophets, which is part of the mural cycle, will have to suffice.

Martha’s private Boston Public Library

Kimberly Daniell, PR Specialist
My favorite Museum in the entire world is Musée de l’Orangerie, I have to visit every time I am in Paris. The museum is located in the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries near the Louvre and Seine, how could you go wrong? I fell in love with Monet in elementary school and experiencing a room filled with his large Nymphéas paintings is amazing. I think it may be one of the most peaceful galleries I have ever been to.

Monet in the Musée de l’Orangerie

The Museum I desperately want to visit is Museo Nacional Del Prado. Other than being located in Madrid, I have to see Diego Rodríguez de Silva y Velázquez’s Las Meninas (The Family of Felipe IV). Luckily the Prado already has a three hour tour, with Las Meninas as a stop, ready for me!

Las Meninas (Photo Credit: Museo Nacional Del Prado)

An Artistic Aegean Anniversary

A few weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated our first anniversary on an amazing cruise through the Aegean Sea. I majored in Ancient History at the University of Texas, so you can imagine my excitement at getting to experience numerous ancient sites in person. In particular, I have always been fascinated with prehistoric Aegean cultures, so the stops on both Crete and Thera (Santorini) were definitely a highlight.

One of the most interesting cultures is the Minoan civilization, which thrived during the Bronze Age from 2100-1500 B.C. on the island of Crete. Named for the mythical King Minos, the Minoans developed a centralized political system ruling from urbanized palace centers, the largest of which was located at Knossos on the north central coast of Crete. As prosperous sea-farers, the Minoans established extensive contact and trade with the contemporary cultures of Egypt and the Near East. Ancient writers even asserted that King Minos ruled over a maritime empire which included many Aegean islands. Although the extent of the Minoan political sphere is unclear, the Minoans were certainly in contact and influencing the culture of nearby islands like Thera, as attested by the surviving art.

Looking into the caldera on Thera, with the active volcano at left

Thera is a unique island whose history has been shaped by the active volcano at its center. During the period of Late Minoan 1A (c. 1625 B.C. or c. 1550 B.C.—dating is disputed by different scholars), the volcano erupted with such extreme force that it spread ash across the entire eastern Mediterranean and likely created a global cooling event. This eruption not only formed the distinctive caldera and picturesque cliffs seen on the island today, it also covered an entire ancient site in ash and pumice, perfectly preserving it like a prehistoric Greek Pompeii. Because of this eruption, the archaeological site of Akrotiri has yielded frescoes that are much more complete than those found elsewhere in the Aegean.

To execute their frescoes, Minoan artists used mineral pigments in white, red, brown, yellow, black, and blue. The wall surfaces were divided into three zones: the upper zone, above windows and doors, contained miniature friezes or decorative patterns; the middle zone included the large main subject; and the lower zone served as the base, sometimes using patterns to imitate stonework. The basic composition was painted in buon fresco technique, on the wet lime plaster surface. Additional colors and details were added after the plaster dried (fresco secco), using an organic fixative like egg white. The scenes include themes from nature (landscapes with plants and animals), daily life (fishing, sea-faring), and ritual (offerings to a goddess). The Theran fresco style is similar to the style found in Knossos and other palace centers on Crete, but utilizes a livelier, though less refined, hand.

A visit to Thera is certainly not complete without a trip to the Museum of Prehistoric Thera, where you can see examples of these beautiful frescoes, along with other objects found at Akrotiri. But visiting the extensive ancient sites of both Knossos and Akrotiri really allows for a more complete understanding of the Minoan culture that flourished thousands of years ago. That such beautiful art could be created so long ago—simply amazing!

Click on the thumbnails below for larger images.

Further Reading:

  • Chapin, A. (2010). Frescoes. In E. H. Cline (Ed.), The Oxford handbook of the Bronze Age Aegean (ca. 3000-1000 BC) (pp. 223-236). New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Doumas, C. (1992). The wall-paintings of Thera. Athens: Thera Foundation.
  • Rutter, J. (n.d.).  Lesson 17: Akrotiri on Thera, the Santorini Volcano and the Middle and Late Cycladic Periods in the Central Aegean Islands. Retrieved from Dartmouth.edu.
  • Shelmerdine, C. W. (2008). The Cambridge companion to the Aegean Bronze Age. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives


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