Archive for July, 2012

Going for Gold

If you’re anything like me, you will be spending the next few weeks glued to your television watching the 2012 Summer Olympics. The Olympic Games has this incredible ability to put our regular day-to-day life on hold in a way that no other event can. It is a time-honored event that has survived depressions, recessions, international conflicts, and wars and for two weeks every two years the many people in our world come together to celebrate their countries’ athletic abilities and successes while displaying enthusiastic patriotism that tends to dissipate in the weeks following the Closing Ceremonies.

The Olympic Games is more than an international sporting event, however, since its inception, it has celebrated the arts as well. In the early years of the modern Games there was a regular art competition component. According to the founder, French Baron, Pierre de Coubertin, the ideal Olympians were men who were “educated in both mind and body” and he desired to combine both art and sport in the Olympic Games. From 1912 to 1952, medals were awarded for works of art inspired by sport in the categories of architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture. Only two competitors in those forty years achieved Olympic medals in both sport and art competitions, including American, Walter W. Winans for his sculpture, An American Trotter.

Walter Winans, “An American Trotter,” 1912, bronze, Collection: Idrottsmuseet i Malmö, Sweden.

The 1948 Summer Olympics in London marked the final year for the Olympic art competitions. The juried competitions ended because the participating artists were considered to be professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs.

Although the medal events were abandoned, the Olympic Games still have an artistic component today through the Cultural Olympiad. This summer’s Games include extensive cultural offerings across the British Isles with the London 2012 Festival. Spectators at the games will also find themselves surrounded by art of all kinds; the Olympic Park has integrated a diverse range of commissioned art pieces into the British architecture and engineering of the Park.

Monica Bonvicini, “Run,” 2012, glass and stainless steel, London.

During the day, the letters of Monica Bonvicini’s Run act as mirrors, reflecting visitors and their surroundings. At night, they become transparent and glow thanks to internal LED lights. To view all of the commissioned pieces, visit Art in the Park’s page.

My favorite of the pieces is Julius Popp’s “bit.fall” waterfall installation.  Placed under a bridge over the Waterworks River, the waterfall uses a sophisticated pump system that recycles water from the river into the water sculpture.

Julius Popp, “bit.fall,” 2012, temporary installation in the Olympic Park.

Using software developed by Popp, the waterfall creates a continuous cascade of words that are widely used in live news feeds. One of the neat things about this technology is that the words are constantly changing.  No day is like the last.  The end result is a beautiful and spectacular visual experience. To get a better grasp on this work I consulted a short documentary on Popp. See it here on YouTube. 

After the Closing Ceremony on August 12, keep the Olympic spirit strong by reading Chris Cleave’s new novel, Gold. The bestselling author of Little Bee, Cleave’s new book focuses on two athletes and how they traverse the shifting sands of ambition, loyalty, and love on the eve of their last Olympics. On Tuesday, October 9, Chris Cleave will be appearing at the Dallas Museum of Art in a special Arts & Letters Live event. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit our website.

Hayley Dyer is the Audience Relations Coordinator for Programming at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Seldom Scene: Scaled Down

The new DMA exhibition Variations on Theme: Contemporary Art 1950s–Present explores themes and ideas that drive an artists’ creative process. With this concept in mind, the Contemporary Art Department thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share one way that curators tap into their own creative processes when developing a new exhibition – by using a scale model. Curators use scale models much like they would a doll house, to rationalize the gallery space in accordance with the placement of the art objects. Variations on Theme is installed in the gallery spaces known as the Barrel Vault and Quadrant Galleries, which are roughly 11,500 square feet. DMA carpenter Dennis Bishop constructed a wooden model of these galleries with a scale of 1:24 (one half-inch equals one foot). The objects in Variations on Theme are of various sizes and mediums and are complicated to install, so in order to visualize how certain works might look next to one another DMA exhibitions intern Jasmine Shevell created maquettes of each work that are proportional to the scale model of the exhibition space. Once each object is set into place, the design model is shared with our talented exhibitions team, registrar, and preparators, who bring the curator’s model to life!
Variations on Theme is on view at the Dallas Museum of Art until January 27, 2013.

Meg Smith is a Curatorial Administrative Assistant at the Dallas Museum of Art. Photography is by Adam Gingrich, the Marketing Administrative Assistant at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Seldom Scene: Load Three Tons and What Do You Get?

We have been receiving and unpacking crates for a couple of weeks in preparation for the opening of The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico on Sunday, July 29. This exhibition contains a number of works weighing hundreds of pounds, including a sculpture of sandaled feet weighing more than three tons, so we brought in some extra equipment and helping hands to assist in the installation process, which you can see below. Join us this Saturday, July 28, for a free sneak peek of the exhibition (normally $14) during the WFAA Family First Day from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Photography by Adam Gingrich, Administrative Assistant for Marketing and Communications

Caravaggio, Crime, and Conservation

Here at the Dallas Museum of Art, the month of July has turned into a celebration of art conservation.  On July 1, Mark Leonard began his tenure at the DMA as Chief Conservator. Mark began his career as a restorer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before heading west to the J. Paul Getty Museum, where he worked for twenty-six years. This Saturday, in conjunction with an Arts & Letters Live event, Mark will meet visitors in the galleries and discuss upcoming restoration work for Jean Baptiste Marie Pierre’s The Abduction of Europa. At 7:30 p.m., author Daniel Silva will be in conversation with Maxwell L. Anderson, The Eugene McDermott Director of the DMA, discussing his new book, The Fallen Angel. Silva is a celebrated “spy fiction ace,” and is known for his hero, Gabriel Allon. Gabriel has a longtime, on-again off-again relationship with Israel’s secret intelligence service, but he also happens to be one of the world’s finest restorers of old master paintings.

Mark Leonard, Chief Conservator at the Dallas Museum of Art

The Dallas Morning News has said that “in Gabriel Allon, Silva has created a credible secret agent with skills that would make James Bond weep.” Our very own Chief Conservator, Mark Leonard, also has a unique perspective that sets him apart from others in his field: He is an artist as well as a conservator.

Mark, as an artist, do you think you approach your work differently than your contemporaries? How has your work as a conservator affected your work as an artist?
Every artist approaches his work differently. By working with great works of art, from the old masters to contemporary artists, I’ve been able to learn from their work. Not every artist gets this opportunity!

Gabriel Allon is an art restorer by day and a spy and assassin by night. Mark, tell us about your night job as a painter.
For a while in my career, working with a brush in my hand every day, conserving someone else’s work was enough for me. About four or five years ago, I became aware that while I loved restoring paintings, it was really a blank panel that I wanted on my easel. In a series of geometric abstractions, I wanted to explore the theme of love and loss. If you have ever loved, you have experienced loss–the two are interwoven. That’s how I began working on this particular motif. In December of this year, an exhibition of my work inspired by John Constable’s “Cloud Studies” will be on display–side-by-side with the Constables–at the Yale Center for British Art.

Mark Leonard, “Triptych III,” March 2011, gouache and synthetic resin on panel, Private Collection, Austin, Texas

In Silva’s new novel, Gabriel Allon is sent to the Vatican to restore a Caravaggio masterpiece. Mark, in all of your experiences, can you tell us about a particularly challenging project you’ve worked on?
[He chuckles.] That would have to be a Caravaggio I worked on at the Met. “The Musicians” was heavily damaged. It took about six to eight months to bring it back to life. Restoring a painting could take as little as an afternoon to as long as several years.

Caravaggio (Michelangelo Merisi), “The Musicians,” c. 1595, oil on canvas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Rogers Fund, 1952, 52.81, Image courtesy

What are some of your upcoming plans for the DMA’s collection?  Is there any spy work in your near future?
The Museum is very excited about its plans to build a new paintings conservation studio. We are carefully planning for it to include a public space; we want to be able to share the work that we are doing with our visitors. In the meantime, I am planning on spending the next year really getting to know our collection. [He laughs.] I don’t think there is any spy work in my future here. He’ll leave that to Gabriel Allon.

For more information on Saturday’s event with Daniel Silva, please visit our website. For tickets and to register for the tour, call 214-922-1818.

Hayley Dyer is the Audience Relations Coordinator at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Impressions of Dallas: Then and Now

Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas allows you to compare the Dallas we live in today with the Dallas of 1952. Below are a few images of familiar landmarks from then and now. See more in our first e-catalogue, available as a free iPad app.

Fair Park Esplanade at night with State Fair, October 21, 1950. County, Squire Haskins Photography Collection, The University of Texas at Arlington Library, Arlington, Texas. AR447-11-37.

Fair Park, 2012, Dallas Museum of Art

Adolphus Hotel, 1954, Hayes Collection, Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library. PA76-1/17625

Adolphus Hotel, 2012, Dallas Museum of Art

Pegasus atop the Magnolia Building, 1927. Bud Biggs Collection, Texas/Dallas History and Archives Division, Dallas Public Library. PA84-9/212.

The Magnolia Building, 2012, Dallas Museum of Art

Akard Canyon, 1940, Dallas Municipal Archives

Akard Canyon, 2012, Dallas Museum of Art

Off the Wall: BOOM

In our Center for Creative Connections we ask visitors to reflect on their responses to the spaces they encounter in art, as well as those they encounter in their everyday life.

For one work of art specifically, Lee Bontecou’s Untitled, we ask visitors to respond to one of three prompts:

  • To me, sharing space with this work of art feels like…
  • The words or pictures that come to mind when I look at this work of art are…
  • If this work of art was part of something larger, describe what it would be.

Untitled (35), Lee Bontecou, 1961

We have gotten a lot of great responses from visitors and want to share a few with you. Once a month we will have an “Off the Wall” post featuring three responses left by visitors.

Next time you are in the Center for Creative Connections add your contribution to the wall and maybe you will see it on Uncrated!

Lights, Camera, Action!

From 1950 to 1952, the Museum, in partnership with the Junior League of Dallas, presented a thirty-minute weekly television program on WFAA called Is This Art? The show consisted of a panel talking about topics including discussions on specific artworks, collections, or types of objects; demonstrations of craft techniques; how to become an artist; and aesthetics. We found a few images in our archives from the show’s two-year run.

Dallas Morning News, News Staff Photo, October 10, 1950

This image is probably from the first episode of the series, which aired on September 24, 1950. The show included an introduction to the series and a demonstration of plastic arts, emphasizing the upcoming State Fair exhibits with objects from the Contemporary Design and Pre-Columbian exhibitions. Pictured from left to right are Mrs. Betty Marcus, Museum League President; Jerry Bywaters, Museum Director; Stewart Leonard, Assistant to the Director of the City Museum of St. Louis; and Mrs. John Rosenfield, moderator.

The image above likely depicts an episode from December 8, 1951, featuring a demonstration of silver objects in various stages of construction by John Szymack, a silver craftsman with the Craft Guild of Dallas. Seen here from left to right are Mrs. Howard Chilton, chairman of the Junior League’s television committee; Mrs. Bruce Steere, Craft Guild member; Alvin Jett, permanent panel chairman; and John Szymack (seated).

Hillary Bober is the Digital Archivist at the Dallas Museum of Art.

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