Archive for July, 2017

Open Office: Exhibition Planning

It has been said that the environment we create is a reflection of our state of mind. For Skye Olson, Exhibition Designer at the DMA, this sentiment could not be more true. Her office is crisp and organized with pops of color peeking through exhibition models and paper diagrams. She is in the business of aesthetics, choosing paint, finishes, and elements that will showcase art in the best possible light. The clean lines of her office reflect the detailed approach she takes in designing exhibition spaces. Sneak a peek inside Skye’s Museum office:

skye

Grime, Dust, and Drips…oh my! A short update from the Steichen Conservation team

If you’ve walked through the Barrel Gallery recently, you might have seen some conservators crawling around. Whether on the floor or on the ladder, the monumental size of Steichen’s mural series, In Exaltation of Flowers, has required some minor acrobatics. The team recently finished the cleaning phase of the treatment process – an essential step to protect the paintings from further degradation and ensure they can be enjoyed to the full extent that their beauty merits.

Cleaning huge paintings with tiny sponges.

You may recall from the short history of the murals that was recently posted that the canvases have been rolled up for over a century. During that time they encountered water damage, dust, dirt, grime, and other indignities that can be found in a storage room. This left the paintings with a significant amount of dust and dirt on their surfaces, which dulled the colors and deadened the sheen of the paint. To remove this disfiguring accumulation, we used special non-abrasive sponges to gently dry clean the surface and reveal the surprisingly fresh surface the paintings still exhibit. In areas of drips from water damage, tiny hand-rolled cotton swabs and a gentle chelating solution were employed.

The aftermath.

After cleaning, the paintings were brighter, more even, and much closer to the appearance Steichen intended them to have. The next phase of treatment includes loss compensation, framing, and preventive measures like backing boards. We’ll describe these processes next week.

Before and after cleaning

 

The Impact of Printmaking

Industrious civilians, corrupt politicians, taxonomies from the frontier, fame and infamy; all have been and continue to be depicted in the American print. This democratic nature of printmaking’s subjects has often drifted into the processes themselves. For example, Paul Revere’s contributions to print greatly surpassed those of a simple image-maker. He also industrialized copper plate manufacturing thereby giving a much larger group of artists access to the technology.

Print has often transferred its technologies from the forefront of industrialization into the realm of fine art as processes advance. As digital printing becomes cheaper, faster, and more accessible it pushes out more antiquated technologies, and then those technologies are turned by artists towards fine art applications.

Print has often simultaneously bucked and embraced its utilitarian roots. This can be seen in Robert Rauschenberg’s attempts to push print processes far past their traditional capabilities into almost another medium entirely. His monolith in black Accident occupies a space between print, drawing, and collage. Rauschenberg’s method was a precursor to the current and common practice of reassembling proofs and ephemera. This method of repurposing material that was once considered worthless allows contemporary print artists to complete individual works of art where print is the language and repetition is no longer a factor. The prints also give a much larger audience access to his work. They can easily travel, be shown in multiple locations at the same time. It can even be argued that they offer a wider conceptual accessibility than his paintings and assemblages simply through the widely understood aesthetic properties of paper and ink.

Whereas other mediums have been more subject to the wills of those with means, print has catered to a wholly different crowd, often the same one depicted in its imagery. Bellows’ lithograph, A Stag at Sharkey’s, invited wide audiences of the day into a seedier closed realm outside their normal comfort zone to witness a less accessible form of entertainment, illegal prize fighting. One could argue that the original spirit of dissemination represented by the Gutenberg press continues to spring forth from online mediums such as YouTube, which has become a university for the everyman. In addition to representing the most current philosophies and aesthetic possibilities in contemporary art, print is unique in its unfiltered articulation of whatever artistic expressions are evident in the culture at large.

Portions of this article appeared in the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of the DMA Member Magazine Artifacts

Steven Foutch is an artist and assistant professor of painting and printmaking at University of Dallas

Elements of Beauty: Studying Steichen’s Technique

Over the past several weeks, a series of seven murals entitled In Exaltation of Flowers by painter and photographer Edward Steichen have been undergoing conservation treatment in the Barrel Vault Quadrant Galleries. The first step to any conservation treatment is the careful examination of the artwork. This gives a conservator insight into the condition of the artwork, and allows for a better understanding of the artist’s materials and working methods. A thorough examination provides invaluable information, which a conservator uses to plan the best conservation treatment.

Fig. 1-2 Left: photographed under visible light Right: Photographed under UV. When viewed under UV, different pigments used to paint the sitters face become apparent based on their characteristic fluorescence.

The conservation team has been examining and documenting the front and back of each mural. To better understand their painted surfaces, the team is using different types of surface imaging techniques incorporating the use of visible light, raking light, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation. The information gained from these different light sources provides a better understanding of the structure and condition of the murals. For example, viewing the murals under UV can give information regarding pigments, surface coatings, and previous restoration (fig. 1-2).

Fig. 3 Conservation intern Diana Hartman positioning the XRF spectrometer on an area of metal leaf in preparation for analysis. The XRF spectrum above is an example of the data collected from this analytical technique.

More in-depth elemental analysis using x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF) has also been carried out to help determine the types of pigments and metal leaf present on all seven murals (fig.3). This non-destructive technique uses an x-ray beam to excite electrons causing different atoms to emit energy characteristic of specific elements. By detecting these elements, XRF provides information a conservator can use to identify the pigments present.

Fig. 4 Conservation intern Keara Teeter collecting a sample from an area with gilding

Microscopic samples were taken to better understand the layered structure of the murals starting from the ground layer, priming layer(s), paint layer(s), and in some areas metal leaf (fig.5). These cross-section samples are viewed at high magnification with both visible light and UV, which allows for a close look at the type of pigments, adhesives, and coatings present and the order in which the artist applied them.

Fig. 5 Cross-section sample magnified 200X, photographed with visible light. Description of the layers from the bottom up: canvas glue sizing, white ground, blue paint, light yellow paint, dark yellow paint, black paint, adhesive, gold leaf.

Diana Hartman is a Conservation Intern at the DMA

Teen Time

It’s a Thursday night at the DMA, and conversations fill the galleries. A group of friends joins a discussion led by a Visiting Artist, who is hosting a workshop later that evening. Total strangers are chatting in front of their favorite work of art, bonding over shared thoughts and interests. A great band is playing in the Center for Creative Connections, and a small crowd is jamming along with them. Upon closer inspection, all of these visitors are teenagers, and – remarkably – there’s not a cell phone in sight!

This is the vision of the DMA’s Teen Advisory Council, a group of highly motivated students from around Dallas-Fort Worth. Since 2013, the Council has worked with DMA Education staff to develop programs and activities for visitors. If you’ve attended a Late Night in the last few years, you’ve likely experienced their work firsthand. From scribbling robots to life size board games, they never fail to creatively interpret the Museum’s collections and exhibitions in new and exciting ways.

This year, the Council has turned their focus toward their peers in an effort to share the Museum with their fellow teens. At a brainstorming meeting earlier this year, the discussion turned toward a common stereotype of young people: that they are glued to their cell phones 24/7. There are benefits to being connected all the time. In my experience, teens today are much more involved and knowledgeable about current affairs than I was at their age, thanks in part to having information so easily accessible. However, teens know there are consequences: a friend is just a text away, but so are bullies, school pressures, and global politics.

Because Teen Council members are at the Museum so often, they know it as a place where they can take a break from being connected. It’s a place where they can learn at their own pace, find calm within themselves, and open up to new perspectives and experiences without being judged. To share that feeling with others, the Council has worked hard planning Disconnect to Reconnect, a night of free, fun activities for teens.

Disconnect to Reconnect invites teens to discover what the DMA can offer them, from solving an Escape Room themed after the history of the Reeves Collection to creating art with Visiting Artist Lisa Huffaker in the Center for Creative Connections. The Teen Council also invited teens to showcase their own talents – the two musical acts of the evening, R.A.G. and Aloe Sara, are high school students, and short films made by local teens will also be playing in the C3 Theater. All of the Council asks is that visitors be fully present, with cell phones silenced and put away while participating.

We hope you’ll be able to join us this Thursday, July 20th for Disconnect to Reconnect from 5:00-9:00 p.m.!

Jessica Thompson is the Manager of Teen Programs 

New Conservator in our House

Recently we welcomed Elena Torok to the DMA’s Conservation Team! She joins us in the new role of Assistant Conservator of Objects. With over 24,000 objects in our encyclopedic collection,  an active acquisition program, busy exhibition calendar, and  increasing analytical/research needs, this additional staff member will assist with the growing demands on conservation.

She will work closely with the Collections and Exhibition Teams – and looks forward to sharing her holistic and scientific knowledge of materials with the larger team – creating a care plan for the collections.  She will dive immediately into the treatments of several objects for upcoming rotations.

Below, Elena answers a few brief questions for Uncrated to introduce her to you.  Welcome Elena!

Before joining us at the DMA, where did you work?
Before joining the DMA, I worked for just over four years as a conservator at the Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) in New Haven, CT. Most recently, I worked on YUAG’s large-scale storage move of 35,000 objects to the new Margaret and Angus Wurtele Collection Studies Center, a brand new visible study and storage center at Yale’s West Campus. I also assisted with the treatment and scientific analysis of a range of different types of objects (including decorative arts, modern and contemporary sculpture, and archaeological materials).

Prior to my time at YUAG, I earned my M.S. from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation in 2013 with concentrations in Objects Conservation and Preventive Conservation. During and before my graduate studies, I also completed internships at The British Museum (London, England), the American Museum of Natural History (New York, NY), the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA), and the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (Williamsburg, VA).

Growing up, what type of career did you envision yourself in? Did you think you’d work in an art museum?
In college, I actually majored in Neuroscience! I thought for a very long time that I wanted to be a scientist or a medical doctor. But as soon as I learned that the field of conservation existed (which combines many different types of science with art and art history in very exciting ways), I completely changed paths.

What skill set are you most proud to bring to the DMA?
I have really enjoyed the work I’ve done in preventive conservation (or the prevention or delay of deterioration of cultural heritage). I look forward to continuing this work at the DMA. Recently, I have participated in research related to Oddy testing (used for selecting materials for an object’s storage or display that have the most ideal ageing properties), anoxic treatment methods for pest management, and environmental pollutant monitoring.

What is your favorite thing about being a conservator?
I love that my job allows me to interact with collections in ways that often shed new light on an object’s history or an artist’s work, which continually enables me to keep learning. I feel lucky to be part of a field that also serves to share this information and connect the public with cultural heritage and works of art. I am so thrilled to work at the DMA and I very much look forward to working with and learning from the staff and the collections!

Fran Baas is the Associate Conservator at the DMA

Once Upon a Time in Mexico

Tomorrow night, July 13, we are celebrating Mexico of the past and present with our Second Thursday program, Off the Wall to kick off our closing weekend of Mexico: 1900-1950. Since this exhibition is all about telling the stories of Mexico and the artists who documented its history and people, we thought Once Upon a Time in Mexico would be the perfect way to encapsulate the evening. We have so much going on all evening, tours, music, crafts, and more and each activity connects back and tells a story about an artwork in the exhibition.

Murals are such a large portion (literally) that connects the exhibition together, so we wanted to highlight murals as an art form. All night you will be able to watch as the artist collective Sour Grapes create a mural inspired by the exhibition on Eagle Family Plaza. Sour Grapes has been around since 2005 and you can’t drive around Dallas without seeing their work on walls and buildings. Even though we have a few murals to choose from, this one was a visitor favorite and with its bold colors and the scale of the work, you can see why.

Diego Rivera, Juchitán River (Río Juchitán), 1953–1955, oil on canvas on wood, Museo Nacional de Arte, INBA, Mexico City Assigned to the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes through the Sistema de Administración y Enajenación de Bienes of the Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público, 2015 © 2017 Banco de México Diego Rivera Frida Kahlo Museums Trust, Mexico, D.F. / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New

Artists like, Gunther Gerzso, Leonora Carrington, and Alice Rahon, all featured in the exhibition, were important players in the Surrealist movement in Mexico. This movement encouraged artists to unlock their subconscious and use their imagination to create a new world on the canvas.  Spend a few minutes with friends putting yourself into the minds of the Surrealists with the game, Exquisite Corpse. In the game, a piece of paper is folded into sections and passed around; the challenge is that each artist must work on one particular segment without having seen the others. The results are sometimes crazy and monstrous but always hilarious.

Gunther Gerzso, The Days of Gabino Barreda Street, 1944, oil on canvas, Lent by private collection

On the Before Mexico, was Mexico tours, we have Dr. Kimberly Jones the DMA’s Assistant Curator of the Arts of the Americas speaking on our Pre-Columbian collection in English and Spanish. Pre-Columbian art was an enormous influence on many of the artists represented in the exhibition. Just one example is the mural by Saturnino Herrán entitled Our Gods, which shows a group of Aztec people during a ritual to the god, Coatlicue.

To finish up your night, don’t miss Mariachi de Oro performing the upbeat music of Western Mexico. Mariachi has been around since at least the 18th century and is a large part of Mexico’s cultural history. Around the 1920’s when the piece below was painted, Mariachi music was being broadcast on the radio for the first time, and instruments like the trumpet were being infused into the arrangements because of the growing popularity of jazz and Cuban music.

Don’t miss out on a fun filled evening celebrating the closing weekend of Mexico: 1900-1950. We are going to miss this exhibition once it is gone next Monday, but thankfully, we have a few pieces that are staying with us! These images below among others will still be in the DMA’s collection and can be enjoyed many times to come after Mexico is over.

Don’t forget to join us tomorrow from 5:00-9:00 p.m. for July Off the Wall: Once Upon a Time in Mexico. The cost is $5 for the public and free for DMA Members. An additional $10 ticket is required to see the exhibitions that evening.

Katie Cooke is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA


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