Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

A Barrel of Art

Next Friday, February 20 the DMA is opening three exhibitions (Frank Bowling: Map Paintings, Bold Abstractions: Selections from the DMA Collection 1966–1976, and Concentrations 58: Chosil Kil) in time for our February Late Night. Installation for these three exhibitions began last week, get a sneak peek at the works of art below and start planning your artful Late Night now.

 

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Leaves of Light with Writer Kendra Greene

 

Kendra Greene, the DMA's current Writer-in-Residence

Kendra Greene, the DMA’s current Writer-in-Residence

Since July 2014, the Center for Creative Connections (C3) has worked closely with printer and essayist Kendra Greene. As our Writer-in-Residence, Kendra is assisting in the evaluation and re-purposing of thousands of visitor responses received in relation to a recent C3 installation.

Images (left to right): A Panel Depicting the Tuba Tree, with the 99 Names of God on its Leaves, c. 1900, watercolor on paper, The James and Ana Melikian Collection; Visitors leaving responses at the C3's Tree of "LIGHT" interactive

Images (left to right): A Panel Depicting the Tuba Tree, with the 99 Names of God on its Leaves, c. 1900, watercolor on paper, The James and Ana Melikian Collection; Visitors leaving responses at the C3’s Tree of “LIGHT” interactive

In the spring of 2014, in connection with Nur: Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World, C3 asked visitors to respond to a painting of a Tuba tree with the 99 names of God written on its leaves. Nur is the Arabic word for “light,” so we asked visitors to write a characteristic of light on a gold leaf and hang it on our tree. Over three months, we received 4,394 contributions.

Uncrated sat down with Kendra and asked her a few questions:

Tell us a little about your background with museums.
In my first job, as a preparator, I used to put text on the museum wall—one vinyl letter at a time. As a curatorial assistant, I started writing those texts. I was managing a contemporary photography collection when I discovered the best day I could have was introducing a visitor to some remarkable thing they could never have known to ask for, which may or may not have led to volunteering at a natural history museum to costume their giant ground sloth.

What interested you in working with the Dallas Museum of Art?
Museums are storytelling institutions, and yet so many of those stories go unheard. There’s never enough room on the labels to say everything worth saying, and then there’s the internal stories, the fragile oral history of what it is to live with a museum, that almost never get recorded in the first place. I wanted to capture stories that might otherwise be lost, and I wanted to give voice to surprising things well worth hearing.

Describe your process of unpacking and making sense of the information in the leaves.
The prospect of coming to grips with thousands of discrete words and phrases was overwhelming. I started alphabetizing to organize the leaves, and doing so I found not just patterns of meaning but rhythms of language. I got really interested in the effect of proportion in the responses: the power of “Love” being repeated 242 times, and the power of “Flowers & Weeds” being said just once.

Kendra’s notebook documenting the Tuba tree responses

Kendra’s notebook documenting the Tuba tree responses

What are some of your favorite poems that you generated from the leaf responses?

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How does this kind of creative re-purposing support the process of meaning making?
I’m a writer and a maker essentially because I believe in conversation. It’s exciting whenever creating something generates a response, but when that response generates more making, the whole exchange grows that much richer. It was really important to me to listen to everything this collection of visitors chose to say, and then think about what those writings had to say both individually and en masse. I see a lot of my questions and interpretations in my compositions from the leaves, but mostly I see a portrait of a community that can only happen through collaboration.

Join Kendra Greene for an evening of discovering the galleries through language, unlocking the power of art to spark poetry and prose, Thursday, February 12, from 6:00 to 8:50 p.m., and experience Kendra’s assembled poetry at the February Late Night on Friday, February 20, in the C3 Theater at 8:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.

Jessica Fuentes is the Center for Creative Connections Gallery Coordinator at the DMA.

After Midnight: When the artwork is an early riser

Eight months ago, I joined the Dallas Museum of Art as the Director of Collections Management, helping to oversee the care of our art collection—both on and off the walls in our galleries and for our special exhibitions.  As part of that responsibility, I supervise the Museum’s team of preparators and registrars. Preparators are the staff who actually handle the art and are responsible for installing the artwork you see hanging in the galleries. Registrars, among other duties, are in charge of all logistics and coordination of loans coming to the DMA. Members of our excellent team have written about their adventures on Uncrated before (relive some of those stories here, here, here, here, and here!).

Last month we were all focused on the arrival of paintings from around the globe for our newest special exhibition, Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga.

Art travels in specially built crates, and there are particular companies that coordinate the shipping and customs procedures for works of art. The DMA Registrar staff works in close contact with these companies to make sure the works are safe and sound at all times. They know what size crate can fit in the cargo hold of different aircrafts and all possible flight options. We are kind of the travel agent for the artwork! We know that if a crate is higher than 63 inches it means that it will need to fly in a cargo plane.

That was the case for some of the most amazing artwork you will see in Between Action and the Unknown: The Art of Kazuo Shiraga and Sadamasa Motonaga, which opens at the DMA on February 8. We had 30 crates of 52 works of art travel from Japan to Dallas accompanied by the staff from the Japan Foundation and couriers from two of the lending institutions, the Mie Prefectural Art Museum, and the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Art.
Truck arrival

As there is no need to cater to passengers, cargo flights tend to leave and arrive at not the most convenient times. They are likely to arrive in the middle of the night—or in the middle of the morning, depending on how you look at it!

Truck manovering

The Shiraga and Motonaga works arrived at the DMA on a cold January night. Registrar and Preparator staff, armed with lots of coffee, good attitudes, and heavy coats, were at the DMA to receive the shipment. Our galleries were dark, and so was the night outside. Under the watchful eyes of our Security staff, we worked just as we would during the day, moving quickly and carefully. Preparators unloaded the big truck and moved the crates into our galleries. There they would acclimatize—a museum term for adjust to the current conditions (sort of like getting over jet lag)—for a 24-hour period. Afterward, these beautiful works were uncrated and installed in the presence of their couriers.

Truck at dock

I hope you will visit the DMA soon and enjoy this stunning exhibition!

Isabel Stauffer is the Director of Collections Management at the DMA.

Merry Macarons

Our annual staff holiday party brought some French flair to the Museum with this year’s Winter in Paris theme. The Holiday Party Committee started planning in September and pulled together a sophisticated soiree fit for any Francophile, complete with a cardboard-roll Eiffel Tower-building contest, a French-themed photo booth, and an abundance of delicious French cuisine, courtesy of our amazing Chef Craig. Olivier Meslay, Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs and resident DMA Frenchman, served as the party’s emcee, much to everyone’s delight. The Museum’s gracious trustees, along with local businesses, donated a plethora of gifts for the staff raffle, a seasonal highlight for our much-deserving employees. It was the perfect kickoff to a merry holiday season!

Sarah Coffey is the Education Coordinator at the DMA.

Bird Watching

The Wittgenstein Vitrine, designed by Carl Otto Czeschka and executed by the Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops) for the 1908 Kunstschau (Art Show), is the focus of the exhibition Modern Opulence in Vienna: The Wittgenstein Vitrine, now on view in the Conservation Gallery. Upon entering the gallery, you will notice the vitrine’s enormous scale, its reflective silver surface, and its dark Macassar ebony veneered base. As you approach the vitrine, you will discern a multitude of details, most notably the fretwork that wraps the vitrine and forms an ecosystem teeming with plant and animal life.

The Wittgenstein Vitrine on view in Modern Opulence in Vienna: The Wittgenstein Vitrine

The Wittgenstein Vitrine on view in Modern Opulence in Vienna: The Wittgenstein Vitrine

Flora and fauna motifs, inspired by Central European folk art and Arts and Crafts design, reoccur throughout Czeschka’s designs in a variety of media—metal, lacquer, and textile, among others; however, the detail, diversity, and dynamism of the animals on the Wittgenstein Vitrine’s fretwork are unprecedented in the designer’s oeuvre. Birds of various sizes, shapes, and patterns perch amidst dense foliage, while squirrels, weasels, mice, and lizards scamper across scrolling vines in search of baroque pearl “fruits.”

These critters so captivated curators and conservators that the DMA turned to Dr. Marcy Brown Marsden, ornithologist and Associate Professor of Biology at the University of Dallas, in order to identify the avian, as well as mammal and reptile, species represented on the vitrine. Identification of birds in nature involves five qualities—shape, size, color, song, and behavior. Because the birds on the vitrine are monochromatic, static, and silent, their identifications as Central European species were based on physical features—such as bills, tails, crests, and feathers—and behavioral characteristics. Dr. Brown Marsden and University of Dallas undergraduate students Allison Rodgers and Nicole Stevens identified a total of twenty-four species, including a few of my favorites listed below!

detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Juan Lacruz Martín, Eurasian Hoopoe, photograph. The Internet Bird Collection, Web. November 24, 2014.

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Juan Lacruz Martín, Eurasian Hoopoe, photograph. The Internet Bird Collection

The Eurasian Hoopoe (Upapa epops) is characterized by a prominent crest, a long tail, and a distinctive pattern on its feathers.

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Andreas Trepte, Common Kingfisher, photograph. Wikipedia, web. November 24, 2014.

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Andreas Trepte, Common Kingfisher, photograph. Wikipedia

With its plump body, short tail, and extended bill, the Common Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) on the vitrine is nearly identical to its counterpart in nature.

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Peter Trimming, Eurasian Red Squirrel, photograph. Wikipedia, web. November 24, 2014.

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Peter Trimming, Eurasian Red Squirrel, photograph. Wikipedia

The Eurasian Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris), with tufted ears and a bushy tail, appears several times on the vitrine in various positions. This squirrel holds a baroque pearl “acorn” in its paws.

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Marcel de Bruin, Weasel, photogrpah. Photo-marcelloromeo. Web. November 24, 2014

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Marcel de Bruin, Weasel, photograph. Photo-marcelloromeo

 

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Josef Lubomir Hlasek, Mouse, photograph. Sci-news.com. Web. November 24, 2014.

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Josef Lubomir Hlasek, Mouse, photograph. Sci-news.com

The weasel (Mustela) is identified by the distinctive shape of its head, body, and tail. On the vitrine, it chases a mouse (Mus) with prominent ears and an elongated tail, its natural prey.

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Garth Peacock, Common Nightingale, photograph. Bird Life International. Web. November 24, 2014.

Detail of Wittgenstein Vitrine; Garth Peacock, Common Nightingale, photograph. Bird Life International

The gaping position of this bird’s bill suggests it is a Common Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos), a species renowned for its powerful and beautiful song and popular in European literature, poetry, and music.

To spot all twenty-four species represented on the Wittgenstein Vitrine, visit Modern Opulence in Vienna: The Wittgenstein Vitrine and pick up the in-gallery guide “A Birder’s Guide to the Wittgenstein Vitrine.”

Samantha Robinson is the McDermott Graduate Curatorial Intern of American and Decorative Art at the DMA.

Image: Wittgenstein Vitrine (for the 1908 Kunstschau), 1908, Carl Otto Czeschka, Austrian, 1878-1960, designer; Wiener Werkstätte (Vienna Workshops), Vienna, Austria, 1903–1932; Josef Berger, Austrian, 1874/75-?, goldsmith; Josef Hoszfeld, Austrian, 1869–1918, Adolf Erbrich, Austrian, 1874–?, Alfred Mayer, Austrian, 1873–?, silversmiths; Josef Weber, dates unknown, cabinetmaker; Wabak, Albrech, Plasinsky, Cerhan (unidentified craftsmen), silver, moonstone, opal, lapis lazuli, mother-of-pearl, baroque pearls, onyx, ivory, enamel, glass, and ebony veneers (replaced), Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

Installing Opulence

The amazing results of our conservation project (which we discussed here) to restore the DMA’s Wittgenstein Vitrine to its original beauty can now be seen as of this Saturday, November 15, in the DMA’s Conservation Gallery. Modern Opulence in Vienna: The Wittgenstein Vitrine will not only put a major spotlight on this masterwork of 20th-century design but also provide information on the remarkable conservation efforts, additional work by Wittgenstein Vitrine designer Carl Otto Czeschka, his work for the Wiener Werkstätte, and the important patronage of the Wittgenstein family. Check out the installation process below, and if you want to learn more about this one-of-a kind work of art you can attend Saturday’s symposium; event details are online at DMA.org.
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Mind’s Eye from a Different Frame of Reference

You still have time to come to the Dallas Museum of Art to visit the exhibition Mind’s Eye: Masterworks on Paper from David to Cézanne before it closes on October 26. The show is a rare opportunity to see exceptional drawings, pastels, and watercolors by many of the most acclaimed European artists in the Museum’s collection, as well as some from many local private collections.  Linger in a gallery and closely study exquisite works by Renoir, Gérôme, Pissarro, Bonnard, and Mondrian. Then, before moving into the next room, step back a bit to view the broad array of frames that surround these fabulous artworks. The various shapes, designs, and colors add a pleasant texture to the walls and bring an unmatched intimacy to the overall experience.

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Consider the fantastic tabernacle frame surrounding Pascal Dagnan-Bouveret’s little gem Portrait of Gustave Courtois. With its liner plinth (or base), columns topped with Corinthian capitals, and crowning entablature, it’s easy to see that this sort of frame employs a structure and ornamentation inspired by ancient Greek and Roman architecture. The intricate gold ornamental foliage patterns coursing over the narrow, flat groves of dark green couple with rich gilding to elevate the mystery of the distinguished sitter, who was a fellow artist.

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Nearby is Théodule Ribot’s Head of an Old Man with Beard and Cap. This little drawing from the DMA’s collection was in storage unframed, but we did not need to go any further than our own Reves Collection to find something perfect. Based on 17th-century Dutch frames with waffle or ripple style moldings that were darkly painted to simulate ebony, this frame is enhanced throughout by long passages of inlaid tortoise shell. Then, to bring perfect harmony to drawing and frame, we added a custom-designed mat embellished with strands of pale blue, silver, and brown marbling that echoes the frame’s tortoiseshell.
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Like museums, artists were often quite particular about their frames. For example, Edgar Degas most likely designed the frame on his drawing After the Bath, Woman Drying Herself. This frame has the hallmarks of his most inventive design, which includes a soft overall gilding over a lightly rounded profile, enhanced with rows of thin parallel grooves. Degas called this frame a “cockscomb” or “cushion” pattern. The frames’ characteristic gentle curves subtly reinforce the arc in the nude’s back, as well as the fleshiness of her torso, buttocks, and arms.

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Even simpler than Degas’s frame is the one that Swiss artist Ernest Biéler designed for his L’épine-vinette. He polished the wood (oak) to bring out its subtle grain, allowing it to serve as a backdrop to the small strips of wood that step down at the sight edge, drawing our eyes toward the lovely portrait. Biéler followed a similar design scheme when made the frame for his Self-Portrait, which hangs to the left. Thus we see both of these works just as he intended.
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In the last room of the exhibition, you will find a fantastic frame on Pablo Picasso’s Still Life with Glass and Bowl. Although probably not designed by Picasso, its strong linear features and curvilinear gold leaf embellishments mirror those same aspects in the master’s drawing.

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If you are not ready to explore the rest of the Museum, return to the first Mind’s Eye gallery for a look at the one-of-a-kind mat surrounding Hubert Robert’s View of the Gardens at the Villa Mattei. The cartouche bearing the artist’s name is a work of art itself.

Martha MacLeod is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant for the European and American Art Department at the DMA.


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