Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

How to Install a Robert Smithson

A new rotation of artworks was recently installed in the Barrel Vault, our main contemporary art space. Included in this new installation are masterpieces by Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Hans Hofmann, as well as several newly acquired artworks. One of the highlights of the gallery is Robert Smithson’s Mirrors and Shelly Sand. The work is composed of approximately three tons of sand and 50 mirrors (glued back-to-back in pairs of two) lined up in a row, creating the illusion of infinity when you gaze into them. This engaging piece invites the viewer in and encourages interaction (but just of the mental variety—please remember not to touch!).

The piece becomes even more interesting when you know the process required to install it. It takes a lot of work and skill to transform the 125 buckets of sand and two crates of mirrors into the finished work of art. There are specific instructions from the artist on how the piece should be installed, but there will always be variances due to the nature of the materials. Thankfully for us, one of our Senior Preparators, Mary Nicolett, has installed the Smithson eight times and is a pro.

First our crew constructs a massive tent made of plastic. This keeps all of the sand contained and ensures that other artworks in the area are protected. On installation day, our stellar team of preparators (professional art handlers) put on their protective gear and prepare to get dirty. After the Registrar (me!) completes a condition report on all the mirrors, they are lined up based on the artist’s specifications and a small pile of sand is poured over them to keep them in place. Once all of the mirrors are in place, the real fun begins. Each preparator grabs a bucket of sand and begins pouring. Once all the buckets are empty, Nicolett begins smoothing the sand into the appropriate shape. At the end of the day, the dusty crew exits the tent to let the dust settle. The next day, the tent is removed and the finishing touches to the sand are completed.

Installation works like Mirrors and Shelly Sand allow our prep team to flex their creative muscles. While we do follow the instructions provided by the artist, the preparators are the ones who physically create the artwork as you see it. A good prep team is vital to any art institution as they are the ones who know the intricacies of a piece and how to safely install it. Thankfully for us, we have one of the best!

 

Katie Province is the Assistant Registrar for Collections and Exhibitions at the DMA.

Second Thursdays with a Twist

Does your typical Thursday night have the dance moves of Michael Jackson, a “potions” class for adults, a tour about beautiful backsides, live covers of the best 80s music, and storm troopers? Would you like it to? If your answer is yes, then you’re going to love our new line-up for Second Thursdays with a Twist!

All year round, every Second Thursday of the month, we are looking at our collection with a pop culture twist. If this program sounds familiar, it’s because this program is The Artist Formerly Known as Off the Wall. We thought we would change up the name, but keep the same day, same time and same fun! We are kicking off the new name and new season of themes this Thursday with Don’t You Forget About Me. The night will have all the 1980’s nostalgia you can handle, a photo booth, a Ferris Bueller themed tour and more.

We hope you all will come out and enjoy Second Thursdays with a Twist, we had so much fun coming up with ideas for these themes and we hope that you will have even more fun experiencing them!

August 10: Don’t You Forget About Me

Geoff Winningham, High School Prom, negative 1973, print 1976, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Prestonwood National Bank, 1981.36.11

September 14: Smooth Criminal

Ralph Gibson, Untitled, 1972, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, Polaroid Foundation grant, 1977.79

October 12: Mischief Managed

Owl effigy, Arts of the Americas, 20th century, ceramic, slip, and paint, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Bywaters, 1963.179

November 9: Who Run the World?

Anna Hyatt Huntington, Joan of Arc, modeled, 1910; cast c. 1915, bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, Kiest Memorial Fund, 1924.3

December 14: In a Galaxy Far, Far Away

Dan Flavin, alternate diagonals of March 2, 1964 (to Don Judd), March 2, 1964, daylight and cool white fluorescent tubing, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Janie C. Lee, 1976.74.A-G

January 11: Ice Ice Baby

Frederic Edwin Church, The Icebergs, 1861, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Norma and Lamar Hunt, 1979.28

Katie Cooke is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA

 

 

 

After Hours: Staff Art

 


Ever wanted to know more about the staff at the Dallas Museum of Art? Until November 26, After Hours: Works by DMA Staff will be on view on Level M2. The show features 60 works by 38 staff members and showcases talents from many different mediums, including video and sculpture work. DMA employees whose roles at the Museum range from gallery attendant to librarian participated in the exhibition.


David Caldwell, a Gallery Attendant Supervisor at the DMA for 5 years, created his painting Marie Madeleine En Provence Devant Un Monolithe Kubrick this year based on the story of Mary Magdalene in the South of France and the Stanley Kubrick film 2001: A Space Odyssey. Caldwell has a BFA with an emphasis in Broadcast/Film from SMU. When asked how his position at the DMA inspired his artwork, Caldwell said, “My role at the DMA has inspired my paintings. As a Gallery Attendant, I learned about La Pausa [the home of Wendy and Emery Reves in the South of France], the phrase means ‘the pause.’ I found out that it refers to a French legend that Mary Magdalene fled the Holy Land a few years after the crucifixion. She and her entourage were adrift on a boat in the Mediterranean. They came to shore at what is now the French Riviera in Provence. Legend has it that Mary and her friends, on their journey inland, rested in a grove of olive trees that reminded them of home. That olive grove is said to be located on the property, called La Pausa, of Coco Chanel and then Wendy and Emery Reves. I would have never known this story had I not worked at the DMA.”


Center for Creative Connections Coordinator Kerry Butcher graduated with a BFA in Studio Arts with an emphasis in photography. Butcher entered two photographs she took during a road trip to Montana with friends in 2015. Using a gently used point and shoot film camera, Butcher said, “I had the intent of really working on refocusing my eye on capturing moments that were personal to me, something I felt I had somewhat lost touch with since graduating college.”


Burdette Katzen, a Library Assistant at the DMA for 18 years, created an oil painting titled Morning in Byzantium for the show. When speaking of her work, Katzen stated, “I especially enjoy depicting ordinary women performing typical tasks during their average days. Although there are many impressive paintings of spectacular landscapes, and colorful flowers, I believe there is great beauty to be seen in the simple things of everyday life.”

On your next trip to the DMA, stop by the exhibition and check out the works created by the staff!

Samantha Nemazie is the Exhibition Design Intern at the DMA.

 

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

 

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

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


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