Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

Picture Yourself

Self-portraits are compelling images because they appear to show us the person behind the artwork, offering us a special peek into who the artist was. We hope that by looking at the self-portrait, we can learn something about the subject. Yet, much like the selfies we post on social media, the artists were presenting themselves how they wished to be seen.

Just as selfies allow our friends and family to feel like they’re sharing in our daily lives, they are ultimately the result of our own conscious decisions, just like a self-portrait. The self-portraits we see in museums are images that exist somewhere between how we see the artist and how the artist wanted us to see him or her.

My upcoming exhibition Multiple Selves: Portraits from Rembrandt to Rivera, opening this weekend in the Museum’s European Galleries on Level 2,  focuses on this play between how we want to be seen and how we are seen. The majority of the images are self-portraits, ranging from the 17th to the 20th centuries in a variety of media, including etching, lithography, and drawing.

Just as we use objects and clothing in our selfies to identify ourselves (think college t-shirts to mark us as alums or pictures in front of tourist landmarks to show where we’ve been), artists in these self-portraits use different objects and costumes to help us identify the person we see in the portrait as an artist.

Koloman Sokol, Self-Portrait, mid-20th century, wood engraving, Dallas Museum of Art, anonymous gift, 1949.11

In many of the works, these objects are tools of the trade, or items that are specific to an artist’s working life. This includes palettes, canvases, mahl sticks (used by artists to keep their painting hand steady), drawing implements, and jewelry, which historically marked an artist’s inclusion in a professional guild or within a royal court.

One work in particular offers an intriguing example of this complex dynamic. Self-Portrait by Koloman Sokol is this type of double self-portrait. Sokol, a Slovakian artist by birth who worked extensively in Mexico and the United States, probably created this self-portrait sometime in his 30s. In it, we see not only the completed self-portrait but also the artist caught in the act of creating a self-portrait. At the bottom of the print, the outlines of this second self-portrait take shape. This second self-portrait is being created just as the first one was, through a printmaking process known as wood engraving. To help us identify the work he is doing, he includes his tools—the wood block he is carving on and a burin, a tool used in printmaking to cut into the metal plate or wood block.

Detail of Self-Portrait

In the works that feature artist tools, like Sokol’s, the artists are manipulating their own image to ensure that we as an audience recognize the duality of their self-portrait, that we recognize the artist as an artist through both the self-portrait as a work of art and through the artist’s self-presentation as an artist.

For more about self-portraits, join me for a free Gallery Talk on Wednesday, May 3, at 12:15 p.m. in the exhibition. For another type of double self-portrait, be sure to visit The Two Fridas, now on view in the exhibition México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde, on view only at the DMA.

Amy Wojciechowski is the Dedo and Barron Kidd McDermott Graduate Intern for European Art.

The Mondrian Brand

The abstract paintings of Dutch artist Piet Mondrian have become ubiquitous in pop culture, from architecture to designer fashions. In a sense his geometric, primary-colored compositions have become a brand. This proliferation and appropriation of an artistic style begs the question, what shapes an artist’s legacy? Why do some works of art become so intertwined with pop culture that they become icons instantly recognizable to mass audiences? Join us on Thursday, April 27 at 7:00 p.m. for The Mondrian Brand and hear from Dr. Nancy Troy, Victoria and Roger Sant Professor in Art at Stanford University and author of The Afterlife of Piet Mondrian.

Piet Mondrian, Place de la Concorde, 1938–1943, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the James H. and Lillian Clark Foundation 1982.22.FA

To contemplate Mondrian’s pop culture legacy in my own way I thought it was finally time to attempt the complex and beautiful Mondrian Cake made famous by Caitlin Freeman in her book Modern Art Desserts: Recipes for Cakes, Cookies, Confections, and Frozen Treats Based on Iconic Works of Art.

The first three lines of the recipe are just a taste of what goes into this chocolate-soaked masterpiece:
Makes one 16 by 3 by 3-inch cake, serving 15
Hands-on time: 6 hours
From start to finish: 2 days


To begin, I had to make four velvety cakes: one white, one blue, one red, and one yellow. Freeman uses a delicious recipe with a shocking butter content (I made two trips to the store). As you might imagine, I ended up with a rainbow of leftover cake that I was too lazy to repurpose into another dessert.

After precisely cutting each section of the Mondrianesque composition I glued them together with 24 oz of bittersweet chocolate ganache and finished the cake with a shower of ganache. With two days of cake construction behind me I was impatient to see the finished product and did not let it set up in the fridge for the recommended three hours. Each slice revealed a mini Mondrian, if only slightly wonky and Easter-egg colored. We’ll never know if Mondrian would have approved of this culinary counterfeit, but I was certainly satisfied with my effort.

Jessie Frazier is the Manager of Adult Programming 

Shelf Life

In celebration of National Library Week, we are taking a tour of The Mildred R. and Frederick M. Mayer Library, the DMA’s art research library located on the second mezzanine level.

Established in 1936, the collection opened to the public in 1944, and over time has grown as an essential resource for use by DMA staff, docents, and the public.

Library at Fair Park, circa 1940s-1950s

In 1993, the Hamon Wing of the DMA opened and the library moved into its current space.

At the library’s entrance there is a display case used to highlight items from the library’s collection.

Currently in the display case is Temporada de lluvias: 360⁰ panoramas of the Maya lowlands by Phillip Hofstetter with poems by David Freidel. Three-foot-long pages reproduce photographs of ancient Maya ruins. The book is covered in Maya bark and banana leaf and bound with Maya sisal twine.

Entering the reading room, visitors sign in and can peruse new exhibition catalogues and art magazines, browse through reference books, or take a moment to reflect in one of the three alcoves with a view of the Fleischner Courtyard and downtown. This Webster’s unabridged dictionary from 1946 is very popular!

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In the library you can view paintings on local subjects by Texas artists from the DMA’s collection, including Scene of Three Murders by Julie Bozzi, which is about three unrelated murders at the same location on the Trinity River, and the hyperrealist Looking North, Fort Worth 1999 by J.T. Grant, See all works on display in the library through the online collection.

Originally established from gifts and the purchase of 1,400 titles, today the library has over 100,000 volumes supporting research on all areas of the Museum’s encyclopedic art collection. The majority of the materials are stored in areas not open to the public. Here are a few examples of what you can request to view in the library:

Moveable stacks housing the library’s non-circulating collection.

With many rare items in the collection, one of the oldest and rarest books is a Bible in Latin published in 1526 with woodblock printed illustrations. Fewer than 20 other institutions in the world own this edition.

A few rare books from the Locked Case section of the library stacks.

The full title of this bible is Biblia cum concordantiis Veteris et Novi Testamenti et sacrorum canonum : necnon et additionibus in marginibus varietatis diversorum textuum : ac etiam canonibus antiquis quattuor Evangeliorum : novissime autem additae sunt concordantiae ex viginti libris Iosephi De antiquitatibus et Bello Iudaico excerptae que solerti cura nuperrime repurgata est et excusa : in qua pluribus scatebat mendis, published by [Lyons] : Venundatur Lugdun[um] in ædibus Iacobi Mareschal Prope Nostre Dame de Confort, 1526.

There are 20,000 vertical files on local and international, well-known and lesser-known artists. Artists files contain handwritten notes, resumes, clippings, photos, exhibition announcements, press release,s and other small ephemera compiled over the last 60 years.

Items from the artist file on Otis Dozier (1904-1987), a prominent Texas artist.

Though current issues of art magazines and auction catalogs are available in the Reading Room, there are approximately 350 serials and 20,000 auction catalogs dating back to 1945 also located in storage.

At the heart of the library, sometimes-unnoticed behind walls and desks are the keeper, organizers and preservers of the DMA’s extensive research collection. This small, dedicated band of librarians and catalogers serve over 4,000 patrons per year, including students working on research papers, area appraisers, scholars researching items in the DMA collection, and individuals who want to learn more about the artist in their personal collections.

Pictured here are not the current librarians, but the card catalog is still in the library.

Be sure to stop by and check out the Mayer Library.

Pauline Martin is the Assistant Librarian at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Installing 13 Centuries in One Gallery

Art is on the move with less than a week to go before the Museum’s permanent gallery space dedicated to the long-term loan of the Keir Collection of Islamic Art opens on Tuesday, April 18. The largest public presentation of this renowned collection will feature works that range from rock crystal to metalwork, ceramics, textiles, carpets, and works on paper.

 

Mexico at the DMA: A History

Last week the exhibition México 1900-1950 opened to big crowds, but it is just the most recent DMA exhibition to focus on the art and artists of Mexico. The first known exhibition to feature Mexican art was a solo exhibition in February 1933 of paintings and drawings by Roberto Montenegro. Work by Montenegro is included in the current exhibition and the DMA’s permanent collection.

Roberto (Nervo) Montenegro, Mexican Woman (Tehuana), n.d., lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Dallas Print Society in memory of Edwin B. Hopkins, 1941.5

Over the 114-year history of the DMA, with the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts (1957-1963) exhibition history included, 38 known exhibitions (including México 1900-1950) have featured Mexican art and artists, ranging from ancient and pre-Columbian to modern and contemporary. Of the 38, almost half included work by Mexican modernists who also have pieces in the current exhibition. The DMA held solo and group exhibitions for artists Carlos Merida, Roberto Montenegro, Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, Gunther Gerzso, Leonora Carrington, and Jose Posada, as well as numerous survey shows of work by Mexican modernists.

One of the largest exhibitions of the work of Mexican modernists was Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988.

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988

Like México 1900-1950, Images of Mexico was so large, that it needed to be installed in multiple galleries throughout the building. The main portion of the exhibition was located in the Level 2 European and American Galleries, with additional works in the Barrel Vault, Concourse, Focus I Gallery and the Print and Textile Gallery (now Focus II gallery).

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988 in the Barrel Vault

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988; Concourse

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988 in Focus Gallery I

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988 in Focus Gallery II

At least two works in México 1900-1950 are making their second visit to Dallas. Both Olga Costa’s La vendedora de frutas, 1951, and Saturnino Herrán’s Nuestros dioses, 1918, were part of Images of Mexico.

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988

Installation of Images of Mexico: The Contribution of Mexico to 20th Century Art, August 28-October 30, 1988

Another primary feature of the México 1900-1950 exhibition is that it includes exhibition text and labels in both English and Spanish. The first DMA exhibition to include labels in English and Spanish was Maya Miniatures and Other Textiles for the Saints, November 19, 1985-January 19, 1986. The exhibition displayed Maya textiles from Guatemala.

Installation of Maya Miniatures and Other Textiles for the Saints, November 19, 1985-January 19, 1986

Installation of Maya Miniatures and Other Textiles for the Saints, November 19, 1985-January 19, 1986

 

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

 

Designing Mexico

This week we will open the doors to México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde, but work on the exhibition began weeks ago. Exhibition designers Jessica Harden and Skye Malish-Olson shared insight into the process of creating the gallery spaces that serve as home for the works of art during special exhibitions.

Jessica Harden: A lot of the work that Skye and I do is to plan for movement of people and objects and really take into account the overall visitor experience and how people interact with and participate in the exhibition.

Skye Malish-Olson: The planning process definitely varies from project to project. I think the most fun for us is always the color and graphics and how that comes together with the objects.

1Final

Image: Barragan House, Mexico City, 1948. Photo © Barragan Foundation, Birsfelden, Switzerland/ProLitteris, Zurich, Switzerland

JH: One of the first steps of working on an exhibition for us as designers is to talk through the checklist (the list of works of art that will be included in an exhibition) with the curators and to understand which objects are the most important. We can then take that information and use that to our benefit in the design.

SMO:  We’re also typically working with a lot of different eras, and lots of times we’ll start with a kind of mood board or just different visual references to give us a starting place, for color, and for how to portray objects in a way that tells a story.

2Final

Image: Luis Barragán’s San Cristóbal stables in Mexico City, 1960s. Credit René Burri/Magnum Photos

JH: With México 1900–1950, we worked off of a lot of the plans and designs that were developed for the presentation in Paris. This informed in many ways how we wanted to treat the checklist and some of the spaces, but then we had to take into consideration or own space and our own audience, so we made a lot of adjustments. The 10,000-square-foot exhibition is showcased in two separate spaces, a first during my time at the DMA. The exhibition begins on Level 4 in what has typically showcased works from the DMA’s permanent collection, and then continues on Level 1 in one of our main temporary exhibition spaces.

I met the challenge of a disconnected space with a visually strong and contextually relevant inspiration: the work of Mexican modernist architect Luis Barragán, known for his combination of strong, vivid color with clean, modernist forms. Applied in our México 1900-1950 galleries, these colors and forms, offset from the DMA’s existing architecture, assert the entrances and designated areas of the exhibition. The paint application and dynamic forms help lead visitors through a space that is dense with powerful works of art, without feeling claustrophobic. Bright colored panels of wall frame and highlight the sumptuous color of a number of paintings, while creating visually fresh and exciting lines of sight as one moves through the space. An additional benefit is the way these colors work with the existing architecture and wood and limestone finishes, as Barragán was also known for his use of raw materials. From the big picture down to the smallest detail, the exhibition designer’s task is to facilitate an aesthetic experience from the exhibition content that is greater than the sum of its parts.

SMO: I am really excited about the scale and color in the México 1900–1950 exhibition. It is definitely a rare treat and we’re using all of our space and multiple galleries to house these really large and amazing works. I think having our space activated in this way will be really exciting for our visitors.

3Final

Image: Cuadra San Cristobal, Mexico City, 1968. Photo © Barragan Foundation, Birsfelden, Switzerland/ProLitteris, Zurich, Switzerland

Jessica Harden is the Director of Exhibition and Museum Design and Skye Malish-Olson is the Exhibition Designer at the DMA.

Knight Vision

We are in the final two weeks of Art and Nature in the Middle Ages and to celebrate we are sharing insight from stain glass artist Judith Schaechter modern experience with the medium featured in the Winter 2017 issue of Artifacts.

Installation views

Installation views

Art and Nature in the Middle Ages explores medieval works in a variety of media, including beautiful examples of stained glass. This particular art form was perfected during the Middle Ages, and little has changed in the practice of making stained glass in the ensuing centuries. While this once fairly common medium is not widely used by contemporary artists, Philadelphia-based artist Judith Schaechter is known for her work in stained glass. Artifacts asked her why she is drawn to working in this medium and what similarities she sees between modern stained glass works and those created in the Middle Ages.

Stained glass reached its peak in the 12th century and it’s been downhill since then. Perhaps stained glass is an odd medium to choose if one wishes to participate in the world of contemporary fine art, and, indeed, it is! Yet, I found it altogether irresistible.

Although I went to art school to study painting, I knew almost instantly when I tried stained glass that it was what I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. Why? I felt “in sync” with glass. When I was a painter, I painted fast and furiously, and ultimately threw everything out. This didn’t happen with glass because it was so labor intensive. By the time I managed to do something to the glass, I had developed feelings of attachment and was hardly going to throw it away.

I found the beauty of stained glass to be the perfect counterpoint to ugly and difficult subjects. Although the figures I work with are supposed to be ordinary people doing ordinary things, I see them as having much in common with the old medieval windows of saints and martyrs. They seem to be caught in a transitional moment when despair becomes hope or darkness becomes inspiration. They seem poised between the threshold of everyday reality and epiphany,
caught between tragedy and comedy.

My work is centered on the idea of transforming the wretched into the beautiful—say, unspeakable grief, unbearable sentimentality, or nerve-wracking ambivalence—and representing it in such away that it is inviting and safe to contemplate and captivating to look at. I am at one with those who believe art is a way of feeling one’s feelings in a deeper, more poignant way.

Medieval windows sought to confer inspiration and enlightenment on those who saw them. Beholding a stained glass window can enable, encourage. and literally enact the process of being filled with light. It sounds like some kind of preternatural phenomenon, but it’s a physical fact. While one is busy identifying and empathizing with the image, one also experiences physically the warming, filling sensations of light. It’s so persuasive not because the pictures are convincing narratives but because the colors are overwhelming and the light is sublime—and, by golly, it’s coming from inside you, it’s part of you.

Judith Schaechter has lived and worked in Philadelphia since graduating in 1983 with a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design Glass Program. Her work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Ar t, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Hermitage, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Corning Museum of Glass, the Renwick Galler y of the Smithsonian Institution, and numerous other public and private collections.


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