Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

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.

Looking at Law

Carey Young, still from Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, 17 mins 58 secs. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, © Carey Young

Carey Young, still from Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, 17 mins., 58 secs., Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, © Carey Young

London-based artist Carey Young’s new video Palais de Justice is a cinematic glimpse into the Brussels courthouse of the same name. The video begins with a lone man walking down a vast staircase. Hands in the pockets of his track pants, he appears far more casual than the 19thcentury architecture that surrounds him. Over time, the video shifts from distant shots of people walking through the interiors to more intimate views of female judges at work. Observing them through smudged portholes in courtroom doors, the camera captures the judges in moments of authoritative posturing during trials: they stroke their chins, remove their glasses, and gaze across the room deep in thought.

The women we see through the portholes are, in fact, actual judges and not actors. Young shot Palais de Justice “guerilla” style for three weeks over a period of two years, catching the daily activities that occurred throughout the building. She did not begin the project with a preplanned narrative but instead pieced her footage together afterwards to form a more poetic picture of the courthouse. Young especially wanted to highlight the presence of the female judges to subvert common assumptions about who holds the power of law. Rather than seeing men in charge, we see only women occupying these prestigious societal roles.

Carey Young, still from Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, 17 mins 58 secs. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, © Carey Young

Carey Young, still from Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, 17 mins., 58 secs., Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, © Carey Young

In a brief conversation, Young explained to me that Palais de Justice marks an artistic departure for her. While her work often takes the form of conceptual text, performance, and photography, the video is much more metaphorical and dreamlike. Young further explained that she wanted the video to highlight the intent of the architect to express the “sublime scale of the law.” This is apparent in how Young has installed the work inside the gallery: the projection takes up an entire wall and, as a result, immerses the viewer. Surrounded by a soundtrack of vocal echoes and footsteps playing alongside the video footage, one sees the landmark building itself as another character among the judges and courthouse visitors.

The Palais de Justice was designed by architect Joseph Poelaert in celebration of Belgium’s independence from the Netherlands. A massive structure—over 200,000 square feet with 27 large courtrooms—it remains one of the largest courthouses in Europe. For Young, the monumental qualities of the building made it a perfect case study for her ongoing meditations on the performative nature of law. The architectural elements, especially the oculi through which we gaze, draw attention to our own roles as witnesses to the law in action. It makes us think not only about  the institution of law but also about who has the power to exercise it.

With this in mind, Palais de Justice makes me think about how buildings shape our attitudes and behaviors. How does architecture command this kind of power? Does the architecture of a courthouse differ from, for instance, that of an art museum? What might a courthouse of the future look like?

These are only a few of the questions that Young’s powerful video raises. See it yourself at the DMA, along with other new and existing works by Carey Young, in Carey Young: The New Architecture, now through April 9.

 

Kelly Filreis is the McDermott Graduate Intern for Contemporary Art at the DMA.

Listen Hear

The Center for Creative Connections (C3) has been working closely with our Manager of Access Programs, Emily Wiskera, to create new sensory activities at each of the Pop-Up Art Spots. This month we have added a new activity to our Pop-Up Art Spot in the 18th-Century European Gallery. The works of art on view in this gallery are so epic they feel like they are straight out of a movie. So, we invited local musicians Clint Niosi and Claire Hecko to compose one-minute “film scores” for four of the works of art on view. Here’s a sneak peek of two of them:

Claude-Joseph Vernet, A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm, 1775, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund 1983.41.FA

Claude-Joseph Vernet, A Mountain Landscape with an Approaching Storm, 1775, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 1983.41.FA

Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust, The Harp Lesson, 1791, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O'Hara Fund 2015.10.FA

Jean Antoine Theodore Giroust, The Harp Lesson, 1791, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund, 2015.10.FA

Stop by the Pop-Up Art Spot on Saturdays between 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. or on Late Night between 8:00 and 11:00 p.m., check out an iPod, and listen to these mesmerizing sounds as you look closely at these works of art.

Jessica Fuentes is the Manager of Gallery Interpretation and the Center for Creative Connections at the DMA.

Mask Mysteries

Before I arrived at the DMA, I wasn’t quite sure what my daily tasks as the McDermott Intern for African Art would entail. I certainly never expected to be sitting in on a biomedical engineering lecture at UT Southwestern studying a CT scan—but this was no ordinary CT scan: it was a scan of the DMA’s helmet mask (komo) from the Senufo peoples of Côte d’Ivoire.

1

The purpose of this scan was to discover the contents of the horns that decorate the mask, as well as any other ritual materials that may have been placed within the structure. The scan showed the horns contained many small objects, including animal jaws and a variety of organic matter. With this information in hand, I hit the books in an attempt to understand why these objects would be chosen for use in a mask such as this one. As the Komo society is a secret knowledge society, details of masking traditions are not frequently shared; however, I was able to compile some information from Boureima T. Diamitani, scholar and Komo society member, to help contextualize the mask and the mysterious contents of its horns.

Helmet mask (komo), mid–20th century, wood, glass, animal horns, fiber, and mirrors, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley 1997.24

Helmet mask (komo), Cote d’Ivoire, Senufo peoples, mid-20th century, wood, glass, animal horns, fiber, and mirrors, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of David T. Owsley, 1997.24

The komo is believed to be a spirit above humans who possesses supernatural powers and is sent by God (Kle) to protect members of the secretive Komo society. The komo performs a masquerade that today functions as both a divination ritual and a form of entertainment.

The origin of the Komo society is found in a story in which a hunter and his dog encountered and killed a frightening beast in the forest. The hunter brought the beast’s head back to the village to entertain the townspeople, thus becoming the first komotigui, or owner of the Komo. The mask form is taken from the appearance of the beast killed by the hunter. Today, the mask is most often worn during performances by the son of the komotigui or the son of the blacksmith who carved it.

3

Blacksmiths carve komo masks from one piece of bugusulu softwood, a tree used exclusively for this purpose. As females and uninitiated males are not permitted to see the mask, the blacksmith must himself be a member of the Komo society and must carve the mask in the forest, out of sight of the village. The mask, carved over the course of three days, is sculpted with small wooden horns, which are then fitted with animal horns. The choice to carve the mask with horns is an important one: since relatively few animals have horns, the addition of horns emphasizes the strangeness and power associated with this creature. Upon completion, the carver relinquishes all responsibilities for the mask to the new komotigui, who may choose to add porcupine quills, more horns, feathers, or any other element he chooses; these additions distinguish particular masks from one another. A competitive spirit between komotiguis is a catalyst for artistic production and the various styles of many komo masks.

Due to the personal preference involved in decorating the mask, we cannot be sure of the significance of each element that was found in the horns. Many komotiguis chose to place powerful substances such as medicine or poison inside of the horns due to the aggressiveness and fear associated with them. This implies that the substances that filled the horns likely held some type of ritual significance to Komo society members and were believed to increase the potency of the Komo society as well as the mask itself.

Although we do not yet have all of the answers regarding the materials contained in this mask, or the reason that each specific item was chosen, we are on our way to a better understanding of the context of this mask’s creation. Further, this experience has immensely broadened my outlook on the ways in which science, technology, and the arts can work together to draw important cultural conclusions.

4

Megan Zembower is the McDermott Intern for African Art at the DMA.

References:
Diamitani, Boureima Tiekoroni.  1999.  Identities, Komo Societies, and Art Among the Tagwa Senufo of Burkina Faso (Doctoral Dissertation).
Diamitani, Boureima T.  “The Insider and the Ethnography of Secrecy:  Challenges of Collecting Data on the Fearful Komo of the Tagwa-Senufo.”  The African Archaeological Review 28, no. 1 (2011):  55-70.
Diamitani, Boureima Tiékoroni.  “Observing Komo among Tagwa People in Burkina Faso:  A Burkinabe Art Historian’s Views.”  African Arts 41, no. 3 (2008):  14-25.

Let’s Dance

We’ve been lucky over the past year to partner with Dance for PD® on a collaborative program offered each month here at the DMA in which members of the local Dance for PD/Movement Disorders class have been immersed in gallery discussions, interactive dance, and movement. To facilitate the program, DMA educators team up with Misty Owens, a Dance for PD® founding teacher at the Mark Morris Dance Group, who has been teaching the specialized classes since 2003 in Brooklyn, New York, and locally throughout the Dallas Metroplex since 2011.

img_4928

img_4918

Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that affects up to one million people in the United States. Someone with the disease may have tremors, slowed movement, rigid muscles, and impaired posture and balance. While there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, one of the most important recommendations is to stay active, focusing on balance and flexibility. Dance for PD® engages the participants’ minds and bodies, and creates an enjoyable social environment that emphasizes dancing rather than therapy. Owens’ expertise in dance allows for active demonstration to inspire participants to recapture grace, while guided improvisation inspired by works of art in the collection fosters creativity and experimentation with movement. Participants not only have the chance to learn and talk about art, but to move their bodies and dance in the galleries!

img_3598

img_3272

Pat Goukler, one of the Dallas dancers, said of her experience, “I don’t have PD, but my husband does, so I do this with him. I’ve seen him develop a creativity that I hadn’t seen in 48 years of marriage. He looks at a piece of art and interprets it with his body. It is phenomenal; he has developed rhythm. It has been a joy to watch him experience a new way of expressing himself through art.”

img_2021

img_1977

Another member of the class said the Dance for PD program at the DMA “gave us all a new lease on life WITHOUT Parkinson’s. Yes, that’s possible!” Another stated that the experience “made my body feel so free. There were moments (quite a few, actually) when my body and mind felt so graceful and calm. The beauty of art and movement go together so well—I was surrounded by a joyous feeling!”

img_1684

img_0472

The opportunity to collaborate with Owens has allowed the DMA to engage with people from the Parkinson’s disease community in a way that we’ve never done before. The participants in the program are already focusing on movement, flexibility, and balance, which are essential to those with Parkinson’s disease, but having the class in the DMA galleries enables them to connect their dancing to visual works of art, providing them another avenue of inspiration—a meaningful experience for all involved!

img_0438

Amanda Blake is Interim Director of Education and the Head of Family, Access, and School Experiences at the DMA.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,336 other followers

Twitter Updates

Flickr Photo Stream

More Photos

Join Us on Facebook