Archive for the 'Behind-the-Scenes' Category

More than Meets the Eye

In just over a week the DMA will host the acclaimed exhibition Laura Owens which is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The exhibition explores the career and whimsical world created by contemporary artist Laura Owens. Prior to the arrival of the exhibition, the DMA Member magazine Artifacts was able to talk with Amy Baumann, Owens’ Studio Manager, about the process of creating the unique and exceptionally beautiful exhibition catalogs:

This spring, visitors will encounter paintings on a monumental scale in the mid-career survey of American painter Laura Owens. Owens is also known for her work on a much more intimate scale, as a book artist. Her Los Angeles art space and studio even hosts Ooga Booga, an independent art bookseller. She shares this love of books through her gorgeously crafted catalogue, a deep dive into her life and career, containing memorabilia from her artistic formation and essays from experts in diverse cultural fields.

What is most surprising is that every catalogue contains a unique cover, screen printed by hand in the artist’s studio—a mammoth undertaking that involved a crew of five studio assistants working for over three months.

I talked with Amy Baumann, Owens’ Studio Manager, about the process of fabricating over 8,500 unique books, each one functioning as a work of art that visitors can take home with them.

Anna Katherine Brodbeck:
Can you speak about the genesis of this ambitious project?

Amy Baumann: Screen printing has been a big part of Laura’s work in the last five years. When she first approached us with the idea for the covers, we said, “Great! How do you want to do this?” This resulted in the book covers being created by the build-up of layers upon layers of images, much like her paintings.

AKB: What is the source material for the diverse imagery?

AB: Laura started by selecting patterns used in her paintings, such as a bitmap made from a scan of crumpled paper and vintage wallpaper overlays. She also chose some basic shapes that we printed as vectors, and more complex images that we printed using CMYK process. We made a chart listing the various elements to make sure we maxed out the possible combinations. They had to be random and not repeat. We came up with a system to put all the covers in production simultaneously, organizing them in piles at various stages of production. Laura wanted the print crew to choose the layers and how they were used in order to promote more randomness, but she would change the way the layers were used during the process, sometimes requesting a different scale or image, or shifting the color palette.

Anna Katherine Brodbeck is The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA.

Artistic Equations

Mathematics and art, two subjects that are often thought of as an unlikely combination; however, for American artist Alfred Jensen these two subjects fit together exactly. One of Jensen’s geometric, mathematical paintings could be seen if you peeked into the Conservation Studioab this past fall. This painting may appear simple in design, but the process and the surface are very complicated and interesting. Jensen was fascinated by the Maya calendar, philosophy, mathematics, color theory, pre-Columbian culture, and Asian culture. All of these things influence the compositions he creates, and in this particular painting there is very likely a specific reason for the number and placement of each dot of paint throughout the work.

Jensen combines mathematical and philosophical theory with artistic practice in his works similar to the way the field of conservation combines science with art. This perfect comparison makes it all the more exciting to perform a conservation treatment on this painting. In this work, it appears that Jensen applied the paint straight from the tube by dotting it directly onto a primed canvas. The dots were clearly not added at random, but were planned out, as is evidenced by a grid applied in pencil that can be seen in the reserves between the dots, below the paint.

Due to the high impasto of each little dot of paint, little cups and horizontal platforms are created that are perfectly positioned for catching and gathering dust. The dust detracts from and changes the way the colors interact with each other, affecting the color theory aspect of Jensen’s technique. Additionally, since the surface is unvarnished, the dust has started to attach itself to the paint, which will make it increasingly difficult to remove in the future.

Removing the dust from the surface is no easy task. Each little dot of paint has pointed ends that are extremely fragile and sometimes very small and difficult to see without magnification. As the DMA’s conservation intern, I began cleaning this painting in September 2017. In the image below, I’m using an optivisor to be able to see the very tiny, vulnerable peaks of paint and a small, soft brush to carefully dust each daub of paint to reveal the intended color below without disturbing the peaks. A HEPA vacuum gathers the dust so it doesn’t settle back onto the paint below.

The removal of the dust is a very slow, careful process because each little dot essentially becomes its own painting, requiring individual attention. From the viewing window of the Conservation Studio, it may seem as if the painting has not changed very much; however, below you can see the difference between a cleaned (green) and uncleaned area (blue) of the painting. The area in the green square is no longer dull and gray, and the colors show their intended vibrancy. The cleaning, while slow and detailed, is a very satisfying process.

Caroline Hoover is the Conservation Intern at the DMA.

Artist Interview: Timothy Harding

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Last month, our first C3 Visiting Artist of 2018, Timothy Harding, began his participatory installation in the Center for Creative Connections (C3). We’ve enjoyed watching the project grow as Harding adds new contributions to the installation biweekly. Learn more about the artist, his process, and his experiences at the DMA.

Tell us about yourself. (In 50 words or less)
I’m an artist based in Fort Worth, a die-hard Dallas Stars fan, and proud owner of a cat named Clyde. When not cheering on my team, I work in my studio and teach at Tarleton State University in Stephenville.

What motivated you to apply to the C3 Visiting Artist Project?
Recently my practice has been confined to the studio with no outside collaboration. I was interested in coming up with a project that would allow me to collaborate with others and open the opportunity to explore methods that I have not previously used. This is the first project I’ve done that is almost entirely digital in execution and produced with people who I never directly interact with. I’m excited to see how this might impact my practice moving forward.


Tell us about the installation you’ve created in the Center for Creative Connections.
The installation is a site-specific line drawing made up of hundreds of individual marks. This ongoing work is produced from scribbles and gestures left by Museum visitors on an iPad. Visitors leave their mark in a program and send it to me over the creative cloud. From there I make a couple of slight alterations to the file and cut them out via laser cutter in varieties of gray, black, and white paper. After cutting, I visit the Museum and add to the installation. The marks are layered in a manner that allows each to be noticeable while working together to produce an intricate whole.


Do you have any favorite visitor contributions you’d like to share?
I can’t say I have any specific favorite marks that have been sent yet. What I have found most interesting about this project is the number of unique marks I receive on a daily basis. Earlier projects have used my own scribbles, which are very familiar to me. It’s refreshing to find new marks and think about the decision making of that viewer without knowing who they are or anything about them.

What have you enjoyed most about this experience so far?
I’ve enjoyed interacting with Museum-goers. I had the opportunity to give a presentation to an engaged group of people about my work and this project. That was a very rewarding experience. Other interactions have been more casual and occur during installation. People of various ages, from children to adults, seem curious about the project and what is happening. It has been fun to have casual conversations with them and solicit their contributions.

C3 Visiting Artist Timothy Harding will lead a Teen Tour and a Teen Homeschool Workshop in April. Learn more about upcoming Teen Programs here.

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

Supporting Art

Hopi Visions: Journey of the Human Spirit is a new year-long exhibition highlighting a forty-eight foot mural by Hopi artists Michael Kabotie and Delbridge Honanie. The mural, titled Journey of the Human Spirit, depicts the history of the Hopi people from their mythic emergence to modern day. Included in the installation are numerous works from the DMA’s permanent collection, carefully curated to enhance and highlight the story told by the mural. Many of the objects included are ceramics ranging in dates from 950 CE to the late 20th century. As can be expected with such a range of dates, the condition of the objects varies from pristine to reassembled fragments. A question that must be answered prior to installing works like these is how to best display the work while not compromising its structural integrity. This problem is often solved by building specialty mounts.

A mount is a support, backing, or setting on which an object is fixed for display purposes. There are multiple types of mounts, but the one utilized most for Hopi Visions is a custom built brass mount. Russell Sublette, who just celebrated his 39th year at the DMA, is a Senior Preparator and the Head Mount Maker at the Museum. He is responsible for the majority of mounts you see (or rather, don’t see) within the permanent collection displays.

During exhibition planning, the curator and designer work together to determine how they wish to display an object. Do they want to show a bowl placed flat on a surface in a way that reflects its utilitarian purpose or do they want to display it at an angle to better highlight the design on the interior? Once these decisions have been reached, it is up to Russell to turn these wishes into a reality. He carefully inspects the object, looking for fractures, breaks, and any other issues that might affect its structural integrity, in order to determine the best contact points between the mount and the object. He then takes measurements and works on design. Russell’s goal is to create a mount that provides maximum stability while maintaining a minimal profile. In other words, the mount needs to be as invisible as possible. It is a job that requires focus and precision.

Russell begins with long rods of brass that he cuts down and shapes to follow to contour of the object. He uses extreme care when working on the clips—the part of the mount on which the object rests. It is imperative that the clips do not put too much pressure on the object as that could lead to cracks and breakage. Once he has completed the fabrication of the mount, Russell hands it over to fellow preparator, Sean Cairns, for the finishing touches. Sean’s job is to make the visible parts of the mount disappear. He paints the mount to match the object’s design as closely possible, layering colors and making sure to inspect the piece from multiple viewpoints. When Sean’s work is done, the mount should blend seamlessly with the object.

A good mount maker is a great asset to any museum. Mount making requires skill, talent, and artistic abilities, all of which abound in Russell and Sean. So, when you visit Hopi Visions, please appreciate the objects on display, but then take an extra moment to appreciate the mounts that support the art.

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

“One Way Ticket”

To celebrate the day dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr. and his impact on America, the DMA is hosting Boston-based performing group, Trio Ardente. The Trio will be performing “One Way Ticket”, which was created by American composer Robert Bradshaw inspired by the poem with the same name, written by Langston Hughes, at the DMA tomorrow, January 13 at 2:00 p.m.. These two major artistic works were created in response to the 60 paintings by Jacob Lawrence, titled, Migration Series.

Migration Series is a prolific piece of American art that propelled Lawrence to a place amongst the most influential painters in our country’s history. The paintings depict the migration of over a million African Americans from the rural South to the industrial North after World War I had begun. I asked Adam Gautille, one of the members of Trio Ardente about the group’s process and why they chose this piece to recreate for the performance.

A photograph from the DMA collection of Jacob Lawrence with his painting The Visitors, which is also in the DMA collection
[image credit: Arnold Newman, Jacob Lawrence with “The Visitors”, 1959, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, the Jolesch Acquisition Fund 2001.259]

Q: What drew Trio Ardente to this specific musical, art, and spoken word performance?
A: I grew up surrounded by the arts, other musicians, dancers, artists and later in college became an avid reader of poetry. I realized very quickly that art, as a whole, is something we all experience very differently. Some people are very tactile and visual learners, others are aural and some don’t particularly care for either of those and they just love poetry and words. This program “One-Way Ticket” was our first commissioned work by Robert Bradshaw. We discussed a piece involving multiple mediums of art and a strong message, we eventually landed on social justice. Rob took a dive into history and came up with a great work by pairing 4 of Jacob Lawrence’s 60 paintings in the Migration Series, with a stanza about those paintings by Langston Hughes. He wrote a movement around these elements in a response to how they moved him. 

Q: Did you and the other performers look to the Migration Series while practicing for the performance as a visual prompt?
A: We absolutely looked to the art and poetry as a way to inform the mood or colors we are striving for in our performance. The subject matter of the Great Migration is extremely powerful, so often if we are struggling with a musical decision we take a step back and look at the bigger picture to give us some guidance.

Q: What’s your favorite thing about this concert?
A: For us, the chance to celebrate Black musicians, artists, and poets is incredible. Too often in classical music we miss a rich part of American history, so when we get the chance to put it on display we take it. I also love that Jacob Lawrence was so greatly affected by his time during the Great Migration, that it made him take to art and paint his experiences.

Q: What do you think the connection is between the Migration Series and Martin Luther King Jr.’s beliefs and teachings?
A: The links between the Migration Series and Martin Luther King Jr’s beliefs and teachings are parallel. Between segregation, Jim Crow Laws, a fear of death and a desire for a new life with the same opportunities others were born with, MLK Jr. and Jacob Lawrence were seeing the same things at slightly different times. We can still see these things subtly and sometimes not so subtly in our world today, which is why it is so important to us to bring this program to the public. Many people are not taught about the Great Migration or really understand its impact on America to this day.

Trio Ardente will be performing “One Way Ticket” on Saturday, January 13 at 2:00 p.m. at the DMA. Tickets are available online or at the door for $10.

Video via Phillips Collection

Katie Cooke is the Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA

Building on Truth

As visitors go through Truth: 24 frames per second, they will notice some truly unique environments that were created just for this exhibition. Some of these works have very specific requirements for how the artist wanted them to be installed; although the film or video is its own type of “world,” the artists are very sensitive to how it is experienced in space. The exhibitions team worked directly with some of the artists to realize very specific visions of built environments.

Ben Rivers drew inspiration from Jake, the subject of his film, who had corrugated metal sheets in various colors on his roof and siding of his “hut.” This shelter in the forest is shown in the film, but as it is black and white, the physical structure in the exhibition brings the playful character of this shelter to life. It has the added benefit of creating a more intimate place to view this voyeuristic narrative. Rivers first provided us with a hand sketch, which I drew up to scale, and we determined that we needed to adjust the size to make it more accessible to all of our visitors. The team built the internal structure out of two by fours, and scouted for used corrugated metal. During the process, the artist decided to mimic the colors of Jake’s roof instead of the patina on the metal, so we ended up buying corrugated metal sheets and painting them. Seeing the finished piece draw in visitors with its curious color palette and flicker film inside has been a wonderful reward for our hard work on this piece, and Ben Rivers was very pleased with this iteration of his work as well.

Creating an environment around John Gerrard’s Western Flag followed a somewhat similar process, although he has a very involved working studio. They provided us with detailed and precise fabrication specs  to emulate and adapt to our space. The result is a beautifully seamless surface, projected from inside of a cube. The cube appears to float ever so slightly off the floor, which adds to the perfect otherworldliness of the computer-generated reality portrayed in Western Flag.

Discover more about Gerrard’s work from the artist himself during State of the Arts: New Media and the Future of Art on Thursday, January 25, when the artist joins KERA’s Jerome Weeks in conversation with SMU Assistant Professor of Media Arts Amber Bemak.

Skye Malish-Olson is an Exhibition Designer at the DMA.

The Art of Installing Media

Truth: 24 frames per second took a team of DMA staff to create and Lance Lander, Manager of Gallery Technology & Innovation, shared the nuts-and-bolts logistics of putting together  the challenging installation with Uncrated.

What are some past media installations you’ve mounted and how were they special or different from Truth?
The first large scale installation that I did was Fast Forward in 2006. I had fourteen media based works of art to install and maintain. One of the works was “I like it here better than in Westphalia,” El Dorado 1968-1976 by Lothar Baumgarten which is three slide projectors and sound. The piece is a beautiful work of art that uses technology to convey the beauty found in nature. There is a soundtrack that controls the advancement of the slide projectors. So you have the sounds and visuals of nature and the sounds and visuals of the mechanical slide projectors. The projectors require a lot of maintenance and I spent many hours keeping that thing going. In retrospect, working so hard on that piece made me fall in love with the job.

Other large scale installations I’ve done include Phil Collins’ the world won’t listen, and the exhibitions Private Universe and Mirror Stage.

What were some of the major time consuming tasks that you had to complete before installing the works of art?
For a typical video installation like the Rachel Rose, Omer Fast, or Steve McQueen, where you have a single channel video with sound, I like to have 5 days for installation. For this exhibition with 24 works of art we had a mere three weeks. We worked late nights and weekends all the way up to the opening. Because the exhibition is in two galleries at opposite ends of the building I was walking eight miles a day!

From 16mm projectors to 12-feet-tall LED screens, Truth encompasses a range of diverse technologies. Were there any works especially challenging to install? Do you have a favorite?
I really love the historical connection we made in the Bruce Conner REPORT space. Our Exhibition Designer, Skye Olson, was able to procure 6 original seats from the Texas Theater which is where Lee Harvey Oswald was captured.  But the most difficult piece, and my favorite, is Western Flag by John Gerrard. It is also the only piece in the exhibition that is not a film or video. It’s a software based simulation of a landscape. Essentially, it’s a non-interactive video game. Mr. Gerrard sent very precise drawings and stated that if it was even 2 millimeters off we would need to rebuild it. Our carpenter, Josh Harstrom, built the walls of the cube and Tom McKerrow and Brian Cahill built the frame of the projection screen. The preparators stretched and stapled the screen. When Mr. Gerrard arrived he was impressed with all the work we had done.

This exhibition was truly a cross-departmental collaboration that has involved every branch of the Museum. Can you call out some MVPs who helped you knock it out?
Mike Hill was the Head Preparator for this show and he did, as always, an incredible job. He took over the Anne Tallentire Drift and Dara Birnbaum Tiananmen Square installations. He also installed all of the acoustical material and covered them with fabric in the James Coleman space. Doug Velek has assisted me on everything I’ve installed since I started working here. I couldn’t have done it without him. All of the preparators stepped up to make the exhibition happen. John Lendvay, Mary Nicolette, Sean Cairns, Erik Baker, Ellia Maturino, Marta Lopez, and Russell Sublett all served a vital role. Registrar Melissa Omholt was so great to work with. She kept the flow of information going and kept me on track. There was also the design that Jessica and Skye came up with. Some of these pieces require specific room dimensions and I am amazed they were able to make it all fit and have all of the artists agree to it. I would be remiss to not mention Joni and her equable style of managing complex exhibitions with aplomb.

But I really can’t stress enough the indelible impact that Sue MacDarmid had on the exhibition. I first met Sue in 2007 when she came to install the world won’t listen. She represents and installs for Willie Doherty, Phil Collins, Steve McQueen, and others. When we started discussing an all media show I knew that she would be an integral part. I was able to reach her early enough to schedule her for three weeks. She is one the best media installers and she inspires me. I have so much trust in her that whenever she had an idea I would make it happen.

Chelsea Pierce is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant, Contemporary Art at the DMA

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