Archive for the 'Collections' Category

Contemporary Additions

With 93 exhibitors, the 2018 Dallas Art Fair left no dearth of fantastic work to purchase through the Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisition program. For the Dallas Art Fair’s 10th anniversary, and the third year the DMA has participated in this exciting partnership, the contemporary collection gained eight new works by seven artists. This year, perhaps more than ever, we are reminded how much representation matters. The curatorial team (Anna Katherine Brodbeck, me, and the McDermott Intern for Contemporary Art Elise Armani), under the leadership of our Director, Agustín Arteaga, used the funds this year to select works that further diversify the contemporary collection. The artists range in age and background as well as the variety of mediums that they use.

Brie Ruais’s large wall-based ceramic was created from the same amount of clay as the artist’s own body weight. In her process-driven practice, Ruais spreads and molds the clay with her hands and feet, marks still evident once the pieces are partially glazed and fired. The DMA’s holdings in contemporary ceramics do not quite reflect the multitude of ceramic work being produced today, and we felt that this work was a striking addition to demonstrate the use of the medium expanded beyond traditional forms.

Brie Ruais, Broken Ground Red (130 lbs of clay spread out from center), 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Albertz Benda [image source: brieruais.com].

In Sanford Biggers’s Sirroco from 2016, the artist repurposes an antique quilt to use as the substrate of this incredible painting. Interested in the inherent geometry and varying textures of the quilts, Biggers references a historical, though unproven, narrative that on the Underground Railroad quilts were used as signposts to guide escaping slaves. Sanford Biggers is a cousin of the painter John Biggers (1924-2001), who is already represented in the DMA’s collection. Acquiring Sanford Biggers’s work provides a great opportunity to explore artistic lineages and make connections between generations.

Sanford Biggers, Sirroco, 2016. Courtesy of Massimo De Carlo Milan | London |Hong Kong [image source: massimodecarlo.com].

This was also the first year we purchased from a local gallery, and we were pleased to select Alicia Henry’s mixed-media work Untitled, 2017, from Liliana Bloch Gallery here in Dallas. In this portrait of a man, Henry uses stitched thread and ink to comment on identity and notions of beauty. Some of the marks appear, hauntingly, like scars and allude to some form of violence previously endured. With this truly powerful work, we further expand our holdings by contemporary African American artists.

Alicia Henry, Untitled, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Liliana Bloch Gallery [image source: lilianablochgallery.com].

In addition to the works above, we are pleased to have also acquired Matthew Ronay’s sculpture Condition, 2018; Tony Lewis’s drawing Nes, 2018; two gelatin silver prints from Geraldo de Barros’s series Fotoformas Sao Paulo, 1949/2008; and Shara Hughes’s painting Gusto, 2018. It is difficult not to write about every work since they all bring something unique to the conversation. I encourage anyone interested in these acquisitions to visit the gallery websites to learn more about the artists.

Thank you to the generous donors to the Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisition program for their time and enthusiasm in making these acquisitions happen!

Chelsea Pierce is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant for Contemporary Art at the DMA.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody

This week the prep team installed a pastel by artist Edgar Degas (1834-1917) in the European Art galleries for a special viewing through April 15. Ballet Dancers on the Stage joins two other pieces by Degas currently on view—a bronze sculpture titled The Masseuse, and a small etching, Dancer on Stage, Taking a Bow. Works on paper like Ballet Dancers on the Stage require long periods of rest in between exhibitions to preserve their light-sensitive materials, so it is always exciting when they go on view.

Edgar Degas, Ballet Dancers on the Stage, 1883, Pastel on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. And Mrs. Franklin B. Bartholow, 1986.277

Edgar Degas, The Masseuse, 1896-1911, Bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 1965.26.McD

Edgar Degas, Dancer on Stage, Taking a Bow, 1891-1892, Aquatint and soft-ground etching on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. And Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg, 1956.83

Edgar Degas was a French artist working in the second half of the 19th century who has become well-known for his paintings and pastels of ballet dancers. It is important to note that while Degas focused on the subject of ballet for over twenty years, he was interested in depicting many aspects of modern life. The DMA’s collection includes seven works by Degas with subjects ranging from ballerinas and bathers to an opera singer and a masseuse.

Dated 1883, Ballet Dancers on the Stage is a later work that reflects his involvement with the Impressionist group and his interest in Japanese woodblock prints.

Here are a few things to look for when you see the pastel in person:

• Try to count how many complete or partial ballerinas are in this scene and which arms go with each figure. Notice how Degas used brown outlines to define the forms of dancers’ bodies and costumes in the foreground, but he abandoned these outlines in the background and the figures lose clarity. Everything from the pastel’s sketch-like finish, to its varied levels of focus, and its jam-packed composition communicate that this is a fleeting moment of action. Similar to the experience of attending a ballet, we only get the finer details of the dancer who is closest to us.

• It looks like we are viewing the dancers from above and to the right, and within close range. This scene is from the perspective of an abonné or season ticket holder, who would have been seated in a box to the side of the stage. Abonné are supporters of the ballet who Degas sometimes portrayed as men in top hats.

• Notice how Degas has created an asymmetrical composition by tightly grouping the dancers in the upper right section of the paper while leaving the lower left corner open. Beginning in the 1850s Japanese woodblock prints were imported into Europe and they served as inspiration for many artists including Degas. Traditionally, Japanese woodblock artists create asymmetrical, diagonal compositions in which the vantage point off to one side rather than straight on. This 1834 print by Ando Hiroshige, Shono: A Rain Shower, is an example of a 19th-Century Japanese woodblock like those Degas might have seen. Notice the similarities in how these two artists have constructed their scenes.

Edgar Degas, Ballet Dancers on the Stage, 1883, Pastel on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. And Mrs. Franklin B. Bartholow, 1986.277
Ando Hiroshige, Shono: A Rain Storm, 1834, Woodblock print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus, 1984.202.46

• The light source appears to be coming from the bottom left, presumably from gas foot lamps lining the edge of the stage. Notice how the lower left corner is lighter and the areas of the ballerinas’ bodies directly facing that corner have strong highlights.

• Degas was a master at using pastels to layer color. Here he uses the color of the paper as the shading for his figures and layers colors like white, blue, pink and yellow to create depth. His repetition of the color yellow in particular carries your eye through the entire scene.

Don’t miss your chance to see this object in person. It will be on view through April 20 and is included in the Museum’s free general admission.

Jessie Frazier is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA

Pivotal Women Artists at the DMA

March is Women’s History Month—a designation that was nationally recognized in 1987 due to the hard work of five California-based women who started the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) initiative. Each year, there has been an annual theme, with this year’s being “Nevertheless She Persisted: Honoring Women Who Fight All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” This month is an opportune time to think about the pivotal women artists and movements that have affected my practice as an art historian and museum educator.

Throughout Western art history, women artists have been under- and misrepresented in the art canon. These problematic biases against women of all racial and class backgrounds have been discussed by artists, art historians, and activists alike. Through collectives like the Combahee River Collective, organized by black and queer feminists, and the Guerrilla Girls, who produce on-going campaigns against male-dominated exhibitions (and many more!), women have fought and continue to fight for their existence to be known in spaces that downplay their contributions to the art world. Though there has been great work done by curators, art historians, and museum institutions to revise history and work toward a more equal representation of artists, there is still a copious amount of work to be done.

The DMA’s collection boasts a number of women artists, such as Julie Mehretu, Yayoi Kusama, Georgia O’Keeffe, Berthe Morisot, and others. Below are a few artists whose work is currently on view in the Museum who made innovative contributions to the art canon and the world at-large.

Bridget Riley, Rise 2, 1970, acrylic on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. James H. Clark, 1976.52.FA,  © 1970 Bridget Riley

Bridget Riley is a foundational artist for Op-Art, a style that transformed geometric shapes into optical illusions in order to create a sense of movement. Riley’s name has become synonymous with Op-Art, as her original black-and-white works gained an incredible amount of followers and multiple art prizes in the early to mid-1960s. In the latter part of the decade, Riley explored using colors in her works of art, like Rise 2, to further add elements of instability and illusionistic movement.

Riley’s works of art inspired and infiltrated 1960s pop culture, most notably the fashion industry with the black-and-white houndstooth checkered print seen in the popular mod aesthetics of the time. Due to Riley’s captivating work and popularity, this fashion trend continues to hold weight, as Vogue highlighted Riley in a editorial titled “Why 60s Op-Art Painter Bridget Riley Is the Secret Muse of the Fall 2014 Runway.” Although her work influenced the style of the 1960s, Riley did not enjoy the commodification and commercialization of her art.

Renee Stout, Fetish #1, 1987, monkey hair, nails, beads, cowrie shells, and coins, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Roslyn and Brooks Fitch, Gary Houston, Pamela Ice, Sharon and Lazette Jackson, Maureen McKenna, Aaronetta and Joseph Pierce, Matilda and Hugh Robinson, and Rosalyn Story in honor of Virginia Wardlaw, 1989.128, © Renee Stout, Washington, D.C.

Renee Stout’s move to Washington, DC, in 1985 had a monumental affect on her artistic practice as she sought to understand her identity as a Black-American woman. Her time in DC exposed her to the arts of Western and Central Africa, particularly the Kongo peoples’ nkisi nkondi power figures, an example of which is on view in our African galleries. Through these healing power figures, Stout explores the ritualistic and spiritualistic sides of a possible ancestral tie to the African continent, as seen in Fetish #1. Within this object there are many additive and textural components, as there are with nkisi nkondi figures; however, Stout’s object lacks facial features, adding a mysterious quality that mirrors her feelings toward her personal ancestral past. Click here to learn more about Stout and this work of art in one of the DMA’s Gallery Talks.

Raquel Forner, Apocalypsis, 1955, oil on composition board, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1959.47

Although born in Buenos Aires, Raquel Forner spent a majority of her childhood in Spain due to her father’s Spanish heritage. During this time, Forner became interested in the arts and began training back in her birth city. While briefly teaching at the National Academy of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires, she exhibited across the city, with her first solo show in 1928. After traveling back and forth between Europe and South America in the 1930s, she started to borrow ideas from the Surrealism movement, such as distorted perspectives and figures; however, Forner was not interested in interpreting her dreams like Surrealist artists—she wanted to apply these distorted forms to real world situations such as the 1936 Spanish Civil War and the 1955 Argentine social uprisings. The latter event influenced her Apocalypse painting, where she created abstract land forms and overlapping movement of figures to highlight the confusion and negative aspects human conflict creates. This painting was exhibited in the landmark 1959 exhibition South American Art Today at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, the predecessor of the DMA. Fifteen works of art from the exhibition were later purchased by the DMA, and nine of those works can currently be seen in the Latin American Gallery, including Forner’s Apocalypse.

Yohanna Tesfai is the McDermott Graduate Intern for Gallery and Community Teaching at the DMA.

Black History Month

“Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” —President Gerald Ford, on the official recognition of Black History Month in 1976

February 1 marks the beginning of Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a season for reflecting on their major role in our nation’s history.  Numerous works by important African American artists are on view in the Museum’s free collection galleries.

We invite you to take time this month to celebrate and honor these individuals and so many others:

Jack Whitten, Slip Zone, 1971, acrylic on canvas, The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2010.26.1, © Jack Whitten

Jack Whitten was beloved by all who met him and admired far and wide for his innovative techniques. He created Slip Zone during a pivotal period of experimentation. In this work, he abandoned handmade gesture and brushstroke; instead, paint and canvas were “processed” through a technique using large paint-filled troughs through which he dragged the canvas, with sticks, rakes, and Afro-combs used to create surface texture.

While in college, Whitten participated in Civil Rights protests in the South until increasing violence led him north. While his artwork was celestial, it also expressed a distinctly Afrocentric narrative inspired by the Civil Rights movement and jazz. In 2016 he was awarded a National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.

Melvin Edwards, Machete for Gregory, 1974, welded steel, barbed wire, and chain, Dallas Museum of Art, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2015.17, © Melvin Edwards

Melvin Edwards, a native Texan, was born in Houston in 1937. He is regarded as  a pioneer in the history of contemporary African American art and sculpture. In 1970 he became the first African American sculptor to have works presented in a solo exhibition at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. He was awarded a National Endowment for the Visual Arts Fellow­ship in 1971 and a John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation award in 1975.

Renee Stout, Fetish #2, 1988, mixed media (plaster body cast), Dallas Museum of Art, Metropolitan Life Foundation Purchase Grant, 1989.27, © Renee Stout, Washington, D.C.

Renee Stout uses her art to explore her African American heritage. She finds inspiration through the African diaspora and her life experiences, and creates works that encourage self-empowerment and healing, harnessing the belief systems of African peoples and their descendants. Among her many accolades are The Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award, The Pollock Krasner Foundation Award, and the Mayor’s Art Award (Washington, DC).

Kermit Oliver, Autoritratto, 1993, acrylic on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, The Barrett Collection, Dallas, Texas, 2007.53.34, © Kermit Oliver

Kermit Oliver, who was a US Postal Service mail sorter by night and a painter by day, was named the Texas State Artist for 2017. Oliver designed 17 highly prized scarves for the French fashion house Hermes. The humble artist now resides in Waco, Texas, while his works are exhibited in places like the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC.

 

Julie Henley is the Communication and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA.

 

Artist Signatures

Did you know that January 23 is National Handwriting Day? This holiday celebrates penmanship and the art of writing. “Why January 23?,” you might ask. Because that is the birthday of John Hancock, a man whose name is synonymous with the word signature. In celebration of this day, we wanted to take a look at some signatures from the Museum’s collection and consider what they might reveal about the artists.

The size of the first letter of a signature can allude to the signer’s feelings of self as compared to the rest of the world. For example, if the first letter is lowercase, the signer might be more grounded; however, if the first letter is capitalized, then that may indicate a higher sense of self-esteem or feeling of self-worth.

The slant of a signature can also be revealing. An upward slant, as seen in “Hogue” above, can indicate that the signer is ambitious or forward thinking. A downward slant can hint at a lack of self-esteem.

Which name or names a signer chooses to sign with can also be telling. Signing with initials only can indicate a lack of self-identification or a strong inclination for summarization. It is perhaps not surprising that Mondrian, for example, signed his minimalist paintings with just his initials.

Someone who signs with their first initial and their last name is likely to exhibit a balance between a strong sense of self and a strong connection with their family.

Whereas someone who signs with just their last name tends to put their loyalty and love for family above themselves.

Those who add an underline beneath their signature are likely to talk about themselves, but not excessively.

What does your signature say about you? Is your signature more like Pablo Picasso’s or Alexandre Hogue’s?

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 http://lawrencemigration.phillipscollection.org/

Katie Cooke is the Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA


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