Archive for the 'Curatorial' Category

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

Have a PAWsome New Year!

Friday is Chinese New Year and we invite you to start the New Year with us as we celebrate the Year of the Dog during our monthly Late Night. Throughout the night, you can experience lion dances, watch Chinese martial arts demonstrations, have your name written in Chinese calligraphy, and listen to traditional Chinese music in our galleries. There will be dog-themed tours, of course, but you can get a jump-start learning about the dogs in our collection with two previous blog posts here and here.

While dogs take precedence this year, be sure to check out these works of art from China on Level 3 that feature other animals from the Chinese zodiac:

Funerary plaque, China, Western Jin dynasty, 219-316 CE, limestone, The Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, 2016.33.a-b

This tomb marker features two of the four “spiritually endowed” directional deities – the tortoise and the dragon. The other two deities are the phoenix and the unicorn. While not one of the animals represented in the Chinese zodiac, the tortoise is important in Chinse Buddhist belief because it symbolized longevity.

Pair of Lokapala (Heavenly Guardians), China, Tang dynasty, 1st half of 8th century, pottery with colored lead glazes, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Fund, in honor of Ellen and Harry S. Parker III, 1987.1-2.MCD

Learn more about these heavenly guardians, which often featured lions and tigers on their armor and showed triumph as guardians by balancing on the figure of a bull (or ox), on our 6:30 p.m. spotlight tour with DMA Teaching Specialist Jennifer Sheppard.

Rectangular box, China, mark and reign of Emperor Wanli (r. 1573-1619), dated in inscription to 1595, cinnabar lacquer over wood core, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. George A. Shutt

The cover of this box features two symmetrically opposed imperial five-clawed dragons chasing the flaming pearl of wisdom.

Polo horse tomb figure, China, attributed to Tang dynasty (A.D. 618-907), ceramic, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Rothwell, 1960.167

This horse is a mingqi or “spirit object” that was buried with the deceased in underground tombs. With the accession of the emperors of the Tang dynasty, the number of funerary objects placed in tombs increased, as funerary art became a means to display your wealth publically.

Friday’s Late Night will also feature a talk by DMA curator Dr. Anne Bromberg who will discuss our new installation Asian Textiles: Art and Trade Along the Silk Road which features these two coats from China:

Short coat: dragons and auspicious symbols, China, late 19th century, silk with metal-wrapped yarn, Gift of Betty Ann Walter and Ruth Walter Benedict in memory of Ethyl Walter and Gladys Walter, 1993.70

Woman’s semi-formal court coat, China, 19th century, silk and metal-wrapped yarns, Gift of Mrs. Beatrice M. Haggerty, 1995.40

So if January wasn’t all you thought it would be, start fresh this Friday and join us as we kick-off a PAWsome new year!

Stacey Lizotte is Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services

Some Truths on Time-Based Media

Truth: 24 frames per second is the DMA’s first exhibition dedicated to time-based media and showcases many works from the Museum’s growing collection. But what is time-based media and why is it relevant? How do we experience it (and don’t forget you can experience it for free for the final week! The exhibition is on view through January 28)?

Time-Based Media (TBM) refers to works of art that have a fourth-dimension: time. Any artwork that changes meaningfully over a period of time can be considered TBM. Typically, TBM works are made using video, sound, film or slide-based installations, or computer technologies. As a viewer, a key aspect of experiencing TBM is observing it over time.

Nam June Paik, Music Box Based on Piano Piece Composed in Tokyo in 1954, 1994, Vintage TV cabinet, Panasonic 10 TV model 1050R, Panasonic mini video camera, incandescent light bulb and 144-note music box mechanism, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Dorace M. Fichtenbaum 2015.48.113

Beginning in the 1960s with the invention of the portapak (the first portable video equipment), artists who were losing interest in material objects turned to video and sound. Experimental artists like Nam June Paik, Wolf Vostell, and Joan Jonas were attracted to the transitory, immaterial qualities of sound and the moving image and the medium quickly spread.

TBM was viewed as an egalitarian art form, due to the medium’s relative affordability as well as its unchartered nature. Because TBM was not initially considered by art historians to be a valid art form, artists considered it a “founding father free zone,” where there was no canon against which to be measured. Video art, in particular, was used by many artists involved in social movements. Through its capability for wide distribution, video art offered opportunities for raising consciousness through documenting injustices and representing communities previously under or misrepresented. In Truth: 24 frames per second, Arthur Jafa’s work, Love Is the Message, the Message is Death, speaks poignantly to the role of media and representation in contemporary society.

Arthur Jafa, Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death, 2016, HD video, color and black and white, sound, 7:30 min., Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, NY

Unsurprisingly, over the following decades TBM works have evolved in step with technology. Contemporary artists produce TBM works with everything from cellphone footage to crowd sourced YouTube clips. One example of the influence of technological advance on TBM is Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas), a work by John Gerrard in the exhibition. Though it presents as a video, Gerrard’s work is actually an eternally generating digital portrait coded to change in response to the time of day and year in Spindletop, Texas. As the sun sets and rises in Spindletop, Gerrard’s software mimics the change of light in on the screen.

Because of its reliance on technology, TBM presents unique challenges to museums who collect it. Most works are allographic in nature, meaning they only exist when installed and functioning, and each time they are installed can be considered an iteration of the work. As a result, there are conceptual considerations as to where, how, and with what technology individual works can be realized. TBM also presents complex challenges to conservators, who are tasked with considering and combating issues such as technological obsolescence, digital preservation, and even broken hyperlinks.

John Gerrard, Western Flag (Spindletop Texas), 2017, 2017, simulation, Courtesy the artist and Simon Preston Gallery, New York & Thomas Dane Gallery, London

TBM works can be intimidating to engage with, but one important thing to realize is that you don’t need to be present for the duration of the work to experience it. If a work catches your attention, stick around for it to restart and watch it in entirety. Wall labels include a run time, noting how frequently each work repeats. The ideal way to experience an exhibition like Truth: 24 frames per second is to see it multiple times in order to engage with the works at different moments. But hurry in, because the exhibition closes this Sunday, January 28.

Elise Armani is the McDermott Intern for Contemporary Art at the DMA

What a year!

What a year 2017 was at the DMA! Below is a brief look back on some of our memorable moments.

The launch of the C3 Visiting Artist Project.
The DMA Teen Advisory Council organized and debuted their Disconnect to Reconnect program.
The launch of Sensory Scouts, a monthly program designed for teens and tweens on the autism spectrum.
The 26th season of DMA Arts & Letters Live kicked off on January 14 with Zadie Smith.
The DMA welcomed Anna Katherine Brodbeck as The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art.

The DMA launches its first ever crowdfunding campaign, Destination Dallas: Bringing México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde to Dallas, bringing in more than $100,000.
The DMA’s Speakeasy was the bee’s knees, celebrating the Shaken, Stirred, Styled: The Art of the Cocktail exhibition.

México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde opens at the DMA on March 12, presenting a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience the greats of Mexican modernism in Dallas.
The first of a total of 12 DMA Family Days launched on Sunday, March 26, with a total of 39,778 visitors on those days, with almost half being first-time visitors.

The 52nd Art Ball raises more than $1.3 million.
The DMA is proud to be the recipient of the second annual Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisition Program, which included the addition of work by Justin Adian, Katherine Bradford, Andrea Galvani, Matthews Wong, and Derek Fordjour.
The Keir Collection of Islamic Art Gallery opens to the public, marking the largest public presentation of the collection to date.

Aruto’s Nest got a new look.
Visions of America: Three Centuries of Prints from the National Gallery of Art and Iris van Herpen: Transforming Fashion open, kicking off our summer fun.

Works of art centered around the idea of communication went on view in C3.
Twenty-four DISD students with vision impairment participated in the DMA’s first indoor touch tour of the Museum’s European sculptures.
Six hundred and fifty sleuths help solve our sixth annual Museum Murder Mystery evening.
President and Mrs. Bush explored México 1900–1950 with DMA Director Agustín Arteaga.

More than 1,000 people participated in our Guinness World Record attempt on what would have been Frida Kahlo’s 110th birthday during the DMA’s Frida Fest, with almost 6,000 visitors in attendance.
México 1900–1950 welcomed 125,894 visitors before it closed on July 16.
Visitors went gaga for our Iris van Herpen-themed Late Night featuring a Lady Gaga costume contest.

Guerrilla Girl Käthe Kollwitz discussed the groups iconic work during the August Late Night
The Junior Associates celebrated the last days of summer during their August 25 Kickoff Party.

The DMA celebrated the first anniversary of Agustín Arteaga’s tenure as The Eugene McDermott Director.
DMA Members got to be the first to step into infinity during two weeks of preview days for Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins.
More than $17,000 was gifted to the DMA during North Texas Giving Day.
The Dallas Cultural Plan held a kickoff event at the DMA to help shape the future of arts and culture in Dallas.

Yayoi Kusama officially opened and immediately became an Instagram sensation.
Truth: 24 frames per second, the DMA’s first time-based media exhibition, opened.
TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art, benefiting amfAR and the Dallas Museum of Art, raised over $7.3 million.
It was Potter-mania during a spellbinding Second Thursday with a Twist.

The second annual Rosenberg Fête featured an evening themed around François Lemoyne’s The Bather from the Rosenberg Collection.
More than 7,000 visitors took part in our three-day Islamic Art Festival: The Language of Exchange celebrating the Keir Collection of Islamic Art.

Asian Textiles: Art and Trade Along the Silk Road goes on view in the Museum’s Level 3 gallery.
We traveled to a gallery far, far away during the final Second Thursday with a Twist inspired by Star Wars
The DMA reflects upon a year of amazing art, events, and visitors!

How Lovely Are Thy Branches

I eventually settled on a Christmas tree as a central motif for my design. The tree… was profusely decorated with gifts, baubles and tinsel adorning the fronds. – Harold Holdway

"Regimental Oak" shape dinner plate with "Christmas Tree" pattern

Maker: W. T. Copeland & Sons, Designer: Harold Holdway, “Regimental Oak” shape dinner plate with “Christmas Tree” pattern, designed 1938, earthenware, enamel, transfer-printed, enameled, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Stephen Harrison in honor of George Roland, 1997.181

Many of us are familiar with this festive design that has graced our holiday tables for almost eight decades, but do you know the story behind this cheery tree? The image was born in 1938 in Stoke-on-Trent, a charming city in Staffordshire, England known for its pottery industry. Sydney Thompson, the only U.S. based agent for Spode (Copeland & Thompson Inc.) was visiting the factory in hopes of finding a new design for the holiday season. Uninspired by the current seasonal sketches, Harold Holdway, a Spode designer was tasked with producing something truly magical. Holdway’s original design did not include presents until Thompson let him in on a little secret, “in America Christmas gifts, wrapped in gaily-coloured paper and tied with ribbon, were placed at the foot of the tree,” he said. Spode continued to produce Holdway’s iconic design with slight variations until 2009 and it can still be found in stores today!

Warmest thoughts and best wishes for a wonderful holiday and a very happy new year. We hope your day is merry and bright! – Dallas Museum of Art 



Pronghorn and Bighorn and Anteaters, Oh My!

Classic Mimbres Polychrome bowl, Mogollon Mimbres, 1000–1150, ceramic, slip, and paint, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, anonymous gift. 1988.115.FA

In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, take a closer look at the Mimbres bowls displayed in the DMA’s Native North American galleries on Level 4. I love how Mimbres artists balance color and form in a symmetrical framework, creating dynamic imagery. Geometric motifs, center-oriented designs, and figures add aesthetic interest, but may also function as symbolic clues to Mimbres cosmology and worldview.

The greater Mimbres region (shaded area) and contemporaneous culture areas, page XXII, Brody, J.J. Mimbres Painted Pottery, Rev. ed. Santa Fe: School of American Research Press, 2004.

Mimbres communities settled along the Mimbres and Gila River Valleys in southwestern New Mexico from around 200-1150 C.E. Throughout that time, Mimbres ceramic art underwent several transformations in style and form. Early corrugated wares had grooved, textured surfaces, while red-on-white painted wares eventually transitioned into the black-on-white or polychrome bowls of Classic Mimbres art. These Classic bowls were skillfully fashioned, from their delicately balanced form to their complexly painted designs.

Making a ceramic bowl required a methodical process of gathering and preparing clay. First, the artist removed undesired particles, soaked the clay in water, and kneaded it to remove air pockets. Next, the artist added temper, such as sand, to protect against shrinking or cracking. Attaching coil after coil, the artist created the bowl’s form, while flattening or scraping the sides to obtain a smooth surface. Finally, the artist decorated the interior with a fine, white slip and painted designs with an iron-based paint.

Under high-oxygen firing conditions, the iron in the paint turned a deep red-brown, but in low-oxygen environments, the iron fired gray-black. Many Classic Mimbres bowls have a true black-on-white design, but others show a blending of dark and light red. The color gradation suggests that Mimbres artists may have adjusted firing conditions to achieve visual effects with color.

Among the bowls on display at the DMA are three that feature and blend these styles, motifs, and images in distinct ways. In the Classic Mimbres Black-on-white bowl: three pronghorn, we see how the Mimbres used rotational symmetry to transform a single image into three forms. Mimbres artists frequently created designs that draw the viewer’s eye to the center. In this bowl, the artist rotated three pronghorn antelope around the bowl’s center, which is marked with a triangle defined by empty space. Some scholars suggest a parallel between the way historic and contemporary Pueblo communities organize designs on ceramic vessels. The center-oriented design may refer to the ordering of the universe of divisions between worlds. In another impressive detail, the artist mirrored the spiral-diamond design on the pronghorn’s bodies with the decorative triangles along the bowl’s rim.

In the Classic Mimbres Black-on-white bowl: bighorn sheep, we see a different form of Mimbres symmetry. This bowl shows reflectional and rotational symmetry, as the artist reflected the bighorn over a central horizontal line to face opposite directions. The reflected step motif at the bowl’s center may be the artist’s rendition of the bighorn’s mountain home. The trapezoidal designs that frame the bighorn on either side illustrate the artist’s ability to produce reflectional and rotational symmetry on a smaller scale. The motifs in this bowl are excellent examples of the geometric shapes, fine-line hachure, curved spaces, and framed bands that characterize Mimbres art.

Compared to the other two bowls, the Classic Mimbres Black-on-white bowl: animals, head, and figure has a more free-form style. Here, the artist applied a loose form of reflectional and rotational symmetry, so that each bighorn has a different geometric motif. The paint color, which transitions from red to black, may have special importance. For example, in several Pueblo communities, colors can convey spiritual meaning or be associated with the cardinal directions. As in the other bowls, the artist shows the bighorn, the anteater-like figure, and the small human head in profile. In contrast to the other two examples, the wide, white background places full emphasis on the four colorful figures rotated around the bowl’s center.

Mimbres art draws actively on a close relationship between people and nature. From working the clay to portraying animals that the Mimbres hunted, domesticated, or honored, these exceptional artists of the prehistoric Southwest allow us to envision how past peoples interpreted and interacted with the world.

Danielle Gilbert is the McDermott Graduate Intern for Arts of the Americas at the DMA.

Last Call!

It’s last call for Shaken, Stirred, Styled: The Art of the Cocktail at the DMA! Don’t miss this spirited exhibition full of various vessels and accessories for creating and knocking back cocktails in style.

Grand Prize punch bowl on stand, Libbey Glass Company (manufacturer), c. 1905, cut glass, Dallas Museum of Art, 20th-Century Design Fund by exchange, 1997.140.a-b

On display in the foyer, the glittering cut-glass Grand Prize punch bowl is designed for drinking at home with friends. Punch bowls made the perfect over-the-top accessory for late 19th- to early 20th-century parties, and would’ve held a concoction of spirits, citrus juices, spices, sugar, and water known as “punch.” Providing an impressive centerpiece to a gathering, punch bowls allowed hosts to serve and replenish drinks from one bowl rather than continuously creating individual cocktails.

Silver Style cocktail shaker, Karl Emmanuel Martin (Kem) Weber (designer), Friedman Silver Company (manufacturer), designed 1928, silverplate and rosewood, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Decorative Arts Guild of North Texas’ 1994 Midwest Trip, 1994.52.a-c

Cocktails grew in popularity well into the 20th century, but during Prohibition (1920-33), manufacturers of cocktail wares avoided the word “cocktail” in lieu of “beverage” in advertisements. Cocktail shakers like the Silver Style cocktail shaker were often disguised as coffee- or teapots, discreetly hiding their function. But shakers like this rooster-shaped cocktail shaker barely attempt to hide its intent. As American journalist H. L. Mencken said, “the business of evading Prohibition and making a mock of it has ceased to wear any aspects of crime, and has become a sort of national sport.” The rooster cocktail set seems to mockingly crow out an invitation for revelers to raise a glass!

Bottoms Up cocktail tumblers, McKee Glass Company (maker), c. 1928, pressed glass, Dallas Museum of Art, the Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, bequest of Patsy Lacy Griffith, 2001.163.2

If you’re in the mood for something a bit bawdy, look for the Bottoms Up cocktail tumblers, which are anything but discreet. The original design featured nude ladies with legs spread apart, but that was eventually deemed too risqué, so the design was modified to this slightly less scandalous version. When using these cups, the only option is to drink it or hold a full cup, as the design does not allow the drinker to set down anything except an upside-down empty glass.

Normandie pattern beverage mixer with rod, Morgantown Glassware Guild (manufacturer), designed c. 1955, blown glass, Dallas Museum of Art, 20th-Century Design Fund 1995.176.a-b

For a retro throwback to the suburban cocktail party, check out the Normandie pattern beverage mixer, used by hosts eager to show their neighborly hospitality by mixing up drinks, Mad Men style. During the 1960s, pitchers or mixers eclipsed shakers due to the popularity of stirred cocktails, most notably gin or vodka martinis.

Bar tools, San Lorenzo (manufacturer), Lella Vignelli (designer), Massimo Vignelli (designer), Milan, Italy, introduced 1972, silver, Dallas Museum of Art, The Jewel Stern American Silver Collection, Decorative Arts Fund, 2002.29.78.1–4

Don’t leave without checking out the more recent cocktail wares, particularly the sleek lines of these bar tools, whose chic design and smooth, ultramodern lines were described as “the most elegant Christmas gift of Christmas 1972,” and were available only at Cartier in New York.

Come to the DMA for one last toast to cocktails before this exhibition closes on November 19!

Heather Bowling is the Digital Collections Content Coordinator for Decorative Arts and Design and Classical Art at the DMA.

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