Archive for the 'Curatorial' Category

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.

A Soiree Fit for Versailles

Next week on Thursday, November 2 the DMA is hosting a soiree fit for Versailles at the second annual Rosenberg Fête celebrating French art from the 18th century. We’ll step back in time with period music, sketching in the galleries, a sumptuous menu of French classics, and a talk on one of the Rosenberg Collection’s most exquisite paintings.

Let’s take a brief dive into the collection we are celebrating. A significant portion of the DMA’s 18th century French art holdings comes from the private collection of Michael L. Rosenberg (1947-2003), an art enthusiast and philanthropist who amassed works by some of the most influential French artists of the 18th century. Upon Michael’s passing in 2003, his collection was transferred to the the Rosenberg Foundation, which approved a long-term loan to the DMA in his memory, making our Museum the home of this stunning collection since 2004.

While each object commands a closer look, I’ve always been captivated by the two pieces that bookend the collection—the first and last of Rosenberg’s acquisitions.

The first piece that Mr. Rosenberg acquired was The Bather by François Lemoyne. It is a full length portrait of a nude woman dipping her toe into a body of water, aided by an attendant who holds her discarded clothes. Like many paintings of this period, The Bather can be described as sensuous; the scene is cast in a soft light that plays off of the pearlescent tones of the subject’s body and hair and the artist lent as much effort to the beauty of the painting as to the storytelling. A testament to the effect of the painting, Lemoyne actually created a copy of it for himself, which now hangs at the Hermitage. While he was perhaps not as famous as his protégé François Boucher, Lemoyne influenced artists for years to come, making The Bather not only a beautiful start to Rosenberg’s collection but one with great historical significance. Learn more about this painting tomorrow with Colin B. Bailey, Director of the Morgan Library Museum, who will speak about Lemoyne’s Bather in the context of other Rococo bathing scenes.

François Lemoyne, The Bather, 1724, Oil on canvas, Lent by the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 29.2004.7

Mr. Rosenberg’s last acquisition was Portrait of Natalia Zakharovna Kolycheva, née Hitrovo by Elisabeth Louis Vigee-Lebrun. Vigee-Lebrun was a portrait painter to Queen Marie Antoinette and one of the few women painters of her time who was successful in an art world dominated by men. During the French Revolution she went into exile, eventually settling in Russia where she painted this and other portraits of aristocrats. At this moment in history only four women artists had been admitted to the prestigious French Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture. With works by Vigee-Lebrun and two floral still lifes by Anne Vallayer-Caoster, also a painter to the Queen, the DMA had works by two out of four of these trailblazing women artists. In his lifetime Michael Rosenberg supported the acquisition of the Vallayer-Coster pendants, and today his legacy Foundation continues to support the museum’s expanding collection in this area, as exemplified by their generous support to acquire a portrait by Adélaïde Labille-Guiard earlier this year, so that now the DMA can boast having works by three of the four women Academicians of the 18th century.

Elisabeth Louise Vigée-Lebrun, Portrait of Natalia Zakharovna Kolycheva, née Hitrovo, 1799, Oil on Canvas, Lent by the Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation, 29.2004.13

Anne Vallayer-Coster, Bouquet of Flowers in a Terracotta Vase with Peaches and Grapes, 1776, Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund and gift of Michael L. Rosenberg, 1998.51.FA

Anne Vallayer-Coster, Bouquet of Flowers in a Blue Porcelain Vase, 1776, Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, Mrs. John B. O’Hara Fund and gift of Michael L. Rosenberg, 1998.52.FA

Adélaïde Labille-Guiard, Portrait of a Conventional, 1795, Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Michael L. Rosenberg Foundation. 2017.18

These are just a few of the treasures in the Rosenberg Galleries. Join us next week to see the Collection and immerse yourself in the lavish world of 18th-Century France.

Jessie Frazier is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA

Dashing Paint

John Singer Sargent, Dorothy, 1900, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Leland Fikes Foundation, Inc., 1982.35

On an afternoon in London, a two-year-old girl posed for the American artist John Singer Sargent (1856-1925). Dorothy Williamson was the granddaughter of one of Sargent’s American patrons, and sat before one of society’s greatest portraitists. But how long could a toddler sit still? What might that studio visit have been like?

Sargent would have painted Dorothy in his Tite Street studio in London (Oscar Wilde and James McNeill Whistler had also lived on the street). Behind the imposing bricks, the room was packed with antique silks, Chinese screens, and a gramophone to play music for clients.

Dorothy herself was perched on one of the chairs the artist kept around the studio. Sargent was already familiar with painting upper-class children: to keep them entertained and holding a pose, he might bribe them with oranges, whistle a tune, or recite a limerick.

First, he would place the easel next to Dorothy so he could step back and visualize sitter and canvas together. Sargent advised his students to place lots of paint on the palette in order to create a thick layer on the canvas. With the brush, he would start to add flesh colors, apply dark tones for contours around the eyes and mouth, and finish it off with white highlights along the nose and rosy cheeks.

Rather than create preparatory sketches, he often worked ideas out on the canvas—even painting a portrait in one afternoon. To capture the wriggling toddler, Sargent set up a fast-paced sitting, seen in his sketchlike brushwork. As he looked at tones and shadows, suddenly a face would miraculously emerge from the background. He tried to use the fewest strokes, perhaps a single mark for Dorothy’s bangs or pursed lips. He dashed a blue line for a shadow under the pudgy cheeks and left bits of the cream canvas untouched to suggest voluminous feathers on the hat. Sargent also added a single mark of white to the hat for a flamboyant detail.

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He took breaks to play a song on the piano, and then jumped up to finish a few brushstrokes. Sitters described how he would run toward the canvas with a loaded brush of paint, balance a fragrant cigarette in his mouth, and suddenly make a single stroke on the canvas. Looking closely, you can almost see Sargent’s gestures, when he arched his brush, twisted the wrist, and finally made a stroke on the canvas. He described wanting to create portraits that were “alive”—capturing a sitter in the midst of moving or speaking. The result is Dorothy’s hand—energetic and vibrating strokes for the fingers.

Sargent would hold his brush in the air and then place it down upon the canvas exactly where he wanted it to fall. As described by one of his students, “The stroke resounded almost like a note in music.” My personal favorite is the gray line that travels down the pinafore, just one stroke to suggest the folds of the dress.

Finally, he added the finishing touch—the signature. On the upper left side of the canvas, Sargent playfully signed his name with the butt-end of the brush by scratching into the paint layers. Come visit little Dorothy in the Level 4 galleries and marvel at Sargent’s dazzling skill.

Lea Stephenson is the McDermott Graduate Intern for American Art at the DMA.

Who’s the Boss

Today is national Boss’s Day so we decided to look back on the legacy of one of the DMA’s former bosses, Jerry Bywaters.

Jerry Bywaters with his painting On the Ranch

Jerry Bywaters was the figurehead for the Dallas Nine, a group of artists from the 1930s who all focused on individual styles while working together to present unique aspects of the Texas landscape. Throughout his career, he was an art critic, professor, museum director, and, of course, a Texas artist. From 1943 to 1964, Bywaters served as Director of the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts, which would merge with the Dallas Museum for Contemporary Arts to create the DMA in 1963. He believed museums should be responsible for inspiring and cultivating art within the community, something that is still very important to the DMA today.

Jerry Bywaters, Self-Portrait, 1935, oil on Masonite, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Duncan E. Boeckman in honor of Mrs. Eugene McDermott, 1990.5

The DMA is fortunate to have a number of his works in our collection, including his paintings Share Cropper (1937) and On the Ranch (1941). Celebrate one of the DMA’s bosses with a visit to Level 4 to view Bywaters’, and his contemporaries’, work.

Kimberly Daniell is the Senior Manager of Communications, Public Affairs, and Social Media Strategy at the DMA.

 

Loving Vincent

Vincent van Gogh is one of the most well known names in art; despite that fact, there is still a veil of mystery surrounding the artist’s life, specifically his final days. This is the purpose of the film Loving Vincent, which will be screened at the DMA this Saturday at 7:00 p.m. for its Texas premiere. Through “the world’s first oil painted feature film,” you can see over 65,000 frames painted by 125 artists to mimic van Gogh’s style. You can watch the trailer here and see just how beautiful an oil painted movie can be. Around 130 frames in the movie are landscapes or portraits copied from actual van Gogh paintings, a few of which have a direct tie-in to two works on paper in the Museum’s collection.

The first is a preliminary drawing for van Gogh’s famous work Café Terrace at Night. This piece is re-created in the film for a scene between the main character, Armand Roulin, and his brother, Joseph Roulin, played by Douglas Booth and Chris O’Dowd. This particular frame mimics van Gogh’s painting, but adds in the two characters to the scene.

Vincent van Gogh, Café Terrace on the Place du Forum, September 1888, chalk, ink, and graphite on laid paper, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.79

Café Terrace at Night by Marlena Jopyk-Misiak (image from lovingvincent.com)

The second work from our collection re-created in the film is the etching made by van Gogh after painting Portrait of Doctor Gachet. This was his first and only foray into the artistic technique of etching. The frame from the film shows Doctor Gachet, played by Jerome Flynn, with the same contemplative look and handsome mustache.

Vincent van Gogh, Portrait of Doctor Gachet, 1890, etching, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.81

Dr. Gachet – Keyframe by Piotr Dominiak (image via lovingvincent.com)

Come by the Museum on Saturday, October 7, for a Vincent van Gogh-filled day! Enjoy the free lecture at 3:00 p.m. with one of the artists and animators for the film, Dena Peterson, and the film screening at 7:00 p.m.

Katie Cooke is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA.

Making a List and Checking It Twice—A Day in the Life of a Registrar

The DMA recently installed Yayoi Kusama’s All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016), one of the artist’s immersive Infinity Mirror Rooms. As its name suggests, the room features pumpkin lanterns that are reflected in mirrored panels, creating the illusion that they continue into infinity. The effect is both intimate (a maximum of two guests may enter at a time) and mesmerizing.

Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, 2016, wood, mirror, plastic, acrylic, LED, Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore and Victoria Miro, London, © Yayoi Kusama

A lot of planning takes place behind the scenes before works of art go on view to the public. That is where registrars (like me) come into play! Registrars (also sometimes called Collections Managers) are responsible for both the logistics and physical care of art as well as collection-related documentation.

For most exhibitions or rotations of works of art in the galleries, we’re working with multiple pieces that come together as a group; however, with installation art like Kusama’s, we need to keep track of all the details and components that make up the piece as a whole. For this project, it meant coordinating the safe transportation of the many room components and the 62 pumpkins that go into the space once constructed.

First, we double-checked that everything traveled according to the packing list and carefully examined every single pumpkin to ensure they were ready for installation. These condition reports are like an artwork’s health chart. It’s an important ongoing part of our job because a condition report records the object information (also known as tombstone data), a general description or photo of the artwork (or pumpkin in this case!), and, most importantly, a detailed summary of the overall appearance and condition at a specific point in time.

In the months leading up to install, registrars collaborate with team members in other departments to finalize the gallery layout, installation schedules, wall text (or didactics), and any special opening events. Once the installation begins, the registrar serves as air-traffic control to help make sure the team stays, to the best of our ability, on track according to the installation schedule.

Registrars also take step-by-step notes and pictures to document the process, especially for an installation like Yayoi Kusama: All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins, which requires very specific construction. Installations can be a little tiring but the end result is so rewarding! You get to see a project come together literally from the ground up and then share it with the community.

The pumpkin-themed mirror room will be on display from October 1, 2017, through February 25, 2018, with DMA Members getting a sneak peek up until the opening (DMA Member tickets are available here). Visit our website for details and to purchase tickets: DMA.org/Kusama.

 

Alicia Chavez is the Collections Assistant at the DMA.


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