Archive for the 'Contemporary Art' Category

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.

How to Install a Robert Smithson

A new rotation of artworks was recently installed in the Barrel Vault, our main contemporary art space. Included in this new installation are masterpieces by Jackson Pollock, Lee Krasner, and Hans Hofmann, as well as several newly acquired artworks. One of the highlights of the gallery is Robert Smithson’s Mirrors and Shelly Sand. The work is composed of approximately three tons of sand and 50 mirrors (glued back-to-back in pairs of two) lined up in a row, creating the illusion of infinity when you gaze into them. This engaging piece invites the viewer in and encourages interaction (but just of the mental variety—please remember not to touch!).

The piece becomes even more interesting when you know the process required to install it. It takes a lot of work and skill to transform the 125 buckets of sand and two crates of mirrors into the finished work of art. There are specific instructions from the artist on how the piece should be installed, but there will always be variances due to the nature of the materials. Thankfully for us, one of our Senior Preparators, Mary Nicolett, has installed the Smithson eight times and is a pro.

First our crew constructs a massive tent made of plastic. This keeps all of the sand contained and ensures that other artworks in the area are protected. On installation day, our stellar team of preparators (professional art handlers) put on their protective gear and prepare to get dirty. After the Registrar (me!) completes a condition report on all the mirrors, they are lined up based on the artist’s specifications and a small pile of sand is poured over them to keep them in place. Once all of the mirrors are in place, the real fun begins. Each preparator grabs a bucket of sand and begins pouring. Once all the buckets are empty, Nicolett begins smoothing the sand into the appropriate shape. At the end of the day, the dusty crew exits the tent to let the dust settle. The next day, the tent is removed and the finishing touches to the sand are completed.

Installation works like Mirrors and Shelly Sand allow our prep team to flex their creative muscles. While we do follow the instructions provided by the artist, the preparators are the ones who physically create the artwork as you see it. A good prep team is vital to any art institution as they are the ones who know the intricacies of a piece and how to safely install it. Thankfully for us, we have one of the best!

 

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

Finding Yourself at the DMA

As an art museum educator, I live for the tales of visitors who have had meaningful, inspirational, life-changing experiences in museums—perhaps because it was exactly this kind of personal experience that propelled me down the career path I’ve taken. Working in the Center for Creative Connections (C3), a participatory educational space for visitors of all ages, I have the privilege of hearing these kinds of statements often; however, a few months back I was surprised to hear from a visitor who literally found herself in a photograph by Geoff Winningham currently on view in the C3.

Geoff Winningham (artist), The Cronin Gallery (publisher), U.T. Cheerleaders, negative 1972, print 1976, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Prestonwood National Bank 1981.36.6

During a Late Night event, Laura was walking through C3 with her husband when they both stopped dead in their tracks as they walked by the photograph. “I think that’s you,” her husband stated. “I know it’s me!” Laura exclaimed.

I had so many questions for her. What was it like seeing yourself in a work of art in a museum? Did you know this photograph existed or that you were being photographed at the time? Can you recall the other cheerleaders in the photograph? Luckily, Laura was happy to meet up to discuss her experience.

As you might imagine, Laura was quite surprised to see a photo of her college-age self in the Museum. As a University of Texas cheerleader, she was aware they were photographed in action from time to time—once her image ended up as part of the opening montage of ABC’s Wide World of Sports for a full year—but she never imagined she would make it into a work of art in the DMA’s collection. Laura is uniquely well versed in the DMA collection, but until recently she had never seen this photograph before. Not only is Laura a DMA Member, but she was also part of the PM Docent class for five years, starting with the charter class under the leadership of Gail Davitt.

Both the University of Texas and the Dallas Museum of Art have loomed large in Laura’s life, but she never imagined that the two worlds would collide. In fact, UT Cheer isn’t just a distant memory as Laura regularly attends the Cheer Reunions and keeps in touch with fellow cheerleaders, including some of those captured alongside her in Winningham’s photograph. In the image below, the woman on the far right is the same woman on the far left of the UT Cheerleaders photograph by Winningham.

Now that Laura knows of the existence of this photograph, she comes back to visit it from time to time. She was also keen to meet the photographer, Geoff Winningham, and looked him up immediately to learn more about him and his work. Fortunately, Winningham was at the DMA in April to lead a Gallery Talk about the series this photograph is part of—A Texas Dozen.

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

Genre Bending

Walter De Maria

“Every good work of art should have at least ten meanings,” remarked Walter de Maria, one of the major figures in the history of Minimal, Conceptual, Installation, and Land, in 1974. One thing I admire about his work is how complex and multifaceted it is (literally and figuratively); it invites us as viewers to hold in mind a few ideas at once and to consider it from a variety of perspectives.

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, January 18 to do exactly that, and to celebrate the DMA’s recent co-acquisition with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art of Large Rod Series: Circle/Rectangle 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 by De Maria at a DMA Arts & Letters Live event.

Top: author Geoff Dyer Bottom: DMA curator Gavin Delahunty

Top: author Geoff Dyer
Bottom: DMA curator Gavin Delahunty

This Artful Musings event will feature senior curator Gavin Delahunty who organized the Walter De Maria: Counterpoint installation and will provide an overview of the artist, his work, and importance; award-winning author Geoff Dyer who has written about De Maria’s work in his newest book White Sands; and percussionist Stockton Helbing, who will perform some of the artist’s rare musical compositions.

After 5:00 p.m., you can linger in the installation before it goes off view on January 22 — it’s the perfect opportunity in a quieter setting to experience the artist’s work. As Caitlin Haskell notes in her catalogue essay, “it takes time to come to know them.” There is rich resonance between El Greco’s painting of Saint Francis Kneeling in Meditation (1605-1610, on loan from the Meadows Museum) and De Maria’s sculpture. The juxtaposition of these two works creates a rich meditation on the themes of minimalism, mathematics, progression, and sensory perception.

Walter De Maria, Counterpoint

Walter De Maria: Counterpoint, 2016

Shortly after 7:00 p.m., percussionist Stockton Helbing will perform of one of De Maria’s musical compositions, with Gavin Delahunty’s and Geoff Dyer’s insights and conversation kicking off at 7:30 p.m. Dyer will then sign copies of his books, and Delahunty will sign copies of the newly published exhibition catalogue.

demaria-jackets-05

Both artist and author defy easy classification or categorization in their respective fields. De Maria was a painter, sculptor, illustrator, and composer. The New Yorker calls Dyer “a restless polymath and an irresistibly funny storyteller. . . . adept at fiction, essay, and reportage, but happiest when twisting all three into something entirely his own.”

Dyer’s newest book, White Sands: Experiences from the Outside World, showcases his series of fascinating adventures and pilgrimages across the globe. They range from searching for Gauguin’s notion of exotic paradise in Tahiti to nearly freezing and being trampled by a dog sled on a quest to see the Northern Lights. Weaving stories about recent travels with images and memories from his childhood, Dyer tries to discern what a certain place and, like De Maria, what a certain way of marking a landscape, means; he explores the power and attraction that certain places hold and what we seek in them.

My favorite chapter in White Sands is the one in which Dyer, his wife, and friends experience De Maria’s The Lightning Field in western New Mexico, where the only way to visit is to reserve a cabin on the property and stay overnight, allowing you to experience the 400 rods in at various times of day and in varying degrees of sunlight.  Reading it made me want to prioritize this as my next road trip.

Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field, Quemado, New Mexico

Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field, Quemado, New Mexico

For those who want to delve further into this topic and artist, don’t miss the opportunity to hear Walter De Maria in his own words about his land art installations as part of a free film screening of The Troublemakers: The Story of Land Art on Saturday, January 21 at 2:00 p.m. at the DMA. Explore Arts & Letters Live’s lineup of more than 30 events over the next six months here.

Carolyn Bess is the Director of Arts & Letters Live at the DMA.

Off the Wall: A New Experience

What do David Bowie, James Bond, The Karate Kid, Bon Jovi, and dragons have in common? They all served as inspiration for our newest program, Off the Wall.

This spring and summer, the Adult Programming team spent many hours brainstorming themes, program ideas, and the best format for a new evening event. We wanted to be playful in our approach, making sure everyone would have a fun and unexpected experience—thus Off the Wall was born.

From 5:00 to 9:00 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month, Off the Wall will offer a unique way to explore our collection with a pop culture twist. We will launch Off the Wall tomorrow with an exploration of space, astronomy, and the 60s with our take on Space Oddity.

Each member of the team brought her own area of geeky pop culture knowledge to the table, for example, but not limited to, 80s TV, movies, and music (Stacey); movies and all things sci-fi and fantasy (Jessie); Harry Potter, Game of Thrones, and over the top action movies (Katie); and all things 90s with a specialty in rap from the early 2000s (Madeleine).

So stop by and geek out with us, revel in the pop culture madness with us, and boldly go on this new adventure in the DMA collection with us.

October 13: Space Oddity 

Robert Rauschenberg, Skyway, 1964, oil and silkscreen on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund, The 500, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Mark Shepherd, Jr. and General Acquisitions Fund

Robert Rauschenberg, Skyway, 1964, oil and silkscreen on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund, The 500, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Mark Shepherd, Jr. and General Acquisitions Fund, 1986.8.a-b, (c) Rauschenberg Estate/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY 

November 10: Gogh Your Own Way 

Vincent van Gogh, Sheaves of Wheat, July 1890, Oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection

Vincent van Gogh, Sheaves of Wheat, July 1890, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.80

December 8: Winter Is Coming

Finial: Dragon head, 11th–14th century, Bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1963.24

Finial: dragon head, Iran, 11th–14th century, bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1963.24

January 12: Plot Twist

Thinking Bodhisattva, Asian, 4th-6th century C.E., terracotta, Dallas Museum of Art, Wendover Fund, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and General Acquisitions Fund, 2010.17

Thinking Bodhisattva, Afghanistan, 4th-6th century C.E., terracotta, Dallas Museum of Art, Wendover Fund, gift of David T. Owsley via the Alvin and Lucy Owsley Foundation, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, and General Acquisitions Fund, 2010.17

February 9: Shot Through the Heart

Yinka Shonibare, M.B.E., A Masked Ball (Un ballo mascherd), 2004, high-definition digital video, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2008.26

Yinka Shonibare, M.B.E., A Masked Ball (Un ballo mascherd), 2004, high-definition digital video, DMA/amfAR Benefit Auction Fund, 2008.26, (c) Yinka Shonibare

March 9: Et Tu, Brute?

Ceremonial Knife (Metal Inlaid Grip), African, 19th-20th century, wood, steel, nickel-silver, Dallas Museum of Art, The Clark and Frances Stillman Collection of Congo Sculpture, gift of Eugene and Margaret McDermott, 1969.S.79

Ceremonial knife, Democratic Republic of the Congo, 19th-20th century, wood, steel, and nickel-silver, Dallas Museum of Art, The Clark and Frances Stillman Collection of Congo Sculpture, gift of Eugene and Margaret McDermott, 1969.S.79

April 13: Shaken, Not Stirred

William Waldo Dodge, Jr., “Skyscraper” cocktail shaker with cups, c. 1928-1931, silver, Dallas Museum of Art, The Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, gift of Patsy Lacy Griffith by exchange, 2008.48.1-12

Skyscraper cocktail shaker with cups, William Waldo Dodge, Jr., designer, c. 1928-31, silver, Dallas Museum of Art, The Patsy Lacy Griffith Collection, gift of Patsy Lacy Griffith by exchange, 2008.48.1-12

May 11: Wax On, Wax Off

Wraparound skirt, (kain panjang) [pointed-ends cloud motif (megamenlang), Indonesia: Java, c. 1910, Cotton, commercial dye (?), Textile Purchase Fund, 1991.58

Wraparound skirt (kain panjang): cloud design (megamenlang), Indonesia, Java, c. 1910, cotton and commercial dye (?), Textile Purchase Fund, 1991.58

June 8: Make It Work!   

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, c. 1867-1868, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.59

Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Lise Sewing, c. 1867-68, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Wendy and Emery Reves Collection, 1985.R.59

 

Stacey Lizotte is Head of Adult Programming and Multimedia Services at the DMA.

Artful DIY April Fool’s Day

In honor of April Fool’s Day, here is a high-brow idea for pranking the art-lover in your life.

Salvador Dalí, Lobster Telephone (Téléphone – Homard), 1936, steel, plaster, rubber, resin, and paper, Tate Acquisition Purchased 1981 Reference T03257, © Salvador Dali, Gala-Salvador Dali Foundation/DACS, London 2016

Tape a toy crustacean to a co-worker’s office phone to imitate Salvador Dali’s Lobster Telephone. It’s guaranteed to be a surreally good joke!

lobster

Happy pranking!

Emily Wiskera is the McDermott Graduate Intern for Family and Access Teaching at the DMA.

Preserving Pollock: A Conversation about Art Conservation

Jim Coddington at work on Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950 in the Conservation Studio at MoMA

Jim Coddington at work on Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31, 1950 in the Conservation Studio at MoMA

I’ll be talking with Jim Coddington, the Chief Conservator at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, this Friday evening, November 20, at 9:00 p.m. about his extensive experience with the work of Jackson Pollock. We’ll be discussing the materials and techniques Pollock used in his paintings, the ways in which those materials have aged and changed over the years, and how conservators approach the preservation challenges that Pollock’s works present.

For a preview of some of the topics that we’ll touch upon, you can have a look at the “Jackson Pollock Conservation Project” blog posts that Jim has been making over the past few years.

MoMA has generously lent Echo: Number 25, 1951 to the Dallas Museum of Art for the Jackson Pollock: Blind Spots exhibition, opening Friday, November 20:

Echo Number 25 1951

Jackson Pollock, Echo: Number 25, 1951, 1951, enamel on canvas, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, Acquired through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest and the Mr. and Mrs. David Rockefeller Fund, © 2015 The Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Jim carried out technical studies and conservation treatment on Echo, and we will be discussing some of the details of that work during our Late Night conversation. Here is a photo of the reverse of Echo during its treatment, with the stretcher removed, which reveals darkening of the canvas where it had been in direct contact with the wood stretcher support:

Conservation Blog Post

In addition to a behind-the-scenes look at the conservation treatments that Jim has undertaken, we’ll also examine Pollock’s working methods. Jim and his colleagues at MoMA have done pioneering analytical studies of Pollock’s materials and techniques, lending new insight into our understanding of this extraordinary artist’s work. Join us this Friday at the DMA!

Pollock in Studio

Source: MoMA.org

Mark Leonard is the Chief Conservator at the DMA.


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