Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

Connecting Fibers

Alexandria Clifton and Kyli Brook are two students of UNT professor Lesli Robertson and both recent grads from the college’s Fibers program. Earlier this year, they set off to research the process of making traditional batik on the island of Java. They were tasked with the challenge (and we are so glad they accepted!) with producing eight batik samples that illustrate the complex creative process of traditional batik makers. These samples will be installed in Waxed: Batik from Java, opening this weekend on Level 3. (Read a little more about the process and the installation in this post.)

Clifton and Brook’s journey began with a trip to the DMA’s textile storage with curator Roslyn Walker and preparator Mary Nicolett to examine some of the textiles up close and personal. These works are incredibly detailed, and photos alone do not do them justice!
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Back in the studio on UNT’s campus, they mixed wax based on traditional Javanese recipes. The wax must be sufficiently durable to resist dye, but also removable. Their research determined that both hand-drawn and stamped batiks involve an initial application of a brittle but easily removable wax mix (klowong) followed by various applications of a stickier, more durable wax mix (templok). The ingredients for hand-drawn wax—their method of wax application—include paraffin, pine resin, beeswax, and fat. Wax for stamp application also includes eucalyptus gum. They used strips of fabric to test out the waxes.
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Today in Central Java, indigo dye is generally made from indigo paste, lime, and ferrous sulfate mixed with water. A soga brown dye mixture includes bark from various trees and shrubs. In an effort to be as authentic to the process as possible, Clifton and Brook also used natural dyes for their project. (Learn about UNT’s cool Natural Dye Garden here.)
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The design of their final eight samples is based on the motif of the red wraparound skirt (kain panjang) with blue clouds (megamenlang). Ultimately, the concentric outlines of this motif more clearly illustrate how to produce gradated hues with subsequent wax applications and dyeing; however, throughout their process the two tested a multitude of designs, all inspired by the DMA’s collection.
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During their research Clifton and Brook compiled a robust binder of samples and experiments and shared it with us. I was particularly impressed because even their notes are lovely!
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Not only are Clifton and Brook’s “finished” products on view in the exhibition, but visitors can actually touch and feel the samples. During the fall semester, we look forward to receiving a second set of batiks from Amie Adelman’s class. A HUGE thank you to our friends and colleagues from the UNT Fibers program for another wonderful collaboration!
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Andrea Severin Goins is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA.

Party in the DMA

Nicolas Party Pathway_artist Nicolas Party_August 2016_Courtesy of Dallas Museum of Art

On August 1, Nicolas Party hopped off the plane at DFW and ever since it has been a Party in the DMA. It only took the Swiss artist two weeks to transform the Museum’s Concourse into an enchantingly surreal landscape. Unconfined to a static sketch, each day the former graffiti artist added richly hued flora that simultaneously recalls forest floors and ocean depths. Visitors were entranced as he worked to bring his imaginative vision of a sanctuary for the people of Dallas to life. Check out the progression of the site-specific mural below.

And tomorrow, let the long weekend begin. Come experience the wonder of Nicolas Party: Pathway on Thursday evening and throw your hands up because we’ll be playing your song when DJ Wild in the Streets takes over the DMA patio. You’ll be nodding your head like yeah as we start the weekend early with 20% off crepes from Socca, fresh retro pop, funk, soul, and great company. See you there!

 

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

 

 

 

 

Freeze Frame

It’s hard to believe, but we’re in the final week of the celebrated exhibition Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty. Prior to the show’s opening in April of this year, Allison V. Smith, photographer and granddaughter of Stanley Marcus, shared with the DMA Member magazine, Artifacts, her first encounter with the work of Irving Penn and the impact of his legacy.  Read about her experience below, and discover the work of Irving Penn for the first time or for the hundredth time through Sunday with buy one get on free exhibition tickets offered every day.

One of the Real Greats
By Allison V. Smith
Original publish date: Artifacts Spring–Summer 2016

Irving Penn’s name is synonymous with beauty in fashion photography. So it’s no surprise that in 1990 my grandfather Stanley Marcus gave me, a young, passionate photographer, a signed copy of Issey Miyake’s catalogue photographed by Irving Penn. An enclosed handwritten Post-it note read:
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“Dear Allie— Penn, in my opinion, is the greatest of the fashion photographers and perhaps one of the real greats of the 20th century. Are you friends with him?”

I wasn’t, but I quickly took the time to educate myself.

Penn’s prolific photographic career spanned seventy years, and in this time he managed to merge the lines between fashion and fine art. His first cover for Vogue magazine was published in 1943, and he would shoot at least 150 more.

Irving Penn, Salvador Dali, New York, 1947, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Salvador Dali, New York, 1947, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the artist, © The Irving Penn Foundation

Penn’s assignments ranged from shooting striking models in designer dresses on location in Paris, to contemporary still lifes of familiar objects, to the simple “corner portraits” of artists that included Salvador Dalí and Truman Capote. These portraits were made sometime in 1948 in a constructed corner in his studio. The sitter embraced the corner, demonstrating his or her own personality and making the static background Penn chose into a private stage. Dalí fills the frame in a confident pose, with both arms placed firmly on his knees. Capote kneels on a chair, wearing an oversized tweed jacket and looking directly at the photographer. It’s hard to tell whether he’s feeling vulnerable or safe.

Irving Penn, Truman Capote, New York, 1979, printed 1983, silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Truman Capote, New York, 1979, printed 1983, silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation, © The Irving Penn Foundation

Penn wrote in Passage: A Work Record about this process: “This confinement, surprisingly, seemed to comfort people, soothing them. The walls were a surface to lean on or push against. For me the picture possibilities were interesting; limiting the subjects’ movement seemed to relieve me of part of the problem of holding on to them.”

Working for Vogue, Penn had the dream job of traveling the world photographing portraits of everyday people—artisans and blue-collar workers in Paris and London, a gypsy community in Spain, and the tribes of New Guinea. Penn approached all of his portraits with the same respect and elegance as he did in posing a model in Paris or an Issey Miyake design.

Irving Penn, Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black, New York, 1990, printed 1992, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation. Copyright © The Irving Penn Foundation

Irving Penn, Issey Miyake Fashion: White and Black, New York, 1990, printed 1992, gelatin silver print, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of The Irving Penn Foundation, © The Irving Penn Foundation

Penn’s photographs are subtle and sophisticated, often finding his subjects against a blank backdrop. His meticulous flowers are a study of visual rhythm. His nudes, whom he shot on countless rolls of film on his Rolleiflex camera between 1949 and 1950, went largely unseen until 1980. He closely examined the shapes of models of all sizes. The results were about form and less about nakedness.

A prolific photographer and a technical master, he made personal work throughout his life, including his early photographs of shop window displays, and later cigarette butts, smashed cups, and chewing gum. These simple photos of litter experimented with different photographic processes, such as platinum and palladium, giving them a rich quality—and also leaving an indelible mark on me.

Allison V. Smith is an editorial and fine art photographer based in Dallas. In 2008, the DMA presented “Reflection of a Man: The Photography of Stanley Marcus,” a retrospective of photographs taken by the department store magnate and produced by Smith and her mother, Jerrie Smith.

 

Penn v. Zoolander: It’s a Walk-Off!

Sometimes you need a little laughter and a trenta orange mocha Frappuccino to get you through the day. While the second is too difficult to deliver via screen, we are here to help with the first!

Fifteen years ago, Zoolander took pop culture by storm and instantly became a cult classic. And almost a century ago, one of the greatest American photographers renowned for fashion images was born. But what does a fictional model have in common with a distinguished shutterbug? A lot more than you might think!

Fashion aside, Irving Penn and Derek Zoolander were able to take something simple and make it a masterpiece. Be it a simple backdrop or a single pose, they created a phenomenon and neither one let societal norms dictate their art. It took time for their genius to be recognized, but in time all realized the beauty in their unique vision.

Okay, so their similarities may stop there, and we might have been reaching in the first place, but in the wise words of Hansel, “Don’t ask questions. Just give in to the power of the tea.” So if you like fashion and raucous amounts of fun, join us Wednesday night at Studio Movie Grill Spring Valley for a special screening of Zoolander in celebration of Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty and get 10% off exhibition tickets using the code STUDIOMOVIEGRILL.

Cool Story.

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Bernd Becher and Hilla Becher, Coal bunkers, 1978, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Carl, Elizabeth, Stahl, and Laura Urban, courtesy Sonnabend Gallery, New York, 1981.191.9, © 2016 Hilla Becher

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Mario Pascual, Untitled, 2009, digital c-print, Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, 2010.11.1, © Marlo Pascual

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Jerry Bywaters, Self-Portrait, 1920, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Estate of Jerry Bywaters, 1989.172

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Petra Zimmermann, Woman with dog brooch, 2000, silver, plastic, gold leaf, and antique glass stones, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Edward W. and Deedie Potter Rose, formerly Inge Asenbaum collection, gallery Am Graben in Vienna, 2014.33.348, © Petra Zimmermann

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Koloman Moser, Self-Portrait, 1902, black chalk and pencil on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Alessandra Comini in honor of Adriana Comini, 2014.29

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

Fashion in Vogue

Even though Irving Penn’s work in the exhibition at the DMA encompasses several subject areas (e.g., still life, portraiture, travel, and commercial photography), he is most widely known for his work in the fashion industry. His fame in this arena is well deserved, both for how he revolutionized the practice of the fashion shoot itself and for the simplified, bold, and elegant sophistication of the images he captured.

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Prior to Penn’s arrival at Vogue magazine in the 1940s, fashion shoots were organized around a contextual approach—meaning he had to design a “set” that provided a context or narrative for the clothes the model would be wearing. It was theatrical as well as being a lot of work. It didn’t take long before Penn abandoned that practice and adopted instead a stripped-down approach that peeled away all extraneous and distracting details. By using plain backgrounds, all the emphasis shifted to the models and the haute couture designs they wore. The designers loved it!

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When you look at Penn’s fashion photography, two strong characteristics dominate: an emphasis on form, or the silhouette, that is quite sculptural in its effect; and, the powerful sense of feminine independence of the modern woman. The latter was no accident. In Penn’s eyes, models weren’t just clothes hangers but rather intelligent and perceptive individuals for whom he had a great deal of respect. Consequently, these images come off as portraits, which is what Penn considered them to be, thus explaining why he always included their names in the titles.
The model for whom he likely had the greatest respect was the Swedish-born Lisa Fonssagrives, who is today considered to be the world’s first supermodel. The rapport and connection between them is palpable whenever she is looking into the lens of the camera. She was not just his muse; she also became his wife in 1950, just before they left New York to shoot the Paris collections.

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When Penn arrived in Paris in 1950, he set up on the top floor of a photography school. It was a daylight studio—meaning he used only the natural light that poured through the bank of north-facing windows. An abandoned theater curtain provided the softly mottled background for the shots. The studio and the stairwell up to it became a buzzing hive of activity as couriers arrived and departed. By bicycle, they ferried elaborate ensembles from the fashion houses of Dior, Balenciaga, Rochas, and Molyneux. Once the shoot was complete, they furiously pedaled their way back across town with their precious cargo.

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The photographs from that iconic Paris shoot are stunning for their simplicity and originality. Rochas’ curve-hugging mermaid dress and Dior’s wonderful nipped-waist black suit were all about the silhouette. Penn’s idea to concentrate on details of other designs was equally brilliant. His close-up shots of the gorgeous gathered sleeve of Balenciaga’s coat, or the distinctive pocket on a coat by Molyneux, drew attention to the superior design as well as the craftsmanship of the individuals who made them.

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Penn’s contribution to fashion photography set a standard that shaped not only the practice but also the industry itself. Many would adopt a simplified approach to the fashion shoot. Even today, other photographers, aspiring or established, stand in the long shadow of Penn’s legacy, borrowing his ideas or even re-creating some of his most innovative shots, like a nod of admiration to the creative genius of one of the 20th century’s greatest masters.

Celebrate Penn’s birthday tomorrow evening with the launch of our summer Thursdays and enjoy buy-one-get-one-free tickets to Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty. Strike a pose from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. and take home your favorite Penn-inspired memories with free prints made onsite from your Instagram account.

Sue Canterbury is The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the DMA.

In-House Photography

It has been a few years since the DMA has hosted a photography exhibition, and it has been a real treat to present Irving Penn: Beyond Beauty—the artist’s first retrospective in 20 years and the first since his death. While Penn is well known for his work in fashion and portraiture for magazines like Vogue, the exhibition also features some of his lesser-known, personal work, like his street photographs and a series of nudes.

In celebration of National Photography Month, we sauntered down to the studios of the three DMA staff photographers—Chad Redmon, Ira Schrank, and Jerry Ward—for their take on the exhibition.

Chad Redmon, Assistant Photographer, Digital Media at the DMA

Chad Redmon, Assistant Photographer, Digital Media, at the DMA

Ira Schrank, Digital Collection Photographer at the DMA

Ira Schrank, Digital Collection Photographer at the DMA

Jerry Ward, Collection Photographer at the DMA

Jerry Ward, Collection Photographer at the DMA

On their own work
Chad: The piece that was in the DMA staff art show last year was a pretty good example of my work: I cut a hole and my arm was reaching through, taking a picture. It was a trompe-l’œil, speculative space. I like to play with your expectations of looking at photographs, something that would obviously not actually happen in real time. People have to take a second look at it, even if I’m standing next to them.

Ira: I shoot landscapes mostly. But I’ve also done environmental portraits. I’ll use backdrops to hide the background, or take the environment out, not quite like Penn; I didn’t try to have one specific look. I often use either paper or fabrics to isolate the things I shoot. To a photographer, it enables you to really look at what it is you are looking at, without letting the world cloud it.

Jerry: I’m a commercial photographer; this is my first museum job. My background is in sports, food, and journalism—mostly ads and billboards. I was a Saints team photographer when I was younger. So if it moves, I can capture it.

On their familiarity with Penn:
Chad: I saw an Irving Penn show at the National Portrait Gallery in D.C. in 1988, when I was a freshman at art school. I saw that show 20 times. I went over and over again. I even bought the book, which was one of the first coffee table books I ever bought, and I still have it to this day.

Ira: I’m really fine art oriented, but of all the commercial photographers, he is my favorite.

On their favorite work in the show
Chad: Willie Mays, jumping up. It looks like he’s flying like Superman. It’s not an often-seen photograph. It’s one of the few actually manipulated. He took a photo from a long way away of Willie Mays in action, cut him out of whatever background he was on, and stuck him on a field of white. It doesn’t look like anything else in the show.

Ira: I don’t really have a favorite. There is so much different work. He is all over. The early work that he’s done, where he is an editorial photographer, I love those. But those are so different. It’s hard to see how he goes from those pictures—like traveling around the South—to how he got to his studio work. I guess his experience of being an artist in New York got him from point A to point B.

Jerry: The lady with the martini (Woman in Dior Hat with Martini (Lisa Fonssagrives-Penn), New York, 1952). It’s really high contrast. And it’s cool how the martini works in the glass. And I like food stuff, since I’ve shot food.

On Penn’s most interesting body of work
Chad: I like the portraits of intellectuals crammed in corners, on scaffolding, and what not. It’s really egalitarian the way he took portraits. He would take that mobile studio to North Africa and take pictures of the locals. It looked basically like the set he would shoot fashion people in in New York. It highlights the differences between the people, but it also highlights the similarities between them. It divorces them from the background to such a degree that you have to see the similarities and differences immediately.

Ira: I love the raw backgrounds, which allow the photographic process to show. His portable studio, in a way, cancels out the environment, and he can just engage in his process. And he took the portable studio everywhere, to South America, Africa.

Jerry: I like the food and the American South section. I’m from New Orleans—so, the old barber shop and the people outside. You still see those signs at home. It’s familiar.

On what’s surprising
Chad: I had never seen any of the early street photography. I don’t like it very much. There’s nothing exceptional about them to me, but seeing them doesn’t take the shine off of the rest of his work. It’s good to know that he grew into his aesthetic, as opposed to just arriving fully realized.

Ira: No surprises. But what makes so many of his pictures work so well is that he isolates them. None of the sets are fancy—sometimes it’s torn-up carpet turned upside down. It’s interesting that in our show, when you turn the corner and enter into that newer, color work, it doesn’t quite work in the same way. To me, there is a big difference between what looked like commercial work and his art, which is what we all respond to. Like that work when you walk in [to the exhibition]. What a spectacular photograph.

Jerry: What’s surprising is that Penn would go out and do it his own way. But a lot of [commercial] photographers buckle under to the art director. It’s pretty obvious that Penn was so great that they let him run free. They didn’t tie him up with an art director. The collaboration looked like this: Penn, and-oh yeah-there is an art director, as opposed to, an art director and-oh yeah-there’s a photographer pushing a button. As a commercial guy, that is really cool.

Thanks, Chad, Ira, and Jerry for your insight! Come celebrate National Photography Month with a visit to the DMA this May.

Andrea Severin Goins is Head of Interpretation at the DMA.

The Golden Age: Dominic Smith

The DMA hosted author Dominic Smith as part of our Arts & Letters Live 25th anniversary season, and this event is also the launch party for his new novel, The Last Painting of Sara de Vos. We are excited to be the first place where book and art enthusiasts can grab a copy of the novel and spend time with the Texas-based author. The book has already received high acclaim, including from author Ben Fountain, who praised it as “quite simply, one of the best novels I have ever read, and as close to perfect as any book I’m likely to encounter in my reading life.” Uncrated was able to chat with Smith prior to his appearance and learn a bit more about his love of art and the focal point of his novel, Sara de Vos.

Photo: Stacy Sodolak

Photo: Stacy Sodolak

DMA: Have you always been drawn to art and in particular Dutch work?
DS: I’ve always loved museums and old paintings. I first experienced the Dutch Golden Age up close about 15 years ago, when I spent a year living in Amsterdam. During my time there, I was struck by the sheer variety and output of the Dutch baroque period. Bawdy genre scenes, delicate floral still lifes, serene landscapes, austere portraits—the subjects run the gamut. And by some estimates, there were about 50,000 Dutch painters plying their trade across the 17th century; if you walked into an Amsterdam butcher shop or bakery in 1630 you might have found floor-to-ceiling paintings. A painting could cost the same as a fish at the market, or it could cost the same as a house. This period endlessly fascinates me, especially the artistic fate of the 25 or so women who were admitted to a Guild of St. Luke, the main professional body for painters. We have surviving works for only a handful of those two dozen baroque women painters.

Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, c. 1670–1672, oil on canvas, The Leiden Collection, Inv# JVe-100 28.2015.1 © The Leiden Collection, New York

Johannes Vermeer, Young Woman Seated at a Virginal, c. 1670–72, oil on canvas, © The Leiden Collection, New York

DMA: Tell us a bit about your character, Sara de Vos. What do you feel Sara’s response would be to a few of the eight works from her contemporaries on view in the DMA’s exhibition Vermeer Suite: Music in 17th-Century Dutch Painting?
DS: I think Sara de Vos would be very pleased with these paintings. Like the real Judith Leyster, who sometimes painted genre scenes of merrymaking in taverns, Sara de Vos belongs to a moment of Dutch painting that celebrated music as part of everyday life. In the novel, Sara de Vos mostly paints landscapes and still lifes, but she would have greatly admired Vermeer’s Young Woman Seated at a Virginal. The light from the unseen window and the dramatic shadows on the virginal and in the woman’s clothing really capture this as a moment of suspended time. Her hands look as if they’re continuing to play the piece of music, even as she’s looking directly at us. I can’t help wondering what that music sounds like.

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DMA:  Why is it unique that de Vos would have painted landscapes, and how did this shape your story?
DS: There are no known landscapes by Dutch women painters of the Golden Age. So part of the conceit of The Last Painting of Sara de Vos involved working out the circumstances under which a woman might have created a landscape. The traditional explanation for the lack of landscapes by women is that it was a genre that required many hours spent out of doors and this was not the domain of women during the 17th century. I accept this explanation somewhat. But it’s worth remembering that there were women who defied convention during this time period. Maria Sibylla Merian left behind her estranged husband at the end of the 17th century and moved with her daughter to Surinam (a Dutch colony at the time) in South America for two years. She spent her days in the jungle sketching botanical specimens. If a Dutch Golden Age woman can do that, then surely she could spend a day sketching outside by herself, in preparation for a landscape that might be finished in her studio. Maybe a brother, husband, or older son could have accompanied her. My hunch is that the masters who presided over the Guilds of St. Luke decided that landscapes would be the exclusive realm of men. The novel tries to subvert this notion and bring a landscape by a baroque woman to life.

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


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