Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

Designing Mexico

This week we will open the doors to México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde, but work on the exhibition began weeks ago. Exhibition designers Jessica Harden and Skye Malish-Olson shared insight into the process of creating the gallery spaces that serve as home for the works of art during special exhibitions.

Jessica Harden: A lot of the work that Skye and I do is to plan for movement of people and objects and really take into account the overall visitor experience and how people interact with and participate in the exhibition.

Skye Malish-Olson: The planning process definitely varies from project to project. I think the most fun for us is always the color and graphics and how that comes together with the objects.

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Image: Barragan House, Mexico City, 1948. Photo © Barragan Foundation, Birsfelden, Switzerland/ProLitteris, Zurich, Switzerland

JH: One of the first steps of working on an exhibition for us as designers is to talk through the checklist (the list of works of art that will be included in an exhibition) with the curators and to understand which objects are the most important. We can then take that information and use that to our benefit in the design.

SMO:  We’re also typically working with a lot of different eras, and lots of times we’ll start with a kind of mood board or just different visual references to give us a starting place, for color, and for how to portray objects in a way that tells a story.

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Image: Luis Barragán’s San Cristóbal stables in Mexico City, 1960s. Credit René Burri/Magnum Photos

JH: With México 1900–1950, we worked off of a lot of the plans and designs that were developed for the presentation in Paris. This informed in many ways how we wanted to treat the checklist and some of the spaces, but then we had to take into consideration or own space and our own audience, so we made a lot of adjustments. The 10,000-square-foot exhibition is showcased in two separate spaces, a first during my time at the DMA. The exhibition begins on Level 4 in what has typically showcased works from the DMA’s permanent collection, and then continues on Level 1 in one of our main temporary exhibition spaces.

I met the challenge of a disconnected space with a visually strong and contextually relevant inspiration: the work of Mexican modernist architect Luis Barragán, known for his combination of strong, vivid color with clean, modernist forms. Applied in our México 1900-1950 galleries, these colors and forms, offset from the DMA’s existing architecture, assert the entrances and designated areas of the exhibition. The paint application and dynamic forms help lead visitors through a space that is dense with powerful works of art, without feeling claustrophobic. Bright colored panels of wall frame and highlight the sumptuous color of a number of paintings, while creating visually fresh and exciting lines of sight as one moves through the space. An additional benefit is the way these colors work with the existing architecture and wood and limestone finishes, as Barragán was also known for his use of raw materials. From the big picture down to the smallest detail, the exhibition designer’s task is to facilitate an aesthetic experience from the exhibition content that is greater than the sum of its parts.

SMO: I am really excited about the scale and color in the México 1900–1950 exhibition. It is definitely a rare treat and we’re using all of our space and multiple galleries to house these really large and amazing works. I think having our space activated in this way will be really exciting for our visitors.

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Image: Cuadra San Cristobal, Mexico City, 1968. Photo © Barragan Foundation, Birsfelden, Switzerland/ProLitteris, Zurich, Switzerland

Jessica Harden is the Director of Exhibition and Museum Design and Skye Malish-Olson is the Exhibition Designer at the DMA.

Knight Vision

We are in the final two weeks of Art and Nature in the Middle Ages and to celebrate we are sharing insight from stain glass artist Judith Schaechter modern experience with the medium featured in the Winter 2017 issue of Artifacts.

Installation views

Installation views

Art and Nature in the Middle Ages explores medieval works in a variety of media, including beautiful examples of stained glass. This particular art form was perfected during the Middle Ages, and little has changed in the practice of making stained glass in the ensuing centuries. While this once fairly common medium is not widely used by contemporary artists, Philadelphia-based artist Judith Schaechter is known for her work in stained glass. Artifacts asked her why she is drawn to working in this medium and what similarities she sees between modern stained glass works and those created in the Middle Ages.

Stained glass reached its peak in the 12th century and it’s been downhill since then. Perhaps stained glass is an odd medium to choose if one wishes to participate in the world of contemporary fine art, and, indeed, it is! Yet, I found it altogether irresistible.

Although I went to art school to study painting, I knew almost instantly when I tried stained glass that it was what I wanted to pursue for the rest of my life. Why? I felt “in sync” with glass. When I was a painter, I painted fast and furiously, and ultimately threw everything out. This didn’t happen with glass because it was so labor intensive. By the time I managed to do something to the glass, I had developed feelings of attachment and was hardly going to throw it away.

I found the beauty of stained glass to be the perfect counterpoint to ugly and difficult subjects. Although the figures I work with are supposed to be ordinary people doing ordinary things, I see them as having much in common with the old medieval windows of saints and martyrs. They seem to be caught in a transitional moment when despair becomes hope or darkness becomes inspiration. They seem poised between the threshold of everyday reality and epiphany,
caught between tragedy and comedy.

My work is centered on the idea of transforming the wretched into the beautiful—say, unspeakable grief, unbearable sentimentality, or nerve-wracking ambivalence—and representing it in such away that it is inviting and safe to contemplate and captivating to look at. I am at one with those who believe art is a way of feeling one’s feelings in a deeper, more poignant way.

Medieval windows sought to confer inspiration and enlightenment on those who saw them. Beholding a stained glass window can enable, encourage. and literally enact the process of being filled with light. It sounds like some kind of preternatural phenomenon, but it’s a physical fact. While one is busy identifying and empathizing with the image, one also experiences physically the warming, filling sensations of light. It’s so persuasive not because the pictures are convincing narratives but because the colors are overwhelming and the light is sublime—and, by golly, it’s coming from inside you, it’s part of you.

Judith Schaechter has lived and worked in Philadelphia since graduating in 1983 with a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design Glass Program. Her work is in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Ar t, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Hermitage, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Corning Museum of Glass, the Renwick Galler y of the Smithsonian Institution, and numerous other public and private collections.

Looking at Law

Carey Young, still from Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, 17 mins 58 secs. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, © Carey Young

Carey Young, still from Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, 17 mins., 58 secs., Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, © Carey Young

London-based artist Carey Young’s new video Palais de Justice is a cinematic glimpse into the Brussels courthouse of the same name. The video begins with a lone man walking down a vast staircase. Hands in the pockets of his track pants, he appears far more casual than the 19thcentury architecture that surrounds him. Over time, the video shifts from distant shots of people walking through the interiors to more intimate views of female judges at work. Observing them through smudged portholes in courtroom doors, the camera captures the judges in moments of authoritative posturing during trials: they stroke their chins, remove their glasses, and gaze across the room deep in thought.

The women we see through the portholes are, in fact, actual judges and not actors. Young shot Palais de Justice “guerilla” style for three weeks over a period of two years, catching the daily activities that occurred throughout the building. She did not begin the project with a preplanned narrative but instead pieced her footage together afterwards to form a more poetic picture of the courthouse. Young especially wanted to highlight the presence of the female judges to subvert common assumptions about who holds the power of law. Rather than seeing men in charge, we see only women occupying these prestigious societal roles.

Carey Young, still from Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, 17 mins 58 secs. Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, © Carey Young

Carey Young, still from Palais de Justice, 2017, HD video, 17 mins., 58 secs., Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, © Carey Young

In a brief conversation, Young explained to me that Palais de Justice marks an artistic departure for her. While her work often takes the form of conceptual text, performance, and photography, the video is much more metaphorical and dreamlike. Young further explained that she wanted the video to highlight the intent of the architect to express the “sublime scale of the law.” This is apparent in how Young has installed the work inside the gallery: the projection takes up an entire wall and, as a result, immerses the viewer. Surrounded by a soundtrack of vocal echoes and footsteps playing alongside the video footage, one sees the landmark building itself as another character among the judges and courthouse visitors.

The Palais de Justice was designed by architect Joseph Poelaert in celebration of Belgium’s independence from the Netherlands. A massive structure—over 200,000 square feet with 27 large courtrooms—it remains one of the largest courthouses in Europe. For Young, the monumental qualities of the building made it a perfect case study for her ongoing meditations on the performative nature of law. The architectural elements, especially the oculi through which we gaze, draw attention to our own roles as witnesses to the law in action. It makes us think not only about  the institution of law but also about who has the power to exercise it.

With this in mind, Palais de Justice makes me think about how buildings shape our attitudes and behaviors. How does architecture command this kind of power? Does the architecture of a courthouse differ from, for instance, that of an art museum? What might a courthouse of the future look like?

These are only a few of the questions that Young’s powerful video raises. See it yourself at the DMA, along with other new and existing works by Carey Young, in Carey Young: The New Architecture, now through April 9.

 

Kelly Filreis is the McDermott Graduate Intern for Contemporary Art at the DMA.

Beyond “México 1900–1950”

The DMA is thrilled to host México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde, opening March 12. I was fortunate to be able to view this exhibition in Paris at the Grand Palais, and was captivated by the works’ color, scale, and diversity of subject matter. This exhibition is coming to Dallas already chock-full of the heavy hitters of Mexican modernism, but the DMA is taking the opportunity to highlight and include some of our own Mexican greats. Look for the following DMA-owned works in the Dallas presentation:

Andrea Severin Goins is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA

LOVEY-DOVEY

”For this was sent on Seynt Valentyne’s day’
Whan every foul cometh ther to choose his mate” – Geoffrey Chaucer

foul

In France and England during the Middle Ages, it was commonly believed that birds’ mating season began on February 14. This notion led to Valentine’s Day being celebrated as a day of love and romance. It is even widely believed that the first Valentine’s card was sent during medieval times! Fourteenth- and 15th-century poets linked Valentine’s Day with amorous love through passionate verses, so sweethearts began exchanging sweet notes and flowers on this now well known day. Puts a whole new spin on the saying LOVEY-DOVEY, doesn’t it?

We suggest that this year you and your beloved travel to a time where chivalry knew no bounds and romance ran rampant with a visit to Art and Nature in the Middle Ages. How idyllic, am I right? Nothing sets the mood better for a lovely evening than dim lighting, illuminated manuscripts, and scenes of TWUE WUV—you know, back before dating apps, social media stalking, and texting entered the picture. Y’all, these couples actually had to talk face to face—crazy I know.

tapestry

So tomorrow, restore your hope in romance by visiting Art and Nature in the Middle Ages and maybe you’ll make an acquaintance worth courting—or at the least you’ll see something magical!

P.S. Unicorns, dancing pigs, really cool stained glass, and awesome metalwork are also included in this exhibition if you hate all things mushy gushy—did I say unicorns?

P.P.S. There’s only one more month to love this exhibition, so don’t wait!

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

 

Sounds of the Middle Ages

Take a walk through the DMA’s Art and Nature in the Middle Ages exhibition and you’ll see beautiful paintings and tapestries, pieces of architectural wonder, and some ancient oddities from the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. But looking only gives a bit of the story. What would people back then not only see but hear?

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By way of introduction, let’s start with the architecture. Looking at the capitals that once sat atop soaring Gothic structures is a sight for the eyes. But what would the music be like inside, say, a great cathedral? Here’s a musical example from around the year 1200 that might have been heard inside Notre Dame in Paris one joyous Christmas night. The piece is by the composer Perotin.

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Coming around the corner to the right we see a vibrant painting from about the year 1500 called The Virgin of the Wheat.  The work comes from northern France around Amiens. The Virgin Mary has long been a favorite topic for composers. Here we have one of the most famous examples from this era, Ave Maria, virgo serena by the Franco-Flemish master Josquin des Prez.

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Secular music was an equally important part of life in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. The tapestries in this exhibition show everyday scenes of love and romance. Chivalry and knighthood meant not only bravery and codes of conduct but also courtly love. One of the most popular instruments of the time was the lute.

Before the printing press, books were also works of art. Monks created illuminated manuscripts from which they would sing their daily prayers. Smaller versions called Books of Hours would be sold to wealthy people so that they could take part in monastic prayers in their own homes. Pages from the Litany of the Saints can be seen on the interactive tablet in our exhibition. This is what it might have sounded like.

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come into the next room and we see an odd wooden carving called a misericord, or, “act of mercy.” What’s funny about this piece is the carvings depicting, among other things, laughing pigs playing an organ. You’ll also notice a little shelf on top of the piece. So what’s going on here? This is actually from a section of choir stall where monks or choir singers would have to stand for hours at a time during church services. When the seats were flipped up for standing, the little shelf allowed them to discreetly rest their tired rear ends without anyone really noticing.

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Continuing on, we see a small 14th-century carving of the Virgin Mary, whose seat is covered with roses. The rose was a common metaphor for Mary, the rose without thorns. Here we have an English medieval carol, “There is no Rose of such virtue.”

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Finally, we see some interesting metal work. Tabernacles and monstrances were used to house the consecrated bread of the Mass, which Catholics consider to be the actual body of Jesus Christ. Therefore, it was kept in special vessels. One to take note of is the bird, which would have been understood to be the dove of the Holy Spirit. Here is some music from a Mass by the 15th-century composer Ockeghem.

Rather than being a “dark” period, the Middle Ages was actually a vibrant time of creation, both visual and aural. Don’t miss the DMA’s exhibition Art and Nature in the Middle Ages.

Dr. Alfred Calabrese is Director of Music at St. Rita Catholic Church in Dallas and Music Director of the Denton Bach Society.

Memory, All Alone in the Moonlight

Some furry friends invaded the DMA back in October and set up residence for three whole months in the Museum. They told visitors from far and wide stories of ancient Egypt where they were revered as powerful deities. They also educated them on some very important practices like mummification . . . GASP. Just look at all the fun that was had!

final-cats

It’s not too late for you too to experience the PAWsitively PURRfect exhibition Divine Felines: Cats of Ancient Egypt, but it will be soon. After January 8, Divine Felines will only be a “memory, all alone in the moonlight”.  So scurry your tails down to the Museum to check out the exhibition that everyone has been meowing over!

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

 


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