Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

In Search of Brandon Kirby and the Golden Spider

Earlier this month, the DMA’s exhibition The Power of Gold: Asante Royal Regalia from Ghana opened to the public. What you may not know is that the entire exhibition of more than 250 objects was inspired by a few works from the DMA’s collection. The DMA Member Magazine, Artifacts, explored two of these objects in the Winter 2018 issue. Discover more about the inspiration behind the exhibition and the history of these beautiful pieces:

In 2014, two finely crafted gold artworks joined the Dallas Museum of Art’s holdings of West African regalia. The cast gold spider and T-shaped bead arrived in an elegant velvet-lined display box bearing an inscription with the following information: the items came from the Asante kingdom, were once owned by the kings, and left their original home in 1883.

Sword ornament in the form of a spider, Ghana, Asante peoples, late 19th century, gold-copper-silver alloy, Dallas Museum of Art, McDermott African Art Acquisition Fund, 2014.26.1

Dr. Roslyn A. Walker, Senior Curator of the Arts of Africa, the Americas, and the Pacific, and The Margaret McDermott Curator of African Art at the DMA, began a multi-year investigation into the works’ journey from the Gold Coast (present-day Ghana) to Texas. This research inspired The Power of Gold: Asante Royal Regalia from Ghana, the first exhibition to focus on Asante royal regalia in over three decades. The Cree family were previous owners of the objects, and in their oral history detailing the objects’ relocation from Africa to England they mention a man named Robert L. Brandon Kirby. Who was Brandon Kirby and how did he come to own these ornate examples of gold craftsmanship? These questions drove Walker to dig through British Parliamentary Papers, correspond with international archivists and scholars, and trace census records throughout the US and Europe. Born in Australia in 1852 as Robert Low Kirby, and later recorded under the surname Brandon Kirby and then Brandon-Kirby, he traveled in 1881 to the British colony, where he served in the Gold Coast Constabulary, a police force. He earned the respect of the British governor of the Gold Coast, Sir Samuel Rowe, and during a mission in 1884 he was tasked with delivering letters from Sir Samuel to the kingdom’s various paramount chiefs regarding the pending selection of an heir to the Golden Stool (throne).

Walker’s reconstructed narrative identifies this tour through the Asante kingdom as the context for Brandon Kirby’s possession of the cast gold spider and T-shaped bead, which were probably bestowed upon him by Prince Agyeman Kofi, later known as Asantahene (king) Kwaku Dua II.

Pendant, Ghana, Asante peoples, late 19th century, gold-copper-silver alloy, Dallas Museum of Art, McDermott African Art Acquisition Fund, 2014.26.2

The following year, Brandon Kirby partnered with James Cree (d. 1891), a wealthy Scotsman, to buy cattle ranches in the Territory of New Mexico, thus the Asante spider and bead arrived in the US. According to Cree family lore, Brandon Kirby’s dramatic departure from New Mexico forced him to travel light, leaving behind his mementos of his time in the Gold Coast.

The intricate castings were then passed through generations of the Cree family, landing in Austin, Texas. From there, it was only a few hundred miles and years of research before their reintroduction at the DMA in The Power of Gold. A final historical resource soon joined the spider and bead at the DMA and recently entered the Museum’s collection—an album of photographs by Frederick Grant dated 1883–84 and featuring Brandon Kirby in Kumasi, the capital of the Asante kingdom.

Frederick Grant, Ashanti and West Central Africa, 1883-4 (cover), 1883–84, leather, copper alloy, and paper, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund, 2017.12

Frederick Grant, Ashanti and West Central Africa, 1883-4 (detail), 1883–84, leather, copper alloy, and paper, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund, 2017.12

Find out more about Brandon Kirby and the golden spider in the beautifully illustrated exhibition catalogue that accompanies the exhibition.

Dr. Emily Schiller is the Head of Interpretation at the DMA.

Farewell to Florals

For the past several months, the Rachofsky Quadrant Gallery on the Museum’s first level has been occupied by seven large paintings spanning half the gallery, nearly floor to ceiling. Installed on a lilac-colored wall, the framed canvases contain figures posed with flowers, rendered in eye-catching pastel hues, and surrounded by alternating sections of black and gold leaf.

These paintings are Edward Steichen’s In Exaltation of Flowers, a commissioned series that the artist completed in 1914 for the home of New York financier Eugene Meyer and his wife, Agnes. Never installed in the space for which they were created, the majority of the panels were kept in storage for the past century. Last summer, the DMA’s conservation team unrolled the canvases, stretched and framed them, and completed conservation treatment so the series could go on tour. Newly conserved and reunited in one exhibition, In Exaltation of Flowers is a time capsule of Edward Steichen’s life and the lives of his close friends on the eve of World War I.

On Thursday, April 26, from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m., we will say goodbye to In Exaltation of Flowers with a soiree that will include a complimentary reception with drinks and small bites inspired by the paintings, a tour about flower symbolism with Dallas Arboretum VP of Gardens Dave Forehand, and a talk by art historian Dr. Jessica Murphy.

Reception
6:00 p.m., Check in at Will Call, Horchow Auditorium, Level 1
Arrive early for a complimentary reception featuring beer, wine, and small bites inspired by In Exaltation of Flowers and Edward Steichen’s French country garden. Hors d’oeuvres will include:

FRESH PEA AND MINT SHOOTER
butter-poached shrimp and hibiscus crema

DRIED FIG AND BRIE CROSTADA
balsamic glaze

GRILLED QUAIL AND SUNDRIED CHERRY SALAD
chive crepes and saffron aioli

ROASTED RED & GOLDEN BEETS WITH TEXAS GOAT CHEESE
arugula and orange-tarragon dressing

PARSLEY CHICKEN IN PHYLLO
romesco sauce

ROSE AND WHITE CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
candied rose petals and toasted almonds

Tour: In Exaltation of Flowers
6:30 p.m., Meet at the Flora Street Visitor Services Desk, Level 1
Edward Steichen was an avid gardener who exhibited his celebrated delphiniums in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. For Steichen and much of society at this time, flowers were more than just beautiful objects; they took on human character traits and the giving or receiving of flowers served as a kind of subtle language. Each of the sitters for In Exaltation of Flowers is paired with specific flowers that relate to their personalities or the nicknames given to them within their friend group. Join Dave Forehand of the Dallas Arboretum for a tour of In Exaltation of Flowers focusing on the types of flowers Steichen included in his paintings and what they might have communicated to a viewer in 1914.

Exhibition Talk: Murals from a “Magic Garden”: Edward Steichen’s “In Exaltation of Flowers”
7:00 p.m., Horchow Auditorium, Level 1
In Exaltation of Flowers captures a very particular moment in Edward Steichen’s career, in the history of art, and in the lives of a circle of friends on the eve of the World War I. A very personal project for the artist, the murals include portraits of close friends, either painted from life or from photographs, alongside flowers inspired by his garden at the French country home where he hosted lively parties. Steichen’s careful portrayal of his subjects reveals the nuances of their personalities and relationships within the social group. Best remembered as a photographer, Steichen had a somewhat rocky relationship with painting and ultimately destroyed much of his painted work. His approach to this series shows a nod toward the Symbolist movement, with its emphasis on flatness, invariable color, and in some sections abandonment of realism. Jessica Murphy, Brooklyn Museum’s Manager of Digital Engagement, will bring to life these and other stories behind Edward Steichen’s murals and the people who inspired them.

Don’t miss your chance to spend an evening in 1914 with Edward Steichen and his closest friends before In Exaltation of Flowers leaves the DMA in early May. For more information, visit DMA.org or click here to purchase a $5 ticket.

Jessie Carrillo is Manager of Adult Programs at the DMA.

 

Colors of Kente

Alongside the gold ornamentation, furniture, and weaponry, one of the other art forms in the new exhibition The Power of Gold: Asante Royal Regalia from Ghana is kente cloth. The cloth is made from weaving thin strips of woven fabric together to create large blanket-size pieces. You can see in the photo below how detailed the vertical strips can be, and how colorful the patterns are. Once all of the thin strips are created, they will turn into the kente pattern like the ones you see below. Both of these kente textiles will be on view in the exhibition.

Detail of a man’s kente, Oyokoman pattern, Ghana, Asante peoples, c. 1920–1930, Ssilk, Dallas Museum of Art, Textile Purchase Fund, 2015.12

Kente, Ghana, Asante peoples, c. 1925, silk and dye, Dallas Museum of Art, African Collection Fund, 2006.45

To learn more about the kente cloths that will be shown in the exhibition, we invited world-renowned kente weaver Kwasi Asare to be a part of our April Late Night and an Adult Workshop. Kwasi Asare is part of a lineage of kente weavers who played an enormous role in the popularity and visibility of the traditional cloth in Ghana. His father, A. E. Asare, created the kente worn by the president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah, in 1957 for his official portrait and visits to the United States. This gained worldwide attention because Ghana had just become the first independent country in sub-Saharan Africa. A. E. Asare also weaved a kente for the United Nations General Assembly in the 1960s. Kwasi Asare, following in his father’s footsteps, weaved a kente to replace the old and fraying version his father had made, which now hangs in the UN building. Kwasi Asare called his kente Adwene Asa, meaning “consensus has been reached.” The Adwena Asa stands as an emblem of diplomacy, peace, and compassion and as an aspirational symbol for all the world’s delegates who gather there. Kwasi Asare will be demonstrating his weaving and leading a tour of the kente cloths in the exhibition during Late Night on Friday, April 20.

Kwasi Asare weaving on his large loom

Prime Minister of Ghana Kwame Nkrumah arriving at the White House, Washington, DC, US, July 1958

Adwene Asa, Kwasi Asare’s kente cloth that hangs in the United Nations General Assembly Building

The last three images are taken with permission from Kwasi Asare’s website.

Katie Cooke is Manager of Adult Programs at the DMA.

More than Meets the Eye

In just over a week the DMA will host the acclaimed exhibition Laura Owens which is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. The exhibition explores the career and whimsical world created by contemporary artist Laura Owens. Prior to the arrival of the exhibition, the DMA Member magazine Artifacts was able to talk with Amy Baumann, Owens’ Studio Manager, about the process of creating the unique and exceptionally beautiful exhibition catalogs:

This spring, visitors will encounter paintings on a monumental scale in the mid-career survey of American painter Laura Owens. Owens is also known for her work on a much more intimate scale, as a book artist. Her Los Angeles art space and studio even hosts Ooga Booga, an independent art bookseller. She shares this love of books through her gorgeously crafted catalogue, a deep dive into her life and career, containing memorabilia from her artistic formation and essays from experts in diverse cultural fields.

What is most surprising is that every catalogue contains a unique cover, screen printed by hand in the artist’s studio—a mammoth undertaking that involved a crew of five studio assistants working for over three months.

I talked with Amy Baumann, Owens’ Studio Manager, about the process of fabricating over 8,500 unique books, each one functioning as a work of art that visitors can take home with them.

Anna Katherine Brodbeck:
Can you speak about the genesis of this ambitious project?

Amy Baumann: Screen printing has been a big part of Laura’s work in the last five years. When she first approached us with the idea for the covers, we said, “Great! How do you want to do this?” This resulted in the book covers being created by the build-up of layers upon layers of images, much like her paintings.

AKB: What is the source material for the diverse imagery?

AB: Laura started by selecting patterns used in her paintings, such as a bitmap made from a scan of crumpled paper and vintage wallpaper overlays. She also chose some basic shapes that we printed as vectors, and more complex images that we printed using CMYK process. We made a chart listing the various elements to make sure we maxed out the possible combinations. They had to be random and not repeat. We came up with a system to put all the covers in production simultaneously, organizing them in piles at various stages of production. Laura wanted the print crew to choose the layers and how they were used in order to promote more randomness, but she would change the way the layers were used during the process, sometimes requesting a different scale or image, or shifting the color palette.

Anna Katherine Brodbeck is The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA.

Flower Power

Edward Steichen: In Exaltation of Flowers is in bloom until May 13, so while we still have these colorful, one-of-a-kind murals on our walls, we hosted a workshop all about florals. The program began with a tour in the exhibition where the group learned more about Steichen’s social scene and the friends that he immortalized in this artwork. Participants saw how Steichen used flowers as symbols for the different people in the murals and how his passion for horticulture lent itself to extremely realistic depictions. After the tour, everyone chose their own flowers to create their personal still life. The group then learned watercolor techniques from local artist Carol Ivey, who paints minutely detailed still lifes. By the end of the workshop, everyone had bloomed into new watercolor painters and departed with their finished work and brushes to continue practicing.

If you missed the workshop but want to learn more about Edward Steichen, his murals, and his love of flowers, join us on Thursday, April 26, at 7:00 p.m. for an exhibition talk by Jessica Murphy, Manager of Digital Engagement, Brooklyn Museum.

 

Katie Cooke is Manager of Adult Programming at the DMA. 

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Supporting Art

Hopi Visions: Journey of the Human Spirit is a new year-long exhibition highlighting a forty-eight foot mural by Hopi artists Michael Kabotie and Delbridge Honanie. The mural, titled Journey of the Human Spirit, depicts the history of the Hopi people from their mythic emergence to modern day. Included in the installation are numerous works from the DMA’s permanent collection, carefully curated to enhance and highlight the story told by the mural. Many of the objects included are ceramics ranging in dates from 950 CE to the late 20th century. As can be expected with such a range of dates, the condition of the objects varies from pristine to reassembled fragments. A question that must be answered prior to installing works like these is how to best display the work while not compromising its structural integrity. This problem is often solved by building specialty mounts.

A mount is a support, backing, or setting on which an object is fixed for display purposes. There are multiple types of mounts, but the one utilized most for Hopi Visions is a custom built brass mount. Russell Sublette, who just celebrated his 39th year at the DMA, is a Senior Preparator and the Head Mount Maker at the Museum. He is responsible for the majority of mounts you see (or rather, don’t see) within the permanent collection displays.

During exhibition planning, the curator and designer work together to determine how they wish to display an object. Do they want to show a bowl placed flat on a surface in a way that reflects its utilitarian purpose or do they want to display it at an angle to better highlight the design on the interior? Once these decisions have been reached, it is up to Russell to turn these wishes into a reality. He carefully inspects the object, looking for fractures, breaks, and any other issues that might affect its structural integrity, in order to determine the best contact points between the mount and the object. He then takes measurements and works on design. Russell’s goal is to create a mount that provides maximum stability while maintaining a minimal profile. In other words, the mount needs to be as invisible as possible. It is a job that requires focus and precision.

Russell begins with long rods of brass that he cuts down and shapes to follow to contour of the object. He uses extreme care when working on the clips—the part of the mount on which the object rests. It is imperative that the clips do not put too much pressure on the object as that could lead to cracks and breakage. Once he has completed the fabrication of the mount, Russell hands it over to fellow preparator, Sean Cairns, for the finishing touches. Sean’s job is to make the visible parts of the mount disappear. He paints the mount to match the object’s design as closely possible, layering colors and making sure to inspect the piece from multiple viewpoints. When Sean’s work is done, the mount should blend seamlessly with the object.

A good mount maker is a great asset to any museum. Mount making requires skill, talent, and artistic abilities, all of which abound in Russell and Sean. So, when you visit Hopi Visions, please appreciate the objects on display, but then take an extra moment to appreciate the mounts that support the art.

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

Building on Truth

As visitors go through Truth: 24 frames per second, they will notice some truly unique environments that were created just for this exhibition. Some of these works have very specific requirements for how the artist wanted them to be installed; although the film or video is its own type of “world,” the artists are very sensitive to how it is experienced in space. The exhibitions team worked directly with some of the artists to realize very specific visions of built environments.

Ben Rivers drew inspiration from Jake, the subject of his film, who had corrugated metal sheets in various colors on his roof and siding of his “hut.” This shelter in the forest is shown in the film, but as it is black and white, the physical structure in the exhibition brings the playful character of this shelter to life. It has the added benefit of creating a more intimate place to view this voyeuristic narrative. Rivers first provided us with a hand sketch, which I drew up to scale, and we determined that we needed to adjust the size to make it more accessible to all of our visitors. The team built the internal structure out of two by fours, and scouted for used corrugated metal. During the process, the artist decided to mimic the colors of Jake’s roof instead of the patina on the metal, so we ended up buying corrugated metal sheets and painting them. Seeing the finished piece draw in visitors with its curious color palette and flicker film inside has been a wonderful reward for our hard work on this piece, and Ben Rivers was very pleased with this iteration of his work as well.

Creating an environment around John Gerrard’s Western Flag followed a somewhat similar process, although he has a very involved working studio. They provided us with detailed and precise fabrication specs  to emulate and adapt to our space. The result is a beautifully seamless surface, projected from inside of a cube. The cube appears to float ever so slightly off the floor, which adds to the perfect otherworldliness of the computer-generated reality portrayed in Western Flag.

Discover more about Gerrard’s work from the artist himself during State of the Arts: New Media and the Future of Art on Thursday, January 25, when the artist joins KERA’s Jerome Weeks in conversation with SMU Assistant Professor of Media Arts Amber Bemak.

Skye Malish-Olson is an Exhibition Designer at the DMA.


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