Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category

Writing the Wrong

While museums increasingly take on roles in entertainment and education, they remain, like libraries, stewards of knowledge. However, sometimes this knowledge—what we think of as researched, established fact—is misguided. Admitting you’ve been wrong can be humiliating, yet slip-ups within the museum field encourage humility. Mistakes remind us that correcting, preserving, and adding to the record is, at the end of the day, what museums are called to do.

The blunder in question surrounds the identity of the objects seen in Gerald Murphy’s 1924 painting Razor.

Gerald Murphy Razor

Gerald Murphy, Razor, 1924, oil on canvas, The Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the artist, © Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly, 1963.74.FA

The journey began when Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art, received an email from a concerned fountain pen enthusiast who notified her that the Museum was misinformed about Murphy’s painting. Sue asked me to create a timeline of recorded references to find out when the misinformation began. Then I was asked to search for what may have misled our predecessors and to untangle this 15-plus-year hiccup in the DMA’s records.

For years, the Museum said the razor and pen featured in the painting were modeled after products designed or sold by the Murphy family through their successful storefront, Mark Cross & Co. While it is true that Murphy designed a prototype razor in the mid-1910s that had a short burst of fame from 1912 to 1913, and that his family’s company most likely sold top-of-the-line writing utensils in their luxury goods stores, the razor and pen are NOT Murphy-designed objects. After thorough research, I concluded that years of accidental conflation caused the mix up.

Mark Cross Logo

The Mark Cross logo after its inception in 1845. Gerald Murphy’s father, Patrick Murphy, bought the company in the 1880s, which led to the family’s increasing wealth. © Mark Cross Leathergoods LLC

Murphy confirms the object’s correct identity in his letters with former DMCA director Douglas MacAgy: “The first Gillette razor and the first Parker pen (of red rubber) were real objects (not gadgets) ‘no bigger than a man’s hand.’”

Gerald Murphy letter

A letter from Gerald Murphy to Douglas MacAgy referencing Razor and Watch, another painting by Murphy, 1960, DMA Archives

The object for which Razor takes its name is a Gillette “New Standard” safety razor. This razor featured new technology that increased consumers’ ease of use and overall safety. Fewer shaving cuts? Yes, please! It was the most successful razor during the time of the painting’s creation and reached both American and European markets. By comparing the Mark Cross and Gillette razors below, and looking again at the painting, you can see how the Gillette attribution makes more sense with what Murphy illustrates.

The Parker Pen Company took the American (and later European) markets by storm with its iconic “Big Red” Duofold fountain pen in the early 1920s. Instead of wanting a new Xbox or iPhone as a gift, consumers hoped for a Parker pen.

lucky strike

A 1920s Parker “Lucky Strike” Duofold fountain pen, Courtesy of edgepens on Ebay.com

Why? The pen featured cutting-edge technology, including a leak-proof inkwell system and a durable, strikingly modern red rubber shaft. Murphy’s detailing even alludes to it being not the first version of the pen but the glitzier 1923 version, which included the fashionable “gold girdle,” seen in the advertisement below.

parker ad

1923 Parker advertisement, Courtesy of the-ad-store on Ebay.com

Now to the probable sources of the mix-up: a combination of trying to make the painting more personal to Murphy, plus an unfortunate conflation of similarly named companies. Symbols are always intriguing and tempting for art historians. If Murphy had designed the razor and/or pen, it could be seen as a self-portrait; yet, Razor still can be, despite the objects not being of his design (see Deborah Rothschild’s book Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy).

Additionally, an accidental conflation occurred between the Mark Cross name and the A.T. Cross Company, a popular producer of pens. A.T. Cross bought the Mark Cross company in 1983 (right before the first publication of the misinformation), as referenced on A.T. Cross’s website. Prior to the buyout, Mark Cross was known primarily for its leather goods, not its side hustle of writing accessories. Every source that labels Mark Cross as a pen company and the pen as sold/designed by Mark Cross occurs after this buyout date.

Murphy’s Razor and his dazzling 1925 painting Watch are currently not on view, but be sure to check them out in the DMA’s upcoming exhibition Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art, on view from September 16 through January 6!

Ashton Smyth is the Summer Curatorial Intern for American Art at the DMA.

Shared Trajectories

In spring of 1978, while the artist León Ferrari was in Stockholm, Sweden, his son was disappeared by the military police back in his home country of Argentina. Long suspicious of governmental and religious powers, Ferrari was openly critical of the Argentine dictatorship, and had been living in São Paulo, Brazil, in exile since 1976. His son had stayed behind and was actively engaged in the leftist resistance, ultimately suffering the same fate as 30,000 of his compatriots who were kidnapped and murdered during the country’s decade-long “Dirty War.” Two untitled works on paper recently acquired by the Dallas Museum of Art serve as witness to these important junctures in the artist’s life, and are signed and dated from São Paulo and Stockholm, respectively. Functioning as abstracted letters, they form part of a long-running series Ferrari inaugurated in 1963 with Carta a un general (Letter to a General), in which the artist’s script becomes illegible and morphs into almost Surrealist imagery, calling to mind that movement’s interest in automatic writing and its possibilities.

Runo Lagomarsino, the subject of the DMA’s upcoming Concentrations exhibition EntreMundos, shares a geographic lineage with Ferrari. Lagomarsino was born to Argentine parents who migrated to Sweden during the Dirty War. His grandparents were Italian, as were Ferrari’s parents (up to 62% percent of Argentines are of Italian descent), and both artists have lived and worked in São Paulo. Lagomarsino’s heritage and travels have informed his work, which comments on mass migrations from the colonial period to the present. But their work has more in common than this shared trajectory. Like Ferrari, Lagomarsino renders legible systems illegible, and stable meanings unstable.

4Crucero Del Norte

Runo Lagomarsino, Crucero del Norte , 1976–2012, 24 exposed photographic papers, 7 x 9 1/2 in. (17.8 x 24 cm) each, Collection Lena and Per Josefsson, Stockholm, Photo: Erling Lykke Jeppesen

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Runo Lagomarsino, West Is Everywhere you Look, 2016, 9 maps, motors, cables, and wires, variable dimensions, Courtesy of the artist and Francesca Minini, Milano

In the upcoming exhibition, visitors will encounter maps, like those found in primary school classrooms. Yet these maps are rolled up and closed so that their contents cannot be seen. In other works, photographic paper has been exposed to light so that any imagery is blurred beyond recognition; portmanteaus stamped on a wall create surprising associations. By putting into doubt what is typically taken as factual, Lagomarsino asks us to question our own assumptions and biases, and how these become codified into larger social and political systems. This questioning of the powers-that-be is exactly what drove Ferrari during his long career. These sympathetic artists demonstrate art’s ability to thrive in the space of ambiguity, empowering viewers to create their own interpretations.

Concentrations 61: Runo Lagomarsino, EntreMundos opens on September 30; the exhibition is included in free general admission.

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

Farewell to #LauraOwens

We’ve reached the final weekend of our Laura Owens exhibition, and the whimsy and wonder that lit up our Hoffman Galleries will be fondly missed after its closing day on Sunday, July 29. This exhibition has been inspiring to many, and we can see why; the intricate artworks that represent the artist’s career from the mid-1990s to today include intriguing themes of fantasy, pop culture, nature, technology, and the avant-garde that tie it all together. Exploring Owens’s art was the highlight of many fun spring and summer programs and classes at the DMA, including Arturo’s Art & Me, Family Workshops, and Teen Tours. We also saw incredible new works of art created by visitors to the exhibition, including this vivid poem written by a young poet in The Writer’s Garret‘s summer program “Rail Writers.”

Among the inspiring aspects of this presentation is how delightfully “Instagram-able” it is, allowing viewers to create their own stories around each playful artwork and connect with an even broader audience. Just search the hashtag #LauraOwens and you’ll find a lively array of visitors interacting with Owens’s bold works and becoming part of the art. With bright colors, thickly layered swashes of paint and other mixed media, and untitled works that leave many subjects up to the imagination, these works are all about stimulating and sharing curiosity. Here’s a look back at what a few of our visitors had to say about their experiences:

_.mickelodeon._“Laura Owens is an amazing artist; prior to my venture I hadn’t heard of her. But now, I am a fan.” –@_.mickelodeon._

“Went to see some art without realizing we are the art.” –@ary_balderrama

in_dfwfamily2“Her work is LOUD, quirky, silly, dimensional, full of layers!” –@in_dfwfamily

edithvm“Exhibición de Laura Owens está llena de color y amor” –@edithvm

IMG_E1065“This painting really cat-ures my spirit.” –@kmeansbusinezz

There is still time left for you to share your perspective from this exhibition, whether it’s on social media or through artistic creations of your own. Either way, there is plenty to take away from Owens’s art, and we hope you take the opportunity this weekend to discover what that inspiration looks like for you.

Hayley Caldwell is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA.

Who Are the Guerrilla Girls?

We’re excited to have selections from the Guerrilla Girls’ Portfolio Compleat on view through September 9, 2018, in the Rachofsky Quadrant Gallery. But you might be wondering “who are the Guerrilla Girls” . . .

In their own words:

The Guerrilla Girls are feminist activist artists. Over 55 people have been members over the years, some for weeks, some for decades. Our anonymity keeps the focus on the issues, and away from who we might be. We wear gorilla masks in public and use facts, humor, and outrageous visuals to expose gender and ethnic bias as well as corruption in politics, art, film, and pop culture. We undermine the idea of a mainstream narrative by revealing the understory, the subtext, the overlooked, and the downright unfair. We believe in an intersectional feminism that fights discrimination and supports human rights for all people and all genders. We have done over 100 street projects, posters, and stickers all over the world. . . . We also do projects and exhibitions at museums, attacking them for their bad behavior and discriminatory practices right on their own walls. . . . We could be anyone. We are everywhere. (guerrillagirls.com)

The Portfolio Compleat is a new acquisition to the DMA’s collection. The works span more than two decades, but many of them are now as relevant as ever. Since they started, the Guerrilla Girls have been prolific, accumulating a large catalogue over time. We chose to display the works as you see them below, so that visitors can read a large number of the posters and see the wide reach of their artistic complaints.

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The videos in this space point to issues like the lack of non-male, non-white representation within specific institutions. As a large, encyclopedic museum, the DMA could be listed among the museums under critique. In recent years, our curators have sought to be more inclusive in the works we show and collect. Currently on view are many works and multiple exhibitions by women artists. But, of course, this is an ongoing conversation with a long road ahead.

In the central seating area, we have provided books created by the Guerrilla Girls that are reminiscent of zines. Zines are self-published magazines or artist books associated with niche subcultures that are usually produced via photocopier and distributed for low to no cost. They gained popularity in the US in the 1990s as an artistic expression, but the format has long existed as a method of political dissent.

Many of the Guerrilla Girls’ works and books are available for purchase on the group’s website. They try to make them accessible to typical museum visitors rather than art collectors. This allows their viewers, and anyone who is so inclined, to become an art collector instead of perpetuating a system where the same one percent decide the direction of the art world. According to the group’s website, “Everything you buy supports our efforts to expose discrimination and corruption!”

Zines, posters, and Guerrilla-style videos are something that anyone can create for a relatively low cost. The Guerrilla Girls’ message is all about breaking down barriers to art to show that it can be cheap to create, easy to disseminate, and indiscriminate in whose message is important. This is also why they use the style of street advertising and employ humor and pop culture to get their message across.

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The Guerrilla Girls are now internationally relevant and more active than ever. We are pleased to present this portfolio to the public and encourage its message of thoughtful and critical viewership.

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

As You Wish

The Princess Bride is one of my favorite movies. It has everything a classic fairy tale should—sword fights, castles, intrigue, large rodents, pirates, even (*gasp*) kissing!

Therefore, my excitement knows no bounds as our Second Thursday with a Twist this week is themed As You Wish—a fun night exploring themes between our collection and The Princess Bride.

You’ll be able to watch a fencing demonstration, take a scavenger hunt through the Museum, and listen to actors dramatically read passages from the book.

To prepare you for an inconceivable night, I wanted to share some works of art from our collection that remind me of characters or scenes from the movie:

The Dread Pirate Roberts is swoon-worthy and mysterious—as is Le Captaine.

Debbie Fleming Caffery, Le Captaine, Louisiana, 1995, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of DMA Friends of Photography, 1998.127

The Dread Pirate Roberts first appears at the Cliffs of Insanity, and I always imagine that this painting could have inspired them.

Thomas Cole, The Fountain of Vaucluse, 1841, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of J. E. R. Chilton, 1992.14

Atop the Cliffs of Insanity, the most epic fencing scene takes place, and every time I walk by this painting I think of Inigo Montoya and automatically say “You killed my father, prepare to die!”

Michael Sweerts, Portrait of a Gentleman, possibly a Member of the Deutz Family, 1648–49, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.25

For those who love Fezzik, Untitled (big/small figure) features our resident giant.

Tom Friedman, Untitled (big/small figure), 2004, styrofoam and paint, promised gift of the Dallas Museum of Art Board of Trustees to the Dallas Museum of Art in honor of John Eagle; Dallas Museum of Art through the TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, © Tom Friedman, 2004.33.a-c

One of Fezzik’s memorable lines is “Anybody want a peanut?” So try not to start a rhyming game when you see this gold weight in the Power of Gold exhibition.

Goldweight, Asante peoples, possibly, mid-20th century, brass and copper alloys, Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts, The Alfred and Juanita Bromberg Collection, bequest of Juanita K. Bromberg, 2000.229.86.FA

The battle of wits between Westley and Vizzini brings us another classic scene: “Are you the sort of man who would put the poison into his own goblet or his enemy’s?”

Goblet (one of a pair), George B. Sharp for Bailey & Co., c. 1864, silver, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Jo Kurth Jagoda in memory of Constance Owsley Garrett, 1989.20.2

There are three things to fear in the Fire Swamp, and whenever I see this painting I think if I went just beyond the trees I might step on a fire spurt, fall into some quicksand, or encounter an R.O.U.S.

Narcisse–Virgile Diaz de la Peña, Forest of Fontainebleau, 1868, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, Munger Fund, 1991.14.M

Speaking of R.O.U.S.es—while this rat is not an unusual size, it clearly has no problem attacking a human and eating his nose!

Large jar: figure with rat eating the nose, Moche culture, 400–600 CE, ceramic, slip, and paint, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.116

Killer rodents aside, if you are a fan of TRU WUV be sure to join us on Thursday night!

Stacey Lizotte is the DMA League Director of Adult Programs at the DMA.

Foxes and Fireflies: An Interview with Mel Remmers

When we found local artist Mel Remmers’s Instagram account, we were drawn to her distinct artistic style. With her wide-eyed, emotionally captivating portraiture, witty captions, and some sneak peek shots sprinkled into the mix, she reveals her work and process to her growing following in an engaging and down-to-earth way. Because we noticed elements of fashion, whimsicality, nature, and experimentation with textures and colors in her work, we were eager to invite her to a viewing of our Laura Owens exhibition. Inspired by Owens’s works, the paintings Remmers created welcome you into a fantasy world of their own.

 

Photo Credit: Stevie Hudspeth

Check out our interview with Remmers about her process:

Tell us about yourself as an artist.
In February 2015, I bought a child’s paint set from a grocery store. Seeking to find a creative therapy after battling cancer and needing emotional repair, I posted my first attempt at painting on Instagram and I was shocked and excited by such a positive response. I was hooked! This started Instagram becoming part of the creative process. As my following grew fast, I sold my first painting after four weeks, and as of November 2017 my 400th sold.

My paintings started out as fashion-inspired female figures, and in time I added motion to them. Now I paint portraiture that provokes a mood with either dark shadows or the expressions in the eyes. I am also fascinated by light and have focused periods with black-and-white paintings as well as ink. The majority of my paintings consist of multiple mediums and tools such as gold foil and others as I have discovered them. Hand-painted wallpaper with a nature-inspired theme has become my most requested commission and my new obsession.

What was your first impression of the Laura Owens exhibition?
As I walked into the exhibit, my eyes drew on the immense scale, the bold and playful works. Then as I moved closer I was lost in the details of unexpected elements, heavily sculpted paint textures, and her no-fear use of PINK.

What did you find most inspiring about this exhibition?
Most notably, the grand scale of her work. I have a strong desire to “Go Big”—paint on walls or just use a larger canvas than usual. This connection brought that buzz to continue on that path.

Another inspiring spark was the variance of her work. The abstract collages flowing to whimsical childlike characters of animals was a delightful scene.

I was also thrilled to see her unexpected three-dimensional elements and use of materials like felt, and her beehive painting where it looked like bees were buzzing above the canvas.

What was the painting process for your pieces like?
As I walked away from the exhibit, reflecting and imagining this collaboration, I knew to go with my gut response. Fireflies were my first whisper, and I wanted to play off the forest scene where you find animals peeping throughout the painting.

Since I usually do not plan or sketch, I started with the trees and then water emerged. All of this is evolving while I am filming to Instagram, and my specific music choices have come to set the mood of where I am in the process.

RemmersDMACollection Reflections-1

I am a fast painter so I wanted to be patient and take my time. That equaled four days of nine hours at a time, and that also included a second painting that I felt told more of the story. The water, with its intense color and light reflection of the first painting, became the continuation of the story in the second painting and introduced a new character, the glitter fox.

These paintings are made with acrylics, some oils, chalk, pastel, and ink, and the fireflies are made of tiny crystals and glitter glue.

MelRemmers ForestFinal 1

Remmers GlitterFox1

What elements or themes from Laura Owens’s work did you incorporate into your pieces?
My collaborative theme became nature. I wanted to bring a sense of belonging. I usually focus on a feminine theme, and now she became a living part of it. Her dress inspiration was taken from a large impasto glob from one of Laura’s abstracts that I found crazy good. So her dress looks like a dripping, thick waterfall floating into the water.

Do you have any other takeaways from this experience?
My takeaway is LIMITLESS. In a world where the trending word is “brand,” Laura Owens does not have a limit to her visions or exclusivity. She goes from sky high drawings of cats to a wild abstract collage. Laura’s work has calmed my doubts of risk taking, opened a larger vision, and given my creations a wider world to live in and explore. And, glitter glue IS a medium.

Hayley Caldwell is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA.

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.


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