Posts Tagged 'Dallas Museum of Art'



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.

Contemporary Additions

With 93 exhibitors, the 2018 Dallas Art Fair left no dearth of fantastic work to purchase through the Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisition program. For the Dallas Art Fair’s 10th anniversary, and the third year the DMA has participated in this exciting partnership, the contemporary collection gained eight new works by seven artists. This year, perhaps more than ever, we are reminded how much representation matters. The curatorial team (Anna Katherine Brodbeck, me, and the McDermott Intern for Contemporary Art Elise Armani), under the leadership of our Director, Agustín Arteaga, used the funds this year to select works that further diversify the contemporary collection. The artists range in age and background as well as the variety of mediums that they use.

Brie Ruais’s large wall-based ceramic was created from the same amount of clay as the artist’s own body weight. In her process-driven practice, Ruais spreads and molds the clay with her hands and feet, marks still evident once the pieces are partially glazed and fired. The DMA’s holdings in contemporary ceramics do not quite reflect the multitude of ceramic work being produced today, and we felt that this work was a striking addition to demonstrate the use of the medium expanded beyond traditional forms.

Brie Ruais, Broken Ground Red (130 lbs of clay spread out from center), 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Albertz Benda [image source: brieruais.com].

In Sanford Biggers’s Sirroco from 2016, the artist repurposes an antique quilt to use as the substrate of this incredible painting. Interested in the inherent geometry and varying textures of the quilts, Biggers references a historical, though unproven, narrative that on the Underground Railroad quilts were used as signposts to guide escaping slaves. Sanford Biggers is a cousin of the painter John Biggers (1924-2001), who is already represented in the DMA’s collection. Acquiring Sanford Biggers’s work provides a great opportunity to explore artistic lineages and make connections between generations.

Sanford Biggers, Sirroco, 2016. Courtesy of Massimo De Carlo Milan | London |Hong Kong [image source: massimodecarlo.com].

This was also the first year we purchased from a local gallery, and we were pleased to select Alicia Henry’s mixed-media work Untitled, 2017, from Liliana Bloch Gallery here in Dallas. In this portrait of a man, Henry uses stitched thread and ink to comment on identity and notions of beauty. Some of the marks appear, hauntingly, like scars and allude to some form of violence previously endured. With this truly powerful work, we further expand our holdings by contemporary African American artists.

Alicia Henry, Untitled, 2017. Courtesy of the artist and Liliana Bloch Gallery [image source: lilianablochgallery.com].

In addition to the works above, we are pleased to have also acquired Matthew Ronay’s sculpture Condition, 2018; Tony Lewis’s drawing Nes, 2018; two gelatin silver prints from Geraldo de Barros’s series Fotoformas Sao Paulo, 1949/2008; and Shara Hughes’s painting Gusto, 2018. It is difficult not to write about every work since they all bring something unique to the conversation. I encourage anyone interested in these acquisitions to visit the gallery websites to learn more about the artists.

Thank you to the generous donors to the Dallas Art Fair Foundation Acquisition program for their time and enthusiasm in making these acquisitions happen!

Chelsea Pierce is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant for Contemporary Art 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.

Cultural Exchange in Asante History

Cultural exchange takes many forms, historically ranging from forced interaction in war, colonization, slavery, and looting, to the peaceful sharing of items, ideas, and practices. With this nuanced transformation of “cultural exchange” over time, I’d like to offer a sneak peek into the abundance of it in the DMA’s upcoming exhibition, The Power of Gold: Asante Royal Regalia from Ghana. The Asante still exist today with many traditions and international influences, so I hope you recognize a few in the show.

A subgroup of the Akan peoples, the Asante established their empire (1701-1957) in modern-day Ghana. Especially after the 14th century, trans-Saharan trade increased interaction between the Akan in West Africa and Arab and Berber merchants of the Middle East and North Africa, who brought not only salt in exchange for gold, but also the Arabic language and Islamic aesthetic, too. Compare this 12th century Iranian inkwell to this Asante casket kuduo:

Shared elements include the brass material, structural shape, and various etchings decorating the surfaces. Function differed according to needs and tastes: the inkwell for writing, and the kuduo for storing gold dust and nuggets. Calligraphy encircles the inkwell lid, yet also seems to be absorbed into the body of the kuduo, alongside medallions and floral motifs. The Asante found inspiration in Islamic art and calligraphic linearity, mixing a love of geometric patterns with newly adapted horizontal bands of sectioned patterns. These abstract qualities may then illustrate Asante reflections on their past and contemporary sights, in hopes of replicating imagery seen on merchants’ goods, since Islamic influence remained strong throughout the centuries.

Muslims were not the only ones to influence Asante cultural production; 19th century colonizers also imparted their imagery on West Africa. The Asante have a wide array of traditional proverbs and imagery that form the “verbal-visual nexus.” This link probably developed alongside Akan hierarchies, so that royal regalia and materials could help visibly demonstrate the grandeur of kingship. Visible signs range from items like books and foodstuffs, to animals such as porcupines, crocodiles, and leopards.

Proverbs describe aspects of life that can be understood as advice or lessons for the community. Here’s one: “When rain beats on a leopard it wets him, but it does not wash out his spots.” In terms of the leopard’s spots being washed away, this may reference the careful attention a king gives to his character, so as not to ruin his reputation in the kingdom. The British Empire brought with them to Ghana their royal coat of arms, which is thought to have popularized the lion in Asante art. Representations of the Asantehene (ruler, king) thus shifted from the leopard to the lion, as seen in this proverb: “A dead lion is greater than a living leopard.” So, even stemming from colonial presence, we see the Asante adopting desirable foreign elements and making them their own.

Sword ornament in the form of a lion, Asante peoples, Ghana, Africa, c. mid-20th century, cast gold and felt, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc. 2010.2.McD

A final example of exchange can be found in our very own backyard. In 1991, Nana Lartey Kwaku Esi II, the crowned head of the Asona (another subgroup of the Akan), enstooled four African Americans in Dallas, bringing Ghanaian royalty to the Metroplex. The enstooled are tasked with disseminating a love of the homeland and possess some of their own royal regalia, including gilded hats and footwear and kente cloths. In addition to sharing uplifting words, such as “we are all one human being under God,” Nana Lartey Kwaku Esi II sought to ensure that African culture, in a Ghanaian context, was shared with those in the U.S. that wish to reclaim their roots. These actions demonstrate the depth and spread of cultural influence in our country and prove that the Asante not only have a living culture, but also ideas worth spreading.

To learn more about the Asante, check out these resources:

  • Doran H. Ross, The Arts of Ghana (Regents of the University of California: Los Angeles, 1977), 9-10.
  • Robert Sutherland Rattray, Ashanti Proverbs: The Primitive Ethics of a Savage People (Clarendon Press: London, 1916), 63.
  • Doran Ross, Gold of the Akan from the Glassell Collection (Merrell Publishers, 2003), 67.
  • James D. Webster, Dallas Weekly, Ghana to Dallas: A Royal Exchange is Coming to America (Oct. 10-16, 1991), 13.
  • Raymond A. Silverman, Akan Transformations: Problems in Ghanaian Art History, edited by Doran H. Ross and Timothy F. Garrard (Regents of the University of California: Los Angeles, 1983).

Tayana Fincher is the McDermott Intern for African Art at the DMA.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody

This week the prep team installed a pastel by artist Edgar Degas (1834-1917) in the European Art galleries for a special viewing through April 15. Ballet Dancers on the Stage joins two other pieces by Degas currently on view—a bronze sculpture titled The Masseuse, and a small etching, Dancer on Stage, Taking a Bow. Works on paper like Ballet Dancers on the Stage require long periods of rest in between exhibitions to preserve their light-sensitive materials, so it is always exciting when they go on view.

Edgar Degas, Ballet Dancers on the Stage, 1883, Pastel on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. And Mrs. Franklin B. Bartholow, 1986.277

Edgar Degas, The Masseuse, 1896-1911, Bronze, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc., 1965.26.McD

Edgar Degas, Dancer on Stage, Taking a Bow, 1891-1892, Aquatint and soft-ground etching on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. And Mrs. Alfred L. Bromberg, 1956.83

Edgar Degas was a French artist working in the second half of the 19th century who has become well-known for his paintings and pastels of ballet dancers. It is important to note that while Degas focused on the subject of ballet for over twenty years, he was interested in depicting many aspects of modern life. The DMA’s collection includes seven works by Degas with subjects ranging from ballerinas and bathers to an opera singer and a masseuse.

Dated 1883, Ballet Dancers on the Stage is a later work that reflects his involvement with the Impressionist group and his interest in Japanese woodblock prints.

Here are a few things to look for when you see the pastel in person:

• Try to count how many complete or partial ballerinas are in this scene and which arms go with each figure. Notice how Degas used brown outlines to define the forms of dancers’ bodies and costumes in the foreground, but he abandoned these outlines in the background and the figures lose clarity. Everything from the pastel’s sketch-like finish, to its varied levels of focus, and its jam-packed composition communicate that this is a fleeting moment of action. Similar to the experience of attending a ballet, we only get the finer details of the dancer who is closest to us.

• It looks like we are viewing the dancers from above and to the right, and within close range. This scene is from the perspective of an abonné or season ticket holder, who would have been seated in a box to the side of the stage. Abonné are supporters of the ballet who Degas sometimes portrayed as men in top hats.

• Notice how Degas has created an asymmetrical composition by tightly grouping the dancers in the upper right section of the paper while leaving the lower left corner open. Beginning in the 1850s Japanese woodblock prints were imported into Europe and they served as inspiration for many artists including Degas. Traditionally, Japanese woodblock artists create asymmetrical, diagonal compositions in which the vantage point off to one side rather than straight on. This 1834 print by Ando Hiroshige, Shono: A Rain Shower, is an example of a 19th-Century Japanese woodblock like those Degas might have seen. Notice the similarities in how these two artists have constructed their scenes.

Edgar Degas, Ballet Dancers on the Stage, 1883, Pastel on paper, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mrs. And Mrs. Franklin B. Bartholow, 1986.277
Ando Hiroshige, Shono: A Rain Storm, 1834, Woodblock print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Stanley Marcus, 1984.202.46

• The light source appears to be coming from the bottom left, presumably from gas foot lamps lining the edge of the stage. Notice how the lower left corner is lighter and the areas of the ballerinas’ bodies directly facing that corner have strong highlights.

• Degas was a master at using pastels to layer color. Here he uses the color of the paper as the shading for his figures and layers colors like white, blue, pink and yellow to create depth. His repetition of the color yellow in particular carries your eye through the entire scene.

Don’t miss your chance to see this object in person. It will be on view through April 20 and is included in the Museum’s free general admission.

Jessie Frazier is Manager of Adult Programming 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.


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