Archive for December, 2009

Teaching Programs goes to Houston

Last Saturday the Teaching Programs Department travelled to Houston to visit the Menil Collection, the Rothko Chapel, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Although we were unable to spend any time in the Rothko Chapel since a concert was in progress, we were fortunate enough to see the Dan Flavin Installation at Richmond Hall as well as the Cy Twombly Gallery (my personal favorite). Here are some snapshots from our trip.

Logan Acton
McDermott Intern in Teaching Programs

A view of the Menil Collection

Shannon and me outside the Menil

Cy Twombly Gallery

Molly and me outside the Twombly Gallery

A beautiful shot outside the Dan Flavin Installation

Molly, me and Amy walking to our next stop

Hoffman Galleries Reinstalled

Charlie Wylie, the Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art, recently completed his reinstallation of the Hoffman galleries on the first floor of the museum. The installation addresses narrative in contemporary art, specifically the “continuing ability of art in whatever form to express narratives of what it can feel like to be alive in the present moment,” as the wall text states. The reinstallation features such artists as Peter Doig and Marlene Dumas, both notable for their recent inclusion at TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art, the annual charity auction held at The Rachofsky House benefiting amfAR (The Foundation for AIDS Research) and the Dallas Museum of Art.

In addition to these painters and work by many other artists, the galleries currently contain installations by Tatsuo Miyajima and Erick Swenson, mixed media work by Vernon Fisher, and photographs by Matthew Barney and Gregory Crewdson. Both Barney and Crewdson also have work in All the World’s a Stage, another special exhibition on view at the DMA. Barney’s photographs (and other mixed media works) reference a series of five films of enormous scope called The Cremaster Cycle, quite specifically referencing narrative. Crewdson’s art, on the other hand, centers around the idea of open or false narratives but evokes similar feelings of theatricality. Crewdson himself says, “And what I’m very, very interested in is a moment that hovers between before and after, a moment that is unresolved, that remains a question…”

Untitled (House in the Road)

To achieve this suspended moment, clear in both Untitled (brief encounter) and Untitled (House in the Road), Crewdson literally constructs his scenes, utilizing stage crews and props to form the subject matter which he then photographs. Tension plays a large part in his artwork, both literally for the artist through his chaotic process of realizing these staged spectacles as well as for the viewer stepping into enormously detailed scenes with no frame of reference beyond the image itself.

If you’d like to get a closer look at Gregory Crewdson’s artwork, in addition to the other works on view at the DMA and The Rachofsky House, sign up for our two-part January Teacher Workshop on Contemporary Art!

Logan Acton
McDermott Intern in Teaching Programs

Interview with a…Preparator!

There are many different positions here at the Dallas Museum of Art. Since there is always something exciting going on at the Museum, we thought it would be interesting to begin a series of staff interviews with members of other departments.

Installation of Semiramis, by Henry Wetmore Story, 1872-73

The below interview was conducted with Vince Jones, Head Preparator. He graciously answered questions related to his job.  I hope you find this as interesting as I do!

Amy Wolf
Teaching Programs Coordinator

1. Name and Title:  Vincent Jones……..Head Preparator

2. Years Employed at the Dallas Museum of Art:  14

3.  Describe your job as  a preparator in an art museum:  The essential job of a preparator is to safely handle the artworks that are permanently acquired and/or on loan to the Museum.  For obvious reasons, this job position is also referred to as an “art handler”.  The word “preparator” refers directly to the tasks of moving and installing (or “preparing”) artworks as part of an exhibition.  Subsequently, when an artwork is not on view, then it is placed (or “prepared”) in museum storage or returned to its lender.  Every day at the DMA, preparators like myself move artworks in and out of storage to be installed, photographed, or examined by other museum staff such as registrars and conservators.  It is the preparator’s job to know how to perform these duties patiently and with the utmost care to the objects. 

4.  What is your favorite part of your job?  A favorite part of my job is the opportunity to handle and closely inspect works of art that, for whatever reason, have some special meaning to me.  It feels like an honor in a way, and that is certainly a rewarding experience.  The Portrait Vase of Mme. Schuffenecker by Paul Gauguin is a piece in the DMA’s collection that comes to mind.  If I saw this artwork in another museum, I’d be thinking how weird and beautiful and odd it is; well, working here, I get the chance to pick it up occasionally.
Another favorite aspect is the opportunity to work with contemporary artists who come to the Museum to oversee or install their artwork.  Working with the artist Richard Tuttle several years ago is still a favorite highlight of mine.  I am a big fan of his art, so watching him handle and talk about his own work was a treat.

5. What is a challenge that you face in your job?  For me, one of the most interesting challenges of being a preparator is the continual re-thinking of how we move and install various heavy, complicated, or fragile artworks.  The large marble sculpture Semiramis by William Wetmore Story and Matthew Barney’s The Cloud Club are examples that have required this consideration.  We have successfully installed both works several times now, but inevitably we say to each other, “This technique works, but if we reconfigured the platform a bit or bought an additional piece of equipment next time, the installation would be even better”.  By better, I mean less stressful and safer for the object and the preparators.

6. How did you decide you wanted to work in a museum?  I can remember as a kid going to a museum in Wisconsin and seeing an installation entitled “Streets of Old Milwaukee” (or something to that effect).  It was essentially a life-sized (or at least to a kid) re-creation of a turn-of-the-century downtown “scene” at night.  It had real brick streets and wooden sidewalks that you walked on, and there were many shops to peer in and see fake people selling candy or cutting hair.  Anyhow, what struck me the most at the time were the trees.  They seemed very life-like and one was particularly huge, and I remember looking at these on several occasions and being fascinated by how they were made and how they came to be there.  Well, now I think I know the “how’s and why’s” of the artificial trees but that place and experience made a big impression.  I’ve always liked going to museums (mostly natural history), but once I became interested in making art myself and became educated about fine art, I liked those museums as well.  At one point I just thought, “Wow, this would be a cool place to work”.  I’ve worked at museums for 20 or so years now and have been very happy with that decision. 

7. If you weren’t working here at the Museum, what is something else you would be doing?  That’s a good question.  I guess I would try devoting more time to making my own artwork.  Also, I have secretly always wanted to drive one of those big bulldozers at a landfill.  Seriously.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

On Wednesday I visited Lenore Kirk Hall Elementary with Go van Gogh, teaching Stories in Art.  We were following clues to discover the identity of Thomas Sully’s Cinderella.  Sully’s painting shows a beautiful woman, meek and mild, wearing long, flowing robes.  She reclines in a rustic setting, attending her cat.  I thought my clues had us on the right track—she has mean sisters, she does chores all day—but since kids will always surprise you, and have imaginations you can never account for, a student’s response caught me off guard.  “It’s Mary!”  The cat (↓) had my tongue.

Thomas Sully, Cinderella

Duccio di Buoninsegna, The Nativity with the Prophets Isaiah and Ezekial

Justin Greenlee

Learning Partnerships Intern

TAG, You're It!

One of the DMA’s longest running partnerships is with Dallas ISD’s Talented and Gifted (TAG) program.  For the past 21 years, 4th – 6th grade students explore works of art from all times and places through interactive experiences like dramatic interpretation, debate, writing, and sketching.  Since 2000, each visit focuses on a BIG Idea question like “How is a work of art powerful?,” “How is place important?, ”How is perspective used in works of art?,” and “What do works of art tell us about the past, present, and future?”   These open-ended questions support a variety of answers which may relate to students’ life experiences and prior knowledge.

Students from Botello Elementary create verb sculptures using words (i.e. symmetry) that Richard Serra may have used to create his sculptures. They looked Richard Serra's "Untitled" for inspiration.

This year, like the many years before, has been fantastic!  There are 20 schools participating in this four-visit program with two Museum visits and two classroom visits.  Each of these visits lasts for 2 hours and are led by docents and Museum staff.  The TAG teachers commit to having the same 20-25 students participate in the program and it is exciting to see the student’s growth with each visit as they think critically and share creative answers to these BIG Idea questions.

The fall semester began in the classroom with “What does it mean to be an art investigator?,” which focused on looking closely and investigating visual clues in portraits and landscapes, creating verb-inspired sculptures using modeling material, and making connections between music and Claude-Joseph Vernet’s painting, Mountain Landscape with Approaching Storm.

Students from Reinhardt Elementary used their arms and hands to mimic similar gestures expressed in Jackson Pollock's "Portrait and a Dream" and Franz Kline's "Slate Cross."

During Visit 2, students considered the question “How are emotions and gestures expressed in works of art?” as they posed like figures in works of art featured in the All the World’s a Stage exhibition, explored the expressive and emotive qualities of line and color, and created a sequence of events based on contemporary photography by artists, Charlie White and Gregory Crewdson.

The BIG Ideas for the final two visits are “What are ways cultures can influence each other?” and “What are the connections between art, music, dance, and theater?”   Be sure to look for an update about the TAG Museum program when I blog about the visits later in the spring!

Until next time…

Jenny Marvel
Manager of Learning Partnerships with Schools

Coming Soon: The Lens of Impressionism

Last week, while spending Thanksgiving with my family in Michigan, I convinced my sister to drive me to Ann Arbor to visit The University of Michigan Museum of Art. I love the UMMA and always look for any excuse to visit when I am home, but this time I had a special assignment. I was there to do background research as we plan tours, teacher workshops, and online teaching materials for The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850—1874, an exhibition that will open at the DMA on February 21, 2010.

The Lens of Impressionism at The University of Michigan Museum of Art

The Lens of Impressionism is a great exhibition for teaching about artistic process—you can look at images of the same stretch of coastline and compare what painters and photographers are choosing to include in their compositions. To me, the highlight of the exhibition was seeing a handful of original paper negatives, dating to the 1850s. I can’t even begin to imagine how hard it would be to preserve a paper negative for 150 years. The negatives were displayed in lightboxes next to contemporary prints made from the negatives. They provide a great tool for teaching about photography and making photographic prints—something students may not know about in our digital age.

One of my favorite paintings from the Detroit Institute of Arts is in the exhibition—Edouard Manet’s On the Beach (Sur la plage)—and I can’t wait until it arrives in Dallas and I can visit it whenever I like. However, I think I may have a new favorite painting: Eugène Boudin’s Bathing Time at Deauville, from the National Gallery of Art. Men and women visit the beach dressed in their Sunday best—it’s definitely very different from what we wear to the beach today! I also love the horses and dogs that stand on the shore, and I think this will be a fun painting to explore with students on tours.

We will be offering a variety of programs for students and teachers relating to The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850—1874, including an Evening for Educators on February 23, 2010. Visit our website for additional information on tours and teacher workshops, and be sure to check back in February for a new set of online teaching materials.

Me, outside of the UMMA

Shannon Karol
Tour Coordinator

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