Archive for July, 2012

Community Connection: Free Association

The current Community Partner Response Installation in the Center for Creative Connections invites visitors to contemplate space in relation to the African American experience.  Titled Free Association and designed by artists associated with the South Dallas Cultural Center, the installation provides a variety of experiences that include sound, poetry, media, and movement while exploring the notion of limitations of space.

South Dallas Cultural Artists. From left: Harold Steward, Patrick Washington, Ava Wilson, Vicki Meek, Michelle Gibson, Malik Dillard.

Collaborators on this project and their areas of expertise include Malik Dillard, media; Michelle Gibson, dance; Vicki Meek, visual; Harold Steward, theater; Patrick Washington, media; and Ava Wilson, poetry.  Read their perspectives on the installation below, along with their free association responses to the words community, creativity, and art.  

Vicki – What was your vision for this project?  Free Association was created around the concept of limited space and how such limitations can either contain you or spur you to stretch beyond them. The general idea was to explore the history of African Americans within the context of this concept, paying close attention to how African Americans have used creativity to transcend societal constrictions. The more specific idea was to explore the performing, visual, literary & media arts as means of expressing the transcendence of limitations.

Inspired by the installation title Free Association, what is the FIRST word or phrase that comes to mind when you read the following terms?

Community = Essential
Creativity = Boundless
Art = Life 

Harold – How did you integrate theater with the other components of the installation?
More than theater, I was working with some of the components of performance studies. In particular, I wanted to look at the ways in which people naturally operate in “open space” and how that differs when space is confined. One of the many attributes of people of African descent is that we have historically found ways to work within the confines forced upon us when we are taken outside of the continent of Africa, and held on to some cultural traditions while creating new ones in very limited physical and sociological spaces.  The guiding question I had was, “What cultural practices and survival techniques did descendants of Africa keep or create once they arrived on the American shore, and where do they intersect?” The workshop that I offered in conjunction with the installation used Theater of the Oppressed games to cause the participants to be conscience of things that they feel, hear, and see, and the effect these things have on the individual or groups of people when they go unrecognized.

Community = Web- to destroy the community you destroy the web, to build a community you build the web
Creativity = Kuumba –The Kwanzaa principles that demands that we leave our community better than we found it
Art = Knowing what beauty to keep and what issues to call out

Ava – How did you connect poetry to the ideas of free association and space?
The written word is very powerful.  Through the use of several literary devices – metaphor, allusion, symbolism, etc. –  tethered specifically by imagery, I wanted to allow the reader to visualize what enslavement may have been like.  I wanted to create a “free association”, if you will, for the reader.  As for space, I wanted the taut nature of the language and the use of references to shape and dimension to show the vastness of the universe and in the African world in contrast to the narrowness that was the dungeons, slave ships, and realities that the African faced in the west.

Community = Family
Creativity = Spirituality
Art = Life

Patrick – How did you use media to enhance the installation?
We used digital photography, streaming video feed, and an electronic music production program to enhance our installation.

Community =  UNITY
Creativity = ART
Art = LIFE

Malik – How did the use of media enhance the installation? I feel that the media side of the installation creates interaction and gives a great visual for dance instruction.

Community = People coming together
Creativity = Music/Art
Art = Dance/Spoken Word/ Music

Explore Free Association and your own creative responses in the Center for Creative Connections through October 12.

Melissa Nelson
Manager of Teaching in the Community

Going for Gold

If you’re anything like me, you will be spending the next few weeks glued to your television watching the 2012 Summer Olympics. The Olympic Games has this incredible ability to put our regular day-to-day life on hold in a way that no other event can. It is a time-honored event that has survived depressions, recessions, international conflicts, and wars and for two weeks every two years the many people in our world come together to celebrate their countries’ athletic abilities and successes while displaying enthusiastic patriotism that tends to dissipate in the weeks following the Closing Ceremonies.

The Olympic Games is more than an international sporting event, however, since its inception, it has celebrated the arts as well. In the early years of the modern Games there was a regular art competition component. According to the founder, French Baron, Pierre de Coubertin, the ideal Olympians were men who were “educated in both mind and body” and he desired to combine both art and sport in the Olympic Games. From 1912 to 1952, medals were awarded for works of art inspired by sport in the categories of architecture, literature, music, painting, and sculpture. Only two competitors in those forty years achieved Olympic medals in both sport and art competitions, including American, Walter W. Winans for his sculpture, An American Trotter.

Walter Winans, “An American Trotter,” 1912, bronze, Collection: Idrottsmuseet i Malmö, Sweden.

The 1948 Summer Olympics in London marked the final year for the Olympic art competitions. The juried competitions ended because the participating artists were considered to be professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs.

Although the medal events were abandoned, the Olympic Games still have an artistic component today through the Cultural Olympiad. This summer’s Games include extensive cultural offerings across the British Isles with the London 2012 Festival. Spectators at the games will also find themselves surrounded by art of all kinds; the Olympic Park has integrated a diverse range of commissioned art pieces into the British architecture and engineering of the Park.

Monica Bonvicini, “Run,” 2012, glass and stainless steel, London.

During the day, the letters of Monica Bonvicini’s Run act as mirrors, reflecting visitors and their surroundings. At night, they become transparent and glow thanks to internal LED lights. To view all of the commissioned pieces, visit Art in the Park’s page.

My favorite of the pieces is Julius Popp’s “bit.fall” waterfall installation.  Placed under a bridge over the Waterworks River, the waterfall uses a sophisticated pump system that recycles water from the river into the water sculpture.

Julius Popp, “bit.fall,” 2012, temporary installation in the Olympic Park.

Using software developed by Popp, the waterfall creates a continuous cascade of words that are widely used in live news feeds. One of the neat things about this technology is that the words are constantly changing.  No day is like the last.  The end result is a beautiful and spectacular visual experience. To get a better grasp on this work I consulted a short documentary on Popp. See it here on YouTube. 

After the Closing Ceremony on August 12, keep the Olympic spirit strong by reading Chris Cleave’s new novel, Gold. The bestselling author of Little Bee, Cleave’s new book focuses on two athletes and how they traverse the shifting sands of ambition, loyalty, and love on the eve of their last Olympics. On Tuesday, October 9, Chris Cleave will be appearing at the Dallas Museum of Art in a special Arts & Letters Live event. For more information and to purchase tickets, please visit our website.

Hayley Dyer is the Audience Relations Coordinator for Programming at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Friday Photos: Plumed Serpent

One of the most important ancient Mesoamerican gods was Quetzalcoatl, a celestial deity who took the form of a feathered snake and ruled over the wind. One myth recounts that he created the earth’s current race of people by bleeding onto the bones of the previous generation.

Relief Depicting Face of Quetzalcoatl, Mexico, Aztec, AD 1400–1521, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City (10-81787)

Bust of Quetzalcoatl, Mexico, Aztec, AD 1300–1521, Trustees of the British Museum, London, Ethno. 1825.12-10.11

Turquoise-mosaic Disk with plumed serpent design, Mexico, Yucatán, Chichen Itza, Maya, AD 900–1200, Museo Nacional de Antropología, Mexico City (10-9649)

Find out more about Quetzalcoatl in The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico, which opens this weekend with a FREE sneak preview on Saturday, during WFAA Family First Day.

Sarah Coffey
Assistant to the Chair of Learning Initiatives

Seldom Scene: Scaled Down

The new DMA exhibition Variations on Theme: Contemporary Art 1950s–Present explores themes and ideas that drive an artists’ creative process. With this concept in mind, the Contemporary Art Department thought it would be the perfect opportunity to share one way that curators tap into their own creative processes when developing a new exhibition – by using a scale model. Curators use scale models much like they would a doll house, to rationalize the gallery space in accordance with the placement of the art objects. Variations on Theme is installed in the gallery spaces known as the Barrel Vault and Quadrant Galleries, which are roughly 11,500 square feet. DMA carpenter Dennis Bishop constructed a wooden model of these galleries with a scale of 1:24 (one half-inch equals one foot). The objects in Variations on Theme are of various sizes and mediums and are complicated to install, so in order to visualize how certain works might look next to one another DMA exhibitions intern Jasmine Shevell created maquettes of each work that are proportional to the scale model of the exhibition space. Once each object is set into place, the design model is shared with our talented exhibitions team, registrar, and preparators, who bring the curator’s model to life!
Variations on Theme is on view at the Dallas Museum of Art until January 27, 2013.

Meg Smith is a Curatorial Administrative Assistant at the Dallas Museum of Art. Photography is by Adam Gingrich, the Marketing Administrative Assistant at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Texas Late Night

Howdy, y’all! This past Friday, the DMA showed folks a rootin’ tootin’ good time at our Late Night celebration of the Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas exhibition. With a theme as big as Texas, you can bet that there was lots to do here at the Museum. With live folk bands playing in the Atrium Cafe and in the galleries, visitors could hear old-time, toe-tapping, traditional Texas music almost anywhere they went. Adult crowds could be seen gathering for tours of the exhibition and  surrounding the watercolor demonstrations led by artist Scott Winterrowd. Lectures, talks, and films throughout the night also kept the adults scurrying from one program to the next. Families had a rip-roaring time in the Center for Creative Connections studio constructing their own Dallas building to contribute to a three-dimensional city skyline. Also in C3, kids created Texas-inspired bandanas and participated in Yoga for Kids. To get a peek at all the festivities, check out the slide show below.
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One of my favorite moments from the night was bumping into a family I had taught during a Go van Gogh Summer Library Program. When I stumbled upon them, they were in C3 doing yoga and discussing what kind of building they would create in the studio. They excitedly told me all about going into the Flower of the Prairie: George Grosz in Dallas exhibition to see all of the works of art we had talked about during the Impressions of Dallas library program. “They know everything!” the kid’s impressed dad exclaimed. It is always a joy to see familiar faces in the Museum. To learn a little more about the Go van Gogh Library Program, check out Amy’s blog post from last week. Every participant receives a free family pass, which you could use at the next Late Night on August 17.

What was your favorite moment from the Late Night?

Hannah Burney
Go van Gogh Programs Assistant

Seldom Scene: Load Three Tons and What Do You Get?

We have been receiving and unpacking crates for a couple of weeks in preparation for the opening of The Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico on Sunday, July 29. This exhibition contains a number of works weighing hundreds of pounds, including a sculpture of sandaled feet weighing more than three tons, so we brought in some extra equipment and helping hands to assist in the installation process, which you can see below. Join us this Saturday, July 28, for a free sneak peek of the exhibition (normally $14) during the WFAA Family First Day from 11:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.

Photography by Adam Gingrich, Administrative Assistant for Marketing and Communications

Collection Connections: Jersey Boys

I adore spending my day at the Dallas Museum of Art. But in the evenings, I also love exploring beyond the museum’s perimeters and checking out what our neighbors in the Dallas Arts District are up to. Last week, I thoroughly enjoyed swaying along to Can’t Take My Eyes Off You, Walk Like a Man, and some of my other favorite songs during Jersey Boys at the AT&T Performing Arts Center. I thought about the legacy of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Their music and lyrics are everywhere!  I started to think about where we could find a little bit of Jersey Boys in our collection…

  • Robert Rauschenberg, Skyway, 1964, Dallas Museum of Art, The Roberta Coke Camp Fund, The 500, Inc., Mr. and Mrs. Mark Shepherd, Jr. and General Acquisitions Fund

While I was not alive during the 1960s, Jersey Boys transports you back in time, immersing the audience in the dynamic, diverse, and high-energy culture of 1960s America. In the same way, Skyway is a giant collage of imagery representing 1960s American culture.

  • George A. Tice, Houses and Watertowers, New Jersey, 1973, Dallas Museum of Art, Polaroid Foundation grant

This photograph reminds me of the New Jersey neighborhood of Frankie’s childhood from which Frankie was so determined to escape. In Jersey Boys, Frankie’s buddy and fellow Season says, “If you’re from my neighborhood, you got three ways out. You could join the army. You could get mobbed up. Or,you could become a star.”

  • Robert Morris, Untitled, 1965-66, Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund and matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts

The concept of gestalt refers to a structure composed of individual parts that cannot be expressed in terms of those parts. (A song, for example cannot be recognized as a list of it individual notes.) Gestalt is important in understanding Morris’ sculpture. In this work, two semi-circles together create a full circle. Gestalt also relates to the success of the Four Seasons: their working-class roots, their resolve to leave New Jersey, Bob Gaudio’s songwriting skills, and Frankie Valli’s unique voice.

  • Josef Albers, Homage to the Square: Straight,1962, Dallas Museum of Art, bequest of Louise W. Kahn and Edmund J. Kahn

The clean lines and strict geometry of Albers’ Homage to the Square: Straight reminds me of the Four Seasons’ clean-cut stage appearances: clean-shaven, slick-back hair,  matching suits and ties, and perfectly in-sync dance moves. Homage to the Square was also painted the same year that the Frankie Valli and Four Seasons came to fame.

  • Bruce Nauman, Perfect Door/Perfect Odor/Perfect Rodo, 1972, Dallas Museum of Art, General Acquisitions Fund, The 500, Inc., Dorace M. Fichtenbaum, Deedie and Rusty Rose, an anonymous donor, the Friends of Contemporary Art and a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in honor of Sue Graze

Many scenes in the Act I take place in seedy lounges and clubs where Frankie and his band mates performed. Neon signage is often the focal point of the set design, referencing the dark and smoky atmospheres of such places. A play-on-words, Perfect Door/ Perfect Odor/ Perfect Rodo, radiates a similar vibe.

Andrea V. Severin
Coordinator of Teaching Programs


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