Archive for August, 2020

The Figures Behind “Hands of the Heroes”

The brooches in Kiff Slemmons Hands of the Heroes series, part of the exhibition Contemporary Art + Design: New Acquisitions, are each inspired by historical figures. Browse our round-up of interactive materials below to help you become familiar with the heroes represented and their historical significance.

Kiff Slemmons, Hands of the Heroes, 1987–1991, silver, ebony and mastodon ivory, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Deedie Potter Rose; TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund for Wearable Art, 2020.12.1-12

Harry Houdini

Jacques Cousteau

Marie Curie

Marco Polo III

Don Quixote

Glenn Gould

Roald Amundsen

Louis Leakey II

Fred Astaire

Emily Dickinson

Stephen Jay Gould

Joseph Cornell

Tracy Hicks’s “Freedman’s Field”

Tracy Hicks was a beloved figure in the Dallas arts community when he passed away in 2014 at the age of 68. Having myself moved to the city only in January 2017, I never got a chance to meet him, but his reputation soon reached me as I attempted to immerse myself in the local arts scene. Hicks was a foundational figure in Dallas, where he had lived since he was a toddler, before ultimately moving with his wife, journalist Victoria Loe Hicks, to North Carolina.

In fall 2018, Greg Metz invited me to see a brilliant retrospective of Hicks’s work at UTD’s SP/N Gallery. After walking through several rooms that showcased Hicks’s investigations around the intersection of scientific and archival processes with art, we encountered a light-locked space. Upon turning the corner, Freedman’s Field, a collection of excavated artifacts artfully arranged on a table, lay in resplendent glory. I had known of the work because it was first exhibited at the DMA in 1994 as part of the Encounters series, which keenly paired his work with the YBA artist Damian Hirst.

Tracy Hicks, Freedman’s Field, 1990–94, wood table, pottery shards, broken bottles, old watch parts, fragments of porcelain dolls, coins, buttons, oxidized silverware, and rusted metal, Dallas Museum of Art, Charron and Peter Denker Contemporary Texas Art Fund, 2020.14

Seeing it for the first time in person, after being steeped in the artist’s world and regaled with stories of his life and practice through Professor Metz’s fabulous tour, was a revelatory experience. The intense love and care Hicks had shown for these objects, which were repositories of such an important and lesser-known history of my new hometown, was palpable. I instantly fell for it, and knew it belonged back at the DMA, where it could communicate these local histories to visitors in perpetuity.

Close-up of Freedman’s Field

After that visit, we sought to learn more about the history of Freedman’s Town and its eventual demolition, beautifully explored in scholarship collected in SP/N’s exhibition catalogue, and in a semi-permanent exhibit at Fair Park’s African American Museum. Meanwhile, our collections team got to work learning how to care for such an installation, meeting with those who had cared for it before—including friends Ron Siebler and Nancy Rebal, who had shown the work in a memorial exhibition Rebal organized for Hicks in Corsicana in 2015—and learning firsthand about the myriad of decisions Hicks made in creating the work. As you’ll see, Freedman’s Field is unlike most works you’ll find in an art collection. The typical rules of cataloging just don’t apply here. It is better conceived as an archaeological dig. And Erick Backer, Preparator; Katie Province, Registrar; and Fran Baas, Objects Conservator, bravely undertook the challenge to apply their best professional standards to its care.

Interim Chief Conservator Fran Baas carefully treating the artwork.

The word curator comes from the Latin curare, “to care,” and this work is all about care: the care Hicks showed for the city of Dallas, the care the many local artists we met with showed to Hicks, and our care in honoring those relationships that predated us. My hope is that this work’s testament to that loving care might encourage us to pay closer attention to the world around us so that we can hear the stories it yearns to tell us.

Dr. Anna Katherine Brodbeck is the Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the DMA.

Click here to dive deeper into this piece by watching an excerpt from Ron Siebler’s film Remembering Tracy Hicks.

Artist Interview: Do Ho Suh

Earlier this year, Dr. Vivian Li, the Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art, had the opportunity to interview artist Do Ho Suh, whose work is featured in the exhibition For a Dreamer of Houses. Read excerpts from the interview below about his inspiration and how the pandemic has changed his practice, and click here to read the full interview.

Do Ho Suh, Hub, 260-10 Sungbook-dong, Sungbook-ku, Seoul, Korea, 2016, Polyester fabric and stainless steel, 117 × 102 × 65 in. (2 m 97.18 cm × 2 m 59.08 cm × 1 m 65.1 cm), Dallas Museum of Art, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2019.15. Photo by John Smith.

VL: Many of your fabric pieces are replicas of a specific place you once called home and are often described as such with the precise address as the title. Can you describe the place that inspired Hub, 260-10 Sungbook-dong, Sungbook-ku, Seoul, Korea (2016), and why you selected to make a fabric replica of this particular structure?

DHS: Hub, 260-10 Sungbook-dong, Sungbook-ku, Seoul, Korea is an area of my parents’ home in Seoul, where I grew up. It’s a traditional han ok (Korean house)—a 70s copy of the one King Sunjo (1790–1834) built in the early-nineteenth century because he wanted to experience the life of ordinary people. I’ve continued to stay there whenever I’m back in Seoul so it’s the site of decades of memories for me. I think of the fabric architecture works as, in a sense, an act of shedding skin, slipping out of my clothes and packing them quietly away to unfold elsewhere.

The Hub sculptures are transitional or in-between spaces—corridors, passages, entryways. This one is an area between the bathroom and the living room/bedroom. Traditional Korean architecture is much more porous than in the West—there is less rigidity to the separation of the rooms, and the outside world is much more integrated: sounds travel; doors or windows become walls; you feel the temperature of your external surroundings keenly; the spaces themselves are reconfigured throughout the day and night. That porous quality all feeds into this sculpture and it’s partly why the translucence of the fabric is key. I began using fabric partly because of its affinities with those qualities in Korean architecture and Hub, 260-10 Sungbook-dong is probably the closest one of my Hubs comes to the original structure, because three of the walls are doors and windows covered in rice paper. The transition feels very natural.

Do Ho Suh, Seoul Home/Seoul Home/Kanazawa Home/Beijing Home/Pohang Home/Gwangju Home, 2012-present, Silk and stainless steel tubes, 575 x 285 x 156.5 inches / 1460.5 x 723.9 x 397.5 cm, Installation view, Do Ho Suh: Perfect Home, 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa, Japan, 2012–2013. © Do Ho Suh. Courtesy the artist and Lehmann Maupin, New York, Hong Kong, and Seoul.

VL: How has the pandemic changed your studio practice, or is there anything you have become more focused on lately?

DHS: I keep thinking about what it means if you don’t have somewhere to call home. I first started to consider what home meant when I left Korea and I’ve never stopped, so for me it was something that came into focus when it was challenged. So many people must be struggling with that now. Also how borders—physical, political, social—impact our behaviors. I’m a transnational artist and I’ve benefited from notions of a borderless world, the fluid and constantly moving nature of the cultural sector. What happens to that now? They’re such complex areas though. I’m also thinking a lot about what’s happened in the wake of globalization, and to an extent neoliberalism—all the lost optimism, all the ambitions to build new walls and borders.

In terms of my studio practice, I’m inevitably doing less work on larger-scale physical projects and a lot of thinking around philosophical concerns. Even the fact that I’m spending a lot of time cleaning my apartment – I’m touching and seeing it in different ways and that’s really interesting to me. Looking anew at the objects you unthinkingly interact with on a daily basis. I’m also working a lot with my two young daughters on an ongoing project, but it’s really taken shape during the lockdown. We’ve been building a lot with Legos and whole fantastical worlds of modelling clay. I’m interested in what happens to our psychic space as we age, how the child’s mind works and what imaginative play communicates about how we frame our worlds, how we try and impose order on the chaos and how much better children are at navigating that chaos.


See this work in For a Dreamer of Houses, now open to the public at the Dallas Museum of Art through July 4, 2021. Plan your visit to the DMA and reserve your tickets here.

Reopening Excitement!

Our recent reopening has stirred up great excitement, especially among DMA staff, who are thrilled to be able to welcome you back to your city’s museum! We asked a group of DMA curators to tell us what they are most excited about as the Dallas Museum of Art opens its doors. Read what they had to say.

Dr. Heather Ecker, The Marguerite S. Hoffman and Thomas W. Lentz Curator of Islamic and Medieval Art
One of the joys of working with the Keir Collection is making new discoveries—sitting down with a manuscript or picking up a work in ceramic always feels like an adventure. A scribal note or a design can speak quite directly across geography and time.

Tile, unknown artist, 15th century, red clay with painting in blue and turquoise on a white slip under a transparent glaze, The Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art, K.1.2014.893.1

Julien Domercq, The Lillian and James H. Clark Assistant Curator of European Art
I am thrilled to be able to see real works of art again, and for visitors to be able to enjoy them firsthand in the galleries. There’s just nothing like being able to lose yourself in looking closely at brushstrokes of paint.

Frans Hals, Portrait of Pieter Jacobsz. Olycan, 1629–30, oil on panel, Private Collection, Courtesy of David Koetser Gallery, Zurich

Dr. Vivian Li, The Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art
I love seeing once again Miguel Covarrubias’s Genesis, The Gift of Life, an iconic Museum landmark that has become woven into the fabric of Dallas. Countless families, friends, and young ladies in their spectacular quinceañera dresses have captured beautiful memories in front of it.

Miguel Covarrubias, Genesis, The Gift of Life, about 1954, tempera on cardboard laid on panel, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Jorge Baldor, 2019.60

Dr. Anna Katherine Brodbeck, Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art
I am excited to return to For a Dreamer of Houses, an exhibition that was installed but never opened to the public before August 14. The Rubber Pencil Devil installation has a three-hour video, so that’s where I hang out during breaks.

Alex Da Corte, Rubber Pencil Devil, 2018, glass, aluminum, vinyl, velvet, neon, Plexiglas, folding chairs, monitors, high-res digital video, color, and sound, Dallas Museum of Art, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2019.59. Photo by John Smith.

Dr. Nicole R. Myers, The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Senior Curator of European Art
Among the things I’ve missed most are seeing and hearing visitors’ excitement as they explore the galleries and linger in front of objects that speak to them. It’s great to see the Museum come back to life.

Plan your visit to enjoy all of these wonderful art experiences and more! Reserve your timed tickets here. We can’t wait to see you back at the Museum!


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