Archive for the 'Curatorial' Category

Behind the Scenes: Installing Senga Nengudi’s “Water Composition I”

Influenced by Black cultural traditions and Japanese Gutai, artist Senga Nengudi’s work synthesizes multiple ideas circulating in the 1960s and 1970s: feminist practice, the role of materiality, and the relationship between activation, viewership, and performance. In her sculpture Water Composition I, currently on view in Slip Zone, Nengudi encloses colored water in plastic, creating a body-like form.

Senga Nengudi, Water Composition I, 1969-1970/2019, heat-sealed vinyl and colored water, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund

We asked Senior Preparator and IPM Coordinator Mary Nicolett what stood out to her about her experience installing this abstract work. Here’s what she had to say:

First priority upon being approached to work with Fran Baas, Interim Chief Conservator, on the Nengudi was sourcing two 2-gallon jugs for filling the piece. 

Once that had been done, we set about opening the contents of the packing tube. There I found a beautiful rope, tubing and funnels, pre-filled dye containers with pre-measured amounts, and of course the plastic “bags.” Also included, and very important, was the template for placement! We were able to figure out exactly where on the platform the piece would go, and it detailed the exact pinpointed location of each PVC bag including position of the heat-sealed-seam. 

It took a while to truly understand the tubing and funnel system. What I wasn’t prepared for was how exquisitely this PVC bags where packed, in order of installation, one by one. Preparators often wish for things to be packed better, but this was a thing of beauty! 

Fran and I set about the morning hooking the tubes into each bag and filling with the prescribed amount of dye mixed with the prescribed ionized distilled water. It was “slow and steady wins the race” and we did not spill a drop! Each funnel was marked with tape on the wall, as to which bag the tube went to, just to avoid any possible confusion. 

After all the bags were filled, Fran and I began removing bubbles in the bags by gently thumping each bag until the bubbles moved to the top. 

A bit of tape removal, sweeping, touch-up paint, and we were done! And it looks marvelous!

Come see this work for yourself in the free exhibition Slip Zone: A New Look at Postwar Abstraction in the Americas and East Asia, on view now through July 10, 2022.

Mary Nicolett is the Senior Preparator and IPM Coordinator at the DMA.

Connections Across Collections: Love is in the Art

Love is in the air—and in the art at the DMA! Take a look below to see our staff picks of art that we heART in celebration of Valentine’s Day.

Wedding vase with butterflies, Mary Louise Eteeyan, Jemez Pueblo, 1975–2000. Ceramic. Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert I. Kramer, 2014.43.18.

Becca Merriman-Goldring, McDermott Intern for Arts of the Americas
Each spout of a Pueblo wedding vase represents one spouse; the two are joined by a bridged handle to form a continuous whole. Mary Louise Eteeyan emphasizes that significance in the decoration of this vase, with two butterflies coming together over a single basket of corn.

Wedding ring, department of San Marcos, San Pedro Sacatepequez, Guatemala, Maya — Mam, probably 1930s or 1940s. Dallas Museum of Art, the Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Collection of Maya Textiles from Guatemala, gift of Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher, 1983.524.

Dr. Mark A. Castro, The Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art
There are several wedding rings, like this one, in the Museum’s collection of Maya textiles from Guatemala. We don’t know if they were ever used, but perhaps they might bring you good luck if you’re popping the big question this Valentine’s Day!

John White Alexander, Miss Dorothy Quincy Roosevelt (later Mrs. Langdon Geer), 1901–1902. Oil on canvas. Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the Pauline Allen Gill Foundation in memory of Pauline Gill Sullivan, 2007.36.

Martha MacLeod, Senior Curatorial Administrator and Curatorial Assistant for American Art
John White Alexander painted Dorothy’s portrait shortly before she married Langdon Greer. It was possibly a gift for her soon-to-be husband. The composition includes her beloved Irish Setter, Shamrock. Artists often include dogs in paintings to symbolize fidelity and devotion.

LaToya Ruby Frazier, Grandma Ruby’s Refrigerator, 2007. Gelatin silver print. Dallas Museum of Art, Lay Family Acquisition Fund, 2018.37.

Hilde Nelson, Curatorial Assistant for Contemporary Art
In her series The Notion of Family, Frazier centers three generations of women—herself, her mother, and her grandmother. Here, the artist honors her grandmother; the fridge covered with the proud matriarch’s family memorabilia conveys their loving bond.

Stretching Ed Clark’s “Intarsia”

Ed Clark is an American abstract expressionist and pivotal Black artist in the DMA’s collection who experimented with shaped canvases. His large-scale painting Intarsia is on view for free in the exhibition Slip Zone: A New Look at Postwar Abstraction in the Americas and East Asia. To create this work, he laid raw canvas on the floor, poured acrylic paint directly on the surface, and spread it across the canvas with a push broom in a performative process. The title of this painting refers to a knitting and metalworking technique used to create fields of different colors that appear to blend in and out of one another. Combined with the elliptical shape of the canvas, which Clark saw as evocative of the shape of an eye, the radiant colors give the overwhelming sense of an expanding, pulsating image. Find out how our team of art conservators and preparators worked to preserve this work’s thick layers of paint by stretching the canvas before displaying it.

From Laura Hartman, Paintings Conservator at the DMA:

It was a true team effort—the painting measures over 5 meters by 3.5 meters, and weighs over 200 pounds! This painting is unique in that the artist has applied so many layers of paint that the paint is in fact thicker than the canvas, which changes the entire physics of the work. It has also traditionally been shown pinned directly to the wall, which was possible in 1970 when it was painted, but now the work has aged and needs a new approach to ensure longevity.

We worked directly with a stretcher maker in New York to design a stretcher that would hold the weight of the piece while remaining thin, giving the appearance that the work is pinned to the wall.

I worked with our preparators to create edge extensions, or a strip lining, and attach these to the back of the work to be able to stretch it while retaining the illusion of pinning. We first stretched a loose lining, which is a giant piece of canvas that acts as an additional support, and then carefully stretched the work onto the prepared stretcher, slowly increasing tension over several days to allow the paint to relax and release into a comfortable position. The work is now secure for the long haul, while retaining the artist’s original intention.

It took a lot of hands but we got it done! It takes at least 8 people to safely move the work, so all hands were on deck for this one!

Highlights of “Pursuit of Beauty”

Museum exhibitions serve different purposes. Some do heavy lifting in the field of new scholarship about unknown or understudied artists or cultures. Others may capitalize on strengths in the museum’s collection and, thereby, present a richer, contextual understanding of an artistic movement. And yet others present to our visitors works by artists that address gaps in our own permanent collection—a role beautifully fulfilled by the present exhibition, Pursuit of Beauty: The May Family Collection. I would like to focus on a few works and what—besides their apparent beauty—makes them special to me.

William Merritt Chase, Weary, c. 1889, oil on panel, The Collection of Eleanor and C. Thomas May, Jr., 114.2019.17
Gertrude Fiske, Contemplation, before 1916, oil on canvas, The Collection of Eleanor and C. Thomas May, Jr.

Weary (1889), a small interior scene by William Merritt Chase is a quintessential example of the artist’s skills of observation that also provides us a peek into his well-appointed studio in Manhattan. Chase was not striving to make a narrative here. The subject is beauty alone—of a sitter placed within a beautiful setting full of patterns and textures. The large Japanese screen in the background, the plush velvet of the cushion beneath her feet, the sparkle of gilding on the armature of the chair, and the gleam of light on the large vase in the background at right, are all effects that lure and please the eye. A wonderful counterpoint to Chase’s creation is Contemplation (1915) by Gertrude Fiske, an artist trained in Boston. While it too presents a contemplative woman set in an interior, the artist is presenting to us a modern woman for the new age. Using complimentary colors of orange and green to frame the sitter, the crisp striped wallpaper effectively foregrounds her. Fiske further illuminates her with light flooding in from the upper left, which simultaneously bathes her face and torso in yellow that reflects off the material at the right edge.  

Theodore Robinson, Miss Motes and Her Dog Shep in a Boat, 1893, oil on canvas, The Collection of Eleanor and C. Thomas May, Jr.
John Henry Twachtman, Frozen Brook, 1893, oil on canvas, The Collection of Eleanor and C. Thomas May, Jr., 114.2019.12

American Impressionism is underrepresented at the DMA and two works within the May Family Collection created in the exact same year offer comparison of two artists whose means (light & brushwork), achieved different ends. Theodore Robinson’s small canvas of Miss Motes and Her Dog Shep in a Boat (1893) is an oil sketch by the first and most important of the American Impressionists to paint alongside Monet at Giverny between 1886 and 1892. Robinson’s intent was to capture an individual in a fleeting moment and his quick touches of brushwork fix her at a point in time as well as evoking the optical effect of forms blurred in reflection on the dappled surface of the water. In Frozen Brook (1893), John Twachtman also endeavored to capture a particular moment, but his motivation was to capture the atmospheric and emotive effects of a winter’s day. His brushwork is more varied, complex, and labor intensive (daubed, scumbled, and dragged) to conjure the optical effect of heavy, wet snow on the cusp of spring, when all is blanketed in contemplative silence. 

I do hope that you will come to the DMA to explore these five works for yourselves, along with the other twenty-three now on view. 

Sue Canterbury is The Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art and Interim Allen and Kelli Questrom Curator of Works on Paper at the DMA.

A Change of Scenery for Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Sam F”

Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sam F, 1985, oil on door, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Samuel N. and Helga A. Feldman, 2019.31, © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat. Licensed by Artestar, New York

In 2017 we began conversations with Helga Feldman about a landmark gift to the institution of a work by the incomparably important US artist Jean-Michel Basquiat. The portrait, Sam F, painted right here in Dallas, is of Feldman’s late husband, who wanted the work to be given to his city’s museum to be enjoyed by the public. As was the wish of the Feldmans, the work entered the collection at the time of Mrs. Feldman’s death in spring 2021. Basquiat’s significance to the recent history of art is almost unparalleled, and when we received the painting, we got to work making immediate plans to get it on view. With this in mind, we adapted to certain considerations of time and space in order to share the work with our audiences without delay. Therefore, we decided to show it in our Concourse, which is the most public of the Museum spaces, and is traversed by all visitors to the DMA. We have often shown works in that space that we want to honor—the Basquiat hangs where the honored artist of our major annual fundraiser, TWO X TWO for AIDS and Art, is typically found. However, because of the very public nature of this space, our duties to care for the collection mandate that the work must be hung above visitor touch distance—an average viewer’s arm span—to keep the work safe. When Sam F went on view, we received the feedback that seeing the painting from this height was far from ideal. This work clearly struck a chord with viewers—for Basquiat was one of the most innovative figures in 20th-century art history. Moreover, as an artist of Puerto Rican and Haitian descent, his presence in the Museum’s collection signals the crucial contributions of Black and Latinx artists to the art historical canon, and the work contains a wealth of references to Afro-diasporic culture that are illuminated in the accompanying interpretive panel.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s Sam F on view across from Pablo Picasso’s The Guitarist on Level 2

We heard this feedback, and we agree—it’s time to move the Basquiat so that the conditions of display can better facilitate the close looking the work merits. As of today, the work will be on view on Level 2, at the threshold between the European and contemporary galleries. The work’s neighbors include paintings by Pablo Picasso and sculptures by Henry Moore, Jacques Lipchitz, and Aristide Maillol. It also abuts our collection of classical art, providing a compelling survey of how artists have treated the human form over thousands of years. Basquiat’s portrait of Sam, who used a wheelchair, rejects the idealism first introduced in the classical period and depicts subjects that are typically excluded as subjects of the fine arts. His signature formal style combines expressive mark making taken from both his past as a graffiti artist and the Neo-Expressionism movement that dominated art in New York in the 1980s, while also pointing to a groundbreaking synthesis and reconfiguration of the art historical language that now surrounds it. We invite you to come and see the work, and to let us know what you think.

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

The Road to Van Gogh

Dr. Nicole R. Myers, Interim Chief Curator and The Barbara Thomas Lemmon Senior Curator of European Art, spent almost a decade working tirelessly on bringing Van Gogh and the Olive Groves to life. Read about her perspective on making the magic of the exhibition happen in this Q&A excerpt from our DMA member magazine, Artifacts.

How does it feel to approach the exhibition opening after so many years in development? 

I began developing the concept for this exhibition in 2012, while I was researching the incredible olive tree painting by Van Gogh in the collection of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City. Although I had worked a great deal on the artist, I was shocked to find that the painting belonged to a significant series about which I knew nothing. I set out to learn more, only to find that there had been no exhibition or book dedicated to the subject to date. Moreover, there were many unknowns about the series, such as the dates of some of the paintings, the sequence in which they were made over a six-month production period, and which paintings Van Gogh was describing in his letters—something unexpected given the incredibly saturated research field dedicated to this beloved world-famous artist. With that, I launched the exhibition and the unprecedented comparative study that involved an international team of curators, researchers, conservators, and scientists.  

The exhibition planning took many twists and turns along the way. It’s never easy to borrow important artwork by heavily sought-after artists such as Van Gogh, and some of our loan negotiations took five years to secure. Just as the checklist was nearly finalized, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic brought about new challenges and uncertainties. Rather poignantly, the exhibition catalogue, which takes as its subject the artistic production of a painter confined within an asylum—an experience Van Gogh described as a “necessary and salutary quarantine”—was written and produced in its entirety during the self-isolation and confinement imposed by the pandemic. It was with a mixture of trepidation and sadness that after all these years of working tirelessly to bring this project to fruition, I didn’t have access to a library or other resources when it finally came time to start the book. But the work forged ahead and I’m deeply grateful for what we accomplished under these exceptional circumstances.  

As I worked at my dining room table turned remote office, I thought often of Van Gogh and his experience at the asylum. Never before had his enduring belief in the healing and consolatory power of art and of nature felt more relevant, his experience more relatable, his achievement more astounding. I hope that visitors to the show will take as much joy and comfort from the olive trees as I have over the last decade, and especially this last year. 

Artist Spotlight: Emilio Amero

Modern Mexican art is dominated by artists with colossal reputations—Diego Rivera, Rufino Tamayo, Frida Kahlo, and many others. In my experience though, it is sometimes the artists who have garnered less attention that produced the most gripping works, charting unique artistic trajectories. One such figure, whose work I adore and have long wanted to write about, is Emilio Amero (1901–1976). Among the most versatile artists of his generation, Amero painted in fresco and on canvas, but was also a graphic designer, caricaturist, photographer, filmmaker, printmaker, gallery owner, and professor.

Born in Ixtlauaca, in the State of Mexico, Amero moved to the capital as a boy, eventually studying at the National School of Fine Arts. Although he was initially drawn to fresco painting and assisted on several important mural projects, Amero left Mexico in 1925 and settled in New York, where he worked as an illustrator for various publications, including the New Yorker and Life, and designed advertising campaigns for Saks Fifth Avenue. In New York, he explored new mediums, producing a short experimental film, 777, and trying his hand at photography. In his early photographs, he played with double exposures and other techniques for manipulating photographic negatives, but he eventually began working in a more documentary style.

Although Amero’s love for film and photography would continue when he returned to Mexico in 1930, he began working in the medium for which he appears to have had the greatest creative passion—printmaking. While teaching lithography at the National School of Fine Arts, Amero also opened a gallery, Galería Posada, where he exhibited the work of young artists, gave lectures, and held film screenings. In the mid-1930s, he returned to the United States, moving between the two countries for many years while completing various projects and teaching in New York, Mexico City, and Seattle. In 1946 Amero accepted a position at the University of Oklahoma in Norman, where he taught graphic arts until his retirement in 1967.

Emilio Amero, There is Fear, 1947, lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Neiman-Marcus Prize, First Southwestern Print Exhibition, 1948, 1948.12
Emilio Amero, Where?, 1948, lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum Zonne Memorial Prize, 2nd Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, 1949, 1949.5

The DMA is fortunate to have four lithographs from Amero’s time in Norman, all of which speak to larger themes in the artist’s work. There is Fear and Where? show the artist’s propensity for contorting and compressing figures, their rigid bodies giving the impression of flesh that has turned to stone. This disquiet is enhanced by the dreamlike landscape in which the figures exist, filled with oddly shaped objects whose purpose seems unclear. In contrast, Dressing and Fiesta show more relatable scenes, their figures alive with movement, recalling some of Amero’s photographs of everyday life in rural Mexico.

Emilio Amero, Dressing, 1949, lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Museum Zonne Memorial Prize, 2nd Southwestern Exhibition of Prints and Drawings, 1949, 1949.4
Emilio Amero, Fiesta, 1950, color lithograph, Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas Art Association Purchase, 1954.27

Three of these prints entered the collection after winning prizes at DMA exhibitions celebrating printmaking in the Southwest during the mid-20th century. Together they are a testament to Amero’s impact on the arts of this region.

Dr. Mark A. Castro is The Jorge Baldor Curator of Latin American Art at the DMA.

Expressing Hope, Dreams, and Gratitude with Ex-votos

Ex-votos are works of art that express gratitude for miraculous events or answered prayers. To go along with the works displayed in the Devoted exhibition, we asked visitors to create their own ex-votos that express something they are thankful for or that is meaningful to them. Check out this round-up of community artwork submissions! Click each artwork to expand the image.

Themes of family:

Themes of nature and animals:

Themes of health:

Themes of art:

And everything in between:

Connections Across Collections: “Slip Zone”

Opening September 14, Slip Zone: A New Look at Postwar Abstraction in the Americas and East Asia highlights the innovations in painting, sculpture, and performance that shaped artistic production in the Americas and East Asia during the mid-20th century. Find out about the transnational connections between pairs of artworks featured in the show from the exhibition’s curators.

Dr. Anna Katherine Brodbeck, Hoffman Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art

While the narrative of US art history has focused on the singular achievements of Abstract Expressionism, it did not emerge on the world scene ex nihilo. Rather, US artists drew from multiple precedents, including the Mexican mural movement, which has special resonance for us at the DMA given our longstanding strengths in art from the region. In Slip Zone, Jackson Pollock’s Figure Kneeling Before Arch with Skulls is paired with Crepúsculo by David Alfaro Siqueiros. Siqueiros taught Pollock to use industrial paints at the Experimental Workshop in New York in 1936, which would later inform his use of nontraditional art media in his classic era drip paintings. The expressionistic pathos of this earlier Pollock painting also mirrors the influence of José Clemente Orozco, whose murals he had seen at Dartmouth College the same year.

Images: Jackson Pollock, Figure Kneeling Before Arch with Skulls, about 1934–38, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2017.7, © Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; David Alfaro Siqueiros, Crepúsculo, 1965, pyroxylin and acrylic on panel, private collection, © 2021 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City

Dr. Vivian Li, The Lupe Murchison Curator of Contemporary Art

Using a hair dryer and polyvinyl acetate adhesive—commercially available since 1947 as Elmer’s Glue-All—Takesada Matsutani discovered that he could create corporeal, bulbous forms by blowing air into the material from behind until each “bubble” burst. Affixing them to the surface of his paintings, Matsutani constructed uncanny compositions. Similar to Matsutani and other members of the pioneering Gutai collective in Osaka, Robert Rauschenberg sought to blur the distinction between art and life through the use of everyday materials. For his Hoarfrost series, he transferred newspaper images to pieces of diaphanous fabric. After meeting the Gutai collective in 1964, Rauschenberg later collaborated with them, including onstage.

Images: Takesada Matsutani, Work-63-A.L. (The night), 1963, polyvinyl acetate adhesive, oil, and acrylic on canvas, The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2012.1.5. Courtesy the artist. © Takesada Matsutani; Robert Rauschenberg, Night Hutch (Hoarfrost), 1976, ink on unstretched fabric, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of the artist, 1977.21, © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation

Vivian Crockett, Former Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art

Around 1968 Lynda Benglis began pigmenting large vats of rubber latex with day-glo paint and pouring the dyed materials directly onto the floor. Created after Benglis visited a 1969 Helen Frankenthaler retrospective, this work is a nod to Frankenthaler’s method of pouring paint onto unprimed canvas. A founding member of the Gutai Art Association, Shozo Shimamoto was also deeply invested in experiments with materiality and technique. The artist often incorporated elements of performance in the creation of his paintings, such as throwing glass bottles of paint at the canvas. To produce Untitled – Whirlpool, Shimamoto poured layers of paint onto the canvas, removing the paintbrush as a mediating tool and leaving the final composition to chance and the physical, viscous qualities of the material itself.

Images: Lynda Benglis, Odalisque (Hey, Hey Frankenthaler), 1969, poured pigmented latex, Dallas Museum of Art, TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2003.2, © 2021 Lynda Benglis / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY; Shozo Shimamoto, Untitled – Whirlpool, 1965, oil on canvas, The Rachofsky Collection and the Dallas Museum of Art through the TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art Fund, 2012.1.3, © Shozo Shimamoto Association. Naples

Behind the Scenes: Bosco Sodi

Opening September 14, 2021, Bosco Sodi: La fuerza del destino will feature approximately 30 outdoor sculptures by the artist in the DMA’s Sculpture Garden. Created from clay sourced at Sodi’s studio in Oaxaca, dried in the sun, and fired in a traditional brick kiln, the resulting surfaces bear the beautiful scars of their process. Take a behind-the-scenes look at the artist creating his work.

Preparing the clay to sculpt:

Creating the clay spheres:

Drying the clay spheres:

Courtesy: Studio Bosco Sodi, Photographer Sergio Lopez.


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