Archive for the 'Exhibitions' Category



Piecing Together “Ida O’Keeffe”

Too obscure to be acquired by major museums during the artist’s lifetime, Ida O’Keeffe’s artworks ended up in some interesting places. Sue Canterbury—curator of Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow and The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art at the Dallas Museum of Art—spent more than four years tracking down information about Ida, Georgia O’Keeffe’s younger sister. She gleaned information from archives across the country and from passing mentions in Georgia’s biographies, but along the way big and small contributions from strangers provided key pieces to the puzzle.

Michael Stipe, the musician best known as the lead singer of R.E.M., approached a DMA curator at an event in New York City and said he heard the Museum was organizing an exhibition on Ida O’Keeffe. Well, he had a photograph of Ida by Alfred Stieglitz.

Alfred Stieglitz, Ida O’Keeffe, 1924, gelatin silver print, Collection of Michael Stipe

Whirl of Life (1936) is owned by a woman who lives in New Mexico, but her sister lives in the Dallas–Fort Worth area. She heard about the DMA’s plans, called her sister, and, according to Canterbury, said something along the lines of “Hey, you know that painting you have in your closet?”

The owners of Black Lilies (1945) and Portrait of a Banana Tree (c. 1942) are sisters from Whittier, California, where Ida spent the last 19 years of her life. One of the sisters took painting lessons from Ida, and the artist was a close friend of the family.

Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow, installation view, Dallas Museum of Art, on view November 18, 2018–February 24, 2019

Aside from finding paintings, it was also critical to gather biographical information in order to create a timeline of the artist’s life and get a sense of her personality. There wasn’t any anecdotal evidence of what Ida was like as a teenager. Then, one day, a man messaged Sue to share that his great aunts were Ida’s classmates at Chatham Hall in Virginia, where she went to high school, and he had letters that described what a popular girl she was—a member of the basketball team, tennis team, and glee club. Canterbury had no idea where Ida was during the 1937–38 academic year, until a woman called to say her mother rented out a bedroom in New York City that year to Ida O’Keeffe.

And then there are the lighthouses . . . 

In 2013 Canterbury was visiting the home of a collector in Dallas when she noticed an abstract painting of a lighthouse. She considered the work very strong but couldn’t identify the artist. She asked the collector, who replied, “Ida O’Keeffe,” and Canterbury was stunned. Thus began the five-year quest to collect information on an ignored O’Keeffe sister with the hope of mounting the museum exhibition that Ida never got in her lifetime.

Based on documents, Canterbury knew that Ida had completed seven paintings of the Highland Lighthouse in Massachusetts. By 2016 she had located five. The two missing lighthouses she only knew from descriptions: one, a realistic depiction, was the first one Ida executed, and the other was an abstracted depiction in red. Out of the blue, she got a call from celebrity jewelry designer Neil Lane. He had the red lighthouse painting, which he had purchased at a flea market in Los Angeles around 25 years ago.

Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe, Variation on a Lighthouse Theme VI, c. 1931–32, oil on canvas, Collection of Neil Lane

Even though the exhibition has opened, new information is still trickling in. Canterbury expected that would happen and she encourages people to reach out, especially if they own an excellent painting of a certain Cape Cod lighthouse.

See Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow at the DMA through February 24, 2019.

Lillian Michel is the Communications and Marketing Coordinator at the DMA.

The Artful Overlapping of Old and Modern Iran

A work by Houston-based Iranian-American artist Soody Sharifi is now on view in the Keir Collection of Islamic Art Gallery. Courtly Love, an archival inkjet print from 2007, is an adaptation of a 15th-century painting in the Keir Collection. The original painting is an illustration of a tale from the Khamsa of Nizami, a collection of five tragic love poems. It depicts a scene from the romance of the Iranian king Khusraw and Armenian princess Shirin. Drunk and guilty of an amorous tryst, Khusraw has arrived at Shirin’s palace on horseback. Shirin, peering out from a window, is counseled by an older woman and refuses him entry. The scene is witnessed by a variety of attendants, including three scribes holding poetic manuscripts below. A darker mood is also present; anxious angels who know the inevitable tragic outcome of the story hover at upper left, while two gardeners with golden shovels foreshadow the twin graves in which the lovers will lie for eternity.

Khusraw at Shirin’s Palace, painting from a manuscript of Nizami’s Khamsa, last quarter of the 15th century, ink, colors and gold on paper, The Keir Collection of Islamic Art on loan to the DMA, K.1.2014.738

Courtly Love is one of a series of works that Sharifi has termed “Maxiatures,” a play on the term “miniatures” that is commonly used to describe the small format of Islamic book paintings. Sharifi’s works are large. For them, she has selected well-known examples of architectural paintings that illustrate Persian literary classics, such as the Khamsa, to serve as a basis for adaptation through the addition of new figures taken from photography. She also works with the architectural elements in the original image, changing their scale and contents. In this work, some of the original painted figures have vanished, and those that remain become unwitting bystanders to a new cast of figures inserted into the scene: contemporary, young Iranians, mainly women, going about daily tasks. These include making a call at a phone booth, jumping rope, playing with a hula-hoop, painting toenails, installing a satellite dish, and looking over the balustrades and through windows. Three young men speak to the women from outside the garden walls—the circumscribed formalities of courtly love referenced in the title of the work, and perhaps referring to the themes of the original painting.

Soody Sharifi, Courtly Love, 2007, archival inkjet print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Richard and Glen de Unger in gratitude to Walter Elcock for his attentiveness and support for the Keir Collection, 2018.40

Sharifi’s work appears to be concerned with issues of dual identities, of a past and present that is especially acute for Iranians of her generation who were exiled by the revolution of 1979. Given that the figures in her works are young, this may represent the nostalgia of young Iranians today who still live in proximity to the elegant palaces and gardens depicted in historical paintings, perhaps inhabited now only by ghosts, like the figures in 15th-century paintings. Her concern with dualities—of language, of national identity, of traditions and contemporary technologies, of political tensions—seems to be present in this work, where contemporaneity hovers over a past that can no longer be reached. Certainly, there is also a sense of humor—it is clever and funny to see modern people in these poetical constructs.

Soody Sharifi’s work is displayed in the Keir Collection Gallery alongside the painting that inspired it so that the public can appreciate her interventions, decode her intentions, and enjoy the presence of both works of art at once. Join Sharifi in person as she shares insights into Courtly Love at our next Late Night on February 15.

Heather Ecker is The Marguerite S. Hoffman and Thomas W. Lentz Curator of Islamic and Medieval Art at the DMA.

 

When the Painting Meets the Frame

The centerpiece of Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow is her Highland Lighthouse series. Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe painted seven variations of the lighthouse in the early 1930s, using mostly related color palettes and experimenting with dynamic symmetry. The first, a realistic representation, is now lost, but the following six lighthouses she painted are all reunited here at the DMA in one room.

Five of the paintings have a “clam shell” frame. The sides of a clam shell frame slope inward toward the painting. Each side is half of an arch that peaks at the inner edge where the frame meets the canvas. These frames were all made by painter and frame maker George F. Of, who worked closely with Alfred Stieglitz’s 291 gallery. Thus, it is through her relationship with her sister Georgia and her brother-in-law Alfred Stieglitz that Ida came to know Of during the early years of her career.

Ida’s paintings are not the only example of close working relationships between artists and frame makers on view at the DMA. Artists often worked closely with particular frame makers and some were known to prefer certain styles of frames.

PG_2016_11_21_McD-framed_o4

Maurice Prendergast, Merry-Go-Round, c. 1902-06, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Eugene and Margaret McDermott Art Fund, Inc.

On view in An Enduring Legacy, Maurice Prendergast’s painting Merry-Go-Round is in a frame that was probably not made by his brother Charles. Many other artists of his time mechanically reproduced patterns for their frames, but Charles designed and hand carved his frames. He considered himself an artist too. If he made a frame for Merry-Go-Round, it was long gone when it entered the McDermott’s collection. Margaret McDermott chose this frame to accentuate the style of the painting.

prendergast detail

The frame has both an inner and outer edge of roughly carved wood in ropelike patterns. Between these layers is an expanse of unvarnished wood with groups of scratches perpendicular to the painting’s edges. The unfinished quality of the wood frame complements the blank canvas that is visible throughout the painting where colors meet.

George Bellows’s portrait of his wife, Emma in a Purple Dress, is in a “Bellows frame.” Bellows favored frames by the New York frame maker M. Grieve Company. This particular water-gilded gold frame has three thin, curved ridges descending toward the painting within a squared outer frame. Its back is stamped with “Grieves Co.” The gilded, textured surface of the frame emphasizes the shining fabric of the sitter’s dress.

Reviews of Ida O’Keeffe’s New York shows sometimes mention her tendency to decorate her own frames, though few of them survive today. Ida most likely didn’t make the frame for Star Gazing in Texas, but she did decorate its upper molding with star-shaped foil stickers and five-point stars cut from tin.

These stars on the frame make it part of the composition. The title, Star Gazing in Texas, reinforces the relationship between painting and frame. During Ida’s lifetime, the painting was exhibited under several other titles—Dreaming in Moonlight; Spring Lethargy, Texas; and, possibly, Texas Hillbillies. The DMA’s Pauline Gill Sullivan Curator of American Art, Sue Canterbury, chose the title Star Gazing in Texas, which Ida used in an inventory of her paintings, because it captured the interconnectivity of the painting to its frame. The star-gazing woman looks outside her painted environment, making the frame part of her world as well as part of ours.

Rebecca Singerman is the McDermott Graduate Intern for American Art at the DMA.

Some Assembly Required

Have you ever wandered through the galleries at the DMA and thought to yourself, “Hmm, I wonder how they got this huge sculpture up those steps?” or “Wow! I bet it was really hard to hang that giant painting!” If you have, this post is for you! In one of the DMA’s newest installations, Women + Design: New Works, there are several pieces that required significant effort on the part of the DMA’s Collections team to install. Check out these behind-the-scenes photos and fun facts from the installation process, and visit the Museum to see these works in person—and for FREE—now through Sunday, February 17, 2019, in the Mary Noel and Bill Lamont Gallery.

Iris 3Objects Conservator Fran Baas adjusts the laser-cut polyester lace on Iris van Herpen’s Voltage Dress.

Najla 1A team of preparators works on lowering the two pieces of Najla El Zein’s Seduction onto the platform. Each piece of the sculpture weighs approximately 1,500 pounds and needs to be moved with a gantry crane. The lower stone was placed first, and then the upper stone had to be carefully lowered onto it.

Mobile 1Fran Baas, Lance Lander, and Mike Hill review the instructions for assembling Faye Toogood’s Tools for Life Mobile 2. Because the components of the mobile are heavy, the team had to know exactly what to do to minimize unnecessary handling.

Mobile 2Mike Hill and John Lendvay work to assemble Tools for Life Mobile 2 as it hangs from the ceiling.

DougDoug Velek takes measurements for the two pieces of jewelry by Katie Collins. Prior to installing the work, the preparators made the wedges and lifts used to display the jewelry in the exhibition. After confirming that the necklaces were centered on the wedge, preparators used pins to secure them in place.

SS and RSCurator Sarah Schleuning and preparator Russell Sublette discuss the placement of the three stools by Faye Toogood.

Katie Province is an Assistant Registrar for Collections and Exhibitions at the DMA.

Hopi Histories, Possible Futures

Today marks Indigenous Peoples’ Day, which recognizes the cultural contributions and importance of indigenous groups in the United States. In recognition of the holiday, we’re spotlighting the complex yet ultimately hopeful mural Hopi Visions: Journey of the Human Spirit, on view for free until December 2. The mural reflects the long collaboration between Hopi artists Michael Kabotie and Delbridge Honanie, who created the work in 2001 for the Museum of Northern Arizona. The exhibition also highlights a number of ancestral and modern works in the DMA’s permanent collection that connect to themes and material culture depicted in the murals.

PanelA

Michael Kabotie and Delbridge Honanie, Journey of the Human Spirit–The Emergence (Panel A), 2001, courtesy of the Museum of Northern Arizona, photograph by Gene Balzer

This six-paneled mural weaves a story of Hopi society from its emergence to the beginning of the 21st century. The large painting creates an immediate sense of warmth and light through its luminous colors and the combination of simplified geometric forms with soft, painterly textures. However, the harmony of the composition is at odds with some of its content: Panel B depicts the violence of the 1680 Pueblo Revolt, when Pueblo groups fought back against the Spanish colonists who had settled in the Southwest.

PanelB

Michael Kabotie and Delbridge Honanie, Journey of the Human SpiritPueblo Revolt: The Rebellion of 1680 (Panel B)

As the mural’s journey moves through time, it also alludes to the destructive extraction of uranium and coal from Hopi lands,as well as present-day problems such as alcoholism, illness, food deserts, drug use, and suicide.

PanelE

Michael Kabotie and Delbridge Honanie, Journey of the Human SpiritRational Side: The Dysfunction (Panel E)

The coexistence of both destruction and regeneration in the mural reflects the Hopi principles that ground the artists’ work. Kobatie and Honanie explain that for Hopi, cycles of destruction and rebirth reflect an effort to find balance. For example, as the mural shows, although the Pueblo Revolt brought great violence, it ultimately forced the Spanish to retreat. Because of this violence, there was a regeneration of Hopi culture, which early Spanish settlers had severely repressed. The central panel powerfully symbolizes this through an image of the Squash Maiden, a new baby growing from an ear of corn, and the combination of ancestral images along the mural’s lower register with contemporary Hopi baskets, jewelry, and ceramics in the upper portion of the image.

PanelC

Michael Kabotie and Delbridge Honanie, Journey of the Human SpiritMiddle Place: The Rebirth (Panel C)

The notion of contradiction as a place from which to grow and to find balance also informs Honanie and Kabotie’s understanding of their mission as Hopi artists. Their artistic practice was communal and rooted in Hopi culture, but it was also a reflection of individual goals and journeys. Kabotie and Honanie attempted to create a new visual language that incorporated Hopi imagery but also drew from Cubism, Abstract Expressionism, and US mass culture.

PanelF

Michael Kabotie and Delbridge Honanie, Journey of the Human SpiritHope: Confusion and Hope (Panel F)

By placing a computer at the top of a Teotihuacan-style talud-tablero (slope and panel) pyramid, the artists look to contemporary technology and its potential for interconnectivity as a way to share wisdom from many cultures and traditions and create a balanced future, but they also root this technology and wisdom firmly in a collective indigenous history of the Americas.

Chloë Courtney is a Digital Collections Content Coordinator at the DMA.

Basis of Bourbon

As the weather becomes cooler (well, sort of), we’re looking forward to warming up inside the Museum with our third installment of Artful Pairings this Thursday—an exclusive night of drink tastings and Museum tours for adults. This event will feature a tour of our new exhibition Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art, and what better drink to go with quintessentially American art than bourbon? We’ll hear from the folks at Crooked Fox Bourbon about their product, and mix our own cocktails with bourbon as the star, paired with small bites from our cafe.

To get you in the mood for some barrel-aged goodness, here are some fun facts about bourbon and a few works from our collection that pair nicely with them.

Rembrandt Peale, George Washington, c. 1850, oil on canvas, Dallas Museum of Art, The Karl and Esther Hoblitzelle Collection, gift of the Hoblitzelle Foundation, 1987.41

Did you know that George Washington played a role in how bourbon came to be? In 1789 frontier farmers violently rebelled against their new American government for trying to tax their whiskey, which they used for currency and trade (not just for drinking). As George Washington led an army out west to end this rebellion, some of the disgruntled distillers fled further west to Kentucky, where they thought they would be able to operate under less restrictive conditions. These settlers ended up distilling corn-based alcohol, which gave us the modern day drink we know and love.

To pair with this fact, we have the portrait of George Washington by Rembrandt Peale. Peale widely advertised this portrait with pamphlets including quotes from family members and friends of the president to show this was the most accurate portrayal. His advertising campaign worked, because nearly 80 versions of this portrait exist, including one hanging above the dais in the US Senate Chamber.

Richard Long, Stones of Scotland, 1979, gelatin silver print, Dallas Museum of Art, gift of Nancy M. O’Boyle, 1997.154

Although many people could argue the differences between American bourbon and Irish whiskey, they are much closer in production process than you might realize. Bourbon barrels can only be used once for storing the liquor before bottling. Once those barrels have had one batch in them, some become furniture or firewood. Others are repurposed for aging either soy sauce or—most often—Scotch whiskeys made across the pond. Much like the rules and regulations keeping bourbon from being made outside the US, Scotch whiskey can only be made in Scotland. The landscape and natural materials of Scotland inspired the land artist Richard Long to create his space-specific artworks.

Cup: upside-down head, Peru, Sicán (Lambayeque), 900-1100 CE, gold, Dallas Museum of Art, The Nora and John Wise Collection, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jake L. Hamon, the Eugene McDermott Family, Mr. and Mrs. Algur H. Meadows and the Meadows Foundation, Incorporated, and Mr. and Mrs. John D. Murchison, 1976.W.543

When Irish immigrants settled in Kentucky, they discovered they could make corn into a sweet-tasting liquor. Even though the Irish Americans believed they had come across a new form of alcohol, many cultures in Central and South America had been making corn-based alcohol for centuries. The golden cup above is from the Sicán peoples, who lived around the Andes in Peru until around the 12th century. The vessel would have been used to drink chicha, a corn-based beer that is still made today in many areas of South America during special ceremonies.

We hope this whets your appetite to learn more about this American-made spirit. We still have a few spots open for Artful Pairings, so get your tickets here for the program on Thursday, October 4, at 7:00 p.m.

Katie Cooke is Manager of Adult Programs at the DMA.

Writing the Wrong

While museums increasingly take on roles in entertainment and education, they remain, like libraries, stewards of knowledge. However, sometimes this knowledge—what we think of as researched, established fact—is misguided. Admitting you’ve been wrong can be humiliating, yet slip-ups within the museum field encourage humility. Mistakes remind us that correcting, preserving, and adding to the record is, at the end of the day, what museums are called to do.

The blunder in question surrounds the identity of the objects seen in Gerald Murphy’s 1924 painting Razor.

Gerald Murphy Razor

Gerald Murphy, Razor, 1924, oil on canvas, The Dallas Museum of Art, Foundation for the Arts Collection, gift of the artist, © Estate of Honoria Murphy Donnelly, 1963.74.FA

The journey began when Sue Canterbury, The Pauline Gill Sullivan Associate Curator of American Art, received an email from a concerned fountain pen enthusiast who notified her that the Museum was misinformed about Murphy’s painting. Sue asked me to create a timeline of recorded references to find out when the misinformation began. Then I was asked to search for what may have misled our predecessors and to untangle this 15-plus-year hiccup in the DMA’s records.

For years, the Museum said the razor and pen featured in the painting were modeled after products designed or sold by the Murphy family through their successful storefront, Mark Cross & Co. While it is true that Murphy designed a prototype razor in the mid-1910s that had a short burst of fame from 1912 to 1913, and that his family’s company most likely sold top-of-the-line writing utensils in their luxury goods stores, the razor and pen are NOT Murphy-designed objects. After thorough research, I concluded that years of accidental conflation caused the mix up.

Mark Cross Logo

The Mark Cross logo after its inception in 1845. Gerald Murphy’s father, Patrick Murphy, bought the company in the 1880s, which led to the family’s increasing wealth. © Mark Cross Leathergoods LLC

Murphy confirms the object’s correct identity in his letters with former DMCA director Douglas MacAgy: “The first Gillette razor and the first Parker pen (of red rubber) were real objects (not gadgets) ‘no bigger than a man’s hand.’”

Gerald Murphy letter

A letter from Gerald Murphy to Douglas MacAgy referencing Razor and Watch, another painting by Murphy, 1960, DMA Archives

The object for which Razor takes its name is a Gillette “New Standard” safety razor. This razor featured new technology that increased consumers’ ease of use and overall safety. Fewer shaving cuts? Yes, please! It was the most successful razor during the time of the painting’s creation and reached both American and European markets. By comparing the Mark Cross and Gillette razors below, and looking again at the painting, you can see how the Gillette attribution makes more sense with what Murphy illustrates.

The Parker Pen Company took the American (and later European) markets by storm with its iconic “Big Red” Duofold fountain pen in the early 1920s. Instead of wanting a new Xbox or iPhone as a gift, consumers hoped for a Parker pen.

lucky strike

A 1920s Parker “Lucky Strike” Duofold fountain pen, Courtesy of edgepens on Ebay.com

Why? The pen featured cutting-edge technology, including a leak-proof inkwell system and a durable, strikingly modern red rubber shaft. Murphy’s detailing even alludes to it being not the first version of the pen but the glitzier 1923 version, which included the fashionable “gold girdle,” seen in the advertisement below.

parker ad

1923 Parker advertisement, Courtesy of the-ad-store on Ebay.com

Now to the probable sources of the mix-up: a combination of trying to make the painting more personal to Murphy, plus an unfortunate conflation of similarly named companies. Symbols are always intriguing and tempting for art historians. If Murphy had designed the razor and/or pen, it could be seen as a self-portrait; yet, Razor still can be, despite the objects not being of his design (see Deborah Rothschild’s book Making It New: The Art and Style of Sara and Gerald Murphy).

Additionally, an accidental conflation occurred between the Mark Cross name and the A.T. Cross Company, a popular producer of pens. A.T. Cross bought the Mark Cross company in 1983 (right before the first publication of the misinformation), as referenced on A.T. Cross’s website. Prior to the buyout, Mark Cross was known primarily for its leather goods, not its side hustle of writing accessories. Every source that labels Mark Cross as a pen company and the pen as sold/designed by Mark Cross occurs after this buyout date.

Murphy’s Razor and his dazzling 1925 painting Watch are currently not on view, but be sure to check them out in the DMA’s upcoming exhibition Cult of the Machine: Precisionism and American Art, on view from September 16 through January 6!

Ashton Smyth is the Summer Curatorial Intern for American Art at the DMA.


Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,592 other followers

Twitter Updates

Flickr Photo Stream

Categories