Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European

From the Collection—Drawing in the Sand by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida

Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863–1923). Drawing in the Sand, ca. 1911. Oil on canvas, 21 x 25 1/4 in. (53.34 x 64.14 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Samuel O. Buckner Collection. Photo credit Larry Sanders
Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863–1923). Drawing in the Sand, ca. 1911. Oil on canvas, 21 x 25 1/4 in. (53.34 x 64.14 cm). Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of the Samuel O. Buckner Collection. Photo credit Larry Sanders

A young boy kneels at the beach, drawing a sailboat into the wet sand with a stick.  The sun beats on his bare skin and makes him almost glow with warmth and light.  Behind him, water licks at his feet, cool and tempting.  Although he is intent on his project, we know that once he has gotten too hot, he will lose interest and go back into the water.

Now that’s it September, I thought we’d have one more taste of summer by exploring Drawing in the Sand by Joaquin Sorolla y Bastida (Spanish, 1863-1923), which is on view in Gallery 11.

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Restoring Duane Hanson’s Beloved “Janitor”

Duane Hanson (American, 1925-1996), Janitor, 1973. Polyester, fiberglass, and mixed media; 65 1/2 x 28 x 22 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Art M1973.91. Photo credit John Nienhuis. © Estate of Duane Hanson/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Duane Hanson’s lifelike Janitor (1973) is one of the Museum’s most beloved works of art. It generates curiosity on many levels: How did the artist make the sculpture so realistic? What does this photo-realistic artwork mean? What does he wear under his uniform? How does the Museum take care of this unusual work of art?

To that final question, “carefully and creatively” is the answer that the Museum’s Docents recently learned from senior conservator Jim DeYoung. The Milwaukee Art Museum agreed to loan Janitor to the Walker Art Center for the Lifelike exhibition, Feb 25 – May 27, 2012. In preparation for the artwork’s exhibition in Minneapolis, Jim’s conservation team turned their restoration attention and considerable skills to making Janitor appear in pristine condition and ready for travel.

The details of this restoration are fascinating.

Curious about how a conservator cleans 40-year-old human hair affixed to plastic? Hint: They don’t use Head and Shoulders shampoo. Read on to find out more!

Categories
20th and 21st Century Design Art Behind the Scenes Collection Curatorial

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the American Studio Glass Movement

American Studio Glass installation. Photo by the author.

The year 2012 is considered the 50th anniversary of the American Studio Glass movement. The anniversary is being celebrated with exhibitions and events across the country, organized in large part by the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass.

The Milwaukee Art Museum has a terrific collection of studio glass, and we were thrilled to be part of the celebration. Along one wall of the newly-designed Kohl’s Art Generation Studio is a new installation that celebrates using glass as a medium of creative impulse.

The glass sparkles, tells an important art history story, and I hope that its visual beauty inspires young artists as they create their own artwork nearby.

What is the American Studio Glass movement, and what is this anniversary?

Categories
Art Curatorial Exhibitions

Burniture—A performance by Hongtao Zhou

Burniture on fire. Photo courtesy of the artist

On Tuesday, November 22, 2011 a chair was born in the most unlikely of places, Sweet Water Organics.

Sweet Water Organics is an urban acquaponic farm located in the Bayview neighborhood of Milwaukee. If you haven’t already been, you should make it a point to visit. The space is amazing.

It’s a big open warehouse with rows of fish tanks. There are beds of lettuce and other vegetables growing above the water tanks, being fed by the tanks below. In Sweet Water’s sustainable system, the plants act as a water filter for the fish and the fish waste acts as natural fertilizer for the plants.

The Sweet Water Foundation uses a wide-open space in the building as an area for performances, artist collaborations, and educational programming. Their mission is to develop inter-generational and interdisciplinary educational programming for sustainability with a focus on the potential of urban agriculture and aquaculture in the 21st century setting.

Conversations between Jesse Blom of Sweet Water Foundation and Michael Carriere of the Milwaukee School of Engineering led to the idea of having artist Hongtao Zhou create a wax chair at the urban farm.

Categories
Art Curatorial

How Many Curators Does it Take to Create an Exhibition?

Installation shot, MIAD's "Style, Innovation, & Vision" exhibition. Photo by the author.
Installation shot, MIAD’s “Style, Innovation, & Vision” exhibition. Photo by the author.

Don’t answer that. Most jokes beginning that way aren’t very nice to the subject. My answer, in this case, is: six.

This fall, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) Director of Galleries Mark Lawson asked six design-lovers to curate an exhibition in the college’s Brooks Stevens Gallery.

Style, Innovation, & Vision: Six Perspectives of a Design Collection (Oct 7, 2011 – March 1, 2012) shows the results of his experiment.

MIAD has a significant collection of industrial design objects–ranging wildly from a Betty Crocker mixer to wheelchairs to a Motorola Razr cell phone. In 2010 MIAD’s webmaster Dave O’Meara and MIAD alumnus Dave Hinkle created a new digital catalog of these objects and illustrations.

To celebrate and advertise the possibilities of this new resource, Mark Lawson used it at the center of an exhibition. He called in a variety of voices to help, and I was thrilled to be one of the six involved.

Categories
20th and 21st Century Design Art Collection Curatorial

From Museum Storage—Beneath a Ray and Charles Eames LCW Chair

Late in 2010 I advocated that the Museum accept a Ray and Charles Eames DCW (“Dining Chair Wood”) into the Permanent Collection.

No big surprise there, as this bent plywood chair is the iconic work of two of the most influential 20th-century furniture designers. It is a must-have for any design collection!

However, this chair wasn’t the Museum’s first Eames object. The Collection already included one DCW chair (pictured at left), a 1946 folding plywood screen, and several examples of the World War II U.S. Navy leg splint that bolstered Ray and Charles’ experiments in complex two-way bent molded plywood.

So why an additional example of the DCW? And, why this one?

Well, to tell the truth, I put in to motion the Museum’s acceptance of the DCW based on a hunch…and I just might be wrong.

Categories
Art Collection Curatorial European Modern

From the Collection–Hans Baluschek’s “Working-class City”

Hans Baluschek (German, 1870–1935), Arbeiterstadt (Working-class City), 1920. Oil on Canvas, 48 7/16 x 36 1/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase with funds from Avis Martin Heller in honor of the Fine Arts Society M2010.49. Photo by John R. Glembin
Hans Baluschek (German, 1870–1935), Arbeiterstadt (Working-class City), 1920. Oil on Canvas, 48 7/16 x 36 1/4 in. Milwaukee Art Museum, Purchase with funds from Avis Martin Heller in honor of the Fine Arts Society M2010.49. Photo by John R. Glembin.

The industrial revolution of the 19th century brought drastic and sometimes violent changes to European cities. By the beginning of the 20th century, artists in Germany were responding to the time’s social struggles and political unrest through their revolutionary artistic style and new subject matter.

The German Expressionists were one such art movement that reacted to these changes. Turning to simplified or distorted forms and bold colors, these artists tended to focused on humanistic themes and high emotion.

German Expressionism is one of the strengths of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s collection, which includes multiple works by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (Street at Schöneberg City Park, 1912–13), Ludwig Meidner (Portrait of a Young Man, 1912), Käthe Kollwitz (Self-Portrait; from the deluxe periodical The Creators, vol. 5, no. 1, 1924), Emil Nolde (Roses on Path, 1935), and Max Pechstein (Calla Lilies, 1914).

In October 2010, the Museum added a new dimension to its early 20th-century German collection by acquiring a painting by the artist Hans Baluschek (German, 1870-1935), which has just been put on display in Gallery #12 with other European Modernism.

Categories
Art Collection Contemporary

From the Collection–Agnes Martin’s “Untitled #10”

Agnes Martin. Untitled #10, 1977. Gesso, India ink, and graphite on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Art. Photo credit Dedra Walls. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Agnes Martin. Untitled #10, 1977. Gesso, India ink, and graphite on canvas. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of Friends of Art. Photo credit Dedra Walls. © Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Agnes Martin’s work can be tricky, all lines and grids and pale neutrals. It used to make me wonder, what’s the big deal? Pencil marks and a wash of color–not so impressive. I chalked it up to those nutty Abstract Expressionists and Minimalists, divorcing themselves from the real world and delving into a world I didn’t know how to get into.

But then I got a job as a docent at my college’s art museum, the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center. I gave tours, but I also spent a lot of time in the galleries at the docent’s table, where we waited for visitors to ask us questions (and maybe did some homework when things were slow). The table was situated right across from their Martin, The Harvest (1965). Being forced to look at this painting nearly every day, at least for a few minutes before a visitor approached me, completely changed the way I viewed Agnes Martin’s work. The Harvest, with its imperfect grid and odd “T” in the corner, became a quirky friend I saw each week–a comforting presence away from papers and tests.

But I’d never spent any long, uninterrupted time with an Agnes Martin. Seeking some quiet time away from my email inbox this past week, I wandered past Milwaukee’s Agnes Martin painting and then stopped and turned around.

It was time for a 45-minute slow look at Untitled #10.

Categories
Art Curatorial

From Museum Storage—C. A. Buffington & Co. “Automobile Folding Chair”

C. A. Buffington & Co. (Berkshire, NY), Automobile Folding Chair, patented 1912. Milwaukee Art Museum, Gift of David and Toni Damkoehler, M2011.10. Photo by John R. Glembin.

Do you think this rusty iron folding chair deserves a place in a world-class art museum alongside priceless paintings by Mark Rothko and Vassily Kandinsky?

It looks like something you might find in a barn.

Well, in fact, it did come to the Museum from a barn, and we are thrilled to have it.

This metal folding chair is a patented design made sometime in the late 1910s by the C.A. Buffington & Co. manufacturers in Berkshire, New York. Buffington specialized in designing all sorts of equipment for the newfangled automobiles of the “Horseless Age“, including special jacks for changing tires, luggage carriers, and special automobile folding chairs like this one.

So how and why did this chair come to be part of the Museum’s Collection?

Categories
Art Behind the Scenes Curatorial

Acquiring Art at Auction— Part 4 (It’s a Tea Service!)

Grete Marks tea service

The papers are signed and I can say it: The Milwaukee Art Museum welcomed into its permanent collection a Tea Service designed by Margarete Heymann Löbenstein Marks.

After we purchased the work at auction two months ago and the wire transfer payment was complete, several of the Museum’s art preparators traveled to Chicago to pack the ceramic pieces carefully and adeptly deliver them to the Museum’s art vault. I patiently waited a few weeks for the next scheduled meeting of the Museum’s Acquisitions & Collections Committee, when I was able to share the artwork in person.

In the final act of acquiring artwork for the permanent collection, the Museum’s Chief Curator, Director, and the Chair of the A&C Committee signed the paperwork that officially make the object part of the Milwaukee Art Museum.

And now I can say it: Welcome to Milwaukee, Grete Marks!