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Posts Tagged ‘curator’

By Andrew Davis, Museum Building Reinstallation Project

I didn’t set out to plan museum exhibitions. It evolved quite naturally.  Early on in the planning of ClarkNOW, the curatorial team knew that the next several years would be extremely busy. Plans for each exhibition would have to be fleshed out on a small, legible scale before becoming reality. I have an aptitude for the kind of meticulous work that makes some people run screaming, as well as the ability to draw accurately from life, think visually and abstractly, and keep pace with the revisions and changes of direction that a project of this scope will always have.

Synergy was magical as we designed Clark Remix, which presents highlights from the Clark’s permanent collection of paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts in a dynamic, interactive space that will allow audiences to engage with the collection in new ways. Clark Remix will be presented in Gallery E, where more than 80 paintings and hundreds of decorative objects will need to fit neatly in a relatively small space. We explored many layouts before selecting a final arrangement of paintings. In this version, a paperboard Reese Witherspoon strolls through a minimally appointed gallery space, enjoying the surfeit of art on the walls.

To ensure we had shelf space for our hundreds of decorative arts objects, I made life-size two-dimensional mock-ups of every teacup, spoon, tankard, mold-blown glass, and porringer on view. Luckily, there were already digital images on file for most of these. First, I made these images actual-size (which sounds easier than it is), then I printed the photos, glued them to mat board, and cut the shapes with an X-Acto knife.

Humble means can achieve impressive ends. For the attractive hardwood floors pictured below, I manipulated a generic digital image into sheets of hardwood wallpaper. I printed them, and then measured and cut them as you might cut wall-to-wall carpeting, and glued them into place.

To really appreciate the high-impact results you can get through low-tech means, just take a look at these life-size paintings I made for Gallery E:

We couldn’t afford to be off by an inch when hanging the Clark’s paintings this densely, so my trusty Sharpie and I made an actual-size stand-in for every work we wanted to use. These are quick studies, done free-hand: first loosely in pencil, then loosely again in marker. Indispensible to our planning, they had the personal benefit of revealing more to me about the collection than I would ever have learned through any research, reading, or hours spent walking through the galleries.

Working in the same scale as the originals allowed me to experience the impact of scale from both the creator’s and spectator’s viewpoints. Making studies from the masters is a time-honored method of learning about art. Reproducing nearly 100 paintings from the Clark’s collection allowed me to walk along with them a bit as they created these artworks in the first place.

Many of the paintings are now on the walls, and the decorative arts are in their cases. We’re nearing completion, and hope you’ll come see the exhibition when it opens on February 12. In the meantime, here’s a sneak peek at Clark Remix!

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By Sarah Lees, Associate Curator of European Art

As the in-house curator for Rembrandt and Degas, an exhibition that was first shown at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, I worked with my colleagues to decide how we would present these prints and paintings at the Clark—meaning both how to place them within our gallery space, and what to say about them.

As I worked on the installation, I realized that I was thinking about the artists in more personal terms than I expected, rather than seeing the show as primarily a set of themes or images. That’s because the exhibition consists entirely of portraits, most of them self-portraits, which means that it’s easier than usual to imagine being the artist as he stood in front of his canvas, deciding how to portray himself. It’s really that process of thinking that struck me most—you can see Rembrandt considering how different expressions look, and also trying out different kinds of approaches to convey them, using lighter or darker shadows in prints and paintings, and thin or thick lines in his prints.

Degas does the same thing, but he also clearly thinks about the artists who came before him, and how they made portraits. If you were Degas in 1857 or so, looking into a mirror and then at a blank canvas or etching plate, wouldn’t you see not just your own features but also those of Rembrandt—and Ingres and Delacroix and Titian—and wouldn’t you have to decide whether to reject their examples or follow them a little bit—or a lot?

Degas’s etching of his friend and fellow printmaker Joseph-Gabriel Tourny is probably the best example of the French artist adopting some of Rembrandt’s ideas. Tourny wears a Rembrandtesque hat and sits at a window with a stack of paper, just as Rembrandt did in one of his self-portraits, and wears an ambiguous expression that many of the faces in the exhibition share, his head largely in shadows. And Degas printed this image over and over again in different ways, following a method for which Rembrandt had become famous. Even though we’re only showing one version of it, you can see evidence of Degas’s thought process in the two different framing lines that he drew around the central image.

When you see this image in the context of this exhibition, you can find a surprising number of ideas coming together in this one portrait, and maybe you can even feel a little bit closer to that small room with its fringed curtain and sturdy table, and to the artist Tourny is looking at…

Image Credits:

Rembrandt van Rijn (Dutch, 1606–1669), Self-Portrait with Beret and Neck Cloth, 1633. Etching second state, 13.9 x 11.9 cm. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, RP-P-OB-32

Edgar Degas (French, 1834–1917), The Engraver Joseph Tourny, 1857. Etching; sixth printing on Japanese vellum, 32.2 x 25.1 cm. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. H.O.   Havemeyer Collection, Bequest of Mrs. H.O. Havemeyer, 1929, 29.107.55  [© The Metropolitan Museum of Art / Art   Resource, NY]

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