Boca Raton Museum of Art
501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, FL 33432
In Mizner Park
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|Monday, May 3, 2010|
|Artist Robert Natkin (1931-2010)|
Robert Natkin, Apollo, circa 1976, acrylic on paper mounted on canvas, 16 ½ x 48 inches. Permanent Collection 2000.069. Gift of Lillian Heidenberg Reitman
Robert Natkin passed away last week, reported the New York Times
Robert Natkin was an abstract artist who rose to fame in the 1960s following the success of such luminaries as Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock. Like many abstract artists, he had to fight an uphill battle against critics over the validity of his work. He fought the good fight his entire life and now has an impressive body of work left in his estate, represented by Gimpel & Weitzenhoffer Gallery, New York.
Natkin's later works, although always abstract, explored different themes. Sometimes they are filled with geometric blocks of electric color, interrupting the eye's path as it travels across the plane, demanding attention in multiple places at once. They can also be pale washes of paint ebbing and flowing, interspersed with small solid shapes, like buoys, adrift in Natkin's serene world.
My personal favorites are his Palimpsest Series. If you were to see one in a gallery and read the wall label, it would simply have "Acrylic over printed matter on canvas" listed as the medium. For this series, Natkin took his critics' negative reviews, attached them to canvases and then painted over them.
Regarding this series, Natkin said:
"This exhibition, expresses, among its many ambitions, an attempt to exorcize the hostile arbiter of aesthetics through primitive means by eating the enemy."
And eat them he did. He consumed, digested, and then eliminated them with multiple overlays of the lyrical, soft colors, for which they derided him. Mostly, it is difficult to read the newsprint underneath the paint and textural overlay. However, what you can read most likely caused Natkin to gnash his teeth on more than one occasion.
"Both types [of Natkin's paintings] have undeniable sensual appeal, though like Chinese dinners, they don't stay with you very long."
But Natkin got the last laugh. He painted over that review in 1981, and that painting is still with us. You can't read the critic's byline, but Natkin's signature is visible in all of its sensual glory.
|Monday, April 26, 2010|
|Stanley Boxer’s Widow Arrives in Boca to Conserve Husband’s Painting|
Joyce Weinstein conserving Stanley Boxer painting
Despite our strict storage standards and endeavors to handle art objects extra-carefully (no small feat for a klutz like myself), artworks still tend to degrade over time. No matter how careful museums are with their collections, gravity and time just take over.
That is what happened with our painting, Havocpockedfeysnowboughs by Stanley Boxer. Mr. Boxer was an abstract artist known for his heavy application of paint. He focused on texture and form in his paintings, and the paint literally rises up off the canvas in waves.
Havocpockedfeysnowboughs was created in 1976 so it is over 30 years old. At that time, Boxer did not use a fixative to protect the oil paints he daubed so generously over his canvases. Time took its toll and much of the parrot green, the pink and the white oil paint have begun to flake slowly off of his work.
Boxer died in 2000, leaving a widow, Joyce Weinstein. She is also an artist and was kind enough to grace our museum with her presence at the recent opening, Rememberingstanleyboxer: A Retrospective Besides charming the patrons and members of the museum with her cheerful demeanor, she also agreed to touch up Stanley's painting.
See more of Joyce Weinstein's art.
Of course, we have several professionals in the area that we use for the array of conservation needs that can arise in a museum setting. But truly, having Boxer's wife fill in the missing portions seemed much more appropriate. In our art storage area, Ms. Weinstein studiously bent bent over Boxer's large canvas, 50 x 80 inches, and recreated the textured swirls and swathes of color for which he is best known.
|Tuesday, April 20, 2010|
|How Dark is Too Dark?|
After hearing the Museum’s Senior Curator, Wendy Blazier speak on the Mary Cassatt: Works on Paper exhibition, I became enlightened to the quandary she and other Curators have when choosing works on paper to exhibit. I was one of the masses who consistently complained about the low level of illumination for works on paper in gallery spaces.
For the Boca Raton Museum of Art with an extensive collection of art works on paper the dilemma faced when exhibiting these works is ongoing. The balance between the visitor’s visual enjoyment and the protection of the artwork taxes the dual mandate of conservation and exhibition.
It is common for museums to set standard exhibition durations for works of this type. These seem to have a rather broad range from 4 weeks per year to six months per year. In a demonstration project published in 2000 in the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, Christopher Cuttle’s research resulted in a major shift in envisioning museum lighting. Using a filter with three bands of colored light instead of one monochromatic light source reduced the energy which causes degradation. This type of lighting will probably inflict less photochemical damage at equal illumination and duration. Another large contribution was the Getty Conservation Institute’s project to review, analyze and recommend new techniques for illuminating works of art on paper:
Although technology and the understanding of light qualities have advanced tremendously and will continue to address this problem, the fact remains light damage cannot be stopped or reversed.
Although I am now a convert to low illuminated gallery spaces I wonder if there is a solution for the institution’s to satisfy the visitor‘s high visual expectations? Is there a way to educate visitors so that they come to appreciate this dilemma?
|Friday, April 9, 2010|
|Deaccession: Rosenbaum vs. LACMA|
||As a recipient of Douglas McLennan’s ArtsJournal’s free daily newsletter, it is not uncommon for me to read Lee Rosenbaum’s CultureGrrl blog from time to time. I read her blog recently, in order to find out about the Halsey Minor and Sotheby’s trial . That post is interesting in its own right, in terms of art law, but I was drawn away by a link on the same page to an article that she had written for the New York Times in 2005; For Sale: Our Permanent Collection. It is this article, though 5 years old, that I would like to address today.
Considering that I have been Curatorial Assistant at the BRMA for less than 2 years, I will be the first to tell you that I am probably not as well-versed in the deaccession process as Lee Rosenbaum or the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, who she takes to task in this article. Which is why it upset me to read the sweeping generalizations that Ms. Rosenbaum used as argument when criticizing the LACMA’s deaccession policy.
Here at the BRMA, we are currently undergoing the long, arduous process of deaccessioning items from the collection. As an AAM-accredited institution, we must adhere to strict guidelines in terms of how we choose and ultimately disseminate our deaccessioned artworks. Based on what I have learned here, I take issue with a few points.
|Example of Alberto Giacometti sculpture
Courtesy of katicabogar's photo stream, Flickr
Rosenbaum’s Critique of the LACMA Deaccession
Firstly, Rosenbaum has it correct that items which are:
- Widely traveled
- Admired by experts and public alike
- Considered historically significant pieces
Usually are the least likely to be chosen for deaccessioning.
For the LACMA, admittedly, eliminating an Alberto Giacometti that was displayed in a three-part sculptural installation is a bit odd, to say the least. However, simplifying the curators’ desire to expand the collection merely to “redecorate their shiny new edifices with some appropriately breathtaking acquisitions” is short-sighted. By comparing the curators to overzealous interior designers she insinuates that they are acting frivolously, releasing a great piece to purchase a new one for decoration. I find it highly unlikely that the LACMA deaccession is akin to “going shopping” with the money to satiate a mere whim on the curators’ part.
It is obvious that Rosenbaum fears the dispersal of our country’s treasures. True, it is printed in most museums’ missions that their purpose is to act as custodians of culture and that deaccessioning items does not seem to be guarding them very well.
Read the Boca Raton Museum of Art’s Mission.
However, it is at the discretion of the Board of Directors, Director of the Museum, and Head Curator to decide what exactly fits that mission and is a good reflection of the culture. This understanding should be fluid. If no business were ever allowed to revise its mission or goals, how would we progress in the world market? Are museums doomed to languish solely in the past, with decades-old visions, simply because we traffic in old things?
Again, Rosenbaum is correct in suggesting that the rules for the LACMA deaccession were to first lend out, or even give, their unwanted items to other museums first, if requested. This is one in a series of steps that the museum must go through before finally selling the item. For the LACMA deaccession, this act highlights the error that Rosenbaum’s op-ed points out, that of releasing such an esteemed piece of work as the bronze Giacometti.
However, Rosenbaum continues on to disparage the Guggenheim for deaccessioning a major Kandinsky in 1990 because they “had so many.” As she mentions, redundancy is an accepted reason to deaccession an item. She chastises the Guggenheim because they are also supposed to “collect an artists’ work in depth.”
That is all well and good, but the Guggenheim has 17 Kandinskys listed on their website in their permanent collection:
- Blue Mountain, 1909
- Black Lines, 1913
- Taut Line, 1931
- Various Actions, 1941
Those were but a few from the listing. Not a broad enough cross-section?
Storage and Collections
In addition, Ms. Rosenbaum’s op-ed seems to have omitted something that many people forget when considering museums and missions. Museums do not have unlimited storage space. Although we would love to take in and care for all the little orphan artworks out there, it wouldn’t be long before we turned into the crazy cat lady you see on the television series Hoarders.
There just isn’t room enough for everything. Besides, it wouldn’t hurt to let an established artist from the canon of art history go in order to make room for a lesser-known artist. Perhaps an artist who didn’t, until recently, receive the attention they deserve (see: most artists who are not either male or white).
Finally, although clever, the last sentence in Rosenbaum’s op-ed article is misleading to those not of the museum world. “When museums cross too many lines, the public's elected representatives must step in. Otherwise, it won't be long before pragmatic museum trustees sell a Degas ‘Toilette’ to pay for the toilets.” It is not accepted practice to use moneys garnered from sales of artworks to pay for building enhancements. It is quite clearly laid out by the AAM that sales of artworks are to be used to purchase new artworks only. Now, I would be remiss not to mention the outcry over the Rose Art Museum’s intent to deaccession its collection to pay for operating costs . But the Rose Art Museum using moneys to keep the lights on is vastly different than suggesting that a burgeoning museum like the LACMA would enhance the facilities at the expense of Mr. Degas.
|Friday, April 2, 2010|
|John De Andrea Sculpture Returns from Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Madrid|
Senior Curator Wendy Blazier just returned from a whirlwind trip to Madrid, accompanying our John DeAndrea sculpture, Released, back from the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza where it had recently been exhibited. Unbeknownst to many, Senior Curators and Registrars get exciting fringe benefits, one of them being trips abroad. Of course, Wendy went to ensure the sanctity of our collection, but she still had a little fun on the trip.
Released has been put back into storage but the other piece from our collection that is in the midst of its world tour, Campeo San Cassiano, Italy by Maurice Prendergast, is now featured at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. It is part of the exhibition Prendergast in Italy that debuted at the Williams College Museum of Art in Williamstown, Massachusetts and traveled to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice before returning to Texas. In May, the exhibition will close in Texas and it will return home. We will reinstall it in the Dr. and Mrs. John J. Mayers Gallery on the second-floor west wing.
It is such an honor to loan artwork to such great institutions as these. The John DeAndrea sculpture especially, since we do not normally display her in our galleries. She made an appearance for our Shock of the Real: Photorealism Revisited exhibition last year, but only for the opening nights.
This is why it is significant when a museum such as the Thyssen-Bornemisza, whose focus is comtemporary artists, borrows and displays our treasures.
||John De Andrea, Released, 1989,
polyvinyl polychromed in oil, height 62.5 inches. Permanent Collection 2007.28.1. Gift of Louis K. and Susan P. Meisel
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