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Numbers Blog

One thing that I find interesting about writing for this blog is that I really have no idea what or even who is going to proceed or follow me. I get a date on the calendar that my post is going to go up, and that’s about it. So I was surprised to find out that Meg was so very interested in crunching numbers because today I’m writing about how I take care of our “Numbers 0-9,” by Robert Indiana. A marketing ploy, serendipity, coincidence, or the pervasiveness of numerality: you decide.

Anyway, I’m going to tell you how I help to keep our numbers clean and looking good (I get lots of help). For the past few years I’ve invited IMA summer interns working in other departments to help me and the conservation interns wash the “Numbers” (you can go here to Flickr to see a ton of images of our sculptures and Indiana’s various versions of the same sculpture on exhibit around the world).

From left to right: Kendra Dacey (conservation intern), Courtney Von Stein (conservation intern), Meghan Rubenstein (education intern)

Washing these 8 foot tall painted aluminum artworks is a fair amount of work, even when you have the good help I had. It’s a fairly straight-forward process to clean the sculptures: we simply wash them gently with soap (I use Orvus ) and water. Really, that’s it, some soap and water, a few ladders and lots of me acting like Mr. Miyagi and demanding perfect motions when doing the work.

Kasia Ploskonka (curatorial intern)

Beyond the actual work it’s also a time when I can provide a real example of some of the maintenance we complete on the outdoor sculptures to interns in the other departments. After all (and this number is for Meg), there are over 50 artworks scattered throughout the IMA’s grounds, and soon to be a lot more over in the 100 Acres.

Kendra Dacey (conservation Intern)

There are two other things that I wanted to mention, one is that you can go here and see a drawing by Robert Indiana that shows what the organization of the numbers meant to him and why we arranged them so. I’m always intrigued by this notion that just by putting two numbers together you can achieve a kind off greater meaning.
The second thing I wanted to mention is the fine Wikipedia article that Jasmine made about the numbers this spring. I have it on good word that invitations for Lunch with the IMA’s director have been sent out to the 5 that made Wikipedia articles of IMA sculptures. I’ve been digging around to see if others have been made, but haven’t found any. Speaking of that, I hope our IT department doesn’t check how many times a day I look at Wikipedia on this computer….

Filed under: Art, Conservation

7 Responses to “Numbers Blog”

  • avatar
    Meg Says:

    50 artworks on the grounds! Wow…I might have to leave early today to find them all.

  • avatar

    Meg — Yeah, you can find them if you dig around. You’ll have to walk the whole campus and make sure you go back down by the horticulture/grounds areas, otherwise known as the “barn.”

    Also, the labels on the photographs didn’t come out so well so I want to list by name all the people that were involved in the sculpture wash:

    Here’s the people in the first image (from left to right):
    Kendra Dacey (conservation intern)
    Courtney Von Stein (conservation intern)
    Meghan Rubenstein (education intern)

    In the second image:
    Kasia Ploskonka (curatorial intern)

    And the third image:
    Kendra Dacey (conservation Intern)

  • avatar
    Wendy Says:

    No, Richard, I had not seen it and furthermore, I am sad that I missed my opportunity to bring your interns some sustenance in the form of chocolate. Ah, well, maybe next year.

  • avatar
    Mary Striegel Says:

    Thanks for showing us this project. As you know, in addition to a gentle soap and water, a few other tools may be needed. This is for non- conservator types. You want to have soft bristle brushes in a variety of shapes, such as paint brushes and vegetable brushes. A good rule of thumb is this: if you wouldn’t use it on the hood of your car, don’t use it on a monument or artwork. If the brush has a metal ferrel, tape it with masking tape to insure that you don’t mar the surface of the artwork. Usually you want to lightly brush dirt from the surface first. Next, rinse the surface with clean water. Then apply soap and gently brush. Follow with a really good rinse. Hope this helps.

  • avatar

    Thanks, Mary –

    This is what we did last summer. I’m hoping to do a similar thing this summer.

    You bring up some good points and tips for washing sculpture — the car analogy is excellent (just as long as nobody gets the clever idea to use car wax on bronzes!)

    Best,
    Richard

  • avatar
    Mary Striegel Says:

    Actually, I’ve seen car wax used on bronze scultures without serious side affects. You may want to try to get your ands on “The Care of Bronze Sculpture,” by Patrick V. Kipper, Path Publications 1996. It is written for a lay person.

  • avatar

    Thanks, Mary. The numbers have been waxed with automotive wax (but of course they are basically automotive coatings on the pieces). But I’ve always thought the silicon in car waxes was not profitable for outdoor sculptures as it makes it harder to put on subsequent coats of wax … I don’t have any evidence of this.

    I typically use Trewax or Johnson’s Paste wax for periodic maintenance. We also make our own, harder paste wax here, which is based on the NPS recipe.

    I was just looking through the Kipper book today and recommended the intern working with me this summer read it. It’s a really concise book, except that he calls conservators “conservationists.” A minor point, I know.

    Best,
    RM

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