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Indiana by the Numbers

Commissioned in 1980 for the 20th anniversary of Melvin Simon & Associates (now Simon Property Group), Robert Indiana’s eight-foot-tall polychrome Numbers are iconic works from one of America’s most recognizable artists. The new exhibition Indiana by the Numbers (opening this Friday, May 24) traces the history of their design and fabrication, tells the story of their display before they were donated to the IMA in 1989, and provides a glimpse into their recent restoration and repainting by the IMA conservation department.

Robert Indiana (American, b. 1928), Numbers, 1980-1983, painted aluminum, 8x8x4 ft. (each), Gift of Melvin Simon and Associates, 1988.246. (c) 2013 Morgan Art Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Robert Indiana (American, b. 1928), Numbers, 1980-1983, painted aluminum, 8x8x4 ft. (each), Gift of Melvin Simon and Associates, 1988.246. (c) 2013 Morgan Art Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

I asked Richard McCoy, conservator of objects and variable art, about the exhibition.

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Filed under: Conservation, Contemporary


Use a Post-It for Something Other than a To-Do List

Today's guest blogger is Lori Hodgen, Public Affairs intern and Butler University student.

A Post-It seems rather unimportant in the grand scheme of things—its only purpose to remind you of things you have yet to do (and often don’t want to do). But when it says something interesting, and you have the ability to post it ANYWHERE, a Post-It suddenly becomes a powerful little tool, like a primitive Tweet.

For the next several weeks, the IMA will be placing Post-Its all over the city. The Post-Its ask a simple (sort of) question: Who is Ai Weiwei? And if you don’t know, you should.

Image courtesy Lindsey Lord

Image courtesy Lindsey Lord

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Filed under: Contemporary, Local, Marketing


Interpreting “Graphite” through Performance

Our guest blogger today is Mr. Kinetik who writes about his performance during the opening of "Graphite."

The artwork in Graphite that really got me was Staumauer by Michaela Früwirth. The piece was seemingly larger than any other piece. I was immediately drawn to it because honestly, I did not understand why someone would create such a large and seemingly “blank” piece of art. As an educator, graphite is largely confined to pencils, number 2 pencils to be exact. These pencils, while they are instruments we use to write and express ourselves in other written formats, have come to symbolize testing to me; typically of the standardized variety. Usually, you have to have a number 2 pencil sharpened and ready for the completion of your standardized test. Technology has taken us into a digital era, however most tests are still conducted with the use of pencil and paper in some aspect. Seeing that large graphite filled piece of art in a room of many other artworks that rely on graphite made me think, “We are so wrong about how graphite can be used in schools.” Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Contemporary, Public Programs


The Virtues and Potential Vices of Face-Mounted Photographs

When you look at a photograph in the IMA galleries, do you ever notice the mounts? Maybe not consciously, but your viewing experience is significantly nuanced by the manner of presentation. This is why a great deal of effort and expense goes into preparing photographs for display on our walls. Photographs in the IMA’s collection are usually presented to the public mounted in mats and framed on the wall behind Plexiglas glazing. This is the same way that works on paper, such as prints and drawings, are displayed and this tradition, with some variation, has a history going back several hundred years. Mats serve to both physically support and visually augment the photograph by surrounding it with a serene expanse of paperboard that will focus your attention properly on the power of the photograph held in the center. A frame surrounds the mat and a front pane of glazing, such as glass or acrylic sheeting, offers formidable protection against a variety of ills, including rapid changes in temperature and humidity, air-borne pollutants, and fingerprints deposited by curious visitors. The very large, contemporary photographs are usually not matted, but set directly into frames that are equipped with “spacers” – strips of mat board, or small squared sections of  plastic or painted wood that hold the photograph a respectable distance away from the glazing. It is worrisome when a large photograph sags forward within its frame to touch the glazing; the emulsion (or media surface) could eventually conform to the rigid, textureless material, resulting in an altered sheen in the contact area. Or worse, the photograph could adhere to the glazing, and disengaging the two always carries a high risk of wounding the image surface. But the newest generation of contemporary photographs often dispense with frames altogether – they seem to float on the wall like magic windows into other worlds. These photographs are hovering courtesy of a relatively new presentation system called “face-mounting.”

Face-mounting permanently marries the photograph to the glazing with an interface of synthetic adhesive. Usually, a rigid backing material is similarly adhered to the verso of the photograph, creating a unified package that encases the work completely, supplying strength, support, and unfettered edges. There are visual advantages to this system that are very appealing to artists. With face-mounting, the colors of the photograph appear saturated and lush, and the images are appreciated by viewers as “crystal clear.” As air between a photograph and the glazing has been eliminated, there are no issues of multiple light-reflecting surfaces that can confuse the clear perception of the image. The absence of air can also be considered chemically beneficial to a photograph, both in relation to traditional gelatin emulsions with their cyan, yellow, and magenta dyes and the pigments and dyes deposited in digital printing. The oxygen component of the air has a destabilizing effect on organic molecules, and this includes cellulose (paper) proteins (gelatin) and some classes of colorants. In addition, humid air will cause the damaging reactions to proceed at an accelerated rate. Finally, face-mounted photographs are prevented from distorting, tearing, or suffering from casual accidents that would ordinarily mar its surface; it will never be directly handled again.

Face-Mounted photograph “Yellow Hallway” by James Casebere, 2001  (IMA2003.78). This is one of the earliest face-mounted photographs to enter the IMA collection. It has been shown in our galleries with some regularity, and it remains in excellent condition.

Face-Mounted photograph “Yellow Hallway” by James Casebere, 2001 (IMA2003.78). This is one of the earliest face-mounted photographs to enter the IMA collection. It has been shown in our galleries with some regularity, and it remains in excellent condition.

With these virtues in mind, it seems that the conservation community should welcome face-mounting with open arms. However, conservators are a cautious folk, and they never fully trust innovations that have not been observed and judged over significant periods of time. Their first concern is the obvious drawback of having a glazing material that cannot be removed. If the acrylic sheeting becomes scratched or clouded, it cannot simply be replaced – these problems become a permanent part of the artwork, compromising the prized aesthetic qualities expected from face-mounted images. The “protective” nature of glazing the front of the artwork is tempered by the fact that it is now also the aspect of highest vulnerability and it must be zealously protected from harm.

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Filed under: Conservation, Contemporary, Photography, The Collection


“Graphite” Opens Tonight

The exhibition Graphiteopening tonight at the IMA, explores the vast artistic potential of a material most often associated with more traditional approaches to drawing.  Its flexibility  - whether it’s powder, liquid, machined, carved, or pencil – is mirrored in each artist’s unique approach to the material in their work. Below are quotes from a selection of the artists in the exhibition that highlight this range in perspective:

“What I like most about graphite, in the way I use it, is its ability to transform the surface or object to which you’re applying or transferring it.” – Dan Shaw-Town

“And drawing, especially with graphite, is one of the few things that you can control yourself. You can do what you want. And so it was a way of making this world that is comfortable for me.”  - Kim Jones

“I want to be drawing these images because I love them more than any other imagery.” – Dan Fischer

“Graphite is material that in both industrial usage and culture holds and neutralizes energy. When I was asked to be in the exhibition, I was really interested in this kind of alternate, inert quality of the material. So rather than thinking about it as a traditional artistic tool, I started to think about it conceptually and was taken by this idea of pulling in and holding energy—in this case, a kind of societal, psychic energy.” – Geof Oppenheimer (Come hear more from Geof tomorrow at noon during a lunchtime lecture in the galleries).

“I find there’s an exacting capacity to the point of the graphite pencil that, when fully attended to, reveals the inevitable limits of precision and control of the hand.” – Judith Braun

“I think what I’m doing is observational drawing. I’m just not drawing the objects that people typically think of as the things an artist draws from observation.” - Molly Springfield

“The conductivity of graphite has been central to developing the possibilities for the relationship between form, function, and materiality that characterizes these drawings.” – Joyce Hinterding

“I think I chose drawing because I was interested in that basic human connection. I drew as a child, sure, but I consciously chose drawing as an adult artist. There was a break in there where I came to recognize drawing as its own entity.” – Karl Haendel

“Every one of those drawings is the result of a different gesture or technique. They all come together because they share the same medium, same format, same paper.” – Roland Flexner

“What’s interesting about the technique I use with the graphite is the similarity there is to processing a photograph in the darkroom, where the light and dark values can be manipulated by the exposure time.” – T.R. Ericsson

An accompanying digital catalogue will launch this January and will feature a wealth of in-depth material about their work and use of graphite, including interviews with the artists, videos of their installations, a scientific analysis of the material, and much (much) more.

Filed under: Art, Contemporary, Exhibitions


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