Back to

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Conservation, Contemporary


Capturing the Tiger: Photographing Thornton Dial

There are many responsibilities as Chief Photographer at the IMA, but none more rewarding than the opportunity to document contemporary artists in the process of artistic creation, social interactions, and exhibition installation.

These moments of observation are significant in service to the mission of the museum, and can potentially provide a collateral glimpse into the inner workings of creative practice.

In the summer of 2009, I was fortunate to accompany Conservation Department colleagues, Richard McCoy and Kathleen Kiefer, on a visit to Georgia and Alabama. The purpose of my presence during the trip was primarily to create documentation related to the evaluation and condition assessment of Thornton Dial’s works prior to the Hard Truths exhibition.

We chose to drive down from Indiana, as I loathe flying with every fiber of my being, and it was an opportunity to immerse ourselves in all things Dial along the way…audio interviews, books for the non-driver, and music steeped in southern culture and history. Setting the proper tone and knowing your subject are so important for interviews and photography, and we spent our driving time together reflecting on one man’s life and how his art connects us all through his personal experiences and vision.

Our days in Atlanta, prior to the scheduled Alabama visit, were a great occasion to spend some quality time with Mr. Dial’s assemblages in person, and provided a precursory opportunity for us to experience the works of art that will inform the photography process.

The grueling temperature of the Georgian warehouse in July was a test of will, antiperspirant, and intellectual mettle, seemingly akin to a purification of the mind, body, soul, and spirit. The sweat lodge effect was less than ideal, but we clearly understood its role in the South and the appropriate lesson that was layered into our collective experience of Mr. Dial’s art.

The most provocative portion of our travel was the end of the week outing to Bessemer, Alabama to meet Mr. Dial…and the only opportunity we had to interview and photograph him at the Dial Metal Patterns facility.

There was no guarantee I would have the opportunity, but my hope was to photograph him in his studio for publishing and media projects related to the exhibition.

Accompanied by collector Bill Arnett, Kathleen, Richard and I made the three-hour drive with anticipatory glee, as this was the moment to apply our research toward meaningful exchange and content creation efforts.

Due to the heat, we spent fewer moments as a group in the main workspace of the open-air building, but I was able to capture images of Mr. Dial’s studio space, as well as details of his art supplies, studio floor, etc. – anything that speaks to the artistic process, the artist’s intent, and can inform a broader portrait of the artist himself.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Exhibitions, Photography, Road Trip, Thornton Dial


Get Yer’ Art Conservation Daily Right Here!

It seems like a long time ago that I wrote a post here about how I was going to start using Twitter even though, like many at the time, I didn’t know what I was going to actually use it for.  This was back in September of 2008 when I wrote “The Twitter in My Mind,” and while this was only a couple of years ago, in Internet time 2008 seems like a long, long time ago.

While some important uses for Twitter have developed globally—especially around politics and sports—and many cultural institutions and art folks use it in interesting ways, Twitter still seems like an insider’s club.  Said another way, if you’re not using Twitter, you probably don’t have a use for it; in fact I think those that don’t use it generally get tired of hearing about it, and all the jargon that goes along with it.  After all, who could actually like the word “tweet” or want to work out a suitable past tense for that word.

But after more than two years, I think I’ve finally found a reason for folks interested in art conservation to use Twitter without, well, actually using Twitter.  Using the web-based application, I’ve created Art Conservation Daily to summarize all the tweets about art conservation from the past 24 hours.  This online newspaper is auto-generated from my list of about 150 people that regularly tweet about art conservation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Around the Web, Art, Conservation


Jessica and Katherine Hit the Big Time

Over the years, a number of interns in the Objects & Variable Art Lab have written blog posts for the IMA.  But this week, Jessica Ford and Katherine Langdon (who, you might remember, wrote “Caring for Bronze in the Community” this summer) have moved on to the proverbial “big time” to pen a two-part post on the American Institute for Conservation’s News Blog about their recent East Coast road trip to research art conservation graduate schools: Buffalo State College, New York University (my alma mater), and the University of Delaware.

The IMA’s conservation staff included graduates from each of these training programs, and former faculty from Buffalo State and University of Delaware.  Needless to say, we take training the next generation of conservators seriously around here.  So, please go over to AIC’s News Blog and check out Jessica and Katherine’s work:

Both Jessica and Katherine are applying to conservation graduate school this year and we wish them well!

Filed under: Conservation, Travel


Who Cares?

Who Cares?  Me, and now everybody.

It’s impossible to attend every conservation-related conference or symposium. This summer, I missed what was perhaps one of the best conferences about the conservation of contemporary art in the past 10 years: Contemporary Art: Who Cares? Research and Practices in Contemporary Art Conservation. It was organized by the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage (ICN), Foundation for the Conservation of Contemporary Art in the Netherlands (SBMK), and the University of Amsterdam (UvA).  The symposium was an activity of the International Network for the Conservation of Contemporary Art (INCCA).  It was held in Amsterdam June 9-11, 2010.

Shortly after the conference concluded, I interviewed Karen te Brake-Baldock on Art:21’s blog about the initial outcomes. When I was working on that interview and considering what I had missed, it occurred to me that, though there were many great talks, I really would have liked to hear those by Charles Esche, the Director of van Abbemuseum and Peter van Mensch, professor of cultural history at the Reinwardt Academie (Amsterdam). Well, now we can all hear these talks, and the rest of that were presented.

Charles Esche:

Charles Esche – Van Abbemuseum from incca on Vimeo.

Peter van Mensche:

Peter van Mensch – Reinwardt Academie from incca on Vimeo.

Both talks challenge us to re-think some of the purposes of museums and the display of artwork within them.  I’ll not go into a summary or any kind of critique of any of the talks, but instead simply encourage you to go check the complete list out.  Here’s a complete list of the talks.  Thanks, INCCA, for making the conference available online and letting me “attend” from my own home.

Filed under: Conservation


Recent Flickrs

College Night: What do Museums Need Most?College Night: What do Museums Need Most?College Night: What do Museums Need Most?College Night: What do Museums Need Most?College Night: What do Museums Need Most?College Night: What do Museums Need Most?