June 5, 2012
Will Work for Art introduces you to the people who make the Fine Arts Museums work. Today, we visit the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts where we meet Mark Garrett, a senior museum technician. Originally from Tennessee, Mark has been with the Museums for 23 years!
What do you do here at the Museums?
I work in the Museums’ works on paper department, also known as the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts (AFGA), at the Legion of Honor. As the dedicated technician for this department, I do archival hinging, matting, and framing of the Museums' collection of artworks on paper for exhibitions, loans, and permanent collection storage. I work closely with the department's curators and paper conservators.
How did you become involved with the Museums?
I interviewed for my job here the week before the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 and was hired immediately thereafter. I stayed on as a project-funded technician, building exhibits, handling art, and eventually moving into my current position in the Achenbach after the Legion retrofit and re-opening in 1995.
What is your favorite artwork or gallery in the Museums and why?
That’s a tough call, but as an artist myself who works in collage, I’d have to say Kurt Schwitters's E Rates (1946) or William Dole’s True Copy (1966) are sublime examples of this medium. For me they both exemplify the delicate balance between the physical manipulation of paper and visible poetry.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I have a dedicated studio in the Mission district where I explore drawing, painting, assemblage, and collage. I have a rigid schedule there because it feeds my soul.
In my studio, I’m expanding my ongoing interest with folded and "scissor-drawn" maps that are overlaid on prepared watercolor paper that, at times, mimic the colors of the original map. Familiar landmasses often morph into other configurations and hopefully expand and contract the viewer's concept of reality.
What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing the presentation of a number of upcoming exhibitions that include works on paper. Specifically, René Bouché: Letters from Post-War Paris, Gifts from the Gods: Art and the Olympic Ideal, and Chuck Close and Crown Point Press: Forty Years of Creative Collaboration. All of these open in July, so I’m busy!
Do you remember the first time you visited the Museums?
Yes, it was way back in 1988. I lived in New York City at the time. I saw lots of museum shows and worked at Pace Gallery, so I thought I’d seen it all. But I was amazed at the extent of the Museums' holdings. I had no concept of how much more impressed I'd become over the next 23 years, learning about what lives behind the scenes at both the Legion and the de Young. It’s an astounding collection that I continue to discover.