August Artist-in-Residence Peggy Gyulai explores the connections between music and the expressive possibilities of paint on canvas in her work. She listens to and looks at music as a subject, object, inspiration, and—like Richard Diebenkorn—invokes the dynamic tension between the poles of abstraction and representation, creating substance from ephemeral phenomena.
When installing a painting or sculpture for exhibition, determining the correct orientation of the work is (perhaps obviously) paramount. When discussing modern art, a seemingly simple question like “Which side is up?” can become much more complicated; and occasionally when dealing with abstract art, this determination can be downright perplexing.
Two paintings recently reinstalled in Gallery 50 at the de Young have raised this question for years. Since they first arrived at the Museums, Georgia O’Keeffe’s Petunias and Arthur Dove’s Sea Gull Motive have puzzled viewers and art historians alike.
For the past six weeks, we have followed the progress of Balcomb Greene's Six-Sided Planes through the museum on its way to exhibition. We began tracking the painting's journey when it first entered the Fine Arts Museums via the registration department. It then went on to paintings conservation for a makeover before heading on to the Board of Trustees for final approval. Next it re-entered the registration department for final acquisition, after which it was photographed for record-keeping purposes. And last week, we learned about the work's art historical context and significance from the American art department's curatorial perspective. Now, after all the research, preparation, and planning, Six-Sided Planes is finally on display in Wilsey Court!
Art technician Paul Tavian wheels the painting through Wilsey Court.
Now that the Board of Trustees has approved the purchase of Balcomb Greene's Six-Sided Planes and it has been permanently accessioned into the Museums' collection, the next step is to make identification photography of the artwork. This photo will be used for internal recordkeeping on the collections management database and the website.
After Six-Sided Planes received its makeover in the paintings conservation lab, it was transported to the Legion of Honor for review during the full Board meeting (there are several sub-committee Board meetings that take place throughout the year).
Last week Balcomb Greene’s Six-Sided Planes made its first entry into the Museums and the acquisitions process via the registration department. This week, the painting heads upstairs to the paintings conservation lab for a little makeover.
My name is Elise Effmann and I’m an associate paintings conservator at the Fine Arts Museums. Conservators are entrusted with the care, treatment and technical study of artworks in the collection. When a painting comes to the Museums as a proposed acquisition, our department must examine it to provide the curators with information about how it was made, and to determine if there are any potential problems with the acquisition due to its condition.
Every piece of art in the Museums has a history. Whether an artwork has a long and storied past or was recently created by a living artist, its journey doesn’t end when it arrives on our doorstep.
This is the first in a series of posts that will follow a single work of art, Balcomb Greene’s painting Six-Sided Planes, as it moves through the Museums on its way to exhibition. Greene was an artist and intellectual, a founding member of the American Abstract Artists, and a leading writer and proponent of abstraction.
We will follow the painting’s progress from its first entrance into the Museums via the registration department, through the conservation and curatorial review, onto the process of approval by the Board of Trustees, and finally the public display of the painting in the galleries.
Our first stop is the registration department, where the painting is first received and stored: