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Friday, June 1 • 5:00pm - 5:30pm
(Material Questions) Between subtle and silent: the conservation of Max Neuhaus' Sound Figure at the Menil Collection

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In 2006 the Menil Collection commissioned Max Neuhaus to create a sculpture for the museum's main building using the artist-specified medium of sound. The resulting work, Sound Figure, was inaugurated at the museum's entrance two years later. Neuhaus died the following year and despite combined efforts of the artist, his consulting audio engineer and the Menil to plan for the preservation of the work, it has operated only intermittently since 2011. Sound Figure will be used as an introduction to Neuhaus’ permanent installations in the United States and Europe while examining specific components of his works that present conservation challenges, including programming created to automate the works and corresponding websites designed for maintenance and monitoring. An additional complicating issue revolves around the technical means by which Sound Figure actively adjusts output to maintain a consistent relationship to ambient noise levels - a distinguishing feature that points to new directions the artist’s work was taking prior to his death. Using excerpts from Neuhaus’ 2008 Artists Documentation Program interview and the treatment history of Sound Figure as a case study, the opportunities and challenges presented by the work in recent years will be explored: the discrepancy between the preservation plan provided by the artist at inception and the actual needs demonstrated over time; the accelerated rate of hardware and software incompatibility leading to the ultimate failure of the artwork; the unanticipated need to quantify the audio output prior to replacing components; the role of consultants, the artist's estate and other stakeholders in resolving functionality issues; and the experience and training opportunities this multi-faceted project has presented to emerging conservation professionals.

avatar for Bradford Epley

Bradford Epley

Conservator, The Menil Collection
Brad Epley joined the Menil Collection in 1999 as assistant paintings conservator and was appointed Chief Conservator in 2006, overseeing the museum’s conservation activities and co-directing the Artists Documentation Program. Epley received his undergraduate degree in chemistry... Read More →
avatar for Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson

Conservation Coordinator, The Menil Collection
Sarah Thompson is the Conservation Coordinator at the Menil Collection where she assists conservators with the treatment of collection objects and coordinates conservation projects across the museum’s campus. She initiated the conservation department's efforts to implement workflows... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 5:00pm - 5:30pm MDT
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston
  5. General Session, Material Questions