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5. General Session [clear filter]
Friday, June 1

2:00pm MDT

(Material Questions) The Colors of Desire: Examination of Colorants in the Beauties of the Yoshiwara
Woodblock prints, first produced in Japan during the sixth to eighth century, progressed from early black line prints, sometimes with hand-applied color, to vibrant full color printed images by late 18th century. Publishing proliferated in response to the literate population’s desire for books and affordable imagery. Prints and printed books, with or without illustrations, became an integral part of daily life. Known broadly as ukiyo-e, literally meaning pictures of the floating world, these prints depicted Kabuki actors, beautiful women, scenes from history or legend, views of Edo, landscapes, and erotica. The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA) collection of Japanese woodblock prints numbers over 50,000, representing the full-range Japanese woodblock printing development. From 1998, when the first conservator dedicated to this collection was hired, work has been ongoing to document, treat, and re-house this vast collection and thus enable its use in exhibitions, scholarship, and research. While numerous literature studies have been conducted on the history of the printing techniques and materials, the MFA’ s study is the first to use a combination of visual and non-invasive spectroscopic techniques to systematically identify the thin layer(s) of inorganic and organic colorants on Japanese woodblock prints. The combination of the large study set and the ideal analysis techniques have provided the MFA with the unique opportunity to fully characterize the palette and techniques on these prints. To illustrate the range of results obtained from this large-scale study, this presentation will examine a sampling of the techniques and palette used for the 1770 printing Harunobu’s five volumes of Beauties of the Yoshiwara. Every illustration was surveyed using a stereo binocular microscope to determine which colors were overprinted to create new tones. The illustrations were also viewed under ultraviolet radiation to reveal the characteristic fluorescence or absorption properties of the individual colors. Following these visual inspections, colors were examined by three spectroscopic analysis methods that did not require sampling. X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) provided information on the chemical elements found in inorganic pigments. The red and yellow organic colorants, such as madder, safflower, sappanwood, turmeric, flavonoids, and gamboge, were indicated by Excitation Emission Matrix (EEM) fluorescence. Fiber-optic Reflectance spectroscopy (FORS) was used to readily distinguish between dayflower and indigo blue, even in mixtures that appear green or purple. The parameters of the analysis methods were thoroughly vetted using printed references of traditional Japanese colors that were prepared in-house. This combination of techniques, both visual and spectroscopic, was critical towards gaining a better understanding of the materials and techniques used for the prints.

avatar for Michiko Adachi

Michiko Adachi

Sherman Fairchild Fellow, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Michiko Adachi received an M.A. and Advanced Certificate in Art Conservation in 2016 from the Art Conservation program at Buffalo State College, where she studied paper conservation. She has had previous internships at the Library of Congress and the MFA Boston. As an undergraduate... Read More →
avatar for Michele Derrick

Michele Derrick

Scientist/Researcher, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Michele R. Derrick is a chemist and conservation scientist with more than twenty years’ experience analyzing and characterizing materials. She worked at the University of Arizona Analytical Center and then for twelve years as a conservation scientist at the Getty Conservation Institute... Read More →

avatar for Richard Newman

Richard Newman

Head of Scientific Research, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Richard Newman is Head of Scientific Research at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he has worked as a research scientist since 1986. He has a BA in Art History (Western Washington University), MA in Geology (Boston University) and completed a 3-year apprenticeship in conservation... Read More →

Joan Wright-[PA]

Bettina Burr Conservator, Asian Conservation, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Joan Wright is the Bettina Burr Conservator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston where she has worked since 1998. She is the conservator in charge of the care of Japanese woodblock prints, Indian and Islamic paintings and illustrated books and manuscripts. From 2005-2010 with museum... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 2:00pm - 2:30pm MDT
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston

2:30pm MDT

(Material Questions) Explosive Beauty: Material Studies of Cai Guo-Qiang
Cai Guo-Qiang is one of the most prominent contemporary Chinese artists active today. Based in New York, he works and exhibits internationally. Cai uses a wide variety of media, including paintings, installations, videos, but has become especially known for his systematic use of gunpowder to create gunpowder drawings and paintings, some of them on a very large scale. For almost three decades, he worked mostly with black gunpowder but has recently (2015) started using colored gunpowders to produce more sensuous and lavish compositions. He also uses gunpowders and fireworks to create ephemeral explosion events and community projects. Cai’s works encapsulates many of the issues inherent to contemporary art, such as the adoption of a non-artistic process as a signature medium, as well as working across a wide variety of genres and media including some traditional ones all the way to ephemeral practices, community participation and the incorporation of new technologies. The GCI has embarked on a collaboration with the studio to systematically document the materials and processes used by Cai Guo-Qiang for his work across media. The goal is to understand how the adoption of gunpowder has influenced Cai’s artistic practice; how his use of materials has evolved throughout his career; and the artist’s attitude towards materials, making, and conservation. The interdisciplinary approach combines numerous interviews with the artist, technical examination of a large corpus of gunpowder drawings, paintings and installations (including early transitional works mixing painting with gunpowder), scientific analyses, as well as the use of microfadeometry and artificial weathering to predict the aging of some of his work such as the colored gunpowder paintings. This paper will detail the findings of the project to date and explore the role that material studies can play in the understanding, interpretation, display, presentation and preservation of Cai’s work.

avatar for Rachel Rivenc

Rachel Rivenc

Associate Scientist, Getty Conservation Institute
Rachel Rivenc has been working within the Modern and Contemporary Art Research Initiative at the GCI since 2006. She is currently an associate scientist. She studies the diverse materials and techniques used by contemporary artists, and their conservation. She is currently leading... Read More →

avatar for Vincent L. Beltran

Vincent L. Beltran

Assistant Scientist, Getty Conservation Institute
Vincent Beltran joined GCI Science in 2002. He has been an active participant in a range of research projects including the mechanical characterization of historic materials, the effect of reduced oxygen environments on color change, evaluations of packing case performance during... Read More →
avatar for Vincent Dion

Vincent Dion

Conservator-Methodologist, ERM - Estonian National Museum
Vincent Dion graduated from the Master in Art Conservation program at Queen's University in 2016 with a specialization in works on paper and new media. Subsequently, his interest in modern materials and background studies in chemistry led him to join the Modern and Contemporary Art... Read More →
avatar for Michael Doutre

Michael Doutre

Research Lab Associate, Getty Conservation Institute
Michael Doutre joined the GCI in 2016 to work on the Modern and Contemporary Art Research Initiative focusing on the characterization of paints used on contemporary outdoor painted sculpture, the degradation of plastics used in cultural heritage, and the effects of cleaning treatments... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 2:30pm - 3:00pm MDT
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston

3:00pm MDT

(Material Questions) Martin Ramirez’s Creative Compulsions: The Composition, Construction and Conservation of His Monumental Collaged Drawings
Like many “outsider” artists who were not championed by the art establishment until late in their careers or well after their deaths, Martin Ramirez was until recently a somewhat mysterious figure. The details of his biography were scant and the 42 years that passed between his death and their coalescence in a 2015 biography by Victor Espinoza bred apocryphal tales of his artistic process. Ramirez immigrated to the United States from Mexico, worked for a time, and then found himself homeless on the streets of Los Angeles only to be incarcerated into the state’s mental hospitals for the last decades of his life. His isolation and diagnosis as a catatonic schizophrenic fueled rumors that without access to art supplies, he was compelled to squeeze grapefruit to make ink from their juice and to macerate bread, mashed potatoes, and cereal to make adhesives. While it is true that Ramirez’s circumstances necessitated ingenuity, such descriptions of his desperation detract from the technical skill, sophisticated visual lexicon, and thoughtful revisions that he employed in the production of some 400 extant drawings (as well as many more destroyed by hospital staff) over a period of three decades. Fashioned from papers that Ramirez removed from waste paper baskets and magazines, from the cafeteria’s paper placements and napkins, and from paper bags of all sorts, the artist’s collaged supports are works of art in their own right that possess a tactile three-dimensional quality. His imagery includes trains running into tunnels, men on horseback, towering madonnas, and Spanish colonial-style architecture. In anticipation of the inaugural exhibition of the new Institute of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles (ICA LA), a large number of Ramirez’s works housed in Chicago collections were examined and conserved. Among them, a monumental 18-foot-long drawing that Ramirez constructed from hundreds of scraps of paper would become central to the exhibition after a major conservation intervention. To better understand Ramirez’s materials, technical study and scientific analysis were undertaken to characterize the adhesives and various components of the drawing media and colorants. Research into arts education in public schools and institutions like the ones in which Ramirez lived was also undertaken to determine what products were available to students and patients alike in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s. Combined with observations made during the conservation treatment of the large drawing noted above, as well as 14 others, a better and more precise understanding of Ramirez’s materials, his methods of constructing his supports, and the types of damage to which they are susceptible over time, will be presented.

avatar for Harriet K. Stratis-[PA]

Harriet K. Stratis-[PA]

Stratis Fine Art Conservation LLC, Art Institute of Chicago (Retired)
Harriet Stratis is a paper conservator and technical art historian. In 2017, after 30 years as a museum professional, she established a private practice and is focussed on consulting for museums and private collectors to carry out technical research and/or conservation treatments... Read More →

avatar for Mary Broadway

Mary Broadway

Associate Paper Conservator, Art Institute of Chicago
Mary Broadway is the Associate paper conservator at the Art Institute of Chicago Additional Co-authors include: Mary Broadway, Veronica Biolcati, Ken Sutherland, Francesca Casadio, Emeline Pouyet, Agnese Babini, Gianluca Pastorelli, Danielle Duggins, Marc Walton

Ken Sutherland

Conservation Scientist, Art Institute of Chicago
Ken Sutherland is a scientist in the Department of Conservation and Science at the Art Institute of Chicago. He held previous positions as scientist in the Conservation Department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Research Fellow in the Scientific Research Department of the National... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 3:00pm - 3:30pm MDT
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston

4:00pm MDT

(Material Questions) Connecting the dots: visitor interaction in contemporary art collections
Contemporary artworks are often comprised of unconventional materials, concepts, and formats. Together with the fact that the requisite display often precludes the use of platforms or vitrines, the ability to differentiate between the boundaries of what comprises the artwork and the degree of interactivity can become challenging to the museum’s visitors. In 2017, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden hosted the exhibition ‘Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors’, putting on display an oeuvre characterized by a mix of brightly colored wall paintings, soft sculptures on platforms, inflatable artworks suspended from the ceiling or sitting directly on the floor, and immersive mirror rooms for visitors to enter. This exhibition exemplified the inconsistencies of allowable interaction, and also posed a unique opportunity of studying the artworks in a range of settings across the venues. This show, therefore, became the focal point of an expansive and ongoing exploration into visitor interaction in contemporary art collections. The methodology of this research has been highly collaborative in nature. Over the course of the exhibition, human behavior in the galleries was observed and discussed on many levels throughout the institution and included a wide range of departments. Collection Management, Conservation, Visitor Services, Security, Communications, and Exhibits all came to the table with a range of perspectives and experiences that guided the overall approach and development of systems during the exhibition. Much was learned through these discussions with the added benefits of closer interdepartmental relationships and a broader view across the Museum of the issues regarding visitor interaction and the intersection of staff roles. The strategies that were adopted during these discussions have also been applied to future exhibitions that pose similar challenges. Taking advantage of the full run of the exhibition, HMSG fellow Anouk Verbeek is following the exhibition 'Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors' as it travels to five other venues in North America. This continuation of her initial research includes monitoring the considerations of gallery layout, visitor flow, signage, staff involvement, and free versus paid admission. Observing the same artworks in a different setting and environment and with different demographics of visitorship will give insight into both overlapping and differing issues regarding visitor interaction. By communicating with colleagues at all venues, as well as other museums worldwide, and learning from each other’s mistakes and successes, we will hopefully get closer to creating a clear image of the issues–and possible solutions–posed by visitor interaction in contemporary art collections.

avatar for Anouk Verbeek

Anouk Verbeek

Postgraduate fellow in contemporary art conservation, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Anouk Verbeek is a contemporary art conservator, currently working as a fellow at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, D.C. Over the years, she has carried out treatments on a broad range of objects, the focal point being plastics. She has conducted research into... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 4:00pm - 4:30pm MDT
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston

4:30pm MDT

(Material Questions) An Enlightened Perspective: Balancing Artist Intent with Conservation Concerns
Rei Kawakubo, the avant-garde fashion designer and founder of the fashion label Comme des Garçons, is known for her provocative ability to push past boundaries. Unsurprisingly, the monographic exhibition organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute in cooperation with Kawakubo, "Rei Kawakubo/Comme des Garçons: Art of the In-Between," was in many ways the antithesis of a typical museum exhibition. Standard exhibition practices, such as displaying objects on platforms and maintaining safe touch distances, were abandoned in allegiance to Kawakubo’s larger creative vision that espoused democracy and public access. The most challenging conservation aspect was the lighting design: a diagonal grid of over 300 72” long T12 Fluorescent lamps that had the potential to illuminate fashion objects to a projected 123 foot candles. As with all exhibitions involving living artists, the Costume Institute conservators engaged in constructive dialogue with the designer in order to reach a solution that balanced Kawakubo’s wishes with conservation concerns about high light levels. Paramount to the conservators’ approach was using conservation ethics as the guiding framework structuring decision-making and compromise efforts. Significantly, the exhibition was the first and only authoritative exhibition sanctioned by the designer herself and the majority of the objects were from the designer’s archive, two factors that led the conservators to accept the lighting design in theory, although with modification to ensure conservation requirements for museum objects. The use of UV-filters and an iron-clad damage waiver provided additional conservation and legal protections. In recognition that the ultimate lighting design still fell far short of normal conservation standards, the CI conservation team seized the opportunity to collect valuable data that could inform future exhibition design. To achieve this objective, the CI conservation team took a wide-ranging approach that included the following measures: testing CI objects selected for exhibition using a microfader to identify each object’s potential for light damage; testing actual light levels against projected light levels to assess the precision of the light modeling software Autodesk Revit; tracking lamp lumen depreciation (light intensity) over the course of the exhibition to more closely calculate cumulative light exposure; and placing blue wool standard cards throughout the exhibition as a means to evaluate possible cumulative light damage through pre- and post-exhibition colorimetry measurements. Through this aggregation of data the CI conservation team endeavored to gain the broadest understanding of the many variables that converge when lighting an object over the course of an exhibition, especially when artistic intent must take precedence over standard conservation requirements.

avatar for Christopher Mazza

Christopher Mazza

Conservation Assistant, The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Christopher Mazza, Conservation Assistant, provides support for the department's in-house exhibitions and preservation of the costume collection. He holds an MA in fashion and textile studies: history, theory, and museum practice from the Fashion Institute of Technology and an MFA... Read More →
avatar for Sarah Scaturro

Sarah Scaturro

Head Conservator, The Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Sarah Scaturro is the Head Conservator of the Costume Institute, Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she is in charge of the conservation laboratory and the preservation of the fashion collection. She was previously the textile conservator and assistant curator of fashion at the Cooper-Hewitt... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 4:30pm - 5:00pm MDT
Texas Ballroom A Marriott Marquis Houston
  5. General Session, Material Questions

5:00pm MDT

(Material Questions) Between subtle and silent: the conservation of Max Neuhaus' Sound Figure at the Menil Collection
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