POSTED BY Katie R., ON June 10, 2011, Comments Off
When Avant-Garde Art in Everyday Life opens tomorrow, you’ll be able to see the work of six 20th century artists who strove to bring art and good design to the common man. During a time of great political upheaval, these progressive east-central European designers took inspiration in the world around them—cinema, advertising, and pop culture—to revolutionize graphic and industrial design practices. The exhibition includes a wide variety of media, including photography, books, posters, photomontages, porcelain, and glassware.
Check out a behind-the-scenes look at Art Institute staffers preparing objects for installation in this utopian exhibition…
POSTED BY Guest Blogger, ON June 09, 2011, Comments Off
Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life not only includes royal wedding garb and wallpapers, but also a set of “dissect it yourself” flap prints from 1613 for the doctor-in-training or morbid enthusiast in your life. Novices could have a look at this model of “their own” entrails without the stench of the anatomy theater. But unlike the real human body, these figures aren’t exactly anatomically correct. The lungs, hearts, livers, and stomachs of these early pop-ups were intended to be removable (according to the accompanying manual), and they have curiously redistributed themselves over the ensuing years.
While Prints and Drawings preparator Mardy Sears was inserting folded paper hinges to keep the flaps of the large Adam figure propped open for the exhibition, she discovered some unexpected items. A small bulge under Adam’s thigh turned out to be his lungs, long believed missing! A pair of needle-nosed tweezers soon turned up his liver as well. Two hearts were also hidden inside Adam, leaving him literally in possession of his companion Eve’s heart. The sheets’ elaborate construction creates a surprising amount of depth for an early modern work of paper engineering. (The engraved front layer had parts cut open into flaps. After a few additional flaps were added, then the bulk of the organ flaps were supplied as etchings glued on from behind. Finally, the whole package was glued down at the edges onto a stronger backing paper with letterpress headings.) No wonder a few organs went into hiding . . .
Read more about these fascinating prints in the exhibition catalogue, and at Art in Print!
—Suzanne Karr Schmidt, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in Prints and Drawings
POSTED BY Guest Blogger, ON April 28, 2011, Comments Off
William and Kate have nothing on the preparations for the wedding of the Grand Duke Ferdinando de Medici and the Princess Christine of Lorraine. In 1589, their Florentine wedding lasted almost the entire month of May and included many newly commissioned pieces of music, theater, and even an indoor mock sea battle pitting the (inevitably victorious) Christians against the Turks. One of their possible party favors will be on view Saturday in the Art Institute’s Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life. This engraving of a feathered headdress by Agostino Carracci was intended to be cut out, pasted onto a support, and worn! If party-goers were not in the mood to model the virginal goddess Diana cartouche and the peeping-tom satyr below, they could swap them out for the sadder but wiser Minerva, with a dancing nymph trio and other scenes.
Cut and paste millinery has never been this much fun!
—Suzanne Karr Schmidt, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow, Prints and Drawings
Agostino Carracci. Headpiece in the Form of a Fan, c. 1589. Engraving on ivory laid paper, meant to be cut out and worn, with interchangeable oval vignettes. Joseph Brooks Fair Collection, 1942.250.
How big did prints get in the Renaissance? So big that they probably wouldn’t fit above your couch! Whether pretending to be paintings and tapestries, or repeating erotic patterns for the bedroom, these multi-sheet wallpapers were luxurious simply because they required so much wall space.
When Altered and Adorned: Using Renaissance Prints in Daily Life opens this Saturday, you’ll be able to see what intrepid museum preparators Mardy Sears and Chris O’Shea needed two ladders to install in its full glory . . .
–Suzanne Karr Schmidt, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow, Prints and Drawings
POSTED BY Guest Blogger, ON April 14, 2011, Comments Off
The upcoming exhibition Avant-Garde Art in Everyday Life will feature over 300 objects created by central and eastern European artists who believed that art’s role was to revolutionize the habits of everyday life. They were influenced by urban culture and mass media, and many created both one-of-a-kind pieces and commercially-produced objects.
While the exhibition is organized by the Department of Photography, it includes a wide variety of media extending outside the photographic realm. In order to compensate for this, we had to devise a system to identify the processes and simplify our media categories to make easier comparisons. Some identification remained the same: gelatin silver prints were left as gelatin silver prints; porcelain was still porcelain. However, identifying the commercial printing processes used for posters, periodicals, and books in the exhibit proved tricky, as I was trained in photographic processes and only had limited knowledge of printmaking techniques, let alone commercial ones.
With a list of objects, I enlisted the aid of Kristi Dahm, Assistant Conservator of Prints & Drawings to light my way through the maze of medium identification. Kristi provided invaluable information, explaining the techniques, terms, and methods used to identify the various types of printing processes used. She also pointed me to a book entitled, How to Identify Prints: A Complete Guide to Manual and Mechanical Processes from Woodcut to Inkjet by Bamber Gascoigne, an outstanding visual guide I used liberally during the identification process.
With Kristi’s instruction and Bamber Gascoigne’s text, we decided on identification terms to identify all the commercial processes: letterpress, lithograph, and gravure. Below are the microscopic examples to help you identify the differences and impress your fellow visitors.
Letterpress is a colloquial term for commercial relief printing processes including halftone letterpress and line block processes. To make the print, the printer inks a metal printing block with the letters and images rendered on a raised surface. The metal form is then pressed into the paper, making the excess ink squish to the edges and creating indents in the paper. The effect of the indents is often referred to as planar distortion. Under the microscope, the excess ink around the edges and the planar distortion (circled in the image immediately above) from the printing block provides the clues needed to easily identify the technique.