Seeing Art Slowly: Part I

Images of paintings viewed on Slow Art Day 2013

(left) Willem de Kooning, Asheville, ca. 1935. Oil and enamel on cardboard, 25 9/16 x 31 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1952 (right) Bradley Walker Tomlin, No. 8, 1952. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 65 7/8 x 47 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1955.

On Saturday, April 27, Slow Art Day came to The Phillips Collection. Slow Art Day is an annual event that happens all over the world. This event challenges museum visitors to see art differently. In organizing the Phillips iteration, I was excited about the potential discussions a slow art visit would generate. At the Phillips, participants were invited to view works like Willem de Kooning‘s Asheville and Bradley Walker Tomlin‘s No. 8, slowly.

I encourage you to make every day Slow Art Day. Challenge yourself to look at art differently. Slow down and spend time looking. Hopefully this will lead to a meaningful discussion about the pieces of art you see. You can do it right now! Spend 5-10 minutes looking at the Willem de Kooning and Bradley Walker Tomlin paintings above and share your reaction in the comments. Then stay tuned for a guest post by Gallery Educator Lana Housholder who led the tour at the Phillips.

Mackenzie Good, DC Emerging Museum Professionals Co-Officer, Washington, D.C. 2013 Slow Art Day Organizer

Everyone’s In on the Action

(Left to right) Valerie Hellstein gives a tour ; Willem de Kooning,  Asheville, 1948, Oil and enamel on cardboard; 25 9/16 x 31 7/8 in.; 64.92875 x 80.9625 cm.. Acquired 1952 ; Bradley Walker Tomlin, No. 8, 1952, Oil and charcoal on canvas; 65 7/8 x 47 7/8 in.; 167.3225 x 121.6025 cm.. Acquired 1955.

(Left to right) Valerie Hellstein gives a tour ; Willem de Kooning, Asheville, 1948. Oil and enamel on cardboard, 25 9/16 x 31 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1952; Bradley Walker Tomlin, No. 8, 1952. Oil and charcoal on canvas, 65 7/8 x 47 7/8 in. The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C. Acquired 1955.

In Valerie Hellstein’s spotlight talk yesterday, about her installation of abstract expressionist works, she moved us past familiar thoughts about the actions of the artist (think Jackson Pollock dancing over his canvases) toward a focus on the actions of the viewer. Action painting requires action on the part of the viewer to really experience the work, she explained. We attend to the colors. We think about the depth of the paint and the forms on the canvas. Active looking is required to do more than just pass by the work with a glancing notice. And through our active looking, we become aware of our moment and our place in that moment, standing before the painting.

A Subtle But Significant Improvement: Conserving A “Petal Painting” (Part III)

Read parts one and two of this series.

Results of Treatment

Treatment resulted in a subtle but significant improvement to the picture’s appearance. Greater contrast between the dark colors in the background and the pastel “petals” in the foreground returns a sense of vibrancy and movement to the composition. In addition, although they remain inherently fragile, consolidation left the paint layers more stable–improving the overall condition of the picture.

Number 8 seen Before Treatment, left, and After Treatment, right

No. 8 seen Before Treatment, left, and After Treatment, right

Left: The back of the painting, exposed; note the lighter color of the new stretcher keys against the darker, aged wood of the stretcher Right: The back of the painting with a protective foam-core backing.

Left: The back of the painting showing the canvas and stretcher. Right: The back of the painting with a protective foam-core backing, attached to the stretcher to add support and protect the back of the canvas from dust and blows.