Staff Show 2016: Gloria Duan

In this series, Education Specialist for Public Programs Emily Bray highlights participants in the 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show, on view through September 19, 2016.

Gloria Duan, ~, Cyanotype on silk habotai with handrolled edges

Gloria Duan, “~”


Gloria Duan

Gloria Duan, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Gloria Duan, Photo: Rhiannon Newman

Born on the first day of spring in the last hour of winter, in Amherst, Massachusetts, Gloria Duan is a 2015 BFA graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and a 2011 graduate of the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. She is interested in establishing artistic, cultural, and philosophical significance for new innovations and discoveries in science and technology beyond their traditionally practical purposes. She currently lives in the Washington, DC metro area.

What do you do at The Phillips Collection? Are there any unique/interesting parts about your job that most people might not know about?

I work as a Museum Assistant. In the mornings before the museum opens to the public, I like to walk around the galleries and view the collection without another soul around!

Who are your favorite artists in the collection?

Milton Avery is my favorite artist in the collection. I appreciate his use of color and compositional directives. I see a subtle elegance in his hand similar to Giorgio Morandi. More specifically, in Morandi’s still life paintings and Avery’s late landscapes, there is “solid in void and void in solid” …in space vibrating with its own emptiness.

What is your favorite gallery or space within The Phillips Collection?

My favorite gallery within the Phillips is the first floor of the Sant Building. I think the high ceilings and windows makes the space especially suitable for displaying a wide range of artworks.

What would you like people to know about your artwork on view in the 2016 Staff Show (or your work in general)?

The painting on display at the 2016 Staff Show is part of an ongoing series that, at a future date, will ideally be un-stretched and suspended in outer space, for the astro-viewer to float through and around as an immersive experience.

This series of paintings, its process, and ideal installation, aims to semantically describe mutable and ephemeral subjects, phenomena, and materials, through their un-guessed synchronicities. Topics include water, wind, shadow, light, glass, waves, pure energy, suspension, floating, and universal expansion. The circular silk cutout of this piece, and the Mobius forms seen in additional works from the series, are inspired by Robert Mangold’s “Ring” series. Morris Louis’ painting practice, in which he loosely tacked canvas to stretcher frames, informs the cyanotype coating process. Out of many light sensitive photo processes, the cyanotype was chosen for its Prussian hues. Quoting Goethe, “we love to contemplate blue not because it advances to us, but because it draws us after it.” The indexing of photograms includes hand-blown glass objects and their shadows, which channel, reflect, and block UV light. Finally, as mentioned before, my aim for this series is to bring painting into space, in order to conceptualize and advance the emerging genre of Space Art.

The 2016 James McLaughlin Memorial Staff Show is on view August 14 through September 19, 2016.

Controlled Chaos

An interview between Meg Clark, program coordinator at the Phillips’s Center for the Study of Modern Art, and Klaus Ottmann, director of the Center and Phillips curator at large, on his installation in the Main Gallery of works from the permanent collection

Main gallery, detailed installation view. Photo: Kate Boone

Main gallery, detailed installation view. Photo: Kate Boone

Meg Clark: Was this your first time curating an entire gallery space from the permanent collection for the museum? What made you choose the Main Gallery?

Klaus Ottmann: An entire gallery space, yes. I think this is a kind of departure for the museum, in an effort to create more diversity and curatorial voices as far as permanent collection installations are concerned. The reason it is in the Main Gallery is because it was the first space available; it needed to be reinstalled after the Snapshot show, and I was asked to do it. I also think the Main Gallery is a beautiful space, because it really is a very traditional art gallery space. It has no windows, beautiful light, and is elevated to a certain extent–the viewpoint upon entering the gallery from the house is so interesting.

Some of the works here have elements of chaos, and collapse – which is something I think art is very much about.

MC: Tell us about your curatorial process, generally speaking and for this particular installation. Do you ever approach a project with a theme in mind, and, if so, what did you have in mind for this space?

KO: I have what you might call a non-traditional curatorial practice. It is less art historical and more influenced or informed by my philosophical background. I consider my practice to be one of structuralism, which is a form of formalism–one that considers form as content. I tend to have an a-historical approach, something that is very suitable to this museum since we do not have separate departments for different time periods, different media, etc. Years ago in other museums it was almost impossible to mix things between media and between different periods in the way it is done here. More and more museums are doing that now, but the Phillips was doing this from the very beginning, never having restrictions. There is a great freedom in that.

I never come to an installation or an exhibition with a preconceived idea or theme. I let it evolve from the works themselves. I look at a number of works and see what appeals to me. I do know that for this space I wanted to have a mixture of painting, sculpture, and photography. I especially wanted to show works we have rarely exhibited. As I was browsing through our databases and seeing what we have, certain things came to mind. For instance I like the idea of chaos and works that evoke a sense of uncontrollable circumstances or feeling. Some of the works here have elements of chaos and collapse, which is something I think art is very much about. Continue reading