Monday, June 29, 2015

Additional Measures Taken in Assemblage of El Taller de Gráfica Popular Exhibition

Todd Rivers installs wall vinyl next to Arturo García Bustos’ poster.

El Taller de Gráfica Popular, also known as the TGP, is a Mexico City-based print workshop, founded in the 1930s, that focused on Mexican and global issues in its heyday. From linoleum prints to woodcuts, the TGP created hundreds of pieces that brought political issues to the Mexican people.

Through September 13, the Georgia Museum of Art presents a collection of nearly 250 posters, flyers, fine prints and other works on paper produced by the TGP. Such a large exhibition (taking up seven galleries) as well as the fragility of the works, many of which were created for ephemeral purposes, required special measures in the matting and framing process as well as the exhibition design.

Todd Rivers, chief preparator at the museum, explained: “A lot was involved in framing the 205 works for this exhibition [that are hung on the wall; others are installed in cases]. Each piece was a different size and needed to be framed and matted accordingly.”

Works of art in exhibitions at the museum are normally matted and framed to fit predetermined stock frames, but four of these works needed custom frame sizes due to unusual dimensions.

One of these, the largest work in the collection, created by printmaker Arturo García Bustos in two pieces and joined, required special attention. Due to its size, the preparators could not mat it by hinging the front and back mats. Instead, the mat package was sandwiched, so as not to damage the tissue-paper-thin material. Rivers also hand cut the extra-large mat. Moving the matted work into the frame required many sets of hands, to keep it level and stable, and the process of actually framing it took about four hours, much longer than usual.

Rivers designed the exhibition as his thesis project for his master of fine arts degree, with a concentration in interior design, from UGA, and he considered framing methods and their aesthetic appeal extensively. To highlight the works of art instead of overwhelming them, he chose blond wooden frames with beige mats so as to mimic the yellowed paper of the works.

Rivers also selected wall colors to reflect the subject matter of the exhibition. Anti-Nazi and anti-Fascist works inspired a brown used in some galleries, drawn from the colors of Nazi and Fascist uniforms. Red symbolizes Communism, which the workshop supported. Even the shapes that serve as backdrops convey meaning. A red wedge in the background represents how communistic ideals wedged their way into nations all over the world.

The matting, framing and color schemes all aim to complement the works of the TGP and the messages they conveyed. With so many different images in the exhibition, these elements of design aim to help the visitor leave the exhibition with a better sense of what the TGP is and the issues for which it stood.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Confederate Flag Belongs in a Museum

One of the objects in our galleries that is hardest to explain is the presence of a work of art that consists entirely of the Confederate flag. Especially this past week, it has been difficult to explain its presence, but we often see visitors move past it quickly, without taking the time to read the long label next to it. Middle schoolers on a school tour poke one another and point at it. It seems out of place with its surroundings, but it is a subtle, complex and powerful work of art.

Leo Twiggs created the work, which is titled "Georgia II." Born in St. Stephen, South Carolina, he was the first African American to receive an doctoral degree in art education from the University of Georgia. From 1964 to 1998, he taught at South Carolina State University, serving as chair of its art department and director of the I.P. Stanback Museum and Planetarium. Retired from teaching, he now focuses entirely on his studio work, serving as artist in residence at his undergraduate alma mater, Claflin University, in Orangeburg, South Carolina.

The Georgia Museum of Art organized and traveled an exhibition of Twiggs' work in 2004 ("Myths and Metaphors: The Art of Leo Twiggs"), complete with a catalogue that is now out of print, and acquired "Georgia II" in 2008. Created using batik wax-resist related to African folk techniques, it is one of many examples in which the artist addresses the flag and attempts to transform its meaning. 

Our director, William U. Eiland, wrote the following in his preface to the catalogue:
Leo Twiggs, with gentle but unswerving irony, takes the flag and claims it as part of his Southern heritage. Tattered, disappearing almost on its support, the standard about which there is so much controversy becomes in Twiggs's hands an ambiguous metaphor of unresolved conflict, yes, but also of a shared history. In addition to the Civil War, it calls to mind equally for Twiggs the suffering of slaves, the turmoil of Reconstruction, the indignity of Jim Crow, and even the promise of the Civil Rights era, and, of course, the aftermath, when this piece of cloth, venerated by some, reviled by others, continues to inspire argument and dissension. Twiggs transforms the image through shaping a new iconography for it, one in which he finds the possibility, albeit remote, of accord.
When President Obama said he believes the Confederate flag belongs in a museum this week, he was no doubt talking about a history museum, but in this case, we believe it belongs in an art museum, too.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Frankie Welch's Cherokee Alphabet Scarf

One of the museum's latest acquisitions is a "Cherokee Alphabet Scarf"(1970) by the American fashion designer Frankie Welch, who was born and raised in Rome, Georgia, and attended the University of Georgia before moving to Alexandria, Virginia with her husband. There she opened up a fashion boutique in the historic Duvell House. Welch's iconic designs include a type of wrap dress known as the "Frankie" and over 4,000 unique scarves created for various organizations, politicians, and corporations. Her "Cherokee Alphabet Scarf" is her most famous scarf design. It features the Cherokee syllabary created by Sequoyah in a nod to her Cherokee ancestors and her Georgia heritage. Since many famous and well-connected women shopped at Welch's Alexandria boutique, including several First Ladies, her design quickly became famous, not only in the United States, but also overseas, and was even featured in an advertising campaign for high-end liquor. With the success of this scarf, Welch's career and prestige as a designer was established, and she quickly became the favored designer for Washington high society, political parties and corporations. Despite her success, Welch never forgot her Georgia roots, returning to UGA in 1982 to give a presentation on fashion design and to donate samples of her life's work to the university, which can still be found today in the Hargrett Manuscript Collection, located in the Richard B. Russell Special Collections Libraries.
Courtesy of the Valdosta Museum 

The "Cherokee Alphabet Scarf" in our collection will be exhibited this upcoming January along with a group of Cherokee baskets here at the Georgia Museum of Art. 

For more information, see: