Many of us have things passed down from our family, maybe stuffed in boxes in the attic or basement, that are treasures to us. These treasures, though maybe not valuable in the eyes of the public (or art market), are priceless to us. “Everybody thinks their Great Aunt Margaret was a great artist,” said one of our clients. Yet sometimes, as that same client found out, it turns out to be true.
Sometimes pieces arrive at The Center in good condition, but have inappropriate framing treatments. We are frequently asked to reframe art, or to provide solutions to address faulty framing. For instance, one piece came to us in great condition, it had simply slipped from its mount inside its frame. The piece was a mixed media work by Mark Bradford, an installation and conceptual artist from Los Angeles who had first experimented artistically in his mother’s hair salon, and now has pieces in museums around the world.
Frederick Douglass changed the course of history with his powerful writing and moving speeches. An escaped slave, Douglass devoted his life to the abolition movement and even became involved in the movement for women’s rights. Douglass also published his own newsletter called the North Star and wrote numerous autobiographies.
Amadeo Modigliani was an Italian painter who lived and worked during La Belle Époque. Like many other artists during this period, he resided in Paris where he created some of his most famous sculptures, drawings, and paintings. Although Modigliani was prolific and created hundreds of pieces, he was destitute for most of his tragically short life. The artist is well-known for his portraits, which depict faces influenced by the Baule masks and figures from the Ivory Coast. His distinctive style is characterized by long necks and faces, and by his signature small, hazy eyes. We recently encountered one of his drawings in need of minor treatment and cleaning.
At The Conservation Center, we are acutely aware that accidents happen, so that is why we offer our services at EXPO Chicago every year. Our team of art handlers and conservators prepare annually to assist in every way possible as hundreds of pieces of art are installed in Navy Pier over two short days. This year we assisted with a piece that suffered damage from international shipment. Somewhere along the way, the glass shattered and the paper piece underneath was in need of a quick rescue.
Though Roger Brown was born in Alabama and split his time between homes in Chicago, Michigan, and California, the Windy City always held a special place in his heart. Brown moved to Chicago in 1962 to attend the American Academy of Art, where he completed a commercial design program. Brown then enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received his BFA in 1968 and MFA in 1970. During this time, Brown and his colleagues (many of whom would become part of the group known as the Chicago Imagists) began to nurture an appreciation for self-taught artists, seeing them not as “outsider” artists, but as worthy of respect and inclusion into the mainstream art world. This, coupled with his travels throughout the United States, Africa, Europe, and Russia, had a profound influence on Brown’s art. Though his works are often bright and simple in composition, the artist’s practice frequently presents a darkly satirical view of contemporary life and American culture.
Robert Rauschenberg is frequently remembered for his series of work created in the 1950s and 1960s that combined aspects of both painting and sculpture. Rauschenberg himself called them "Combines", a term he invented to describe a work that is neither a sculpture nor a painting, but rather a hybrid of the two. The artist was always one to experiment and fuse, often creating something entirely new from two entirely different substances.
Charles White, born and educated in Chicago, was one of the preeminent artists to emerge during the city’s Black Renaissance of the 1930’s and 1940’s. This year, White’s hometown is recognizing his contribution to the portrayal of African American culture and history with a retrospective of the artist’s paintings, drawings, and prints at the Art Institute of Chicago. After being on display in Chicago from now until September, the exhibition will travel on to New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Los Angeles’ County Museum of Art. Given the current recognition White is receiving locally, we were honored to also find ourselves interacting with the artist’s powerful work at the same time it was on display at the Art Institute.
Although he is widely recognized for his paintings, Salvador Dali completed a number of series featuring lithographs and etchings. When one of such works came to The Center for care, we were excited to work on such a special piece. This print, titled "Dalinean Prophecy", is number 8 of 25 in a series called “Imagination and Objects of the Future”.
It seemed like any other Wednesday in September at The Center. Things were relatively quiet after a previously hectic week at EXPO CHICAGO, and the Client Services team was expecting an appointment with Israel Idonije who had a large watercolor piece that needed display options. When the client arrived with the watercolor, the team quickly realized that “display options” was an understatement. The Conservation Center prides itself on interdepartmental collaboration and the consultation soon included several conservators from many departments, all of whom were ready to Bear Down and tackle the task at hand.