Back To Schedule
Friday, May 31 • 9:00am - 9:30am
(Wooden Artifacts) Contemporary Sculpture: To Contact the Artist or Not?

Sign up or log in to save this to your schedule, view media, leave feedback and see who's attending!

This presentation will explore the challenges involved in the treatment of two contemporary wood sculptures, End of Day, Nightscape IV, 1973, by Louise Nevelson and Mass (Colder Darker Matter), 1997, by Cornelia Parker. Both sculptures consist of found wood objects and non-traditional art materials, both treatments involved cleaning, but in one case the artist’s foundation was contacted and in another case the artist was not contacted.

Both sculptures contain found wood objects from different sources. Nevelson used wood from printing trays and other post-industrial debris, while Parker used charred wood from a building burnt down by a lightning strike. Both artists used contemporary materials, Nevelson painted these found objects with matte black spray paint, Parker installed her work on nylon or monofilament threads. These sculptures were created 24 years apart and the artist Cornelia Parker offered the museum crates of additional pieces of charred wood to replace losses. Parker showed an awareness of the inherent vice in the material she used in the sculpture and she understood that the sculpture would need to be loaned, installed, and de-installed. She gave specific instructions for these tasks and anticipated the potential for damages during the artifact’s museum life.

The treatment for both sculptures involved removing dust from the surface, because of the fragile surfaces the dust removal was performed by manipulating the surface as little as possible. The aesthetic value of the sculptures was improved after cleaning, distracting amounts of dust were removed and the black wood appeared darker. The Nevelson treatment also involved stabilization of the paint, minor repairs of wood elements, and in-painting losses.

Interviewing an artist is an important tool for a contemporary art conservator. It allows the conservator to better understand the intent of the artist’s work and it can provide insight into the materials and techniques involved in the creation of the work. But it is important to understand when an artist interview is necessary, and the difference between a consultation with the artist, asking one or two specific questions, and a full artist interview. The two cases studies will illustrate the appropriate use of this tool. For the treatment of the Nevelson sculpture the Louise Nevelson foundation was contacted, by comparison the artist Cornelia Parker was not contacted as part of the preparations for the treatment of her sculpture.

The paper will touch on legal issues involved around the decision about whether to contact an artist, as illustrated by the Visual Artist’s Rights Act (VARA). The act defines the deterioration and conservation of a work of art and these definitions can be interpreted to understand the choices a conservator is faced with when treating a work of art. The paper will consider if there is a point when the training of a conservator allows them to make decisions about the treatment of a work of art, especially if the artist is unwilling or unable to perform these treatments.


Rose Cull

Rose has training from the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation and practical experience at: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, the Nasher Sculpture Center, Shelburne Museum, Winterthur Museum, The Nelson-Atkins... Read More →

Friday May 31, 2013 9:00am - 9:30am EDT
JW Marriott Meeting Room 204-205 10 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

Attendees (0)