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Friday, May 31 • 2:20pm - 2:40pm
(Contemporary Art Session 2) Modern Ruins Restored: the Conservation of Monday, Wednesday, Saturday

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The three element sculpture, Monday, Wednesday, Saturday was made in 1984 by the Canadian artist collective General Idea, as an installation element for their first international, traveling retrospective. The sculptures echo phallic votive forms in Pompeian frescos, and abstract cornucopias - the horn-shaped vessels commonly depicted as overflowing with produce and fruit. They were displayed with other art objects which imitated ruins and ancient murals, complete with fake losses and stains.

The original sculptures were made of thin layers of pigmented plaster over a polyurethane foam interior, and were damaged by handling and transit between Basel, where they were constructed, and Eindhoven – the first venue of the exhibition. Subsequent travel – to Toronto and Montreal was deemed practically impossible by the artists, and the sculptures were abandoned in Europe, to be refabricated in Toronto for the third venue. The refabrications, of similar construction but paler coloring, incurred similar damages from travel as the originals resulting in a network of prominent mechanical cracks over their entire surface. After the final venue, the sculptures were placed in storage where they would remain for 24 years, until they were donated to the National Gallery of Canada (NGC) by General Idea’s only surviving artist, AA Bronson.

The Fellowship project explored these sculptures and examined treatment options, working with curatorial staff inside and out the NGC, and perhaps most importantly, the surviving member of the artist collective, AA Bronson. Technical or anecdotal information about construction was scarce and perplexing, so study was undertaken – namely x-radiography of the structures, and sampling and analysis of the plaster and foam components. In addition, a partial-size mock-up was fabricated.

Early examination and analytical study determined the three six-foot sculptures were composed of a polyurethane ester foam interior, covered with thin, pigmented gypsum. Experiments were conducted to find a suitable treatment to remove the foam and reinforce the gypsum shell should they indeed be made of the ester foam, prone to inherent degradation even without adverse environmental factors, while further analysis was conducted to validate the foam’s composition. Consolidants and fill materials were tested to stabilize the fragile plaster surface, and ultimately used to treat the sculptures when the final analysis concluded the foam is the less problematic polyurethane ether.

This unique project presented the opportunity to find a suitable treatment for Monday, Wednesday, Saturday by addressing the challenging structural issues and fragile matte, porous, and otherwise sensitive surface of the sculptures, while paying attention to aesthetic, historic, and philosophical issues. By working together with AA Bronson, NGC navigated concerns for the sculptures’ treatment and explored possible options to ensure Monday, Wednesday, Saturday could be exhibited in the future.

avatar for Tasia Bulger

Tasia Bulger

Assistant Conservator, Paintings, National Gallery of Canada

Friday May 31, 2013 2:20pm - 2:40pm EDT
JW Marriott White River Ballroom F 10 S West St Indianapolis, IN 46204

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