The Reading Room

My office window opens to the the library reading room here at the museum, a space that many would agree is one of the stellar places to be in the museum. My understanding is that Philip Johnson, when designing the museum's expansion which opened in 2001, took special interest in getting this room just right. I think he succeeded. The room is paneled in book-matched Burmese teak, meaning that each veneer panel is a mirror of itself, essentially resulting in walls that are covered with the opened pages of books. The space offers soft, enveloping lighting from its arched ceiling with a complement of accent lighting at its edges. It is expansive without being overwhelming. It offers a quite and reflective environment for sustained contemplation. It is a room that is, in short, inspirational, as any effective reading room should be.

Today I pay tribute to this wonderful space by sharing these pictures taken this afternoon. I hope you'll come by and enjoy the space in person.




Carter's O'Keeffe Now at the Whitney

The Carter's earliest oil painting by Georgia O'Keeffe, Series I--No. I has traveled to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York for the exhibition, Georgia O'Keeffe: Abstraction. You can see the Carter's painting on the Whitney's website and reproduced on the cover of the exhibition catalog.

Series I--No. I will be at the Whitney until January 2010, when the exhibition travels to the Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. and then on to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe. New York Times review of the Whitney leg of the tour (with slide show) here.

Photo of the Week: Museums, Part I

Like everyone else, professional photographers like to take pictures in museums. Whatever your feelings on the matter, it can make for some interesting photographs. Since I found quite a few in the Carter's collection, this is going to be a two-part Photo of the Week with images spanning the 20th century.

This week: museums from 1900-1950

Karl Struss, [Albright Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York, gallery interior showing "International Exhibition of Pictorial Photography"], 1910, platinum print, ©1983 Amon Carter Museum

For comparison, check out a recent installation shot at what is now called the Albright-Knox Art Gallery.

Dorothy Norman, Exterior MOMA--Stieglitz Exhibit, 1947, gelatin silver print, ©1998 Center for Creative Photography, The University of Arizona Foundation.

Posthumous Stieglitz photography retrospective at MOMA.

Elliott Erwitt, Diana/New York, 1949, gelatin silver print, © 1949 Elliott Erwitt

Erwitt is known for his visual wit - notice how Diana seems to aim her arrow at the guard in the next gallery. You can see some different views of this sculpture here or come see the Carter's own Diana on view in the main gallery!

Stay tuned next week for more recent museum interiors, including some very familiar faces.

"Views & Visions" Installation

The Carter's newest exhibition, Views and Visions: Prints of the American West, 1820–1970 opens this coming Saturday and features over 100 prints and book illustrations from the permanent collection.

Shows drawn from the permanent collection generally require more behind-the-scenes work from Carter staff; unlike traveling exhibitions where the artworks often arrive framed and ready for installation, works from the Carter's collection must be matted, framed, labeled, and so on. It's a complicated process that takes months - and most museum staff in some capacity - to do properly.

Speaking of which, here is a peek behind the scenes of the Carter staff getting ready for the big Views and Visions opening later this week.

Preparators Greg, Steve, and Les getting ready to install the last artworks in the show

An action shot of preparators Steve and Les working very quickly to attach backings and hangers to the last two prints.

Photo of the Week: Music to My Ears

Jazz By the Boulevard kicks off tonight right next door to the Carter, so this installment of Photo of the Week draws images of artist-musicians from the Laura Gilpin archive in the Carter's photography collection.

Laura Gilpin, The Prelude, New York (Edith Rubel Trio), platinum print, 1917; © 1979 Amon Carter Museum

Gilpin's close friend, sculptor Brenda Putnam (1890-1975), is seated at the piano.

Laura Gilpin, Randall Davey, gelatin silver print, 1947; Bequest of the artist, © 1979 Amon Carter Museum.

Randall Davey (1887-1964) was an American painter who exhibited in the pivotal 1913 Armory Show. A student of Robert Henri and friends with John Sloan, he was also a self-taught cellist. Davey relocated to Santa Fe, where Gilpin took this portrait in 1947.

Photo of the Week: Fact vs. Fiction

Have you noticed the recent articles in the New York Times about staged photographs, specifically the veracity of Robert Capa's famous Falling Soldier photo? As this NYT blog post and anyone who deals with historical photographs can tell you, photographers 'enhancing' their subject matter is nothing new.
The Carter has several 19th century photographs where the action is most certainly staged:

Alexander Gardner, Home of a Rebel Sharpshooter, Gettysburg, albumen silver print, 1863
This is the same photograph described in the second NYT link. Gardner made the mistake of taking two photographs of the same soldier in different locations.

William Notman, Asleep at the Cabana, albumen silver print, ca. 1865
This 'outdoor' scene was set up inside the photographer’s studio!
Edited to add: This photo is on view in the Carter's photography galleries until January 2010 as part of the exhibition Masterworks of American Photography: Moments in Time.

Unknown artist, [Soldiers in staged fight], ambrotype with applied color, ca. 1863
This medium’s slow exposure speed tells us this fight is staged – "action" shots were impossible with the technology of the time.

Unpacking My Library

Recently I ran across a fascinating project, Unpacking My Library: Architects and Their Books, produced by Urban Center Books and the Municipal Art Society of New York. The project is a series of exhibitions and book that investigates the personal libraries of some prominent architects in the city. Quoting from the Web site's blurb about the forthcoming book:

What does a library say about the mind of its owner? How do books map the intellectual interests, curiosities, tastes, and personalities of their readers? What does the collecting of books have in common with the practice of architecture? Unpacking My Library provides an intimate look at the personal libraries of fourteen of the world’s leading architects, alongside conversations about the significance of books to their careers and lives.

Photographs of bookshelves – displaying well-loved and rare volumes, eclectic organizational schemes, and the individual touches that make a bookshelf one’s own – provide an evocative glimpse of their owner’s personal life. Each architect also presents a reading list of top ten influential titles, from architectural history to theory to fiction and nonfiction, that serves as a kind of personal philosophy of literature and history, and as advice on what every young architect, scholar, and lover of architecture should read.

I find that I think a lot about the personalities of libraries. Unlike a library amassed by a single person, institutional libraries like the Carter's bear the the influences of many individuals over the course of their development: librarians, staff, and many others. They also reflect the various projects the institution has tackled over the years. Collections such as ours also grow through gifts and on several occasions has taken in whole personal libraries (one big example is Eliot Porter's library). It's clear that many people can claim to have made a mark on the collection. It's an amalgam of all these influences. The point is, the Carter library has a personality, complete with idiosyncrasies. It is a unique and dynamic organism, and that's a part of what makes it such a treasure.

Mark Your Calendar

It’s the beginning of a new month–and the perfect time to mark your calendar for all the great things happening at the Carter in September.

September 10 – Sharing the Past through Art
September 19 – Views and Visions: Prints of the American West, 1820–1970 opens.
September 25 – New Parents Tour
September 26 – Day in the District

More info can be found here. And, all are free! See you at the museum.

Game On

Summer is coming to an end, the heat will end soon, and fall is almost here. That might not mean that the leaves will dramatically change color here in north Texas, but it sure means that football season is here! Here's to a great season for all the athletes and their fans.

Helen M. Post (1907--1979)
Phoenix Indian School, Beginning at Football, ca. 1936--1941
Gelatin silver print
Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas, Gift of Peter Modley
©Amon Carter Museum

Photo of the Week: Back to School

You may have noticed there was no Photo of the Week for last week. We were undergoing a major behind-the-scenes upgrade to the Carter website and didn't want to lose any blog posts! I'll make it up to you this week with a super-sized Photo of the Week with extra images, celebrating the first week of school here in Fort Worth!

All the following photos depict schools and students here in Texas:

Lewis Hine, [Children at a district school near Corsicana], October 1913, gelatin silver print, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Allan M. Disman

Lewis Hine, [Kindergarten students], October 1913, gelatin silver print, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Allan M. Disman

Esther Bubley, High School. Typing Class. Tomball, Texas, 1945, gelatin silver print
Gift of Texas Monthly, Inc., printed from a negative in the Standard Oil of New Jersey Collection, University of Louisville Photographic Archives; © Standard Oil Company

Esther Bubley, High School. Band and Baton Twirlers Practicing on the Football Field. Notice Tank Battery in Background. Tomball, Texas, 1945, gelatin silver print
Gift of Texas Monthly, Inc., printed from a negative in the Standard Oil of New Jersey Collection, University of Louisville Photographic Archives; © Standard Oil Company