December 11, 2020
As of this writing, stay-at-home orders are about to go into effect in our area. While we remain committed to advancing exhibit installation, our primary concern is keeping the museum team safe. Our thoughts are with you, our museum family as well, and we are so looking forward to the day when we can welcome you back to be with art in the museum. Until then, we will continue to share the latest updates here and through e-mail.
Museum Founding Director Rachel Teagle is all wired in at her gallery workstation, where she oversees the dedicated exhibition team. With "huddle ups" to start and end the day, every aspect of the process is choreographed to keep staff and art safe and to support steady progress.
Given that we work in an art museum it's likely no surprise that the Manetti Shrem team finds great joy in being with art and artists. Over the past two weeks, our exhibition team has been surrounded by art, and what a thrill it has been.
As curatorial assistant Quintana Heathman describes it: “It was wonderful being back in the galleries again. I had pored over these prints earlier in the summer, enjoying the opportunity to spend time alone with them in storage, but hadn’t seen them since. It was like seeing old friends. And when you finally see prints matted, framed and in a beautifully prepared space, it is even better — it's like seeing old friends who are now dressed up and ready for a party!"
Quintana is curating Working Proof: Wayne Thiebaud as Printmaker, which features numerous printing "proofs" from the university's Fine Arts Collection, many worked by the artist's own hand as part of the printmaking process. Shown adjacent to Wayne Thiebaud Influencer: A New Generation, this exhibition underscores the importance of printmaking in Thiebaud’s artistic practice, as well as his dedication to donating works to the university that can function as teaching tools.
"One of the things that always shocks me when seeing works in person after having worked via digital images for so long is the difference scale makes! We have some very large prints in the exhibition, but I have a special place in my heart for one of the smallest — Thiebaud’s etching of a tiny cow. The image is only about 2 inches square, and I am amazed what Thiebaud can do in those couple of inches with just a few lines. Seeing it on the wall — especially next to some of the bigger landscapes — was just magical."
Quintana Heathman, Curatorial Assistant
The magic of art is a theme among our team, whether it's framing or lighting or condition reporting, we have come to truly appreciate doing what we do.
"Sometimes I can't believe how lucky I am,” says Registrar Dani Knapp. "I'm usually the first person to see the art up close. As registrar, I complete a condition report for every object. That means I look carefully to assess and document each work, noting any existing flaws or damage. It's all part of the process of caring for the work while it's in the museum's possession. It's quite a privilege to be trusted by artists and collectors to have their work in our care for long periods at a time. It's a responsibility that is of the greatest importance to the whole museum team."
From condition reporting to label design, from lighting to seating, to where to hang which work, there are numerous steps in putting together an exhibit that — if all goes well —will be invisible to visitors. Associate Curator Susie Kantor shares some of the process of putting together the exhibition title wall to give you a sense of the process:
"For the exhibition title wall, we knew we wanted to include Thiebaud’s Double Scoop — the New Yorker cover painting from August of this year. It was later, while looking at some of the images in the exhibition, that we decided to include one of Vonn Sumner’s paintings from his Krazy Kat series, as well. We wanted works that wouldn’t physically take up too much space but would be strong enough to hold their own on the title wall. Vonn’s paintings are small, but pack but a powerful visual punch.
"I had initially selected Existential Crisis, a painting with Krazy Kat pensively smoking a cigarette against a bright pink background. I wanted something that people could relate to — an existential crisis! — but that wouldn’t feel too depressing for the introduction to the exhibition. Yet, once we had the paintings on-site and I could see them in person for the first time, it was abundantly clear that I had to go with Watching a Dumpster Fire. What else encapsulates 2020 as well as someone anxiously and resignedly watching a dumpster fire? It wasn’t what I was expecting to choose, but it feels perfect for the moment."
She continues, "We had our paintings identified and then the decision turned to wall color. I had initially selected five possible paint colors for the title wall, based on Double Scoop and Existential Crisis. It’s always difficult to match colors when using computer screens or printouts—the actual colors can be wildly different in person. Despite being 90% sure I’d select one of the reds, once we had all five samples on the wall, I ended up choosing Fiddlehead Green, which looks just as good with Watching a Dumpster Fire as it does with Existential Crisis.
“Finally, we looked at mock-ups of the title text in the gallery with the graphic designer and visitor experience team,” Kantor says. “Now it's just a matter of painting the wall, hanging the art, and installing the vinyl. I can't wait to see how it all turns out.”
Please give the museum a wave when you drive by. Thanks to team members Holly Guenther, Brandon Annuzzi and Melanie Koch, you'll be able to see that bright orange banner glowing out to I-80. We'll be waving back at you from wherever we are and wishing you a healthy and art-filled new year.
November 25, 2020
It has been a busy couple of weeks at the museum as the exhibition crew has begun changing out the galleries with activities ranging from carefully packing and moving precious artwork to delicately peeling vinyl letters from every wall to reconfiguring gallery layouts by lifting and shifting the walls themselves.
Preparator Peter Foucault and Building Manager Brandon Annuzzi really got into their work as they turned the stretch of our entry wall from 16' to 8', opening up the entrance/exit for visitor safety.
"Our walls that aren't attached to the foundation weren't actually built to be moveable. But we need to move them for different exhibit layouts. Our solution was to retrofit them with an interior steel structure to adapt to a moveable pallet system. I have to squeeze into the wall to weld in the interior steel structure. For safety, I always have another team member serve as fire watcher whenever I'm welding. Thanks, Peter!"
How do trained art handlers move a masterpiece while keeping their distance?
"It's like watching 'Swan Lake,' only with the dancers holding a giant canvas between them. As the staff member whose job it is to make sure the art is safe, it's a thrill to work with professionals whose dedication to and mastery of their craft matches that of the artists whose work they are handling. I always hold my breath a little bit but as you can see, we're in good hands."
Dani Knapp, registrar
What goes up must come down. And that includes all the vinyl labels, signage, and icons you see in every exhibition. It can be a pretty meditative task, according to preparator Justin Marsh, who had the last look at Last Word.
Now that deinstall is completed, the galleries are being cleaned, painted, and readied for our new exhibits. It's a time of great anticipation as art is on its way. In our next "At the Museum," we'll share art arriving and being unpacked; you'll be beside the exhibit team as they see the art at the museum for the first time.
Even as we await the moment when trucks begin backing up to the loading dock, the curatorial team is continuing to work hard researching, writing and organizing every detail of the exhibit. They, too, have had to approach their work in new ways in this new world. Visits to artist's studios, always a joyous part of the curators work, have shifted to Zoom for the most part. But lucky for us, curators Rachel Teagle and Susie Kantor have been able to talk with several artists in their studios — with socially distancing, of course.
"I've loved being able to spend time with artists digitally, and it's been a treat to visit with them in their studios from afar. But over the past few weeks, when I've had the rare opportunity to actually be with the artists and their work, it's a poignant reminder that nothing replaces the experience of seeing art in place. It makes me appreciate the opportunity all the more and I am so looking forward to the time when we can offer all of our visitors the same in-place experience."
Susie Kantor, associate curator
While so much has changed over the past eight months, there are two consistent threads that forever remain: The museum is thankful for our museum family, for all of you who are tracking our progress, cheering us on and offering support in so many ways AND there are turkeys back on campus eagerly awaiting the day that people will appear in the lobby windows once again.
Wishing you all a safe and abundant Thanksgiving.
November 13, 2020
When the museum team walked out of the building with our laptops and cell phones in hand on March 13, like so many others across the country we thought we'd be back in our offices by April at the latest. Who knew how much life would change? How much museums would change? Day by day, a new world has continued to reveal itself.
During the past seven months, the museum team has turned our dining room tables into desks and raised our spirits with virtual beach parties.
And we also got to work doing what museums do, but in all new ways. Working with our university colleagues, we launched our first-ever online exhibition featuring the work of 30 graduate students completing their studies in 2020.
Naturally, shelter-in-place had a profound impact on our operations, but we never lost sight of the power of art to lift the human spirit. Especially in a time of physical distancing and distant socializing, we needed to find new ways of connecting. Just two weeks after the UC Davis campus went into suspended operations, we sent out the first issue of the Manetti Shrem Museum At Home newsletter.
This fall we began "Bringing the Conversation to You" through remote programs including talks by three MacArthur Fellowship grant winners. While remote programming will continue into the winter, we are now preparing to install new exhibitions and making plans to safely welcome you back to the galleries in 2021. Our reopening date and instructions for reserving timed tickets will be shared soon.
There's much work to be done over the next few months, and our first job is to prepare the building for staff to return. Below, building manager Brandon Annuzzi has begun fitting our open office spaces with plexiglass dividers.
Safety is our primary concern as the team of preparators, registrar and curators
deinstall Stephen Kaltenbach’s work and ready the gallery for Wayne Thiebaud Influencer: A New Generation.
We hope you’ll accompany us “Behind the Scenes” in our journey to reopening. Join us in this place of teamwork and ingenuity as we create new exhibits and prepare to welcome you back.
The Manetti Shrem Museum is committed to providing inspiring encounters with art, both in person and through a new in-depth website. Check back every other week for behind-the-scenes content as art is received, unpacked and installed. You’ll meet the crew, have access to exclusive content including interviews with artists, and you’ll be among the first to learn how to reserve your timed ticket. As we walk this unmapped road, we're grateful for your company and look forward to charting our path together.