Matter + Spirit: The Sculpture of Stephen De Staebler presents the work of an artist who used a variety of materials ranging from metal to clay to create lasting works of art. Working with stoneware and sometimes porcelain, De Staebler built monumental sculptures that pushed the limits of the media and extended the boundaries of how these materials had been used in the past.
Paper is fundamental to traditional printmaking, but paper as a medium can be as diverse as the images printed on its surface. Surface Tension: Contemporary Prints from the Anderson Collection (on view at the de Young through January 15, 2012) puts paper front and center, exploring the ways in which artists from the late 1960s to today engage paper as more than just a surface.
Though no ink touched the paper in Josef Albers's Embossed Linear Construction series (1969), he used embossing, a traditional printmaking process, to transform ordinary sheets of watercolor paper into subtle bas-relief constructions that extend into the viewer’s space.
When objects conservators design a treatment for a corroded sculpture, they often have to grapple with the issue of the artist’s intent.
For instance, would Henry Moore at age 29, who made a sculpture with a shiny metallic surface, be in agreement with Henry Moore at 75, who, when interviewed about a treatment, stated that he quite liked the idea that surfaces went green, dry and streaky with time?
One way a conservator can help tease out these contradictions is to interview contemporary artists about the materials and techniques they use and then record how these artists would like their sculptures cared for in the future. At the Fine Arts Museums we are developing a database tracking this information for contemporary sculpture under our care.