Dallas Museum of Art Debuts Coastlines Exhibit

April 30, 2010  



By Mark Agnew

Dallasites don’t have to travel far to experience the coast this summer. With over 60 paintings, photographs and works on paper, art enthusiasts may experience coastal landscapes without getting sunburned on the beach. The Dallas Museum of Art debuted its Coastlines: Images of Land and Sea exhibition on Sunday, April 25.

“Coastlines provides visitors with evocative and engaging images of coastal landscapes, from Maine to Miami Beach, Nice to North Africa, through an array of artistic lenses,” said Heather MacDonald, the Lillian and James H. Clark Associate Curator of European Art.

Impressionist paintings are shown together with contemporary photographs, each illustrating diverse coastal locales. The exhibit groups the art by themes: geographic dialogue between land and sea, the representation of coastal economics, the emergence of a new and modern image of the bather, the symbolism of the coastline, and the coastal landscape as a purely visual phenomenon rather than a tangible place. Visitors travel through time as they experience the exhibit from 1850 to now.

“Coasts have been a source of ongoing artistic fascination throughout the modern period, and this exhibition draws exciting and unprecedented parallels between works with radically different aesthetic and cultural contexts,” said MacDonald.

The Coastlines exhibit will run parallel to The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast until May 23, giving visitors a chance to complement their Coastlines experience with another exhibit. The museum creates a cohesive theme that defines what it means to be “coastal.”

“The works on view in the exhibition range from spectacular and challenging to ethereal and meditative, and each piece transports the viewer to the familiar threshold where the land meets the sea,” said Museum Director Bonnie Pitman. ?“Drawn primarily from the DMA’s own modern and contemporary collections, the exhibition makes compelling new statements on a subject that is both timeless and constantly changing. ”

Coastlines is a unique exhibit for the DMA because it is the first time multilayer sound has been fully integrated. There are three synchronized layers of sound in the exhibit. The global soundscape of natural sounds and waves is heard throughout the entire exhibit. Each themed section has its own additional soundscape; furthermore, local soundscapes accompany 12 individual pieces. Hyperdirectional speakers allow the spectator to decode one composer’s interpretation of the piece and experience art through sound. Each piece with a local soundscape has a circular carpet for the viewer to stand on.

“The DMA and UT Dallas have a long-standing history of collaborating on various projects focusing on the sonic interpretation of the Museum’s collections, with Coastlines being the most ambitious of these projects,“ said Nicole Stutzman, director of teaching programs and partnerships.

Graduate students and faculty at The University of Texas at Dallas worked with the DMA to integrate the soundscapes as a part of their Arts and Technology program. Sound design students from the Université du Sud Toulon-Var in Toulon, France contributed as well.

“The soundscapes contribute to the immersion of the viewers in an imaginary space, a multisensory environment,” said Frank Dufour, assistant professor of sound design at UT Dallas. “The design of this project, together with the technology used, transforms the perambulation through the galleries into a truly interactive and subjective experience.”

Aside from sight and sound, the gift shop adds another element to the Coastlines experience: touch. Visitors may leave with something tactile to commemorate the coast. General Manager Janet Stieve worked closely with the curator to select merchandise that conveys the spirit of the show. Specialty items include “beachy, summer” pieces one might find at a coastal store: scarves, handbags, and jewelry. The pieces found at the shop are high quality. Stieve travels to shows in New York and maintains relationships with other wholesalers.

“The scarves and wraps are from a local importer, Sabira. I know they sell to [Neiman Marcus]. They have a big international business,” said Stieve. “They’re doing silks for summer.”

The shop also sells books, stationary, posters and children’s items that reflect the artists featured in the exhibit.

“Coastlines is an exciting example of the thought-provoking and innovative exhibition environment that defines the DMA experience,” said Pitman.

After experiencing the Coastline exhibit, just two senses are left unsatiated. Be sure to savor the cuisine of the DMA’s Seventeen Seventeen restaurant and smell the fresh flowers in the sculpture garden.

The Coastlines exhibit will be on display until August 22. Visit www.dallasmuseumofart.org for more information.

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