Mernet Larsen: Getting Measured

October 11, 2017 – February 11, 2018
Tampa Museum of Art

The Tampa Museum of Art will present a survey of paintings and works on paper by artist Mernet Larsen (American, b. 1940). A long-time resident of Tampa and former Professor of Painting at the University of South Florida, Larsen is one of the region’s most prodigious artists. Her work alludes to a range of art historical references, from 13th-century Japanese scrolls, 15th-century Italian painting, to the geometric abstractions of Russian artist El Lissitzky (1980-1941). Her early abstract compositions, such Duccio’s Saint (1988) in the Tampa Museum of Art’s collection, reflect her ongoing formal explorations of experiential time, space, and color. Later figurative paintings, including the recent work Raft (2017), depict ordinary moments and activities—from reading in bed, attending casual dinners, to participating in faculty meetings. Yet, it is her unusual perspective and linear approach to figuration that render Larsen’s unique and genuine reflections of everyday life. The exhibition Mernet Larsen will feature never-before-seen early drawings from her student days, a select group of studies and works on paper, and a survey of paintings from the 1960s to the present.

Mernet Larsen
Mernet Larsen (American, b. 1940), Getting Measured, 1999, Acrylic, tracing paper and string on canvas. Museum purchase with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Jay Crouse, 2000 SN11041.1. Collection of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, the State Art Museum of Florida, Florida State University

Tampa Museum of Art
Call 813 421-8380 for information

120 W. Gasparilla Plaza, Tampa, Fl 33602

No Touching! except this guy; A conversation with an Art Preparator

A Sarasota based expert installer of fine art for numerous private clients, galleries, and museums including Ringling College’s Selby Gallery, and the Tampa Museum of Art. Sarasota Visual Art sits down with Lykoudis to introduce you to the person that IS allowed to touch the artwork!

by Tim Jaeger

A good gallery is like a four star restaurant, the art being installed is like a flawless menu, and the curator acts as the chef, bringing his vision to life with the aid of essential collaborators. In this instance, the collaborator is Dimitri Lykoudis, a Sarasota based expert installer of fine art for numerous private clients, galleries, and museums including Ringling College’s Selby Gallery, Ringling Museum of Art, and the Tampa Museum of Art. Step by step, one wall after another, unpacking crates, arranging art, and hanging work, Lykoudis is one of the unsung heros in the life of every museum whether or not you realize it. Sarasota Visual Art had the privilege to sit down with Lykoudis and below are excerpts from that interview:

So what is a preparator? Is it a separate job than an installer?

I would say his job encompasses more than just installing. The preparator’s work starts far in advance of installation day, and ends when the work is back in storage, or shipped out to where it came from. He/she closely collaborates with the curator to produce the best possible result, and as such translates, in a way, the idea surrounding the exhibition into physical reality.

What are the responsibilities involved in your job?

In a nutshell, preparing an art exhibition for display. Here is the breakdown:

It starts with a discussion regarding the needs of the upcoming exhibition with the curator. Depending on the specific show, I may design display solutions according to their budget and construct them in advance, or purchase specialized hardware or devices.

Then the space needs to be prepared for installation. This may include painting the walls a different color or making wall repairs as needed, constructing temporary walls, or positioning rolling walls. Having perfect walls is essential, as it’s usually the backdrop for the art, and has to be as neutral as possible so it does not detract from the work. This stage also includes making sure any existing display devices (like pedestals for example) are in good condition.

After that comes the receiving of the artwork, unpacking/uncrating, checking the condition, and making condition reports together with the registrar as needed. There is a lot of responsibility involved there, as artwork is (usually) insured, and any damage has to be reported and thoroughly documented to determine liability.

When the day for the installation comes, the curator or exhibition designer lays out the position of the artwork in the space, according to his curatorial vision, and I work together with him/her to determine correct spacing measurements to achieve the best aesthetic result. Then of course is the actual installation of the artwork, involving hanging, positioning three-dimensional works on pedestals (or freestanding works), setting-up video displays, and/or working together with the artist on special exhibits like room-size installations.

Next comes lighting. Of extreme importance, it can make or break a show, in my opinion. The preparator needs to know the correct amount of light needed for the work to be displayed to its best effect. Too much light and you lose color and tone, too little and you lose detail. Also the direction of light, shading, light temperature and other aspects come into play here.

Then there are numerous details the preparator has to take care of. Any labels describing the artwork need to be installed next to the work, vinyl lettering may be pasted onto the walls and so on.

Lastly, after the end of the exhibition, the works need to be checked again, and a new condition report made before they’re safely packed for shipping, and the space is prepared for the next show.

So basically if anyone is touching the work, it’s you?

That is correct. And it’s important to know how to handle it. You have to do it in a safe way, so there is no damage to the work either in terms of breakage, or, from an archival standpoint, chemical degradation due to contact with our skin oils which are acidic. This means wearing gloves while handling the work, and generally making sure that the way you carry and place art, and negotiate space while around the art is done safely.

In your opinion, what are some of your favorite works you have “touched” or handled and why?

I’ve handled so many great works in my career that I can’t honestly decide! But having a piece of art history in your hands, works that you find in art books, that define the high points of humanity’s achievement on this planet, is a very special feeling and a great responsibility.

How did you get started in this business?

I’m an artist myself, a sculptor and painter, so I’ve always preferred having a job that is in contact with the art world. I was out of work in New York, after having worked in sculpture studios for a while, when my wife suggested pursuing that line of work. I did and got hired by Anina Nosei, the gallerist who gave Jean Michel Basquiat his studio, and represented him at the beginning of his career. What a trip! Coming from a place where such names are far distant and un-approachable, you can imagine how it felt!

What kind of background do you have for this job?

I think an artist background is essential, and that’s why almost everyone in this line of work comes from there. You need the knowledge of how a piece of artwork is constructed, in order to appreciate and handle it the proper way, and to make aesthetic decisions when it comes to lighting, spacing, designing display devices etc., and generally having a “feel” of how a piece or a show should be displayed.

Also being a sculptor has helped me tremendously, from woodworking and other fabrication skills, to knowing how to move or pack heavy or delicate pieces of art.

What should someone considering this kind of work know about the job?

That you will be a contributing factor to the cultural output in your region. You help educate the public and are a positive / constructive force. Be excited about it!

You were born in Greece, and lived in New York City for awhile. What brought you to Sarasota?

My wife and I decided to take a break from our high pressure gallery jobs there, and when her mother had an accident and needed care we relocated to Siesta Key. My wife had lived here before and has a lot of friends and connections in the area, so the transition was relatively easy.

You will be hanging the upcoming To See as Artists See: American Art from the Phillips Collection which includes a Hopper, Pollock, and O’Keeffe. What parts of this exhibition are you looking forward to?

The upcoming show at the Tampa Museum is really exciting to me. I’m most looking forward to the part where you get to see the works up close, and (hopefully) see what the artists who defined American art were doing.

What is the most exciting thing you get to do?

Apart from handling historical artwork, I like participating in the big art fairs. I see all the latest contemporary output, get to meet and talk to some very interesting people, and get paid on top of it! It IS a lot of work though.

What is the most expensive or best piece of art you have ever handled?

I might be forgetting something here but I think it must have been some of the George Grosz paintings we showed at David Nolan. Just a few million each… Wait! There was also that enormous Basquiat at Nosei…

What is the most interesting aspect of your line of work?

I like it a lot when I have to get creative about designing a display solution for a piece or group of pieces, to think out of the box, as they say. A lot of times you have to do it at the last minute, as sometimes pieces are added or some aspect of the show might change unexpectedly, and I get a lot of satisfaction when I pull it off.

Take a Seat, A Hundred Years – A Hundred Chairs by Danny Olda

While the innocuous nature of chairs could’ve condemned the exhibit as boring, it was rather used as a strength. The banality of objects such as chairs also allows them to especially bear the stamp of their respective times.

by Danny Olda

Through endless episodes of Frasier (thanks Netflix) I find myself fixating on the props. Specifically on a single prop, near the back of the living room, a single chair and matching footstool that exudes an uncanny quantity of comfort. Similarly, the ubiquity of chairs can relegate them to becoming background props in real life as well: I can easily forget I’m sitting in one while I type this.

Image Courtesy of Tampa Museum of Art

That “background prop”, though, was designed by Charles and Ray Eames; perhaps America’s greatest designers. It had roots in New York’s MoMA, made of materials born out of necessity and war time innovation, and offered a new middle class comfort and aesthetic that it was previously not allowed it. Arguably, this “background prop” helped invent the image of the American middle class. And it’s one of 100 in the Tampa Museum of Art’s current exhibit A Hundred Years – A Hundred Chairs.

TMoA Chairs
Image Courtesy of Tampa Museum of Art

The exhibit features 100 chairs from the collection of the Vitra Design Museum as a survey of 100 years of design. Predictably, the survey serves to illustrate modern design and its evolution throughout the 20th century. However, the exhibit does much more than that. While the innocuous nature of chairs could’ve condemned the exhibit as boring, it was rather used as a strength. The banality of objects such as chairs also allows them to especially bear the stamp of their respective times. Each chair doesn’t so much express its context as much as it involuntarily manifests it. A Hundred Chairs does an excellent job of highlighting this.

Image Courtesy of Tampa Museum of Art

For example, the exhibit addresses the socio-political views of plastic as they evolved throughout the 20th century. That is heavy. Plastic begins to appear at one end of the gallery, not only as a technological advance but also as a rebellion against modernism and continental design. Near the other end, it begins to disappear with the onset of the 1970’s oil crisis.

Image Courtesy of Tampa Museum of Art

The exhibit asks us to revisit the aesthetic of chairs. Each section clearly shows fascism, capitalism, environmentalism, prosperity and poverty, war and peace emerging into the design of the furniture. In a way, it implies an invitation to pick up where A Hundred Chairs leaves off, to deconstruct everyday design. While simple furniture, the chairs are presented as thumbnails to the world scene that created it.

Image Courtesy of Tampa Museum of Art

In a way these chairs do make good background props, subtle reflections of the world that needed them. They may not be a profound and imposing symbol of the world around them like much of the art that adorns the galleries of the TMoA. The story chairs tell is much quieter and acute. The venue of a museum gives us a chance to read it.

Danny Olda is our Tampa Correspondent and publisher of
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Masterworks of 20th Century Sculputre from the Martin Z. Margulies Collection

Now – September 9, 2012
An exhibition that allows a thoughtful consideration of the tension between the abstract and the representational that dominated 20th century aesthetic concerns. Willem de Kooning, George Segal, Louise Nevelson, Manuel Neri, Deborah Butterfield, Joan Miro, Isamu Noguchi

Now – September 9, 2012
Tampa Museum of Art

Many leading artists of the 20th century went to great lengths to replace the representational with the abstract. But some artists found it difficult to rid their works of all traces of the real, and in particular, the figure. Masterworks of 20th Century Sculpture from the Martin Z. Margulies Collection allows a thoughtful consideration of the tension between the abstract and the representational that dominated 20th century aesthetic concerns.

Tampa Museum
George Segal, Three People on Four Benches, 1980. Bronze and steel. Martin Z. Margulies Collection. Image © The George and Helen Segal Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

An abiding fascination with the figure unites the works in the exhibition. While many modern artists abandoned the figure as inspiration, these seven artists made use of the figure (human and otherwise), even as the final work sometimes barely resembles the figure in reality. In the straightforward works by Willem de Kooning (Seated Woman on Bench), George Segal (Three People on Four Benches), Louise Nevelson (Dancing Woman), Manuel Neri (Untitled), and Deborah Butterfield (Jerusalem Horse), the form remains readily identifiable. With works by Joan Miro (Oiseau) and Isamu Noguchi (Figure and Judith), however, the work is more abstracted, but the referent is still the figure.

In this exhibition, our third partnership with the Martin Z. Margulies Collection in Miami, the Museum has selected key works from the latter half of the 20th century that pay tribute to the fascination with the natural form. The Margulies Collection is known for its extensive sculpture collection that contains some of the best examples of post-World War II movements in Europe and the United States.

Generous support for this exhibition was provided by Maureen and Doug Cohn.

The Goods: Weekend News (05.04.12)

Sarasota Visual Art’s round up of information, upcoming exhibitions, and events. Robert Lovejoy, Tampa Museum of Art, Dunedin Fine Art Center, Bill McCarthy, Aydelette Kelsey, Clyde Burnett

Featured Artist: Robert Lovejoy

Lovejoy creates bold paintings that express his love of puns, interesting absurdities, or the power of symbols, and sometimes incorporate a jolt or surprise. Depicted is a look at people or events, gently persuading viewers into seeing the world from a different, or unexpected, viewpoint.

Olda Reviews: Art After Dark – On the Record

Had I done anything fun last weekend? Yes. I went to the museum. The Tampa Museum of Art hosts a quarterly event called Art After Dark. The event opened the museum’s doors well past its usual bed time …

No Man is an Island at the Dunedin Fine Art Center

Three exhibitions running in unison that include; Photographer Bill McCarthy, Photographer Aydelette Kelsey, and DFAC’s members working in all media.

Southern Gothic: Paintings by Clyde Burnett

Burnett’s works often form a narrative based on two mannequin figures that embark on life’s journey only to find difficulty at every turn because they are mannequins.