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In Good Company: Steven Husby

This is the first in an ongoing series of short interviews with artists that we work with or admire called “In Good Company.” Answers are lightly edited for length and clarity.

Name: Steven Husby

Location: Chicago

Education: School of the Art Institute of Chicago (MFA) and Minnesota State University, Moorhead (BFA)

Hometown: Huron, South Dakota

As a child, did you know you wanted to be an artist? 

Absolutely. I can hardly remember a time when I didn’t want to be one. The closest I think I ever came to any other profession was when I was nine or ten and started telling adults that I wanted to be an interior designer. I’m guessing that can be blamed on the influence of the hit 80s sitcom Designing Women, which I watched with my mom on a pretty regular basis.

What has been a defining moment of your artistic career so far?

There have been two moments that were hugely affirming: getting into the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and being offered an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Chicago a few years later.

Have you had any jobs outside of the art world? If so, how have those jobs informed your work as an artist?

When I was a student I worked in a warehouse loading Coke trucks and in a factory that made product decals and tiny folded paper medical labels. The places proved hugely influential to my own aesthetic decisions in my formative years as a young artist: the mostly warm, industrial aesthetic of the warehouse–rich rust-colored reds and ochres interrupted by cool black and white point of sale stickers, the crisp red and white of the trucks–and the ice cold 21st century look and feel of the windowless fluorescent lighting of the factory, populated by precision-engineered German paper folding machines and beige 80s printing machines.

What is your favorite non-art object in your studio right now? 

A pair of flash cards with geometric shapes that I picked up from a library sale when I was in college. There is no text on either of them, and I don’t have the rest of the set, so their purpose remains unclear.

Do you have any personal collections besides art?

I’m an avid reader, so I have a lot of books–mostly philosophy and nonfiction. The habit began at home when I was a kid. My grandma had a lot of art, objects, and books collected from her travels in retirement. She often brought me knick-knacks like carved wooden animals–which I still have and enjoyed “curating” when I was a kid. The oldest book she had was one on Roman History printed in the 17th Century, which I inherited from her.

If you could partner with any company to show your work, what would it be and why?

Given the importance of reading in my life, I think working with a publishing company or a library would be a natural fit for me. A lot of my work is made for big walls and open spaces, so I think a lot of it would also be perfectly at home in the lobby of a bank–or in any space that functions as an intermission between more private space and concentrated activity. I've often thought that some of my work would work well in a hospital. No one really likes to think about needing care, but I think there’s something uniquely humbling and contemplative about the experience of being in those spaces–waiting or working–that makes a person receptive to the more abstract point of view that I’m often trying to tap into and open up with my work. 

To see more of Steven Husby’s work, check out his website or Instagram.

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Richard Hull: One Artist, Three Client Projects

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This week, Chicago Gallery News featured Richard Hull on the cover of their Fall 2019 magazine. Since graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with an MFA in 1979, Hull has maintained close connections with the Chicago art community. Inspired by the Chicago Imagists and the Hairy Who, Hull has spent 40 years living and working in the city, producing artwork that is now in prominent national collections including the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington, D.C. For the last 15 years, Hull has been a professor of painting at SAIC, mentoring a new generation of artists. 

Richard Hull is known for his expressive, color-soaked, and almost-abstract figural paintings that he calls “stolen portraits.” He first started creating these pieces after playing a game of exquisite corpse with a famed composer and an illustrator.

Richard Hull is often a client favorite because of his dense and varied use of color. Speaking to Chicago Gallery News, Hull explained the logic of his colorful paintings: “My only color theory is you decide on a color to start with, and you find a color that makes that better. It’s about the relationship to the color within the piece. If I add violet next to a red, does that make the red better or does it distract from or make the red look bad? It’s color, next color. Color, next color. And I’m always kind of surprised by how colorful my things are.” 

In many ways, Hull’s color theory is like our work as art consultants. We often have a starting place–the furniture, the finishes, the wall colors, the existing art collection of a client–and we seek out artwork that makes it even better. Over time, this is how great individual pieces come together into a stunning collection, each piece amplifying the others. 

We recently completed three projects involving Richard Hull’s artwork:

Rotating Exhibition

Over the last year, we have featured several pieces by Hull in a rotating exhibition that we curate in a corporate lobby. Temporary exhibitions allow us to showcase work that we think is exciting and special. Working with artists to collaborate on exhibitions allows us to develop a deep understanding of an artist’s work and ultimately helping us find the best piece for our clients. 

Private Client

One of our private clients recently added a piece by Hull to their collection. We assisted the clients in finding the perfect artwork for their home, framed the piece, and installed it in their living space. The clients chose a Richard Hull crayon and ink drawing. Works of art on paper are often more affordable alternatives to large paintings and can be customized with a bespoke frame to match home furnishings and personal taste. For this piece, we worked with the client to choose a fused-metal corner frame. The bronze-colored burnished aluminum frame subtly complements the rust tones in the drawing.

Corporate Acquisition

We also recently assisted a law firm in acquiring a large Richard Hull painting on canvas. The scale and color of the painting are perfect for the office lobby, welcoming visitors and employees alike into the space. By supporting a contemporary local artist, the law firm cultivates a connection with Chicago’s cultural community and supports art of the present moment.

We love seeing one of our favorite artists getting well-deserved recognition for their contributions to Chicago’s art history. You can see more of Richard Hull’s work in a solo booth at EXPO Chicago this September presented by Hull’s gallery, Western Exhibitions.

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A Tale of Two Cities

Best of the Midwest

As art consultants in Chicago, we are often called upon to manage projects in nearby Midwestern regions. Which states qualify as “Midwestern” is debatable, but being centrally located in Illinois we are in a great position to entertain them all. We love traveling to cities booming with new business such as Troy, Michigan; Omaha, Nebraska; and Columbus, Ohio. 

Most recently we have been working on a project in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. On our fourth journey out to the new site, we decided to drive instead of fly. Just as valuable as an art history degree and consulting experience is understanding the area you are working in. Our clients appreciate the measures we take to dive into what it means to be “local.”

Buying Local in Sioux Falls

Helen Frankenthaler,  Alloy , acrylic on canvas, 1967

Helen Frankenthaler, Alloy, acrylic on canvas, 1967

For this particular project we were tasked with updating a fascinating collection of artifacts and photography specific to the region. We chose contemporary and archival framing updates for their collection and accompanied the works with new labeling that reflected up-to-date research and accessible language. Driving through the Great Plains–and meeting a new cast of individuals along the way–brings great insights that we can then use to inform our curation and knowledge of projects such as this. 

We also reached out to a local, contemporary photographer to have custom pieces fabricated and installed throughout the building. This was a purposeful way to connect the collection’s historic textiles and bronze sculptures with the present. In any collection, seeing the common threads shared by the artwork makes the viewing experience that much more meaningful. Sometimes this can be done with a lineage of artists inspired by one another and other times it simply takes a nod to the same subject matter or medium.

The Mill City

On the way to this job, we detoured to Minneapolis, Minnesota to experience the art and culture of the Land of Lakes. With only 24 hours in town, we didn’t see it all and look forward to coming back for such things as the Minneapolis Institute of Art and the Frederick R. Weisman Art Museum. We did get to visit the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden and the Walker Art Center which are excellent examples of the power of a unified collection. The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden showcases all large-scale sculpture, yet was diverse and dynamic in content. I was struck by the power of Kiki Smith’s Rapture and Pierre Juyghe’s tree installation Wind Chime (After a Dream) ringing out all the notes of John Cage compositions.

Our team in Minneapolis

Our team in Minneapolis

Next door at the Walker Art Center, their primary show was titled “Five Ways In: Themes from the Collection.” Tauba Auerbach’s woven canvas, a stunning Helen Frankenthaler titled Alloy, and Lake George Barns, an unusual depiction of a barn motif painted by Georgia O’Keeffe, stuck with me long after my visit. It isn’t surprising that I was resonating with themes of textile, industry, and rural architecture after our trip across the Midwest.

We also had a wonderful stay at a hip, new hotel housed in an old mill located in downtown Minneapolis. As ever-vigilant art consultants, we took notes on their artistic direction and hanging styles. We photo document what we see in offices, hotels, restaurants, museums, and galleries in other cities. This record helps us stay aware of trends that work well and those that do not.

Overall our trip was as enlightening as it was long. We are always happy to be home in Chicago with our nearby network of vendors, galleries, and artists, but are so grateful to have met many new acquaintances along the way. We look forward to seeing where art takes us next–be it Detroit or Cincinnati, Midwest or beyond!

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The Ins and Outs of Lithography

Robert Cottingham,  An American Alphabet: L , Lithograph, 2005

Robert Cottingham, An American Alphabet: L, Lithograph, 2005

Written by Brontë Mansfield and Emily Cheetham, Summer 2019 Intern

There are many forms of printing, like etching, screenprinting, and woodcut printing–but lithography is a particularly complex and versatile medium. Lithography literally means “an image from stone.” As the Tate Modern explains, “Lithography is a printing process that uses a flat stone or metal plate on which the image areas are worked using a greasy substance so that the ink will adhere to them by, while the non-image areas are made ink-repellent.” Limestone was originally used as the stone when lithography was first created. Today, the types of stones and metals used have widened.

Lithography was invented in the 18th century to distribute sheet music to orchestras, but was quickly picked up by artists. The creation of lithography allowed for images to be mass-produced in more colors and more quickly than prior printmaking techniques. The creation of lithography was hugely impactful to culture: art could be distributed more cheaply to the masses. Lithography is taught in MFA programs around the country and is a medium used by many prominent contemporary artists, including Robert Cottingham in his series An American Alphabet . Lithographs are often an excellent option for those looking to collect prints for their corporate space or home.

There are several different types of lithography: original stone, original plate, lithographic reproductions, and offset prints. Understanding the different types of lithography fosters a deeper understanding of art making, helps viewers identify prints, and lays a foundation for building an art collection.

Original Stone Lithography

The original stone lithograph is the oldest and most identifiable form of lithography—when you think of a lithograph, this is most likely the kind you are thinking of. These lithographs are drawn onto limestone by the artist using a waxy or greasy medium. The grease repels water and is used by the printmaker to transfer ink from the stone to paper. Original stone lithography captures the marks made by the drawer’s hand with more fidelity than any other form of printmaking. These prints are often more expensive and highly prized due to the mastery of the medium required to print them.

Since the creation of lithography in 1796, the medium has been instrumental in creating the aesthetics of several major artistic movements. In the late 19th century, Toulouse-Lautrec used lithography to make 350 original posters and advertisements that are now emblematic of bohemian Paris. Then, in the early 20th century, German Expressionists like Edvard Munch used the gestural marks of lithography to capture their inner turmoil during World War I.

To see original stone lithography in action, watch MoMA’s video, “Pressure + Ink: Introduction to Lithography.”

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,  Divan Japonais , Lithograph printed in four colors, 1892-93

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Divan Japonais, Lithograph printed in four colors, 1892-93

Edvard Munch,  Anxiety , Color lithograph in black and red on card, 1896

Edvard Munch, Anxiety, Color lithograph in black and red on card, 1896

Original Plate Lithography 

Original plate lithographs differ from original stone lithographs with the material used. Here, the artist is draws onto aluminum rather than limestone. A favored option to stone lithographs, these lithograph matrixes are easier to move. Litho stones can be incredibly heavy and while limestone is a common type of stone, limestone that is of high enough quality to produce prints is harder to source, leading to the creation of alternative methods.

Lithographic Reproductions

Lithographic reproductions can be copies of any work of art. A photograph is taken of the piece and used to create more copies of the piece. These images are not drawn directly onto a lithography stone and are often not created by the original artist. Lithographic reproductions are not original works of art, but are affordable ways to disseminate an image.

Victor Moscoso, Lithographic poster, 1967

Victor Moscoso, Lithographic poster, 1967

Offset Lithography 

Offset lithography is mostly commonly associated with posters. An iconic example is the two-toned or rainbow psychedelic posters of the 1960s. Offset lithography is not done by hand, but with a flexible aluminum plate incorporated in a large printing press. The term “offset” refers to the transfer or offsetting of pigment onto a “rubber blanket” before it is then printed on a piece of paper. This is a difficult process to describe in writing, but the Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco created this excellent video that demonstrates the technique. Not only is offset lithography cheap and easy, it also results in a consistent, high quality image. Similar to a lithographic reproduction, the resulting artwork is not often considered an original piece.

Understanding the different types of lithographs can help individuals or companies looking to establish or expand their art collections. With a deeper knowledge of printmaking techniques comes a deeper appreciation for the finished work. Rather than seeing prints as mere reproductions of art, viewers can see lithographs as works of art unto themselves.

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Art World Logistics and Jackson Pollock's "Mural"

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This week, the New Yorker published a piece on Jackson Pollock’s painting Mural. Since the creation of Mural in 1943, the painting’s multi-decade journey–from a Peggy Guggenheim’s home and various museums to emergency storage and world tours–illuminates many of the services that we provide as art consultants.

Commissions and Installations

As New Yorker writer Louis Menand relays, Mural was commissioned by Peggy Guggenheim, niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim of foundation and museum fame, for her Manhattan townhouse. The piece was installed by the artist and Guggenheim’s friend Marcel Duchamp–which lead to a tall tale about Duchamp slashing eight inches off the painting to make it fit in the space. The story isn’t true, but it’s a great reminder why art consultants exist: not only do we occasionally work with artists to facilitate commissions for corporate clients, but we also work with expert art handlers on installations. For each installation, we take precise measurements, use hardware that works best for the location, and protect the art and the clients’ space.

Donations

In the 1950s, Peggy Guggenheim moved to Venice and wanted to donate the painting but was faced with a conundrum. She offered the painting to Yale, but the institution passed on the donation. The painting ended up in Iowa City, eventually finding its way into the University of Iowa art museum. As art consultants, we can help facilitate the donation of art from corporate collections when the pieces are no longer a good fit for the company. Our services include finding the right home for a piece and managing the logistics of transferring ownership.

Protection and Storage

Pollock’s Mural found a great home at the University of Iowa, but decades later disaster struck. In 2008, the Iowa River flooded the campus, causing $750 million dollars in damage. The school narrowly avoided losing their art collection to the flood. According to the New York Times, “a herculean effort in the preceding days had gotten thousands of pieces, including the museum’s well-regarded collection of African art and a Jackson Pollock piece, to safety.” A component of  our work is to ensure the safety of artwork. We can work with corporate clients to properly store and protect collections from calamities like water damage, mold, pests, or theft. Storage solutions can be on-site in a corporate space or off-site through a trusted vendor.

Transportation

Ground was just broken on the new University of Iowa art museum this past June, but Mural has not been hidden from the public for the past decade. The Pollock masterpiece has been on a world tour, traveling from museum to museum while its home institution recovers. A major part of our work involves arranging the transportation of artwork. For pieces acquired in Chicago, we work with a local network of art professionals to facilitate transportation. When we acquire pieces for corporate clients from galleries in places like New York or Los Angeles, we must arrange transportation for pieces across the country. We are also experienced in facilitating the safe and timely transit of art at a global scale, navigating customs, taxes, crating, and even transAtlantic transportation.

Exhibitions

In July, Pollock’s Mural arrived at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. The piece has been in exhibitions around the world for the past ten years and, as the New Yorker notes, each museum decides how to exhibit the piece in relation to their collection. Curating and managing special exhibtions is another on of services as an art consulting firm. We work with clients to create seasonal exhibitions that showcase local artists for their employees and visitors, allowing the client to highlight their support for contemporary art or their interest in a particular medium, like photography or abstract painting. Each exhibition we curate is unique and tailored to our client and their space.

Mural is an excellent example of the interesting and varied life of a single artwork. Every work of art has a story and every owner of a piece contributes to that story. Our job is to help clients acquire new pieces or manage collections–and to help art and companies tell stories together.

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