Since the beginning of 2018, di Rosa has undergone an immense project of conserving the collection that was affected by the October 2017 wildfires in Northern California. We are excited to have contracted SF Art Conservation to conserve all the artworks affected including those in the Residence Gallery and administrative offices, and the outdoor sculpture. This project is expected to continue throughout 2018. We invite you to follow our progress as our collection receives treatment.
Updates are provided by Exhibitions and Collections Manager Robin Bernhard
December 14, 2018
As 2018 comes to a close, I’m excited to share our final project for the season and to reflect on di Rosa’s conservation accomplishments this year. Each project has introduced new challenges and a unique set of issues requiring individual treatment strategies.We have strived to improve upon the stewardship and care of our outdoor collection while simultaneously restoring a range of objects for exhibition including paintings, works on paper, and sculpture. These efforts have resulted in the conservation of over 250 works in the permanent collection.
In August, we completed the restoration of the outdoor sculpture Roller, (2000) by William Wareham. Our founder, Rene di Rosa purchased this work in 2001 for the Sculpture Meadow and placed it in conversation with For Veronica (1987) by Mark di Suvero (for whom Wareham was an assistant for over six years). Throughout his career, Wareham has used recycled steel as the primary material to create his works.
The scope of this project included cleaning the surfaces and repainting the sculpture to repair damages caused by exposure to harsh environmental conditions, which accelerated the deterioration and fading of the original paint system. Though the actual work on the sculpture only took a few days, planning for the project started months in advance, working with the artist to select the color, finding the right specialist to carry out the work, and planning every step of the process to ensure it ran smoothly and safely.
The project started with an overall survey of the current condition of the sculpture with the team at SF Art Conservation, myself, and the artist. The sculpture was fabricated from recycled steel and painted a dark brown. It is comprised of two large wheels, each of which have 8 extending components. In 2008, the sculpture was painted by the artist using Rustoleum grey tinted with red paint to achieve the original color. The sculpture’s surface had flaked heavily over time and large areas of paint loss had become noticeable resulting in unsightly patches of rust.
Despite these losses, the examination revealed that overall, the sculpture was still in stable and very good condition. It was determined that the best next step to improve the overall appearance of the sculpture was to pursue a full repaint.
A painting crew was contracted to paint the work in situ and we worked with the artist to select a color. Wareham sent us to Aquatic Park in Berkeley to see the color he had used on another sculpture in the same series. We prepared a color sample and sent it to Tnemec Paint to formulate a new color called “Roller Brown”. The color was sent to Wareham’s studio for approval. Wareham responded:
“Good. It is a good honest color for steel that finds its way in the realm of outdoor sculpture”.
With the artist’s approval, SF Art Conservation and the crew’s lead painter carefully sanded a perfectly smooth surface and wiped it down with solvents to remove dirt and grease to allow the new primer and topcoat to properly adhere.
As you can see, although this outdoor sculpture and others in the Sculpture Meadow are made to withstand the elements, their materials are still highly vulnerable to damage. I hope you will continue to follow our updates in 2019 and continue to support the future our collection stewardship by supporting di Rosa’s conservation efforts.
Special thanks to:
SF Art Conservation, and William Wareham their expertise was invaluable to completing all aspects of this project.
July 13, 2018
For part 2 of Be Not Still: Living in Uncertain Times, artist Lexa Walsh was invited to organize and curate an installation of work from di Rosa’s permanent collection in Gallery 1. Our curatorial team worked with her for many months on developing the checklist for the exhibition exploring the concept of assembly. She was interested in displaying an array of large scale figurative sculptures for her project that would be installed in unconventional groupings evoking riots and protests. Many of the selected objects for this rotation needed conservation treatments, so we worked closely with our colleagues at SF Art Conservation and Atthowe Fine Arts Services to coordinate the transportation of works to and from the conservation studio. Lexa’s extensive checklist (approximately 100 objects!) included many significant works from the permanent collection that have rarely or never been seen and were transformed during their treatments, including Robert Arneson’s painted bronze sculpture, Torso, (1964).
The bulk of the work took place in SF Art Conservation’s Oakland studio from March to June, but also included on site treatments at di Rosa including in-painting work on William T. Wiley’s, Angel (1982) which was severely marred with mineral deposits concentrated at the base where water had collected over the years from being on display outdoors.
Seen below: Watch Rowan Geiger, from SF Art Conservation reviewing treatment for William T. Wiley’s sculpture behind the scenes in Gallery 1 at di Rosa
Come see all of the freshly treated objects in part 2 of Be Not Still: Living in Uncertain Times for yourself! The exhibition continues until December 30th, 2018. Special thanks to the team at SF Art Conservation and to Atthowe Fine Art Services who expertly navigated deliveries, oversaw project management, and rigging for all the objects.
June 11, 2018
Many of the works that di Rosa’s founder Rene di Rosa collected were purchased from artists before they had achieved much recognition, including sculptor Mark di Suvero (b. 1933). Mark di Suvero’s For Veronica (1987) was originally titled Erk Thru Able Last and was in the collection of Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens, New York, before it was acquired for the di Rosa Collection. We are fortunate to have such an iconic di Suvero work in our outdoor sculpture collection.
We have been monitoring the work for many years and have documented areas of fading, chalking, corrosion, and in some cases, paint loss. The painted steel sculpture, which sits at the top of a hill overlooking the Sculpture Meadow, was created in 1987. Since then, it has never been fully repainted. This year, we made it a priority to restore the surface of sculpture to its original condition and it has taken many months of planning and discussion.
We worked closely with the artist’s studio on the selection of the color, which they heavily researched since its vibrancy is the most critical factor for the artist. Because the sculpture lives outdoors, it was important to discuss how the red paint would react to years of extreme UV exposure (some reds that the di Suvero Foundation had used in the past had a tendency to fade and turn pink or brown). The artist selected the color “Ulalu red” from Tnemec, which he feels will retain the proper vibrancy for years to come.
Once the color was approved by the Foundation we were able to proceed with the preparations for the enormous task of repainting the three-story sculpture. A major component of this was to install a secure scaffold, shown here. Come see the final paint results on our Outdoor Sculpture Tour!
Special thanks to SF Art Conservation, Mark di Suvero Foundation, and Extreme Scaffolding. Their expertise was invaluable to completing all aspects of this project.
May 21, 2018
Many of the objects in di Rosa’s permanent collection require support to ensure that they are safely displayed. Custom-made mounts serve a variety of practical and aesthetic needs such as:
-Preventing objects from moving or falling over
-Supporting fragile or weak objects
-Allowing for objects to hang on a wall
-Securing objects against theft
To prepare for the recent relaunch of our popular Outdoor Sculpture Tour, di Rosa has been very busy cleaning, restoring, and reinstalling works in our Sculpture Meadow in collaboration with Atthowe Fine Art Services and SF Art Conservation.
Recently, Ray Beldner’s Nature Remains (1993) was removed and taken offsite to be rebuilt and have mounts designed for it. The sculpture had taken several falls over the years and was prone to blowing over in high gusts of winds which compromised the structure and resulted in broken and bent components.
Designing mounts requires careful consideration, with the goal for them to be as visually unobtrusive as possible, and in effect, invisible to the viewer. For this project, it was critical that the teams involved worked together to balance the artist’s intent, installation requirements, and conservation needs with the design of mounts that would effectively secure the work and counter harsh environmental conditions.
While this was an intensive collaborative project, a very special thank you goes to Atthowe Fine Art Services who not only conceived the design of the mounts but also built the mounts and reinstalled the work onsite. Atthowe has been instrumental in the process of moving logistics and general coordination in support of di Rosa’s stewardship of the permanent collection.
May 3, 2018
As with all art, preventive care is the best defense for outdoor sculptures. A good annual cleaning, including inspections and condition documentation, will keep the sculpture looking its best between any major treatments.
Maintaining di Rosa’s Sculpture Meadow has its own set of challenges: the works are large-scale and installed in areas that are challenging to access with equipment and running water, so routine maintenance takes quite a bit of planning. In addition, exposure to extreme weather conditions causes degradation to occur much quicker than for most other art objects. These factors make conservation frequently necessary and time consuming.
Since April, SF Art Conservation has been on site in the Sculpture Meadow performing cleanings with a power washer to remove biological growth, animal droppings, and ash from the October 2017 wildfires. After their washing, the works are reevaluated for any additional treatment that is necessary, like applying a barrier coat to protect and maintain the original surface. The transparent coatings are applied to the surface of the sculpture and can be regularly replaced when needed. Annual power washing and applications of wax are an effective step to prolonging the surface as repainting is very expensive. Speaking of repainting, we will be resurfacing Mark di Suvero’s For Veronica (1987) in May (see photos and video of the work being cleaned).
Look for our conservation efforts to continue in the Sculpture Meadow, as well as on the upper property leading to Milliken Peak (which will remain closed through 2018). You can follow our progress by signing up for our Outdoor Sculpture Tour which visits the Sculpture Meadow, and checking back here for updates!
April 20, 2018
Part of the strategy in removing all of the artworks from the Residence Gallery (to send offsite for cleaning and conservation) was to reserve the most difficult objects for last. These were a combination of heavy, large, irregularly sized, and delicate works and they all required custom containers to be built and/or specialized equipment to move them.
In total 15 travel frames and 5 custom palettes, all designed by fine arts handling professionals, were brought on site for transporting the large works.
Travel frames are open-faced pine crates with protective panels of poly wrap secured around the wood to act as barrier for environmental elements like dust. Foam bumpers are often strategically added on the inside to account for shock resistance or to keep the surface of the object from coming in contact with any packing material.
Each object was packed according to its material and received a unique treatment based on its needs. See photos for a closer look!
April 6, 2018
Rigging large-scale works requires careful calculation, heavy duty equipment, and a Lead Rigger who has experience assessing safety, weight, load, and balance of the work and equipment.
Stephen Kaltenbach’s glazed ceramic and resin sculpture Matter Contemplates Spirit (2001) has been installed outside the entrance of the Residence Gallery for many years and was in need of conservation to restore its original patina. Weighing around 1,000 pounds, the work was lifted using a Genie Superlift designed for this very purpose. The green slings shown here—positioned in a basket-like configuration and padded to prevent abrasion to the surface—create a balanced lift by distributing the weight of the object when moving it. The sculpture was loaded onto the lift gate of a truck and blanket-wrapped to protect it during travel to our offsite storage, where its conservation will take place.
Moving David Best’s The Dream of Poland (1989) from its location in the cellar of the Residence Gallery also required specialized care. The mixed media work includes a full-sized horse sculpture, a human-scale figure, and a large carriage filled with loose gravel and broken glass. To move it, the large components were carefully separated, loaded onto palettes, and meticulously packed to protect their surfaces during travel to the offsite conservation studio.
March 23, 2018
Our recent conservation of di Rosa’s outdoor sculpture collection included the on-site memorial of our founder, Rene di Rosa, by Alan Shepp. Following its care, a member of our facilities team asked “Why is Rene’s hat brown now? Rene always wore a green hat!” This led to a preservation discussion—how do you decide what color the surface of a sculpture should or should not be?
Shepp’s Untitled, a memorial to Rene di Rosa, is shown here before and after treatment. The work is composed of large, dark grey granite which is polished and contains an etched inscription on the front. A bronze baseball hat, housed in a recessed shelf with a bronze frame, reads “di Rosa, Preserve Art and Nature,” just like the hat Rene used to wear. The bronze elements had blue corrosion and the brim of the hat has rust colored stains due to water.
When SF Art Conservation removed the hat and inspected the underside, it was apparent that the patina of the bronze hat should be brown and not green. The green coloration is actually corrosion on the surface caused by moisture and indicates that the bronze needs to be sealed with a microcrystalline wax so that moisture does not continue to penetrate the surface and cause a shift in color. The result of removing this corrosion is astoundingly different! We are happy to see people are noticing the micro changes in our outdoor sculpture conditions and look forward to sharing more updates like this as our conservation efforts continue.
Recently collection artist Alan Shepp contacted di Rosa to inform us that the patina on the hat should be green in color to reflect the green trucker’s hat Rene di Rosa was known for often wearing. SF Art Conservation will be removing the brown green wax and applying a clear dull microcrystalline to highlight the original patina. Thanks to all involved and for participating in our conservation and stewardship of the outdoor sculpture collection. We are keeping detailed records of all updates, including any new information we have received, to maintain the history of the works.
March 9, 2018
di Rosa’s outdoor sculpture collection is comprised of over 100 works that spread throughout the 217 acres of property. To assure professional stewardship, we record the current status and past conservation treatments of the sculptures, and assign priorities and plan actions for their conservation and maintenance.
Normally in preservation planning, works that have the highest maintenance priority are selected to be treated for issues like structural concerns, grounds management, surface losses, and long-term maintenance. By the end of the year several objects will have been cared for and the cycle continues annually. However, because of the North Bay fires in October, di Rosa has been thrusted into conserving the entire outdoor collection all at once. With the help of SF Art Conservation, we are moving through one section of the property at a time.
In February we started our conservation efforts on the sculptures surrounding the courtyard, given their prominent visibility to visitors. Since the works live outside, they are exposed to a wide range of harsh environmental conditions, including excessive amounts of light, heat exposure, and acid rain, and sometimes, earthquakes. All of these factors break down the object materials, patina, and surface causing color alterations, rust staining, corrosion, losses, and excessive organic debris. In addition to cleaning the works, SF Art Conservation also treated several works using a common treatment called inpainting—the application of a thin paint layer to replace lost or damaged portions on the surface.
di Rosa mitigates these issues from occurring through annual maintenance, regular monitoring and rotation of works, and preventative measures such as raising sculptures onto a platform or putting barrier around them for protection.
February 16, 2018
During the month of January, di Rosa undertook the enormous task of packing up hundreds of objects in the Residence Gallery to be transferred to SF Art Conservation as part of our post-wildfires conservation efforts. Each work was carefully packed, relocated to off-site storage, and then transferred to conservation one box at a time. This process took more than three weeks to accomplish with a team of contracted crew members who oversaw the packing and compiled endless lists to track the movement of the artworks.
I recently visited the conservation lab to take a peek at how things were getting started. It is clear that one of the largest issues that plagued works in the Residency Gallery was insects and pests. Since most of the works have been hanging in the gallery for many years, the reverse side of the works were not only dirty but had accumulated web and debris deposits from spiders. This affects the overall condition of the work by degrading the surface and giving a lack luster appearance. After these works are conserved, it is recommended that they rotate from view frequently and are regularly cleaned in order to prevent this from occurring again!
January 19, 2018
In order to care for objects in our collection, I often spend considerable amounts of time observing the micro changes in surfaces and documenting the changes. Some condition issues are invisible like a scratch in a frame or loss in a surface and others are very noticeable like the extensive biological growth on the surface of most of our outdoor sculptures.
Seen here is Viola Frey’s Untitled (Grandmother Series) (1978), located in the courtyard outside of the Residence Gallery. If you look closely, the fuzzy green spots are actually thick lush moss that is growing on the surface concentrated in the creases of the sculpture. Biological growth is a reoccurring and prevalent condition issue throughout our entire outdoor sculpture collection requiring annual treatment to inhibit the growth.
You can also see what the sculpture looks like after being cleaned on site by SF Art Conservation.
January 12, 2018
The first couple days of cleaning with SF Art Conservation. Head Conservator, Sarah, and Assistant Conservator, Mike, cleaned out debris, dirt, moisture, and insects from the inside of the bottles of Mildred Howard’s Memory Garden Phase I (1990), installed outside of Gallery 2. This effort took several days as they needed to remove and re-adhere the bottle stops, vacuum, and remove mineral deposits that had accumulated on the surface of the glass. The result is stunningly clear glass bottles illuminated by the sunlight!