Engage the space

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Engage the space an experience of art and engagement
Osgood, Tamara ( author )
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Denver, CO
University of Colorado Denver
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Engagement (Philosophy) ( lcsh )
Art -- Psychological aspects ( lcsh )
bibliography ( marcgt )
theses ( marcgt )
non-fiction ( marcgt )


The process pf engagement between a viewer and an art object is a powerful experience and an opportunity that most museum visitors do not know they are missing. Engagement is a superior type of viewing experience that forms perceptual connections and bonds between viewers and art. The experience of engagement changes the customary manner of viewing art into a profound and personal experience. Each space where art is exhibited directly impact meaning and supports or distracts from the development of viewer's engagement. A comparative analysis of two case studies, The Rothko Chapel in Houston and the Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, will reveal elements such as them historical meaning, associated identities, spatial dynamics, and curatorial manipulations, within each space that both promote and distract from viewer engagement. A better understanding of the process of engagement, and elements that influence the experience, will enable the creation of better opportunities for viewer engagement with art and will build stronger connections with art institutions.
Thesis (M.H.)--University of Colorado Denver. Humanities and social sciences
Includes bibliographic references.
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Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
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bu Tamara Osgood.

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E NGAGE THE SPACE : AN EXPERIENCE OF ART AND ENGAGEMENT b y TAMARA OSGOOD B.A., University of Colorado, Denver, 2011 A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate School of the University of Colorado Denver in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Humanities Humanities and Social Sciences 2015


ii This thesis for the Ma ster of Humanities degree by Tamara Osgood has been approved for the Humanities and Social Sciences Program by Margaret L. Woodhull, Chair Maria Elena Buszek David Hildebrand November 21, 2014


iii Osgood, Tamara (M.H., Humanities and Social Sciences ) Engage the Space: An Experience of Art and Engagement Thesis directed by Director, Master of Humanities Program Margaret L. Woodhull ABSTRACT The process of engagement between a viewer and an art object is a powerful e xperience and an opportunity that most museum visitors do not know they are missing. E ngagement i s a superior type of viewing experience that forms perceptual connections and bonds between viewers and art The experience of engagement changes the customary manner of viewing art into a profound and personal experience. Each space where art is exhibited directly impacts meaning and supports or distracts from the development of a viewer engagement. A comparative analysis of two case studies, The Rothko Chapel in Houston and The Clyfford Still Museum in Denver, will reveal elements such as the historical meaning, associated identities, spatial dynamics, and curatorial manipulations within each space that both promote and distract from viewer engagement. A better understanding of the process of engagement, and elements that influence the experience, will enable the creation of better opportunities for viewer engagement with art and will build stronger connections with art institutions. The form and content of this abstract are approve d. I recommend its publication. Approved: Margaret L. Woodhull


iv TABLE OF CONTENTS CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTION ................................ ................................ ............................. 1 Literature Revie w ................................ ................................ ............................... 7 The Process of Engagement ................................ ............................... 7 History and Identity ................................ ................................ ............. 9 Space and Manipulation ................................ ................................ ... 11 Methodology and Theory ................................ ................................ ............... 13 II. THE EXPERIENCE OF ENGAGEMENT ................................ .................. 16 The Process of Engagement ................................ ................................ ............ 2 5 Attraction and Beauty ................................ ................................ ...................... 27 Solitary Engagement ................................ ................................ ........................ 29 Case Studies a nd Engagement ................................ ................................ ........ 32 III. HISTORY CREATES IDENTITY ................................ ................................ 37 Rothko and R othko Chapel ................................ ................................ ............. 46 Still and The Clyffor d Still Museum ................................ ............................. 51 Acknowledging Identities ................................ ................................ ............... 57 IV. SPACE AND MANIPULATION ................................ ................................ ... 61 Space and Manipulation wi thin the Rothko Chapel ................................ .... 68 Space and Manipulation with in the Clyfford Still Museum ....................... 71 V. CONCLUSION ................................ ................................ ................................ 80 RE FERENCES ................................ ................................ ................................ ............................ 83


v APPENDIX A. Interview with Dean Sobel ................................ ................................ ............ 86 B. Interview with Ashley Clemmer Hoffman ................................ .................. 92 C. Observation al Research ................................ ................................ .................. 95


1 CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION A memorable experience is n o t created through observation, but rather through active participation. For me, one of those unforgettable experiences materialized during the 2009 Venice Biennale. I noticed countless beautiful paintings and sculptures that day, only giving a brief g aze to appreciate most; however, I recall the Italian Pavili on like it was yesterday. I d o no t necessarily remember separate pieces of art or individual artists. I recall my experience, the space, the sounds, the light, and the atmosphere. My journey began as I walked through an apocalyptic world painted on sheets of glass in which beams of op timistic light penetrated through (Fig. 1). A rebirth of vegetation peaked through between scenes of distraught cities and dilapidated parks. Subtle yet sublime Figure 1 2009 Venice Biennale. Giacomo Costa, Private Garden 2009. S ilv io Wolf, I Nomi Del Tempo 2009. Photo by Tamara Osgood


2 music, originating from a film installation just behind me, consumed the entire space. The tranquil music kept me immobile while I inspected the surrounding fantasyland. Despite the powerful energy restricting my movements, an enormous pyramid of light, positioned straight ahead, began to pull me forward. I was lost in the embrace of the spiritual music, which added a complexity to the rebirth of the painted city. T he force drawing me forward to investigate the rad iating light was eventually victorious. I surrendered my time, emotions, senses, and intellect achieving a type of engagement with art that I had previously not experienced. The experience was extraordinary and completely fulfilling. Ever since, I find mys elf searching for opportunities to actively engage with art and recreate the same type of rewarding experience I realized in Venice. What was different allowed for this exp erience to occur? What elements influenced my availability and my vulnerability in that space with those artworks? Was it the curatorial decision to situate those three specific artworks together? Was it the lighting in the room? Did the physical space of the Italian Armory building or the historical meaning woven throughout the structure influence or promote my experience? These are the type of questions that are investigated throughout this thesis. Art can be viewed in many different environments and eac h environment influences the type of experience and the meaning created. T he viewer has a choice to only cast a gaze towards a piece of art or to pause and actively participate with it There is nothing wrong with wa ndering through a museum and stopping briefly to appreciate the aesthetic qualities of an artwork; however, where there is no personal investment and no give and take between the viewer and piece of art, there is also no personal meaning


3 made or connection created. Active participation involves the viewer emotionally, intellectually, and to some degree even physically. If this participatory act is uninterrupted and forms a unity of meaning between the viewer and the artwork, full engagement and therefore a type of personal fulfillment is realized. The process of engagement between a viewer and an art object is a powerful experience and an opportunity most museum visitors do not even know they are missing. The space and environment where art is exhibited dir ectly influences both the experience of engagement and the meaning produced through that experience. E ngagement is a superior type of viewing experience that forms perceptual connections and bonds between viewers and art A better understanding of the elem ents that both promote and distract from engagement will enable viewers to better achieve these fulfilling experiences of engagement and art institutions to appropriately organize their exhibition spaces. Ultimately, the personal bonds created during engag ement will encourage art communities to grow and art institutions to strengthen. A comparative analysis using two case studies, The Rothko Chapel in Houston and The Cly fford Still Museum in Denver, will examine the process of viewer engagement. These case studies will reveal elements within each museum that both promote and distract from viewer engagement. These environment s will be analyzed based on historical meaning, associated identities, spatial dynamics, and curatorial manipulations An understanding will be created regarding the importance of viewer engagement and the process that supports and builds such an experience. These environments share interesting commonalities in that each is not only dedicated to the exhibition of one artist, but the structures were specifically created in


4 order to exhibit Mark Rothko specifically Each space influences. Both environments are collaborations between the artist, architect, and curator; however, the environment is still incomplete without the involvement of a viewer. An active viewer will participate with the artwork, energize the space, and interpret meaning. The potential experi ence and the meaning created within an exhibition space cannot be realized and conceptually does not even exist without the participation of a viewer. A better understanding of the individual elements that encourage a viewer to pause and to interact with a n artwork will better active engagement. The similarities of The Rothko Chapel and The Clyfford Still Museum stray when discussing the intended purpose of the two spaces. Ultimately, both spaces aim to encourage engagement between the art and viewers, but each space describes a different mission statement communicating distinctive associations and meaning. The Rothko Chapel was created as a spiritual environment. It is a c hapel where people of all faiths gather for self ref lection, meditation, and prayer. The structure has evolved from a spiritual space and art landmark to a center known for its promotion of human rights. Mark Rothko was commissioned to create artwork for the Chapel, but was also intimately involved in the d esign of the entire building paintings for a specific location where he controlled the lighting, the display, the design of the space, and to some extent the atmosphere within the room. This holistic approach to art display is much like an installation where an entire artistic environment is created and the viewer becomes part of the art work. Author,


5 environment in which the viewer immersed himself in the paintings free from outs ide 1 Rothko had sought complete control of an exhibition space in order to manage the context in which his art was displayed; however, complete control is simply not possible. The history of not onl y the building, but each person and organization associated with the Chapel communicates the Chapel opened. ement in designi ng the Chapel, t he Clyfford Still Museum was realized thirty mission statement explains that the institution is interested in advancing the 2 Although Still did not have an active role in the design of the museum, each design decision aspires to relate to Lead Architect for the Clyfford Still Museum, Brad Cloepfil explained 3 Unlike the designs of other museums, in whose collections or exhibitions his works appear, 4 Dean Sobel, dir ector of the Clyfford Still Museum explains that Abstract Expressionists, such as Still, 1 Steven Johnson, "Rothko Chapel and Rothko's Chapel," JSTOR, Summer 1994, 23, accessed October 23, 2013, 2 "Clyfford Still Museum | Denver, Colorado," Clyfford Still Museum | Denve r, Colorado, About the Museum, accessed April 29, 2014, 3 Robert McCarter, Allied Works Architecture: Clyfford Still Museum (Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2013), 101. 4 McCarter, Allied Works Architecture 12.


6 W environment s in which viewers no longer became part of them 5 With these ideals in mind the museum galleries were designed with intimacy, proportion, and lighting in mind. The largest gallery space is only 1,200 square fee t of exhibition space and low ceilings, compared to normal museum standards, of ten to sixteen feet high. The us e of natural daylight is distributed throughout each gallery and is meant to elling and truthful 6 abundance of information when compared and contrasted through specific lenses. These unique exhibition spaces are created with a focused direction of mea ning and intent. Both the artist and their artwork in an attempt to exclude outside distractions. This method of control and direction will be deconstructed consid ering the strengths, weaknesses, and alternatives. Active engagement between a viewer and an art object is an exceptional experience and one that words simply cannot describe. The methods used within these spaces to promote viewer engagement will provide a better understanding of the powerful influences within these spaces that both encourage and discourage viewer engagement. 5 McCarter, Allied Works Architectur e 12. 6 McCarter, Allied Works Architecture 13.


7 Literature Review The space and environment where art is exhibited directly influences both the experience of engagement and the meaning produced through that experience. An individual analysis of key themes such as the process of engagement, history and identity and s pace and manipulation will reveal knowledge that not only promotes a will also provide a better understanding of meaning making during engagement. The current literature and research concerning this discussion focuses more on individual section s of the discussion, but does not combine each piece to realize patterns and how each piece may impact the other. The Process of Engagement The experience of engagement is discussed and examined using the writings of John Dewey as a foundational basis. Art as Experience, discusses the necessary ingredients for successfu l engagement to occur between a viewer and a piece of art. He explains that an aesthetic experience requires the active involvement of both the viewer and the art. He states, takings 7 with not only a visual and intellectual understanding of art, but also wit h the surrounding space and energy that the body produces within that space. The viewer must surrender themselves, int ellectually and physically, in order to accomplish a completed experience of engagement with an ultimate level of fulfillment. Arnold Berleant perspective on engagement and his i nterpretation of Dewe theories are used to form a balanced look at exp eriencing art and construct a well 7 John Dewey, Art as Experience (New Y ork: Berkley Pub. Group, 2005), 58.


8 rounded assessment of the process. Berleant bases many of his viewpoints in Art and Engagement on the writings of In addition, Berleant expresses an essential need for the presence of the total person in order to develop an experienc e of engagement between a viewer and art. When the totality of a person is actively participating with an artwork, the viewer and artwork begin to integrate into a unified whole. Acco r ding to Berleant, and objec 8 perceptual association s are created through past experiences. These perceptions are constan t ly influenced by the space and environment in which the viewer exists. Furthermore, Berleant discussion regarding beauty and its role in experiencing art is valuable within this thesis Beauty and attraction is a key element within the seamless composition of engagement Beauty is developed through individual associations and s ensed during an aes thetic experience of engagement Berleant states, eauty is a characteristic of objects, to which the mind 9 The essence of b eauty can only be described as a felt experience. There is nothing innately beautiful about the materials that make art, but rather u 10 The theories of Dewey will guide my analysis regarding the process of en agree that engagement and meaning making require the active participation and 8 Arnold Berleant, Art and Engagement (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1991), 46. 9 Berleant, Art and Engagement 11. 10 Berleant, Art and Engagement 12.


9 immediate focus of the viewer. Ultimate ly, an experience and meaning are dependent on the viewer, but there are other influences. One of which comes from within the artwork itself. In this way there is an interactive process within engagement between the artwork an d the viewer. Both authors offer theories and definitions that will supplement and guide a comparative analysis of the Rothko Chapel and the Clyfford Still Museum. Dewey and Berleant create foundational information regarding the experience of en g agement th at will penetrate throughout the entirety of this thesis History and Identity When viewing art, there are several identities that will influence the direction of an experience including the identities of : t he museum, the art and the viewer. John H. Falk provides an understanding of who the museum visitor is and the different influences that drive their experience. Falk discusses how the education, cultural, and socioeconomic identities of a visitor impact museum experiences and influence meaning making. When entering a museum environment a visitor searches for the familiar in order to create a comfortable environment. their experience and guides interpretation. According to Fa lk, t he prior knowledge and individual interests a visitor brings in to the art museum influence s which e x hibits, objects, or la bels a visitor chooses to view. 11 understanding regarding the The history of the Museum as an institution also creates an identity that every art museum must acknowledge and contend with. Carole Paul provides a comprehensive l ook at the history of the exhibition the museum institution and the architecture of the 11 John H. Falk, Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience (Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2009), 96.


10 buildings. The First Modern Museums of Art discusses how the past informs o ur future. By understan ding the history of the museum and the ide n t ities and stereotyp es that still s experience today, we c an be tter rec o gnize and begin to neutralize their negative influence s Influences such as the Grand Tour, aristocratic art collections, and exclusive palace exhibitions assisted in producing the pretentious reputations associated with the art world still lingering today Architecture also contributes to the intimidation factor when experiencing art. Paul addresses the symbolism present within classical architecture and its communication of power and wealth. The objects displayed inside were often meant to represent political strength and victories. These histories of the provide an understanding to why museums embody historical environments. Any potential experience wit hin a museum environment is influenced by The Rothko Chapel and the Clyfford Still Museum both deal with a layered identity. They embody the historical identity of the museum institution, an identity based on their indivi du al museum history, and the identity of the artist in wh ich they display. Each identity provides both positive and negative influences that impact a experience. The ability to understand these influences and then frame th em separately, allows an experience of engagement to develop in a more genuine and personal manner.


11 Space and Manipulation Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space, discusses the context of the modernist gall ery and how it impacts the art object and the viewer. As a writer and artist, s the strict laws of a gallery space where windows are sealed, walls are painted white, ceilings provide the 12 In other words, it is examines this assumption and looks at t he relationship between art objects and the space in which they are displayed. Although the white cube gallery appears to be influence free, it is still loaded with powerful associations and messages that must be considered. He argues that there is no such thing as a neutral environment. Even the sterile white gallery 13 With this understanding, artists and curators must stay conscious of the inevitable influences that are present in every space. Herman Kossman n Suzanne Mudler, and Frank Oudsten use their book, Narrati ve Spaces to explore the role of the curator and the power of the exhibition narrative The curator becomes an artist who creates an installation of artwork called the exhibition. The exhibition includes a narrative communicated through, display methods, design choices, art selection, and textual guidance. Effective exhibitions combine these 14 12 Brian O'Doherty, Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 15. 13 O'Doherty, Inside the White Cube 79. 14 Herman Kossmann et al., Narrative Spaces: On the Art of Exhibiting (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2012), 86.


12 eir intellectual curiosity. In add ition to instruction, a cur needed focus to promote engagement. The successful immersive environment promotes a viewer to shut out the rest of the world and engage with their present environment. that space does communicate meaning. Narrative Spaces l ooks at meaning making by examining the The Rothko Chapel and The Clyfford Still Museum attempt to control and neutralize their gallery spaces by aligning the ir design decisions exhibition spaces always contain meaning and any attempt at neutrality is hopeless. no power to communicate meaning through an exhibition but rather is interested in exposing hidden messages and manipulations within exhibitions. When analyzing the Clyfford Still Museum and the Rothko Chapel, it is necessary to understand that each choice within those spaces was deliberately chosen and conta ins meaning. The most effective methods of communicating meaning are often the most subtle expressions. Curatorial narration creates focus and set s an appro priate ambience for an exhibition. The finished exhibition is a new piece of art with a strong and unified voice. These two books create a nice balance when examining meaning within an exhibition space and understanding its potential.


13 Methodology and Theory A phenomenological framework is used to illuminate details concerning the process of engageme nt and identify elements within exhibition spaces that influence the experience of engagement Past philosophica l discussions and research build an understanding regarding the superiority of the experience of engagement between a viewer and art. Through th e use of qualitative methods such as interviews and observational research, I examine the experience of viewers and the spatial dynamics within the spaces of The Rothko Chapel and Clyfford Still Museum. Throughout my research I focus on the experience of e ngagement from the perspective of the individual viewer. Gaining an understanding of the individual perceptual experience omit s assumptions regarding engagement and emphasize s specifics that are often overlooked. A deconstruc tion of viewer experiences crea te s insights into the actions and motivations of viewer engagement and in turn provide s a better understanding of the larger picture influencing and inspiring the experience. I conducted observational research within the Rothko Chapel and the Clyfford Still Museum. Any direct contact with visitors was avoided in order to comply with Human Subject Research guidelines. My research in the Rothko Chapel occurred during one day for a total of 2 hours. During this time I noted interior and exterior character istics of the Chapel space. I also recorded observations of visitors and how they interacted with the space and the art. O bservation al research within the Clyfford Still Museum took place during five diff erent days for a total of twelve hours. 15 I was inter ested in the typical actions of a museum visitor and how the space of the museum influenced their 15 Tammy Osgood, Observational Research, 2014, raw data, Clyfford Still Museum, Denver. Appendix C.


14 experience. I took careful notice and recorded quantitative data concerning the percentage of visitors who looked at text labels before viewing the art. I als o paid close attention to traffic patterns within the museum and noted gallery spaces where visitors tended to walk through most often, as well as gallery spaces where visitors spent the most time This interpretive data support s and provides authority to theories that influence engagement. I combine d interpretative observational data with research concerning institutional historical meaning, spatial and environmental influences, and curatorial narrations and manipulations. The integration of past and present information uncover s patterns within viewer experiences a nd elements that enc ourage the experience of engagement The results illuminate elements within environments that communicate meaning and influence engagement I utilize a comparative method to deconstruct the spaces of The Rothko Chapel a nd Clyfford Still Museum. A hermeneutic approach ena bles the interpretation of discovered influential elements and present s answers that promote viewer engagement within these spaces. Much the same way one would interpret the symbols within a painting, each component that makes up the exhibition space is deconstructed and d ecoded. Although each component that contributes to art display function s differently in different environments, a better understanding of the patterns, co mmonalities, and contrasts provide s knowledge that leads movement of Abstract Expressionism. Each case study e xhibits Abstract Expressionist art within its space ; however, the two environments differ in histories, exhibition methods, and mission statements. A comparative methodology enables a logical discussion to


15 develop that analyzes each space while questioning and challenging the natural and manipulated elements within each environment. The utilization of personal interviews allows direct contact with the institution and enables a ccess to specific information not a vailable in books and journals. I conducted interviews with a represen tative from each case study. On August 28, 2014, I personally met with Dean Sobel Direct or of the Clyfford Still Museum. Later o n t hat same date, I conducted a phon e interview with Ashley Clemmer Hoffman, Engagement Director for the Rothko Chapel. These interviews exposed display methods engagement goals and most importantly a valuable connection between the success of engagement and a solitary experience. Each space where art is exhibited directly impacts meaning and viewer engagement. The experience of engagement between a viewer and an art object promotes a superior type of meaning making that connects viewers to specific pieces of art, as well as the larger institution of the art museum. A better understanding of the process of engagement, and elements that influence the experience, will enable th e creation of better opportunities for viewer engagement with art and will build stronger connections with art institutions. Much like my experience of engagement during the Venice Biennale, experience within the 16 16 Pat Dowell, "Meditation and Modern Art Meet i n Rothko Chapel," NPR, March 1, 2011, Interview, and modern art meet in rothko chapel?ft=3&f=134160717.


16 CHAPTER I I THE EXPERIENCE OF ENGAGEMENT 17 Engaging with art allows the viewer to see and understand objects, events, people, cultures, and emotions through fresh perspectives. The artist has the power to enhance and highlight elements once overlooked or taken for granted. The viewer has an opport unity to not to only recognize those elements within the artwork, but to actually connect with them and develop an experience of engagement. Through this discovery process the viewer does not necessarily need to reinvent the wheel, but rather gain a better understanding of perceived beauty in both probable and unexpected places. When a viewer participates in engagement with a piece of art, an experience is created. This chapter will discuss exactly what engagement is, the importance of engagement, and the p rocess involved in order to achieve the experience described as engagement. The act of engagement will be examined specifically concerning its association between art and the viewer and will not address the activity in other varieties. The word engagement describes a connection or relationship that develops between a viewer and an deliberate and focused. The re is a strong distinction between a simple gaze and the act of e ngagement The simple gaze ends with the recognition of an artwork, where engagement develops over time and requires the viewer to move from recognizing to perceiving. To recognize a quality within an art object only requires the casual gaze of the viewer. To 17 Quoted in Falk Identity and the Museum Visitor Experienc e 9.


17 perceive qualities of an art object requires the engagement of the viewer. The word recognize knowledge or experience. 18 The word perceive signifies the 19 ceive, is more than to recognize. 20 Perceiving goes beyond just recognizing an element within a painting. The act of recognition, as with the term gaze, occurs when restrictions an d distractions exist. When one recognizes an object, a formal identification is assigned to that object. The object is its formal identity and does not evolve into a symbolic understanding for the viewer. Elements that are perceived include meaning, instea d of only simple classifications. 21 When an art object is just recognized t he viewer limits their attention to a gaze. F or one reason or another, the viewer does not stop to focus and spend time with the art object. The gaze only relays formal surface information to the viewer; while engagement uncovers a deeper sense of the art object creating connections and bonds. and recognition but if given develops into an experience resulting in engagement. When the gaze, or simple recognition, turns into engagement a union is formed between the viewer and the artwork. The unity, or perceived commonalities and connections between the viewer and artwork, pro duce a journey where meaning is 18 Merriam Webster, s.v. "Recognition," accessed November 18, 2014, http://www.merriam web 19 Merriam Webster, s.v. "Perceive ," accessed November 18, 2014, http://www.merriam 20 Dewey, Art as Experience 24. 21 Philip W. Jackson, John Dewey and the Lessons of Art (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), 57.


18 created; however, when the act of viewing results only as a gaze, recognition never has t he opportunity to evolve into engagement The terms experience and engagement can easily be used interchangeably; however, there are t wo differences. Experience is the active process w hile engagement is the completed outcome. The word experience indicates the process of doing and seeing. When the process is completed and fulfillment is reached, the experience can be identified as engagement. The word engagement entails that a commitment was made, a connection was achieved, and emotional involvement was realized during an experience. The viewer must go through the active processes of an experience in order to reach engagement. E ngagement always involves an experience, but not every experience reaches engagement. Experience is the active process and engagement is the final result. It is also important to understand the A n experience suggests engagement was reached, where this word in the form of a verb does not. People experience things every day without remembering them as a n experience For instance, a morning routine consisting of a jog through the park is experienced every day for many people. The routine is normally remembered as a non detailed event. The run consists of leaving the house, running through a park, and then back home again. Along the way there are actually beautiful flowers, wind ruffling the leaves in the trees, and birds chirping; however, more times than not none of these things are remembered or even noticed. During the exercise beautiful colors and sounds go completely unnoticed. Instead, the runner is thinking


19 about past and future events. What time is my first meeting today? Do the kids need lunch money? I wonder if my hus middle of these random thoughts you are interrupted by distractions such as a car horn or the sound of an airplane; which in turn, changes your attention to another string of thoughts. This sequence o f thoughts concentrated on past and future events, along with the numerous interruptions along the way, are probably the only things remembered during the run. The runner was not focused on their immediate environment and was not open to experiencing the possible perceptual connections within the park The runner will not go to work that day and think back to their exercise routine and The runner experienced (the word in the form of a verb) a run that morning, but the run did not involve an experience (the word in the form of a noun). Engagement occurs only when the participant is focused on the current moment and is open to a present sensory experience. Past events and future aspirations will influence how a viewer perceives art and interprets meaning; however, when the viewer stays focused on their present environment and vulnerable to perceptual connections a completed experience of engagement becomes possible. Dewey understood the problematic nature of focusing on the her e and now. The many distractions of the world make engagement with art in any environment hard to achieve. He explains:


20 Because of the frequency of this abandonment of the present to the past and future, the happy periods of an experience that is no w complete because it absorbs into itself memories of the past and anticipations of the future, come to constitute an esthetic ideal. Only when the past ceases to trouble and anticipations of the future are not perturbing is a being wholly united with his environment and therefore fully alive. Art celebrates with peculiar intensity the moments in which the past reinforces the present and in which the future is a quickening of what now is. 22 Dewey beautifully describes how past events and future anticipation s can successfully fuse into the present moment molding and influencing an experience He uses the word the art object in front of them. The viewer strings together a number of connections. As these connections develop, the viewer and the art object become unified. The viewer themselves and results in creating a completely unique and individual experience of engagement During engagement the artwork merges with of stories and meaning are put together into a seamless composition. The experience of engagement can only progress without the presence of distractions and interruptions. A completed experience of engagement 23 E ngagement as well as the surrounding world. the experience is a collection of feelings and emotions. On c e the experience reaches a state of fulfillment, those feelings 22 Dewey, Art as Experience 17. 23 Dewey, Art as Experience 36


21 and emotions can be explored and meaning can be considered. Each individual part of t he experience is integrated, creating an intellectual and emotional whole. 24 For a complete and seamless experience of engagement to develop, it is essential for the viewer to focus on the moment and clear their mind of any d istractions E ngagement is a re sult of a person who is focused on the immed iate moment, yet is able to form perceptual connections through past emotions and events. The past and the future does impact an experience; however, only through perceptual involvement. The experience of engagem ent requires a focus on the moment, but is influenced by past events and future aspirations. This type of focus reminds me of a successful golf swing. While I do not necessarily consider my self a golfer, I have completed s everal lessons and play occasionally with my husband. The importance of a mental focus is constantly explained to the amateur golfer and reiterated to the avid golfer. I learned from the very beginning that mental focus is essential to a successful shot. T he techniques I learned in the past about proper stance, grip, and follow through naturally affect my swing, but my focus must remain on the present moment. Mental distractions such as past successes, failures, or techniques learned, will only disturb my f focus must remain on the ball and the target. That moment, that ball, that target, are the only elements that will produce a successful shot. After the club makes contact with the ball the golfer immediately knows if the shot was a success from the feel of the swing and the sound of the club hitting the ball. As the golfer finishes the follow through, their eyes naturally stay on the ball 24 Dewey, Art as Experience 5 7.


22 completion of that experience. At that point the golfer can lose focus of the present and consider the experience of that shot and attribute what elements made it successful. In other words, the golfer considers meaning within the experience. The successful golf shot requires focus on the present moment and a smooth and seamless execution. When this is achieved the experience is successful and completely fulfilling. several similarities to the successful golf shot. Not only is the same satisfying feeling achieved at its completion, but the organization of the process is also comparable The successful golf shot is structured and c onstructed through past experiences. The swing requires focus on the present ball and target, but the understanding and creation of the swing comes from past experience. The relationship between swinging the club during that focused moment and the perceptu al connections of past experience, constructs the successful shot. The golfer is able to extract meaning and a bet ter understanding of their game from examin ing this relationship. A similar structure and relationship ex ists between a viewer and art work. Th e viewer must keep a focus on the artwork. As the viewer remains in the moment, a relationship or unification develops between the present action of looking and the past experiences. The viewer develops a perceptual and individual c omprehension of the experience based on associations between past experiences and the art object. The content and meaning created through these relationships determines the experience had. It is tough to wrap head around the somewhat conflicting i dea that the viewer must be in the present, but the experience is formed through relationships with the past. If the viewer is truly in the present, past influences will naturally fuse into the


23 25 The totality of a person cannot exist without being in the moment; however, even when there is complete focus on the present the viewer still brings past experiences, associations, and meanings to construct an individual and perceptual exper ience of engagement with the art object. As with the successful golf shot, past preparation and experience will influence the ball and target. In both situations the total per son is needed to achieve the desired experience. The total person encompasses every past event and future aspiration, but those parts must be integrated into the present moment. The total person must be focused on the current experience in order to result in genuine engagement. Each viewer embodies separate and unique past experiences. These past experiences construct individual lenses to look through. Artists depict objects, events, people, and emotions through their own creative and abstract lenses. Ea depiction allows a viewer to see and understand a fresh perspective. A painting of a bowl of fruit is nothing new. There are countless bowls of fruit in kitchens around the world and numerous paintings of bowls of fruit in museums and homes. Th e spark or the uniqueness that an artist infuses into a painting of that bowl of fruit creates an opportunity for a viewer to experience an individual perceptual understanding. The r to highlight a baseline of expression represents a bud ready to develop and bloom w hen activated by a 25 Arnold Berleant, The Aesthetics of Environment (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992), 119.


24 their perception and connection with the art object. The expression of an artwork is never complete until the viewer engages and experiences the work. I n this way a work of art has endless possibilities of expression and meaning. Even with an established baseline, perceptual interpretation will construct a new experience for every viewer. There is an active participation of give and take between the arti st, the art object, an d the viewer. Dewey writes about the influence and participation of the artist during the experience of engagement. He explains the contribution of each participant in the following quote: For to perceive, a beholder must create his own experience. And his creation must include relations comparable to those which the original producer underwent. They are not the same in any literal sense. But with the perceiver, as with the artist, there must be an ordering of the elements of the who le that is in form, although not in details, the same as the process of organization the creator of the work consciously experienced. Without an act of recreation the object is not perceived as a work of art. The artist selected, simplified, clarified, abr idged and condensed according to his interest. The beholder must go through these operations according to his point of view and interest. In both, an act of abstraction that is of extraction of what is significant, takes place. In both, there is a comprehe nsion in its literal signification that is, a gathering together of details and particulars physically scatt ered into an experienced whole. 26 The artist gives the viewer a beginning to an experience and may even guide and on through intrinsic expression within the artwork; however, it is up to the viewer to perceive, interpret, and complete the experience. The viewer connects with and identifies different elements within an artwork and then fits all the parts together, but not necessarily in the same organization that the artist envisioned. The different parts and is completed with unique meaning understood by the individual s past experiences are restructured and reinvented through 26 Dewey, Art as Experience 56.


25 through the past. As material is literally revived, given new life and 27 The Process of Engagement Berleant salubrious powers of art, and perhaps most of all, the power of art to transform and transcend, leads us into a condition of enhanced perception that may be wondrous, dangerous, and a t times over 28 When viewing art, attraction and recognition is powerful and grabs the attention of the viewer; however, formal engagement does not necessarily occur. There are three required actions within an experience that enable engagement : at traction/recognition + perceptual connectio n + development = engagement When the viewer is lured in through recognition or attraction, they are still not engaged. At this point the viewer has only gazed at a piece of art, but has not yet made a commitment of time to effectively look at and connect with it. The process of attraction and recognition is unconscious and spontaneous, but to progress into understanding a perceptual connection is a deliberate choice. Author, Philip W. Jackson ance on the importance of time in relation to an experience of engagement He points out that experiences do not just happen; instead they require time to develop. Jac experience exists in time and changes over time. It always has experience is a product, and one might almost say a by product, of continuous and 27 Dewey, Art as Experience 63. 28 Berleant, Art and Engagement 9


26 29 Logistically, for an experience of engagement to develop, time is a necessity. In a larger sense, time collects all past experiences that snowball and change each successive experience. Aesthetic qualities within an art object are most often noticed first: the colors, lines, composition, and size of the canvas. Once this information is absorbed, the viewer can begin to connect with the art. The viewer begins to form connections and after connections are made, they are ab le to develop into engagement When the viewer become s engaged with the art objec t, an active experience is possible. Berleant explains 30 Just to see the art object will not produce a unique experience, rather it is the activity of engaging that produces a sense of fulfillment. The experience of engagement begins aesthetically, but completion is only realized when an active participant is willing to pause and spend time with the art. Once the viewer chooses to pause and perceptually con nect with the art, engagement is able to develop. These connections cause aesthetic qualities of the art object to turn into something more. The colors, lines, and textures evolve into moods and emotions construc ting a form of visual language. Visual elements have the ability to trigger memories of past experiences and the associated emotions from those experiences guide the viewer into an intimate engagement with the art. This engagement can produce a dream like journey provoking thoughts and questions that were not apparent at first sight. Ber leant writes about the importance of a participatory model that: 29 Jackson, John Dewey and the Lessons of Ar t 4. 30 Berleant, Art and Engagement 17.


27 R ecognizes the aesthetic reciprocity of both perceiver and object in the aesthetic situation. The notion o f experiential unity is central here, for art does not consist of objects but situations in which experiences occur. A unified field of interaction forces invo lved performance or activation. 31 A lack of experiential unification will not produce a true and genuine sense of engagement. That is not to say that there is anything wrong with just noticing an interesting work of art while strolling through the museum, but full engagement between a viewer and a work of art creates an actual experience that can be described more as a relationship than just an acquaintance. Attraction and Beauty a rt object or a familiar sense of recognition. This inception of engagement is either encouraged or discouraged by the surrounding environment. Four fundamental roles exist within engagement: the artist, the viewer, the art object, and the space in which th ey exist. The active participation and interaction of all four contributes to a complete uni fied experience of engagement. The viewer ultimately determines what to engage with and what to disregard. Many of these decisions are influenced before a person ev en steps foot inside a museum. The museum goer brings individual preconceived ideas regarding their likes, dislikes, and biases. The re is a diverse sp ectrum of possible museum goers ranging from art historians and connoisseurs to elementary school field trips. Each viewer, no matter their knowledge in art, will bring specific ideas and experiences to every art work that catches their gaze or develops into engagement. The viewer will make numerous decisions and judgments during their museum visit such as: w hich art to walk by, which 31 Berleant, Art and Engagement 49.


28 art deserves only a glance, and what piece of art is deemed good enough to stop and spend time to look at, interpret, and experience. W hat is it that attracts us to a piece of art? The definition of beauty is completely differen t for each individual. It is impossible to compose a universal description of beauty. Beauty is best understood through emotional sensations, rather than an present so mething perceptible to the senses (but not necessarily intelligible) that was not 32 In other words, beauty is found through active participation and is understood through a felt experience. A description of beauty is distinctly specific to each conscious active choice. Many times an individual has an instantaneous and involuntary attraction to something that is found to be aesthetically pleasing. T h e sensations associated with beauty are based on past experiences Attraction is initiated by an impression of beau ty produced by triggers such as, a familiar element, a memory, or even an unexplainable feeling. According to Berleant, an art object cannot be beautiful without the viewer. The materials that make art are not beaut iful and even the completed art object is no t beautiful until a viewer perceives it as beauty. Berleant states, beautifies matter, and since there is no principle of beauty in the physical object, that 33 The definition of beauty comes fro m within each viewer. Beauty is an associative and perceptual feeling of the viewer. C ertain qualities and ch aracteristics of past experiences 32 Bernard Gortais, "Abstraction and Art," JSTOR, July 29, 2003, 1241, accessed October 23, 2013, 33 Berleant, Art and Engagement 49.


29 trigger related feelings. Beauty is pleasing and stimulating. The perceptual experience of beauty is unique to each viewer, but fundamental commonalities are shared in the associated sensations and feelings. Solitary Enga gement The process of engagement and the qualities that influence an experience to take place, each hold an interesting common restriction. I have explained the importance of focus as well as the lethal qualities of distraction. Focus is most often achiev ed and distractions are most often avoided when the viewer is in a solitary situation. Engagement creates an extraordinary bond between a viewer and an art object. This bond is formed through individual perceptions and associations The completed process o f engagement, at its most impressive completion, results in a self reflective experience of new understandings. This intimate and vulnerable experience of self discovery is most easily achieved when the viewer is alone. The total person cannot be present a nd in the moment with distractions and interruptions that are inevitable when viewing art with other people. Going to the museum is normally thought of as a group activity: a great place to take a date, a school field trip, or a family outing. Seldom do w e think of visiting a museum without the company of another person. Personally, I enjoy doing both, but I have to say that each situation is completely different regarding engagement. When museum viewers are with other people, conversation tends to dominat e over engaging directly with the art. Durin g a group viewing situation, it i s more likely that conversations had in the museum galleries are remembered, rather than specifics about the art. The necessary time commitment and uninterrupted focus are just no t likely to occur when visitors view art together. With that said, there is a different type of engagement that


30 occurs when people enter into a conversation relating to a piece of art. Alternative perspectives and meanings are explored that would normally go unnoticed. Important issues inspired through art come to the surface, allowing powerful discussions that provoke possible change in the world. These examples show that important connections are made and even possible engagement achieved between visitors when people view art together. I refer to this alternate type of museum experience as an extrinsic rather than intrinsic experience of engagement Discussions between visitors that develop while viewing art create di scoveries outside of one se lf. The engagement that occurs is initially influenced by art, but the conversation itself becomes the focus of the experience and not the art work Meanings, perspectives, and disputes are recognized and understood through extrinsic experience, but the foc us is on others and the outside world. The connections and bonds piece of art or exhibition of artworks. I have chosen to focus on intrinsic engagement because of its di rect connection to the self and its self reflective qualities. As stated before, extrinsic engagement is more about discourse than developing a relationship with a piece of art. The exploration of intrinsic engagement focuses on the immense power of person al discovery when engagement is achieved between a viewer and art. Engagement between a solitary viewer and an art object uncover s a deeper sense of experience compared to extrinsic engagement. A solitary experience deals with associations and perceptions developed from within the viewer; whereas, an extrinsic experience develops from surface information. Solitary e ngagement creates a superior Dewey: A


31 explains tha 34 I would argue that extrinsic engagement largely produces knowledge rather than complete experiences of engagement Intrinsic engagement forms fulfilling experience s that relate directly to one self and connects with the embodied power of art. D ewey states that engagement its height it signifies complete interp en et r 35 Very few activities c ontain the p ower to completely per meate one self. An experience capable of encompassing the totality of a person, results in self. Engagement between a solitary viewer and an artwork is an intimate act of self discovery, and leaves a viewer wanting more. Obviously, museums are interested in drawing large crowds and in turn accruing more admission fees. Couples or groups of people not only produce higher admission revenue, but they are also more likely t o shop in the gift store together and have lunch in the museum restaurant. It appears to be a much better business path to encourage groups of people to visit the museum rather than single visitors; however, the experience of engagement (which develops mos t naturally in solitary situations) creates memories and connections that are undeniably strong. Experiences of engagement are not only associated with a particular art object, but also with the art institution. If museums began to support and encourage no t only the solitary visitor experience, but also other environmental elements that encourage engagement (environmental elements will be examined in subsequent chapters) stronger personal bonds between the individual viewer, the museum institution, and th e art community can be realized. When 34 David L. Hildebrand, Dewey: A Beginner's Guide (Oxford: Oneworld, 2008), 151. 35 Jackson, John Dewey and the Lessons of Art 3.


32 circumstances are just right, intrinsic engagement is not only a possibility, but a probability. The individual relationship created between a viewer and an art object bears a more intimate bond than only promoting ent ertainment based opportunities for groups of visitors. There are opportunities that Museums are missing when overlooking the solitary visitor. Encouraging the experience of engagement for the solitary visitor can change the way people think about and look at art. Case Studies and Engagement The Clyfford Still Museum and the Rothko Chapel both exemplify many qualities previously discussed that support viewer engagement; however, there are also issues that oppose the needed elements that support viewer engagement. Subsequent chapters will analyze each environment in more detail; however, I would like to take a look at each case study and how they support or distract the viewer from focusing and staying in the moment. In this respect these two environments are completely different. intention best 36 Rothko intended his work to be more than just art. He was interested in representing his soul by means of an illustrated spiritual communication. This spiritual commu nication cannot be explained or understood in words; instead, the experience must be felt by the viewer. The Rothko Chapel was created as a space where people can explore and discover not only elements of themselves, but also understand larger connections to the world. The 36 R othko, The Artist's Reality Introduction xi.


33 fo urteen paintings, lighting, benches, and the architecture of the room. Each element in the space is minimalistic in appearance, yet strong in communication. The environment is quiet a nd spiritual. Even a viewer who can still comprehend the spiritual and introspective natu re of the space. Many museum spaces are often quiet with viewers choosing to use soft voices; however, it is normal for visitors within the Chapel to remain completely silent and only isitor instructions on how to act and how to engage with the space before they even step foot inside. Although not all people engage the space and the art in the same way, most tend to experience the Chapel somewhat removed from any group they entered with The environment promotes an intrinsic experience of engagement as opposed to extrinsic. It complete environment provokes contemplation and thought; which promotes viewer s to pause and experience the space. The space encourages a solitary experience of engagement and challenges each visitor to explore the endless opportunities of meaning. Art enables us to find ourselv 37 This statement explains in such simple introspective process, but is most easily achieved without dis tractions while removed from others. Finding yourself and yet losing yourself at the same time requires a distance from the outside world and a focus on the present e nvironment The Rothko Chapel 37 Merton, No Man Is an Island 67.


34 e world through silence and a spiritual atmosphere. The word spiritual, concerning this paper, does not describe religious values, but rather concerns the human soul or spirit. The human soul defines the essence of a person and the spiritual is a type of language that communicates directly to the human soul. Although at its core the spiritual has distinctive meaning created by the artist, the truth is somewhat fluid for each viewer. The spiritual within art is a fundamental and basic expression and as e ach individual viewer engages with a piece of art their truth is revealed differently based on individual beliefs and experiences. A t the fundamental core each artistic expression begins the same, but it then evolves into a specific and individual spiritu al quality for each viewer. In other words, the spiritual comes from within the art object and is then interpreted by the individual viewer resulting in a personalized and fluid meaning. A spiritual communication between a viewer and an art object is possi ble in any establishes the atmosphere for the viewer) naturally prepares visitors for a space that embodies a spiritual quality. Visitors enter the Rothko Chapel expecting to find truth and focus through the tranquil and meditative environment. The Rothko Chapel is not a museum. Although the space include s art, the purpose of the space is drastically different from museum gallery spaces But is it really that different, or should it reall y be that different? There are important qualities within the Chapel that many museum galleries are missing. gement, but what about chapel type galleries specifically meant for in trinsic experiences? This is


35 no t exactly an innovative idea. Many museums have small galleries that are out of the way and lend themselves to a chapel like environment, especially concerning the works of Rothko. For instance, The Phillips Collection in Was hington DC designed a small even referred to by (Duncan) Phillips as a type of 38 However, the Rothko Room is in fact a museum gallery space. The purpose of the r and in turn a different atmosphere can be felt once entering the room. A quieter environment and a more focused mentality are assumed. A solitary and removed experience is promoted by silence, respect, and focus. In other w ords, fewer distractions create stronger possibilities to experience engagement. In contrast to the Rothko Chapel is the environment of the Clyfford Still Museum. arrange same as the minimalistic approach in the Chapel B enches are also placed in the middle of the galleries, inviting visitors to pause and spend time with the art. However, muc h like other museums distractions surround and bombard the viewer. Noise levels no matter the volume level, are a distraction Heating and air conditioning vents make a constant humming noise, as well as the automatic blinds in the roof that open and cl ose adjusting to the intensity of sunlight coming through the skylights. This background noise elevates the volume of conversations throughout the galleries. Also, school field trips are common in each gallery. The field trips are grouped in the middle of the main galleries. Each group works on different activities relating to the art in that specific gallery. The 38 "The Rothko Room," The Phillips Collection, section goes here, accessed August 21, 2014, room.


36 activities require the participation of both museum leaders and the children. This description sounds inspiring and is indeed an extremely important element when introducing youth to art. The problem is that these field trip activities are spread throughout the entire open concept of the museum. Although other visitors are aware of the field trip groups, realistically most have n o idea that the distracting noise is discouraging a potential opportunity to experience engagement with an artwork. These visitors are unaware of the intensely personal experience to be had during engagement. The Still Museum has no rooms dedicated to focu s or silence The open concept floor plan will be dis cussed in more depth within C hapter IV but I would like to acknowledge the gallery they are in is leading into ot her spaces, it is tough to stay focused on the present moment and the present piece of art. The noise of conversations and field trips, as well as sight lines into other galleries, contributes to distractions that dissuade from engagement.


37 CHAPTER II I HISTORY CREATES IDENTITY Most museums today strive to house and display their objects in neutral environments. Neutral environments enable the art to communicate meaning without the influence of the building that holds them or the cultural history t hat surrounds them. However, it i s ridiculous to assume that the history of the museum as an institution, as well as the individual story of each museum, does not influence meaning and the museum building and the institution of the museum both embody an identity constructed by their history In addition, each visitor also understands their own perceptual identity which influences everything they see and do. Every museum visitor, at the very least, is familiar with the aristocratic reputation of art and the museum institution. The historical roots and stories of specific museums are sometimes positive and inspiring and other times negative and quite political. Good or bad, these stories dist ract and change any potential experience of engagement within Art historian, institution itself produces meaning, we need to widen our focus to see its active framing of its contents and 39 In other words, acknowledging the history of the institution, as well as the particular museum, can provide better focus. By recognizing a durin g their visit. By framing the institution separately from the objects inside, there is a better opportunity for the viewer to avoid distractions and obtain the necessary focus needed to engage with a piece of art. 39 Griselda Pollock and Joyce Zemans, Museums after Modernism: Strategies of Engagement (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007), 1.


38 Is this process of acknowledgment really that easy? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Many vis itors who enter a museum do not realize or understand their preconceived notions concer ning the institution. They do not consciously think about the stories, rumors, and stereotypes regarding the institut ion and how they affect their interaction with the art inside the museum. The well known pretentious reputation of the institution makes many visitors feel inferior and inadequate ly prepared to fully understand or experience the artwork. This type of unc onscious distraction is tough to overcome, if not impossible. As much as museums need to continue to move forward in developing an inviting and accepting identity, the institution should never and will never escape the past. Art historian, explains: Art museums are elements in a larger social and cultural world. Whatever their potential to enlighten and illuminate, they work within politically and socially structured lim envisage a future. The reverse is also true: without a vision of the future, we cannot construct and access a usable past. Art museums are at the center of this process in w hich past and futu re intersect. 40 The exterior structures of traditional museums symboli ze a tribute to the past and its royal and aristocratic roots. The interior of museums protect and display political trophies and historical masterpieces. Museums represent the past; but yet society needs them to evolve into an environment which embraces all audiences and not just the high class sector of society that built the institutions for their own 40 Carol Duncan, Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums (London: Routledge, 1995), 133.


39 glory. In order to move forward, it is necessary to acknowledge the past, as well as understand a contemporary path forward. When identifying the origins of the museum structure there are undeniable resemblances between historic religious architecture and art museum buildings. Although the former symbolizes divine knowledge and the latte r secular knowledge, the practices within these structures carry many similarities. Shared architectural elements such as grand doorways and monumental facades, communicate a message of respect and authority within the space. The religious structure and th e art museum both provide spaces that are known to enhance transformative experiences and embrace enlightenment. The museum space as a whole frames a journey for its visitors; however, the same structures that communicate a positive atmosphere for one visi tor, can also communicate a negative atmosphere for another. Subjects that involve religion or politics are most often associated with extreme emotions. Clearly, politics and religion have historically ostracized the lower class and welcomed the privileged These types of associations do not just disappear. structure. Experiences of veneration and engagement are common practices inside both the religious structure and the art museum, in part influenced by the design of the building. Historically, iconic temples such as the Parthenon, represented symbols of power, strength, and tradition. Throughout history these desirable qualities have been utilized to create national, city, a nd institutional identities. Distinctive architectural elements of the Parthenon, as well as other celebrated religious structures, are commonly utilized within art museum buildings. The use of these architectural symbols


40 communicates a sense of prestige, and even an elitist quality that traditionally museum institutions have sought to emulate. The first public art museums in Europe share common histories and evolutions. Carole Paul editor of The First Modern Museums of Art discusses this collective history. collecting and display of art that was reflected in the earliest museums, and in developing the kind of refined behavior and conversation that was connected wit h visiting and 41 Of course the people who were able to partake in the Grand Tour were privi leged and educated, which in part explains the fundamental associations with exclusive attitudes towards viewing art. Many of the first public art museums were housed in pre existing palaces. These of these palace museum collections budded from both royal and private aristocratic collections. 42 Palace structure s guarded and secluded brilliant paintings and sculptures from public eyes and did not evolve into truly public institutions overnight. Once these palaces opened to the public, early museum visitors were still primarily the same people who were able to vi ew the private palace collections. The social elite, the educated, and important foreign political figures were still among the few who gained access into these proclaimed public spaces. These types of audiences were thought to be the only people capable o f understanding how to view and how to discuss art collections. 43 41 Carole Paul, The First Modern Museums of Art: The Birth of an Institution in 18th and Early 19th century Europe (Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2012), Preface ix. 42 Paul, The First Modern Museums of Art Preface x. 43 Paul, The First Modern Museums of Art Preface xi xiii.


41 French royalty possessed one of the largest and most magnificent collections in Europe. Before the collection wa s made public, hundreds of pieces were kept in storage and other paintings and sculptures were displayed throughout Paris in royal residences and spaces within Versailles. During the eighteenth century art collecting became a distinguished and competitive discipline, able to represent power and superiority. In the end, the Louvre was founded for political reasons as much as for the French people. 44 The combination of the 1789 French Revolution and the developed spirit of enlightenment prompted a new emphasi s on the public display of art. There was a common belief that beautiful objects should be available for all to see, because the beautiful supported the 45 Society believed in and supported institutions that represented and inspired str ength, knowledge, and moral virtues. It was soon realized that great art and artifact collections needed a home that communicated not only the power and values of the society, but also acted as a trophy case for their political treasures. Throughout the nineteenth century other museums began opening throughout Europe, and eventually within the United States. These museums embraced classical styles, paying homage to past examples of power and knowledge. 46 These styles inspired by the classical antiquity of Greece and Rome are defined through magnificent pediments, friezes, and columns; constructing an image of the idealized unity of past culture and power. Still today this version of the traditional museum brings to mind a sense of respect, veneration, and intimidation. 44 Paul, The First Mod ern Museums of Art 213 216. 45 Antonello Marotta, Russell Jones, and Carol Raphael, "Typology Quarterly Museums," Architectural Review 233, no. 1391 (January 2013): 76, American Accent. 46 Marotta, Typology Quarterly Museums, 76.


42 The identity of the museum institution was constructed over hundreds of years by kings, princes, and aristocrats. No wonder many, if not most, visitors feel some form of inadequacy when viewing art. This can be seen when observing a museum gallery for only a short amount of time. The vast number of visitors who enter a gallery will walk directly to text before looking at any art. O bservational research i ndicated that eighty six percent of viewers who entered the Clyfford Still M useum gallery read the informational text before viewing the artwork 47 People naturally want to gain knowledge before attempting to understand or experience art. When the viewer i s unfamiliar with an exhibition, information describing the artist, topic, medium, and the time period, prepares a specific piece of art or art as a whole, they do n ot become comfortable until a base and a form of security. A viewer must feel comfortable within their environment in order for a vulnerable experience of engagement to occur. Within a museum gallery identity of the artwork. Much like the identity associated with the museum, the viewer also understands an identity of their self Past exp eriences and knowledge build a self artwork. When commonalities are discovered between these three identities, the viewer feels a comfort level that allows a better po ssibility of engagement to occur. If the viewer is missing any information to construct an identity for the museum or an artwork, informational text is the most natural method to find resolution. Author John H. Falk 47 Tamara Osgood, Observational Research.


43 explains that a museum visitor search es for security in the familiar: 48 The viewer searches for the familiar in order to reinforce their existing beliefs. New information is digested in ways that strength a deeper understanding of their present viewpoints. 49 As stated before, not only does the history and associations of the museum as an h individual museum has its own history and individual story to consider. When looking at the Rothko Chapel and the Clyfford Still Museum there is layered meaning including, institutional associations, the artist biography, and stories related to the specific museum. The ability to frame each one of these layers separately or merely to acknowledge their existence, enables a viewer to exercise better control over their perceptual experience. The many identities th at exist acknowledging and understanding what these identities are and why they were constructed enables an experience to proceed forward. This is an important detail, because wit hout acknowledging historical information, whether positive or negative, any potential experience of engagement will only be distracted by unresolved associations. Many times the stories and perceptual associations that viewers conceive of the museum effe ctively and constructively add to their experience. The history of the museum or the biography of the artist can deepen bonds and connections between the often leads the view er toward a different experience one that fuses the life of the viewer with that 48 Falk, Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience 97. 49 Falk, Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience 215.


44 of the artist. This type of knowledge supplements an experience of engagement without hindering it; however, what about information that not only distracts the viewer but co information I am referring to provokes the viewer to feel uncomfortable within the environment or worse yet influences feelings of inadequacy within the environment. T yp e s of art that are not easily understood such as Abstract Expressionism, also commonly cause the amateur art viewer to feel inadequate. This art requires the active participation of the viewer to absorb meaning. Without a knowledge base of the artist and their art, the viewing experience becomes uncomfortable and more than likely will not move forward. In the case of Rothko and Still, their art may at first glance appear random and haphazard; however, they were quite deliberate with every brushstroke, color choice, and composition decision. The artists, known as Abstract Expressionists, were searching for an artistic method capable of illustrating t he same powerful feelings produced within music. These artists intended to progress art from a form of imitative realism into a communication of pure expression. A common theory is that the inspiration of music gave birth to Abstract Expressionism. Most ev ery person has been moved by music at one time or another. The vast majority of people are familiar with the powerful ability of music and its capacity to inspire, sooth, and convey intense emotions. The Abstract Expressionists wanted to use their art to c ommunicate sensations of meaning in the same intensity that music s o naturally accomplishes Abstract E xpressionistic art favors the communication of emotional meaning over literal pictures. Wassily Kandinsky, known to many as the grandfather of Abstract E xpressionism, attempt ed to capture the magical communication of music through paint He states,


45 With few exceptions music has been for some centuries the art which has devoted itself not to the reproduction of natural phenomena, but rather to the expression of represent ation, however artistic, in his longing to express his inner life, cannot but envy the ease with which music, the most non material of the arts today, achieves this end. He naturally seeks to apply the methods of music to his own art. And from this results that modern desire for rhythm in painting, for mathematical, abstract construction, for repeated notes of color, for setting color in motion. 50 Rothko and Still intended to include meaning within their paintings, but not in a traditional and literal mann er. Through color, line choice, and through the actual act of applying the paint, the artist s communicate emotional sensations for the viewer to experience. Each viewer interprets and connects with these paintings individually; however, the intended meanin g within an artwork originates with the artist. The digestion of i nformation, relating to particular artist s and their methods of artistic communication enables a viewer to develop a knowledge base and a vulnerability that are necessary to achieve engagement Taking a look at the individual histories of the Rothko Chapel, the Clyfford Still Museum, and t he biographies of their artists will unpack information that both supplements and discourages experiences of engagement. It is important to not on ly acknowledge a history, but to accept and defuse that history if necessary. It is hard to defuse a history without understanding and accepting its ramifications. A sense of the past is necessary in order to progress into the future. 50 Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art (New York: Dover Publications, 1977), 19.


46 Rothko and Rothko Chapel 51 An understanding of the life and career of an art of engagement and supply the expression is not the only (it may not even be the best) experience within an artwork. is confined within its own 52 There is a sense of discovering a supreme truth within an art object when intended meaning is ression and develops into a customized truth of the viewer. Rothko understood that meaning evolves into individualized variations of the viewer. His goal was to guide and stimulate the viewer to experience their own reality, but to begin with the building blocks of his reality. The color combinations and his intended essence were deliberate with meaning. With such purposeful expression, it only seems natural to want to understand and experience The artist known as Rothko was born Marc us Rothkowitz in 1903. At the age of ten Rothko moved from Russia to the United States and settled in Oregon with his family. 51 Rothko, The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Ar t, 20. 52 Rothko, The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art ), 21.


47 He attended Yale University briefly before moving to New York City in 1923. Art was meeting a friend at a life drawing class he was hooked. Soon after, Rothko began taking classes at the Art Students League and also were focused on music, drama, an d philosophy; which are clearly represented within his paintings that stimulate both the mind and the senses. 53 Through the creation of art, Rothko was able to invent a holistic method of expressing all of his passions. Each one of these passions inspired h is art in different ways. In fact, he once associated his art to the theater in stating that 54 By 1925 he committed himself entirely to art. Much like the strong influences him to create the same type of sublime expression and emotional communication as a biomorphic ima ges (1943 1946), soft edged and floating forms (1947 1949), squares and 55 stacked square s and rectangles of radiating colors. The canvases were stained with thin washes of pigment, using color combinations that produced a radiating effect. This 53 Mark Rothko, Bradford R. Collins, and David Anfam, Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade, 1940 1950 (New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2012), 23. 54 Rothko, Collins, A nfam, Mark Rothko 23. 55 Susan J. Barnes et al., The Rothko Chapel: An Act of Faith (Houston, TX: Rothko Chapel, 1996), 11.


48 communicating raw e motions much the same way that his next and final phase of large deepened hues emanate. 56 In 1964 Dominique and John de Menil commissioned Rothko to create paintings for a chapel in Houston, Texas. Originally, the Chapel was intended to be Roman Catholic but before its completion the decision was made to free it from any denominational ties. 57 This decision made the Chapel an inclusive sacred space for people of every faith. Rothko was at the top of his career and he considered this commission his most im portant work. The de Menils chose Rothko for this commission due in part to the spiritual character they noticed within his paintings. 58 The spiritual same experience they w anted to develop within the Chapel. Almost immediately after Rothko accepted the commission for the Chapel, he became intimately involved in the planning and design of the structure. Originally, architect Philip Johnson worked toge ther with Rothko in the d esign o f the Chapel; however, it soon became clear that Johnson and ncept of a tall pyramid al ceiling including a central oculus. 59 Cur ator 60 Johnson aligned with powerful historical influences such as the Pantheon which 56 Paintings, Biography, and Quotes of Mark Rothko," Mark Rothko, biography, accessed November 16, 2013, 57 Barnes The Rothko Chape l 15. 58 Johnson, Rothko Chapel and Rothko's Chapel. 59 Barnes, The Rothko Chape l 50 53. 60 Barnes, The Rothko Chape l 81.


49 includes perha ps the most iconic o culus of all time. Rothko was not interested in powerful statements of architecture. Instead, the artist wanted a design specifically made to enhanc e the viewing environment of his art. Eventually, Johnson withdrew from the project. He turned over his control to Howard Barstone who, along with Rothko, carried the design to completion. 61 a brief period of time Rothko suffered a major aneurysm, began drinking heavily, and separated from his wife. He began a mental and physical downward spiral, and tr agically killed himself in 1970, just a year before the Chapel was completed. 62 Rothko painted ideas and emotions using vibrant color combinations and nd intimate that the viewer cannot just look at his art, rather they must get inside the work. Ultimately, if he could have expressed the truth the essence of these works in words, 63 What Christopher Rothko is saying, is that any expression that words can define is not capable of communicating the personal experience that Rothko found essential. Rothko understood the importance of the relationship between the viewer and his art. The viewer is a mandatory ingredient in order to realize meaning and achieve a unique and personal experience. The spiritual within his work only exists with the partnership of the viewer. Rothko stated in a the eyes of the sensitive observe r. It dies by the same token. It is therefore a risky and 61 Barnes, The Rothko Chape l 82 84. 62 Johnson, Ro thko Chapel and Rothko's Chapel 63 Rothko, The Artist's Reality Introduction xii xiii.


50 64 he felt extremely vulnerable and exposed when he displayed his work to the public. He was apprehensive to sh ow his work, because he felt that only the viewer with a sensitive soul could fully understand and appreciate his intentional expression. Rothko was story. The Rothko responsible for their creation. Rothko put every ounce of his being onto the paintings and wanted the viewer to experience a distinctive spiritual essence unlike any other. He once anxiously a sked his friend Morton Feldman to look at the paintings when they were done 65 Ultimately, Rothko killed himself and visitors aware of his tragic ending canno t help but associate the dark colors on the canvases and the spiritual character of the space with the death of Rothko. The emotional and physical torture Rothko experienced toward the end of his life was part of him and the refore part of his art, but I doubt Rothko intended to communicate this type of dark and unsettling meaning. Dominique de Menil addressed these associations to darkness t he tragedy of the human condition. They are an endeavor to go beyond art. They are an 66 She goes on to explain that the paintings do not 64 Rothko, The Artist's Realit y Introduction xix. 65 Johnson, Rothko Chapel and Rothko's Chapel. 66 Dominique de Menil et al., The Rothko Chapel: Writings on Art and the Threshold of the Divine ([Houston, Tex.]: Rothko Chapel, 2010), 37.


51 depict the darkness of the night, but the subtle purples and reds indicate the pred awn and therefore a new beginning. 67 The complete environment of the Rothko Chapel provides a customized space that encourages an authentic engagement constructed and somewhat controlled by the artist. Rothko understood that an active relationship is neede d between the art object and the viewer. Although innate intended meaning is generalized and fluid due to environmental influences and individual viewer interpretation. The process of engagement encourages an experience that at its fundamental level includes intended meaning in a distinctively individual translation. Still and The Clyfford Still Museum Rothko and Still not only shared the same passion for abstract expressionistic art, but they w ere both known for their controlling attitudes when exhibiting their artworks. Each artist believed their paintings should be displayed as a unified group and not mixed with other artists. They sought for control of entire environments, including everythin g from the lighting to the ha nging of the artworks. A 1949 letter from Still to Betty Parsons exemplifies his need for control within an exhibition that he intended to participate with : These works are a series of acts best comprehended in groups as a continuity. Except as a created revelation, a new experience, they are without value. It is my desire that they be kept in groups as much as possible and remain so. 68 Still demanded an environment free from the distractions of other artist voices. He wan ted a n environment where the viewer could experience his art the way he had intended as a unified whole. Ultimately, the works of Rothko and Still would find such an environment. 67 de Menil, The Rothko Chape l 37. 68 Barnes, The Rothko Chape l 26.


52 Still was an interesting character. Throughout his life he earned the repu tation of a difficult and arrogant man. Still strongly believed in the power of art and its righteous responsibility to honor their own vision. He understood the world strict ly in black and white and never tolerated any grey. In other words, the way Still viewed art and the way he believed artists should be treated and acknowledged was right and every other way of thinking was wrong. He had extremely high expectations a nd standards concerning the actions of his friends and business colleagues. These expectations dictated a respect for art and its creators. He engaged with the art world on his own terms, which did not include taking orders from anyone or selling out to co mmercialism. 69 Although Still demanded respect for all of his Abstract Expressionist friends, it was no secret exactly how confident he felt about his own art and talent. Still was a solitary man, always putting the process of creating art as the grandest p riority in his life. Much like Rothko, Still used his art to express his himself and examine life. Still regarded his work as intensely person al and powerful. He was his art, which caused the artist to be extremely selective when considering exhibitions an d determining who m was worthy of purchasing his art ultimate artifact confirming his need to always co ntrol the exhibition of his art, even after an illustrated autobiography of the artist. 69 Hilarie M. Sheets, "Clyfford Still, Unpacked," Art in America 99, no. 10 (November 2011): 119, Academic Search Premier.


53 Still was born in 1904 in North Dakota. He would spend most of his formative years in southern Alberta Canada and Washington State. 70 These years constructed essential bonds to nature and the lands that he grew up in. Many times Still proclaimed his love for the West and the freedom and roughness it represented. 71 This same freedom and roughness is witnessed not only in his early figurat ive and landscape paintings, but also in his iconic abstract works. Throughout his young life, Still worked open prairie fields, developed through witnessing the powerful harsh cycles of the weather and land. 72 No wonder his portfolio of work spanning his entire career would include aspects relating to the intensity of nature, the emptiness of the land, the rigid forms of the landscape, and the fusion of life and death. Still o nc e explained that his artworks "are not paintings in the usual sense; they are life and death merging in fearful union. As for me, they kindle a fire; through them I breathe again, hold a golden cord, find my own revelation." 73 1950 marked Still t o art mecca of New York landscapes and farm scenes had since progressed into elongated shapes and figures. In the lete abstraction and what would become his signature style. 74 The evolution of his work is reflected in his words describing his fondness for the simp lification found in abstraction: simplest elements pi ctures that are almost obvious, until you look at them a little more 70 Dean Sobel et al., Clyfford Still: The Artist's Museum (New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2012), 65. 71 Sobel, Clyfford Still, 65. 72 Sheets, Clyfford Still, Unpacked, 124. 73 McCarter, Allied Works Architecture 111. 74 Sheets, Clyfford Still, Unpacked, 123.


54 75 Still had already earned a prominent reputation as an artist due to exhibitions at established museums and galleries such as: The San Francisco Museum of Mod ern Art Art of this Century Gallery. 76 He continued to exhibit and work in New York becoming associated with a This group of New York Abstract Expressionists (also known as the New York School), gained their name from a Life magazine article published after the group wrote a letter of protest to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. They argued that the museum would not iously 77 This was just one of many protest type letters that the New York art world would receive from Clyfford Still. One friendship and also supported each other professionally. During his time in New York world. Still wanted complete control over his work and did not want critics speaking for him, dealers telling him what to do, or curators making decisions. He felt strongly that artists should direct their own destiny and at no time give in to the commerc ial pressures of the art world. Still and Rothko trusted that art embodied the power to change the world and believed this to be the primary reason for making art over any commercial s of disappointment 75 Sobel, Clyfford Stil l 68. 76 Sobel Clyfford Stil l 15 77 "Open Letter to Roland L. Redmond," Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, accessed September 18, 2014,


55 commercial aspect of the art world and did not stay true to the strict ideals of Still. 78 Eventually, Still also ended his relationships with the New York g alleries that had brought him so much success and instead decided to represent himself. He worked in New York until 1961 continuing to make enemies and burn bridges within the art world. For example, in a notoriously Clyfford Still fashion, he responded a udaciously to a non favorable art review written by Emily Genauer. Still was no t known for graciously accepting any type of criticism and this instance was no different. He sent the critic a this will aid in 79 Eventually Still moved away from the art world he despised. He left New York for a more rural setting in Maryland. He stayed removed from the art world, exhibi ting Marlborough Gerson Gallery. 80 He demanded that the gallery purchase all forty five artworks to be displayed in the exhibition. The paintings in the exhibition were e ventually sold to both private and public parties and are the majority of artworks known to the public prior to the opening of the Clyfford Still Museum. This business deal enabled Still to live the rest of his life doing what he found central to living making art. 81 However, many saw this event as Still selling out. This was exactly the type of activity that he had negatively judged his fellow artists for in the past. 78 Sheets, Clyfford Still, Unpacked, 120. 79 "Rubber Underpants, between 1949 and 1966," Archives of Americ an Art, Smithsonian Institution, accessed September 18, 2014, 80 Sobel, Clyfford Stil l 30 81 Sobel, Clyfford Still 30.


56 Still continued to make art and exhibit sparingly, but only under his conditions, un known Last Will and Testament specified that all artworks made by him and in his possession should be given to: A n American city that will agree to build or assign and maintain permanent quarters exclusively for these wo rks of art and assure their physical survival with the explicit requirement that none of these works of art will be sold, given, or exchanged but are to be retained in the place described above exclusively assigned to them in perpetuity for exhibition and study. 82 requirements set by the deceased artist. Finally, in 2003 there was movement made Patricia 83 By the summer of 2004 an agreement was signed and in 2011, thirty one years after 84 Still develop ed a reputation for being difficult and carrying a rather large ego. While that may be true, he also had a strong vision concerning how his art should be experienced and did not allow himself to falter from that vision. The artist was concerned with elimin reach the viewer. One thing that Still had correct was that distractions are lethal to a experience d, and even talked about. He was interested in unifying and focusing the exhibition of his art in order to clarify and strengthen his expression. Visitors are now 82 Sobel, Clyfford Stil l 17. 83 Sobel, Clyfford Still 39 41. 84 Sobel, Clyfford Stil l 41 42.


57 sing le artist museum only eliminates a portion of distractions. Acknowledging Identities The Clyfford Still Museum and The Rothko Chapel fundamentally embody a historical elitist element within their identities. Although both structures avoided an obvious arc hitectural association to the past, just the fact that they display art produces associations with pretentious and aristocratic histories. Each institution attempts to overcome these identities by engaging with the community in creative programming These types of events do not necessarily have anything to do with the museum or its art, but they do allow a comfort level to develop among people who may have intimidations toward art. Creating public events that are advertised as completely inclusive, versus p rivate member events, creates the necessary familiarity needed to welcome new visitors. Both of these institutions also deal with an identity associated with a shrine. Each environment displays and celebrates a single deceased artist. A shrine is defined 85 Each of the case studies possesses a st rong sense of this definition. In the case of the Rothko Chapel, chapel. It feels almost natural to relate the purpose of the space with venerating the artist who created it. The Clyfford Still Museum goes even farthe r with worshiping the artist. art supplies. There are also different videos detailing the art and life of Still. These pieces 85 Merriam Webster, s.v. "Shrine," definition 1, accessed September 21, 2014, http://www.merriam


58 splay cases and treated as special relics of the artist. To many this shrine association may have power to supplement their experience with the art; however, it does create a potential distraction that elevates the art and artist to a sacred level. This type of distraction is capable of creating distance between the viewer and the art. Distance is dangerous when considering engagement. Berleant explains that literal and discourages the possibility of engagement. 86 With that being said, an environment that includes a sense of the sacred can also support an intrinsic experience of engagement. A fundamental understanding of the institution, art, and artist neutrali zes intimidating factors and helps to control objectification. When the viewer is in this situation, a sense of the sacred provokes a contemplative perceptual experience to develop. A sense of the sacred naturally influences solitary interactions with art; which is arguably the most essential element when activating the experience of intrinsic engagement. When distance is eliminated and the environment is primed with a sacred sense, the possibility for a viewer to experience engagement increases exceptional ly. The identities relating direct ly to the Rothko Chapel include, the meaning portion of visitors who o f the Chapel itself contains no text labels. There are no description labels concerning ample information available. Each visitor is provided with a brochure detailing the 86 Berleant, The Aesthetics of Environment 120.


59 history of the Chapel, the mission of the institution, the architecture, and the art. The brochure uses simple and precise language to communicate foundational knowledge such as: It is a place where a great artist, turned towards the Absolute, had the co urage to paint almost nothing and did it masterfully. It is a place blessed by many people who gather there to meditate, to find themse lves, and go beyond themselves. 87 Along with providing foundational information, the Chapel also advertises itself as a completely inclusive environment, free of charge, and open to the public every day of the year. 88 What the Chapel does not choose to discuss is when and how Rothko died. In little to do with any intrinsic meaning within the art; however, there are people who visit the onsciously associate death with the dark colors of the canvases, his death should be addressed. This discredited, through acknowledgement. Addressing the issue allows th is story to be put of engagement to proceed forward. An important piece of text within the brochure sets standards for the visitor before they enter the Chapel. It explains that the Chapel is a contemplative environment tha t does not allow any cell phones or photography and only whispering is tolerated. 89 Language such as contemplative, peace, meditation, sanctuary, intimacy, and sacred space helps prepare visitors for their experience within the Chapel. Once again, text 87 Houston Arts Alliance, Rothko Chapel 88 Houston Arts Alliance, Rothko Chapel 89 Houston Arts Alliance, Rothko Chapel


60 comm unicates foundational knowledge allowing a sense of familiarity and comfort to develop. An artwork that does not make sense to a viewer causes intimidation and does not encourage engagement. Supplying foundational information allows the viewer to proceed i n creating experiences with art objects. The Clyfford Still Museum primarily deals with the identity associated with its identity. Ninety four museum. 90 His contemporaries, such as Pollock and Rothko have had their art in museums around the world for decades. Still on the other hand, has relatively few public pieces on display worldwide. The archive floor of the Clyfford Still Museum effectively prepare s visitors with fundamental information. The traffic flow of the museum influences visitors to watch a video introducing Still before preceding to the upstair s galleries. Information within the videos and archives does not describe Still as the controllin g and snarky character known to his colleagues. They avoid most of his challenging personality traits and focus more on his art rather than the tensions he people t he wrong way during his life and even after his death could dissuade audiences. potentially create distance between viewers and his art. Foundational knowledge e that knowledge appropriately will aid in allowing viewers to proceed with any potential experiences of engagement 90 McCarter, Allied Works Architectur e 11.


61 CHAPTER IV SPACE AND MANIPULATION dependent on 91 In this quote, Herman Kossman n describes the role of the curator and the conditions that lead to a successful exhibition. The many elements that creat e an exhibition must unite together and immerse the viewer. For the viewer to have an experience they must become absorbed in the exhibition; which in turn, becomes o f influencing visitors to pause and involve themselves with the art and the exhibition. 92 The viewer temporarily forgets about the outside world and is focused on the art objects and the complete exhibition. An immersive environment promotes focus and oppor tunities to pause and experience engagement. Display space plays an integral role in the fluidity of meaning and experience. Space and environment primes the viewer before any art is seen. Space frames any potential experience a viewer may have with art by dictating a mood and setting. A museum space not only primes the viewer with a formal environment, but themed exhibitions can manipulate meaning with surrounding artwork and ideas dictated by the curator. The curator designs the space and displays the art in methods that emphasize an intended exhibition theme. Each space is capable of modifying and transforming the meaning of an artwork. The same painting displayed in a museum space can completely change meaning if displayed in a chapel. Many galler y spaces attempt to provide a space 91 Kossmann, Narrative Space 48. 92 Kossmann, Narrative Space 86.


62 free from influences and distractions; however, as I have stated earlier, there is no such thing as a neutral environment. The space that surrounds art will always influence engagement and meaning in both subtle and not so subtle w ays. Author and artist Brian Doherty explains, A gallery is constructed along laws as rigorous as those for building a medieval church. The outside world must not come in, so windows are usually sealed off. Walls are painted white. The ceilin g becomes the source of light. The wooden floor is polished so that you click along clinically, or carpeted so that you pad soundlessly, resting the feet while the eyes have at the wall. The art is free, as the saying g 93 Th ese attempts to provide a neutral environment, in reality, create a controlled and manipulated environment. The curator makes decisions that influence visitors to apparent neu 94 Besides historical and identity types of associations, choices that appear neutral are purposeful and may even include elements of persuas ion. promote or discourage the process of engagement. Subtle elements such as lighting, wall color, seating, and crowd flow affect the p ossibility of engagement. Display space pr creating a space that communicates an appropriate felt atmosphere for the museum visitor to experience. Each time the atmosphere is altered, so is the experience. The c urator creates their own piece of art for visitors to engage with called the exhibition. 93 O'Doherty, Inside the White Cube 15. 94 O'Doherty, Inside the White Cube 79.


63 Exhibitions include an overall ambience or tone. Elizabeth Bogle explains ambience as: The invisible fog that envelopes an exhibition and magically affects the visitor see and how we feel at a particular moment, and can be so inclusive that it seeps into our minds and our being. Ambience involves all our sensual experiences including light, color, form, sound, touch, and smell. 95 The ambience of an exhibition is felt the instant a visitor enters the space and, when choice of art, color palettes, lighti ng, design, and hanging decisions, marks a course for visitors to follow and instructs how the visitor should experience the exhibition. Within an exhibition a visitor can experience engagement in multiple layers. A viewer can absolutely engage with an ind ividual piece of art or can develop a completely different experience of engagement with the larger creation of the exhibition. An exhibition allows a viewer to engage with multiple artworks at the same time, or just become immersed within the overall atmo sphere of their present environment. what they envision for the overall exhibition experience. 96 Light, color, space, and text become the mediums in which the curator creates the exhibition. Light illuminates and even produces the spaces where visitors encounter the exhibition. The negative and positive (light and shadows) form walkways, clarify focal points, and support appropriate energy levels. The brightness or dullness of the light, together with the controlled direction of beams, provide the canvas of the exhibition. Light levels even influence the 95 Elizabeth Bogle, Museum Exhibition Planning and Design (Lanham: Alta Mira Press, 2013), 26. 96 Bogle, Museum Exhibition Planning and Design 82.


64 brightly lit space is stimulating, while a dimly lit area is more relaxing and calm. 97 Light also affects the shades and vibrancy of color. Colors provide a language that is able to communicate a full range of emotions. Bogle states that the use of color is a 98 Generally, colors are grouped as warm and cool colors. Warm colors (neutrals are considered warm) tend to stimulate, while cool colors relax and calm visitor s. Beyond this generalization and simplification, individual colors, shades, and combinations of colors also communicate emotional and physical messages. 99 For instance, red is a strong color associated with a range of emotions from rage to love. Red repres ents a sense of authority and immediately grabs our attention. The color blue stands for responsibility, caring, and trustworthiness. 100 It evokes a calming feeling and puts people at ease. When the colors red and blue are used together, an interesting messa ge is communicated. Think of television press conferences with the President of the United States Most president s th roughout history typically wear a dark blue suit with a red tie. The White House is interested in representing their leaders as strong auth oritative figure s, worthy of our attention, responsible and trustworthy. T he combination of the blue suit with the red tie communicates those qualities without most audience members even noticing. We decorate our political leaders to communicate messages m uch in the same way a curator designs an exhibition. When we see the President at public events we do no t usually connect the color of his suit with propaganda and manipulation; nonetheless, the color 97 Bogle, Museum Exhibition Planning and Design 239. 98 Bogle, Museum Exhibition Planning and Design 200. 99 Bogle, Museum Exhibition Planning and Design 190. 100 Bogle, Museum Exhibition Planning and Design 191 194.


65 selections are definitely a purposeful act of communica tion. Each detail of an exhibition, including color choices, are deliberate in meaning and help shape the overall tone and visitor with appropriate emotions and energ y levels. is achieved through the selection of artworks and the utilization of text. Art museums are not supposed to act as libraries where people come to read. Instead, they are intended to display art and not reading materials. With that said, the appropriate amount of context of engagement e audience. Most museum visitors want information and need some context before they are able to become comfortable in their environment; however, too much information can distract from a perceptual experience of engagement Communicating information throug h text requires an important balance, somewhere between essential information such as artist, title, and year, to providing an entire history of the artwork and the artist. Curators have been debating this issue for many decades and after numerous studies and debates, there are still no solid answers. Today, many believe text to be a distraction from the art; however, this perspective changes from museum to museum. Often, when a museum embraces text labels, they use a formal and complicated lang uage that although it sounds poetic and elegant, makes little sense to the majority of audiences. These types of labels are composed using long, complex sentences with jargon that few people can understand. This method of communicating information only makes the vi ewer feel more intimidated


66 as opposed to creating a sense of comfort. When used correctly, text is an effective method in communicating both contextual information regarding individual artworks and thematic exhibition messages. People are drawn to text an d genuinely crave it. Providing the appropriate amount of text with straight forward language, allows the viewer to develop a comfort level needed in order to proceed in experiencing art. Robert Storr is cautious when using text in his exhibitions. When cu rating exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, he was careful to use subtle labels with few words. He is quite critical of curators who allow audiences to read labels, instead of looking at art. 101 Storr is just as critical of audio guides. He exp lains that while they effectively direct people through the exhibition, they cause crowds to accumulate around each audio stop. He also believes that most of the artwork in between each audio as Storr puts it, creates an impossible situation for viewers to experience individual pieces. 102 Audio guides provide an alternative to text labels. When a viewer uses an audio guide, they can simultaneously look at artwork while listening to information. However, people naturally gravitate towards text and will search for text whether it is there or not. Also, it is impossible for a viewer to experience engagement with an artwork while listening to someone else talk. The viewer cannot focus on that moment and devel op an individualized perceptual experience with the distraction of an audio guide. It is important to digest information first and then move on to experiencing the artwork. 101 Paula Marincola, What Makes a Great Exhibition? (Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, 2006), 24. 102 Marincola, What Makes a Great Exhibition, 24.


67 The correct balance of textual information with ambience messages, creates a neede d foundation for visitors. Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art until 2008, is adamant about the importance of text labels and states, To expect that people should be able to walk off the street and understand everything about all the works they see on the walls is utter nonsense. People who hold that view are very pious, and they have no interest in the general public. 103 visitors want text ural information; which is proven time and time again through the tendency to seek knowledge, before entering into an experience, is a necessary step for the curious or i ntimidated viewer. Much like the result in a sense of balance, order, rhythm, unity, focal points, and variety. Once a viewer is immersed in a succe ssfully designed exhibition, it i s difficul t to understand and pin point what exactly makes it great and powerful. The effective exhibition is seamless in its totality. The audience feels an emotional and physical reaction to the exhibition and is able to lose themselves within the environment. A s uccessfully designed exhibition has the ability to effectively direct viewers into an experience of engagement. The curator their present moment and environment. A suc cessful exhibition design, in Herman Kossman n 103 Daniel Grant, "The Gallery: Do Museum Labels Turn Art Into Illustration?," Wall Street Journal (New York), January 26, 1984, http://0 6.


68 words, make him or her leave the exhibition as a different person. For this to happen, the visitor needs to have been insi de and involved. 104 The visitor will think of such an exhibition as an experience whether they experienced engagement with individual pieces of art or the complete environment of the exhibition. Space and Manipulation within the Rothko Chapel The space of the Rothko Chapel, the paintings, lighting, architectural design, and spiritual atmosphere describe individual parts of a complete installation of art. In this case, Rothko is both the curator and the artist within the Chapel. Each element wit hin the environment speaks to the other and constructs an experience that Rothko envisioned. view believed, The Rothko Chapel exists because Mark Rothko dreamt of such a place. It was the natural outcome of his ambition as a painter. He was a giant, inhabited by vast designs and tumultuous emotions; he longed to expand his medium by creating total environments. 105 paintings. The Rothko Chapel is simple in design and exists as a strong and stable piece of architecture. The brick octagonal structure was constructed according to R The exterior and the interior space of the Chapel share the same sense of harmony due to the Chapel, was protecting the superiority of his paintings. The Chapel space and environment was meant to support the viewing experience of his art. The exterior and 104 Kossmann, Narrative Spaces 86. 105 de Menil, The Rothko Chape l 57.


69 interior of the structure could not overpower the canvases, but rather it needed to The main entra nce of any building is arguably the most important element of a structure. The entrance controls where each visitor enters the building and directs their movements once inside. A correctly placed entrance allows the rest of the structure to develop in a na tural and appropriate organization. 106 Broken Obelisk sculpture sits directly in front of the entrance, marking the f faade protrudes from the rest of the building and communicates a welcoming statement to prospective visitors. An architectural technique that welcomes approaching visitors is a design that incorporates visible and distin ctive site lines to the main entrance of a building. The entrance should also include a bold and visible shape that frames the doorway and stands out from the building. 107 The Rothko Chapel achieves these welcoming messages in distinctive yet subtle methods. Positioned entrance into the park and welcomes people in. The interior walls are a natural off white textured plaster, while the floors are constructed wit h asphalt blocks. There was a purposeful attempt to use natural materials within the Chapel, including the minimalistic wooden benches. 108 At first site when entering the interior of the Chapel, the canvases appear to be flat black rectangles. It i s only whe room that the complex 106 Christopher Alexander, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein, A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 541. 107 Alexander, Ishikawa Silverstein, A Pattern Language 543 544. 108 Barnes, The Rothko Chapel 84.


70 washes of colors begin to show through. The Houston sun penetrates the Chapel through its center oculus. Depending on the time of day and the amount of sunlight for that parti cular day, the canvases and environment feel completely different. On a cloudy day the space can feel dark and intimate. The dimmed light has a calming effect allowing the viewer to relax within the space. When raw sunlight floods the room, the light stimu lates and awakens everything in the space. Suddenly colors emerge through the dark canvases. Reds, purples, and even blues materialize in waves of subtle washes. The light acts as a powerful force inhabiting the room and lends to the spiritual nature of th e environment. When people enter the Chapel, they reach their destination immediately. There is no worry about what is in the next room because there is only one room to experience. People who enter take their time, they sit, they read the brochure, they meditate, they circumambulate the room. Unlike a museum gallery situation, people do not just walk through; instead, visitors take time to experience the space and the art. The quiet and reflective environment promotes a solitary experience of engagement While many people walk into the Chapel as a group, most visitors eventually view the art and sit, removed from other people and any conversation. 109 Clemmer Hoffman explained that for her, the Chapel is most powerful when no one else is present She feels li ke it is more possible to disengage from the world and focus on the present moment when the room is empty, or at the very least when she allows herself to have the space to have a personal experience of engagement 109 Tamara Osgood, Observational Research, March 19, 2014, raw data, Rothko Chapel, Houston, Appendix C.


71 relates to the con nection between return visitors and solitary experiences of engagement According to Clemmer either that they believe it (the Chapel) is something significant they want to share with someone, o 110 This is an important point, because the people whom return to this environment, which always contain the exact same fourteen paintings, chose to do so as a solitary act. The Chapel not only displays a si no rotations of artwork the space always remains unchanged. The experience of engagement is one that, when people discover its power and potential, visitors want to experience it again and again. The environment of the Chapel supports every element within the process of engagement, especially and most importantly the solitary experience. Space and Manipulation within the Cl yfford Still Museum In the case of the Clyfford Still Museum, Sobel admits that they were not we call a white cube. That was no 111 The Museum w anted a materials used during construction to the final design details of the galleries, were planned specifically for Still and his artworks. It is quite rare in museum des ign where an architect has the opportunity to create a custom space for a specific collection of one architect Brad Cloepfil understood the size of the 110 Ashley Clemmer Hoffman, "Engagement within the Rothko Chapel," telephone interview by author, Tamara Osgood, August 28, 2014, Appendix B. 111 Dean Sobel "Engagement within the Clyfford Still Museum," interview by author, Tamara Osgood, August 28, 2014, Appendix A.


72 canvases, as well as the style, and even the color palettes that would hang on the gallery and embody the that Still and the other Abstract Expressioni sts pursued in their art. 112 Although an architectural connection with Still was of the utmost importance, the visitor also came into consideration. How will the museum welcome visitors and how decisions? The faade and entranc e of a museum is the first component of the institution a visitor interacts with and sets the stage for their experience once inside the doors. The Still Museum is located under ion to the Denver Art Museum. At first sight, it is not obvious if the structure is a small extension of the Denver Art Museum or an independent building. T he main entrance of the Still Museum does no t exactly jump out when walki ng by. Although aesthetical ly attractive once one recognize s the doorway, it is not necessarily distinctive from the street. It does no t project out from the building little to welcome vis itors; however, the front landscaping effectively counteracts the non distinctive entrance. Cement walkways provide site lines, as well as a literal pathway, directly to the front doors. Trees are dispersed across the front lawn providing shade and a place to relax. The trees are planted in such a way that, as they mature, will provide a complete canopy over the walkways. The trees will be pruned so that the canopy will stay the same height as the ceiling of both the entry and the lobby area. 113 112 McCarter, Allied Works Architecture 12. 113 Sobel, Appendix A


73 The lobby is quite different from most traditional museums. The ceiling is placed lobby and why they deliberately made such an interesting design choice: We have ten foot ceiling height are moving people through that space who are getting tickets, using the restrooms, that their eyes are starting to rel ax. If you go outside at this time of the day it is incredibly bright. And the subtleties of the paintings with the day light would be want you to get there when your eye s are more sensitive to the gradations of your eyes. And all of this was done on purpose. 114 Basically, the building itself physically manipulates visitors in a way that p repares them for their upcomin g experience. Unbeknownst to Still Museum visitors, they have already been influenced and manipulated in multiple ways before look ing at one piece of art. The upstairs galleries are an enfilade of rooms, with each room spilling into the next. The first several galleries are aligned in a way that the visitor can see three separate spaces through the hall of entryways. The rest of the galleries have multiple d oorways and overlook openings that create an open concept floor plan Most of the gallery spaces have multiple site lines into additional spaces. While standing in one gallery, the visitor is able to see multiple spaces through various doorways and overloo k openings. As the visitor enters a gallery they are tempted with previews of upcoming galleries and reviews of where they have already been. These views of multiple galleries become a distraction within the current space (Fig. 2) It is difficult for a vi ewer to focus on the current room and artwork when they are constantly being tempted with peeks of other galleries to explore. The open concept gallery design is aesthetically pleasing and extremely 114 Sobel Appendix A


74 interesting to look at; however, it does not support a vi ewer remaining in the moment. When the viewer constantly loses focus within their current space, it is difficult to engage The multiple openings within each gallery allow many interruptions that dissuade from the process of e ngagement. Most of these interruptions would not bother the typical museum visitor. These visitors are not aware of the opportunity of engaging with an artwork; therefore, the multiple views of other galleries are perceived as stimulating and enjoyable. Th is is precisely the problem too much stimulation. Beyond any distractions artwork s that exist in the other galleries. People tend to talk and spend time within the overl ook openings. The conversations carry throughout all the interlocked spaces. Figure 2 Clyfford Still Museum. Photo by Tamara Osgood.


75 Even noise from videos and conversations on the first floor can be heard within the second floor galleries. Currently, there are no spaces dedicated to focus and engagement at the Still Museum. The innovation and beauty of the museum building is arguably e qual the design simply does not promote an environment conducive to experiencing engagement. To counteract the distracting influences of the open concep t floor plan, curator manipulations become a necessary tool. The Still Museum utilizes a powerful, yet simple manipulation that promotes focus and pulls the viewer into an artwork. Many of the gallery entryways deliberately frame art (Fig. 3) When a visit or decides to enter one of these galleries, the only thing they see is a huge painted canvas. The doorway effectively frames not only an artwork, but an entire environment. The trick is that everything else in s is directed into one sole artwork. The viewer is influenced to walk straight to the back wall where the canvas is hung. At least for a temporary period of time, the visitor does not acknowledge the rest of the gallery space, but only focuses on the one c anvas. This method that Sobel refers to as vistas, not Figure 3 Clyfford Still Museum. Photo by Tamara Osgood.


76 ere very deliberate in the height of the 115 up vistas is important enough that it was worked into the original design and construction of the building. The deliberateness of this technique is especially noticed in galleries where an artwork is not centered on the wall; instead, the artwork is hung s o that it is centered within a doorway. Vistas effectively draw people into a gallery space and influence a type of temporary focus on that artwork. Unfortunately, this temporary focus is easily disturbed once the visitor completely enters the gallery. The many sounds and once again brings the viewer out of the present moment. A viewer who is aware of the opportunity of engaging with art can still make the exper ience transpire in the Still Museum galleries. When a viewer understands the process of engagement, they can deliberately choose to focus and stay in the moment. They can attempt to close out the rest of the world and ignore outside distractions. Even when an environment is n o t optimal for experiencing engagement, an experienced viewer can still succeed in engaging with an artwork. Unfortunately, the majority of museum visit ors are not experienced a nd are not aware of the process of engagement. There are tw o options to influence the typical museum viewer to experience engagement. The viewer either needs to be educated about the opportunity and the process of engagement, or the environment needs to be ideal in supporting this experience to naturally materiali ze. Optimally, utilizing both of these options is the best course of action, but using one is essential. 115 Sobel, Appendix A.


77 A curator has the power to educate and guide their audience into an experience. A fundamental decision a curator must make is how much of the exhib ition includes their voice and how much will be dictated by the art objects. Will they attempt to select and display artwork according to a natural theme communicated by the art? Or will they inject their own voice within the exhibition, manipulating the a He is always conscious of respecting the intent of the artist and plans exhibitions accordingly. Sobel described a specific display idea th at he is interested in pursuing, but 116 Sobel explained that he would like to display a sole Clyfford Still painting in on e of the galleries. This canvas would stand alone with all the other gallery walls vacant of art. The painting that the since it has no title, comes to my mind for this display. The canvas is monumental in size and immediate ly grabs the attention of the viewer with its vibrant blue paint. The many shades of blue exude a calming feeling and would be a Figure 4, Cly fford Still, PH 247, 1951. Photo by Tamara Osgood. 116 Sobel Appendix A.


78 natural choice for such a room. Sobel stopped himself when he began to descri be the idea He then continued to justify his apprehension with steering clear of 117 the museum are cautious in how they represent Still, and any communication of his controlling demeanor or pretentious attitude is a potential influence they try to minimalize. The idea of a sole display method sounds like something Still would support. A single artwork that focuses th e complete attention of a viewer is absolutely a display manipulate a gallery environment that supports the experience of engagement. The gallery space that curre completely open to the rest of the museum. The room is small and intimate T he display of a large canvas would consume the entire space and demand the attention of the viewer. The space wou ld need to be large enough to include a couple benches, but yet small enough to contain a comfortable sense of intimacy. The same contemplative and meditative qualities within the Rothko Chapel can be achieved inside the Still Museum through the use of a c ontrolled environment and curatorial guidance. A controlled environment encompasses the communication of an intended ambience, the restriction of distracting noise, and the management of space. To achieve the desired atmosphere within the space, the visit intention. A gallery space that supports engagement needs basic artwork identification (possibly with some contextual information if deemed necessary) and a message of 117 Sobel Appendix A.


79 118 This type of minimal direction, outside the doorway, gives enough information for visitors to understand the expected ambience of the space, but still allows the visitor to engage in an individualized perceptual experience of engageme nt The message of silence also promotes a solitary experience. Where there is no conversation, visitors are more likely to become more self reflective. A narrative is achieved in this case by providing textural information about the room and the artwork i nside. Basic text informing the visitor how to experience the room, as well as key information relating to the artwork inside, will prepare the visitor for their experience. The viewer will enter the room comfortable and ready to proceed with experiencing the space and the art. A combination of ambience and management of space helps control many distractions including noise. A closed environment shields visitors from the outside world, as well as any activity within the rest of the museum. Distracting noise is kept to a minimum in this environment and visual distractions of other galleries do not exist. In other words, within this controlled gallery distractions and pro viding instructional guidance with text. When all these qualities come together the viewer becomes immersed in their environment and focused on the here and now, enabling the possibility of engagement to develop. 118 Clemmer Hoffman, Appendix B.


80 CHAPTER V CONCLUSION Cloepfil responsibility of the architecture to create a place that people want to be in and return 119 M ost, if not all, museums share a concern that visitors will not make return visit s. Museums are constantly planning new exhibitions and membership deals to provoke people to return to th eir museum. The Still Museum is at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to attracting return visitors. t we are most fearful of is that people come once and say they have seen it. 120 The limitations and restrictions that Still enforced in his will prohibit traveling exhibitions, new acquisitions, or even loans that would attract return visitors. The single artist museum is forced to constantly search for new angles and pers art. They regularly rotate canvases bet ween galleries and to and from storage; however, will this be enough to encourage return visitors? to see more? Supporting the experience of engagement within the Still Museum is exactly what could make a difference in the volume of return visitors. Engagement creates profound experiences that keep viewers wanting more. The decision to include a gallery that promotes a solitary experience of engagement opens doors that are curre ntly locked. All of the sudden, visitors have the opportunity to experience something new within a self reflective and contemplative environment. The Rothko Chapel opened forty three years 119 McCarter, Allied Works Architecture 103. 120 Sobel, Appendix A.


81 ago. The majority of its return visitors come by themselves to enga Chapel, but the experience of the visitor stays fluid and fresh. The intrinsic experience of engagement creates bonds and connections that the ordinary mus eum visit lacks. The typical art museum visitor stroll s through galleries and only to briefly pause and look at a handful of artworks. It is a constant state of movement with very little time spent directly engaging with individual pieces of art. The o pportunity of engagement changes the museum experience, specificall y at the Still Museum. A Still Museum visit may leave the visitor feeling satisfied, but does not necessarily leave them wanting more. The viewer has seen a complete range of his work and p robably does not feel that there are other varieties of canvases left to see. When the visitor becomes aware of the prospect to experience engagement with a piece of art, the opportunities become endless. The varieties of experiences available are limitles s. T ime collects every experience which ch anges each successive experience. It is impossible to replicate an experience and therefore it is only natural for a viewer to crave more. The experience of engagement changes the customary manner of viewing art into a profound experience. Instead of looking at shapes, colors, and textures, suddenly viewing art becomes an active give and take that the view er remembers as an experience An environment that supports the solitary experience of engagement will create visitors who not only form strong bonds with the museum and its art, but will consequently create return visitor s The Rothko Chapel is not a literal museum; nonetheless, wha t they do, they do well. People experience art differently in that environment. The Still Museum can benefit


82 from offering a gallery that includes such an environment. The appropriate curatorial guidance combined with a gallery space that supports engagem ent, will deliver superior and exceptional experiences that viewers will continue to seek. After all, viewing art is so much more than a casual gaze; as Mark Rothko stated, e 121 121 Dorothy Seiberling, "The Varied Art of Four Pioneers," LIFE November 16, 1959, 82.


83 REF ERENCES Alexander, Christopher, Sara Ishikawa, and Murray Silverstein. A Pattern Language: Towns, Buildings, Construction New York: Oxford University Press, 1977. Barnes, Susan J., John De. Menil, Dominique De. Menil, Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, and Philip Johnson. The Rothko Chapel: An Act of Faith Houston, TX: Rothko Chapel, 1996. Berleant, Arnold. The Aesthetics of Environment Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1992. Berleant, Arnold. Art and Engagement Philadelphia: Temple University Pr ess, 1991. Bogle, Elizabeth. Museum Exhibition Planning and Design Lanham: Alta Mira Press, 2013. Brenson, Michael. "The Curator's Moment." Art Journal Winter 1988, 16 27. Clemmer Hoffman, Ashley. "Engagement within the Rothko Chapel." Telephone interview by author Tamara Osgood August 28, 2014. "Clyfford Still Museum | Denver, Colorado." Clyfford Still Museum | Denver, Colorado. Accessed April 29, 2014. de Menil Dominique, Polly Koch, Diane Lovejoy, and Frances Carter. Stephens. The Rothko Chapel: Writings on Art and the Threshold of the Divine [Houston, Tex.]: Rothko Chapel, 2010. Dewey, John. Art as Experience New York: Berkley Pub. Group, 2005. Dowell, Pat. "Meditation a nd Modern Art Meet In Rothko Chapel." NPR. March 1, 2011. and modern art meet in rothko chapel?ft=3&f=134160717. Duncan, Carol. Civilizing Rituals: Inside Public Art Museums London: Routledge, 1995. Falk, John H. Identity and the Museum Visitor Experience Walnut Creek, CA: Left Coast Press, 2009. Gortais, Bernard. "Abstraction and Art." JSTOR. July 29, 2003. Accessed October 23, 2013.


84 Grant, Daniel. "The Gallery: Do Museum Labels Turn Art Into Illustration?" Wall Street Journal (New York), January 26, 1984. http://0 Hildebrand, David L. Dewey: A Beginner's Guide Oxford: Oneworld, 2008. Houston Arts Alliance. Rothko Chapel Houston: Minor Design. Jackson, Philip W. John Dewey and the Lessons of Art New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998. Johnson, Steven. "Rothko Chapel and Rothko's Chapel." JSTOR. Sum mer 1994. Accessed October 23, 2013. Kandinsky, Wassily. Concerning the Spiritual in Art New York: Dover Publications, 1977. Kossmann, Herman, Suzanne Mulder, Frank Den. Oudsten, and Pieter Kiewiet De Jonge. Narrative Spaces: On the Art of Exhibiting Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2012. Marincola, Paula. What Makes a Great Exhibition? Philadelphia, PA: Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, Philadelphia Center for Arts and Heritage, 2006. Antonello Marotta Russell Jones, and Carol Raphael, "Typology Quarterly Museums," Architectural Review 233, no. 1391 January 2013 76, American Accent. McCarter, Robert. Allied Works Architecture: Clyfford Still Museum Ostfildern: Hatje Cantz, 2013. Merriam Webster, s.v. Perceive ," accessed November 18, 2014, http://www.merriam Merriam Webster, s.v. "Recognitio n," accessed November 18, 2014, h ttp://www.merriam Merriam Webster, ccessed September 21, 2014. http://www.merriam Merton, Thomas. No Man Is an Island New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1955. O'Doherty, Brian. Inside the White Cube: The Ideology of the Gallery Space Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999. "Open Letter to Roland L. Redmond." Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Accessed September 18, 2014.


85 Osgood, Tammy. Observational Research. 2014. Raw data. Clyffor d Still Museum, Denver. Osgood, Tamara. Observational Research. March 19, 2014. Raw data. Rothko Chapel, Houston. Paintings, Biogra Mark Rothko. Accessed November 16, 2013. Paul, Carole. The First Modern Museums of Art: The Birth of an Institution in 18th and Early 19th century Europe Los Angeles: Getty Publications, 2012. Pollock, Griselda, and Joyce Zemans. Museums after Modernism: Strategies of Engagement Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007. Rothko, Christopher, K. C. Eynatten, Kate Hutchins, Don Quaintance, and David Anfam. Image of the Not seen: Search for Understanding: The Rothko Chapel Art Series Houston: Rothko Chapel, 2007. Rothko, Mark, and Christopher Rothko. The Artist's Reality: Philosophies of Art New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2004. Rothko, Mark, Bradford R. Collins, and David Anfam. Mark Rothko: The Decisive Decade, 1940 1950 New York: Skira Rizzoli, 2012. "The Rothko Room." The Phillips Collecti on. Accessed August 21, 2014. room. "Rubber Underpants, between 1949 and 1966." Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. Accessed September 18, 2014. Schorch Philipp. "The Experience of a Museum Space." Museum Management and Curatorship 28, no. 2 (March 20, 2013): 193 208. doi:10.1080/09647775.2013.776797. Seiberling, Dorothy. "The Varied Art of Four Pioneers." LIFE November 16, 1959, 82. Sheets, Hilarie M. "Clyfford Still, Unpacked." Art in America 99, no. 10 (November 2011): 118 27. Academic Search Premier. Sobel, Dean, David Anfam, Diane Still. Knox, Sandra L. Still. Campbell, and Clyfford Still. Clyfford Still: The Artist's Museum New York: Skira R izzoli, 2012. Sobel, Dean. "Engagement within the Clyfford Still Museum." Interview by author Tamara Osgood August 28, 2014.


86 APPENDIX A Interview between Tammy Osgood and Director of the Clyfford Still Museum, Dean Sobel August 28, 2014 like to start by hearing a little bit about your background and what drew you to the Still Museum. DS: I was asked to apply. The will specified that the art would go to a city that would build permanent quarters. Denver won that competition mostly through the cultural affair would be. All we had was a promise of an art collection and a little bit of money and nothing else. So I was hired to make it happen. The topics were very central to the land that we were going to buy, the architect, and getting that architect going. The Rothko Chapel and the Clyfford Still Museum are really quite different in many ways. Although I eir work in order to experience just the right thing. They both early on decided this was the best way to see their work. And they said things about their work that guided the Still Museum in what we wanted to do. I think in our case the nature of painting changed with these artists so the idea of paintings no longer, in Clyfford Still terms, dotting the walls. They used words like intimacy, appropriateness TO: and a unity DS: Yes unity and so this generation of artists, I think, knew that their art was dif ferent, looked different, and probably needed to be experienced differently. We spent a lot of time on the architectural aspect asking that question. Since we cannot show any other proportions and ways we could bring in daylight and materials. What sequence the rooms would be in. All of that is manifested in the building. And I think, especially in the shadows of the Denver Art Museum addition, the idea that the selection of the arch itect is in everything that we were doing, the art needed to be served first and foremost. In our case, every decision was about how can we make the architect serve the art. So the architect selection, and how we selected the questions, guided us. And then I think about what role his paintings. Somewhere between that and the gallery spaces that we often think o f white cubes with concrete floors and white walls and no adornments.


87 TO: What are your thoughts as to how the interior and exterior of the museum impacts with the relation ship between the design of the Museum, the materials used and the life of Clyfford Still? DS: I think that very little. Speaking for the Still Museum I think they just know something works. We get a lot of surveys that indicate that. And I think why it wor ks is now, but the landscape architect was supposed to provide a place of ref uge and relaxation. The landscape also begins to close your world as paths enter into the museum The ceiling of the canopy is the same height as the lobby. And when you get inside the domestic personal space. We have ten foot ceiling heights an main floor. So we are moving people through that space who are getting tickets using the restrooms, or on their way upstairs, with an understanding, and this is the architect s scheme, that their eyes are starting to relax. If you go outside at this time of the day it is incredibly bright. And the subtleties of the paintings with the day light would be better get there when your eyes ar e more sensitive to the gradations of shades and colors. So, done on purpose. DS: As a building gets designed and things happen for structu ral reasons or cost reasons, things just change. Things take a different trajectory. We thought a lot about ceiling heights. In our case there is a hanging height which is somewhat different than the ceiling e ceiling, there is a space there. But looking at a lot of traditional museums, like the Met, where there are a kind of perfect sequence where there really are no rooms. Each room is an opportunity for intimacy and engagement. TO: Speaking of that. Something I have observed. Each entrance into each gallery seems to frame an artwork. DS: Yes.


88 y to that painting. Where the couple galleries are that do not have entrances framing an artwork, I see people pass through most often. Is this a technique you purposely use? ou do seem to be drawn toward those things you see in doorways, so yes that is intentional. We were very deliberate in the height of the doorways and the placement of the doors. And then the other thing we did was have each room flow into another room and another room. Making a kind of flow or movement. There are a lot of museums where there are blank spaces or hallways that move you into another room. There was an attempt to have our building be unusual. All the galleries are on one floor and everything el se is on the other floor. Once you start a sequence (through the galleries) you are kind of stuck. You can then you see all these views across into other galleries as reference points to where that people tend to notice. DS : It would be interesting to see how other art would do in there. We built it (Clyfford Still Museum) just for Clyfford Still, but it would work well for other kinds of art as well. Maybe not every kind of art. TO: It would be interesting. Are there any sp ecific techniques that the museum uses to DS: Yes. Everything we do hopefully does that. Where we put the painting, how high we hang it. There are museums that tend to hang higher because there are crowds of people in front of you. Rothko was very interested in hanging paintings low. He wanted them to be at the same level as the viewers. But everything you do, how you put it on the wall, or spread out. What you say next to the artwork and how much you say. How much you give away and not let the viewer find for themselves, are all interesting questions. People many times end up reading their way through art museums. But at the Still Museum now is a slight exception. In our first shows, which was our attempt to define who we were as a museum, there was very little. Each room there was a panel that told you about where he was and kind of what might hav e been happening in the art. TO: An interesting thing is that you provide that first floor with so much context away from the gallery.


89 DS: We like to think that the Still collection is somewhat literal. You can kind of see it happening, the progression an confuse visitors. There is the ability with this collection to have the paintings tell the story and not all this other stuff. We have never done an audio tour, although we are going to do one for visitors. attempt like putting benches down that say come and stay a while, or the terraces. Those are another way to kind of slow you down. And it gives you a chance to think of something else for a while. Even the size of the Museum. Having just got back from New York, how exhausting it is to walk through some of those museums. Everything is so big a limited tolerance for how many Clyfford Stills I would want to see at once. And I think we thought about that. We wanted to leave people with wanting more instead of being done. stract Expressionists looks different. As you move up to it, it looks a different way and as you move to the side. We learned just putting two paintings together changes the paintings. title, we moved it experience. In sometimes a good way and other times, not necessarily negative, but a different way. And we are still figuring some of these things out since we are still new. TO: You have some interesting challenges concerning your restriction to one artist, but DM: I would agree TO: When thinking about the Clyfford Still Museum and its identity related to a shrine. Do you embrace that identity or how do you deal with that identity? denominational chur ch, but it was meant to be a


90 are certain things you can do that do seem overblo the work that we try to eliminat on because then you think, why are they doing this? Then you are really thinking more curators. Other Curators li want it to be a shrine, but rather a living, changing, learning, environment. We still have There this journey. DM: Yes. Yes. As we always hoped. What we are most fearful of is that people come TO: And how is that going? a question for the Denver crowd who have the opportunity to come back; where a lot of our with all museums, of people not comi ng back. We studied the Van Gogh Museum a little bit and they have the most popular name of any artist and they have still have trouble with it. TO: Concerning the experience of engagement, do you believe that a stronger experience is possible when a view er is by themselves? A solitary experience or with a group of people? DS: Depends on the person. I think sometimes talking with others. We do a thing called ry engaging. You hear things that you would have never thought of yourself. single engagement could be extremely powerful, but at the same time the museum visitor of uncomfortable being on their own. If you could observe them they might feel off balance. understand. It creates a negative impulse that you are dumb. TO: They need some sort of context and instruction such as text to feel more comfortable.


91 understand intended way.


92 APPENDIX B Interview between Tammy Osgood and Ashley Clemmer Hoffman, Community Engagement Director for the Rothko Chapel August 28, 2014 TO: What method s does the Chapel use to promote engagement? ACH: I fee l like its normal for people to have a personal experience within the Chapel. anyone to come. We are really mindful of balancing. W e have this dual mission of contemplation and action. The action really comes into play within programs that we have in the space and on the plaza. We are very mindful to preserve that daily 10 6 quiet time of undisturbed space in the Chape l and keep all activities and programming after hours. If we have to close the Chapel it will only be for private services and then only for things that we do and that we are very conscientious about that protect this undisturbed environment that anyone can visit. through but we really try to preserve the quiet so when people com e in there is a very clear distinction of the outside and the inside. We used to be electronic free, but in this day and age it is really hard to totally control, so now we allow people to use their electronic devices but they have to be put on silent. So if they are using them in a way that is not disturbing without noise, then that is fine. We always have benches and a few meditations cushions available for people to sit or meditate. We also have holy books and other spiritual texts available for people to use. We have a comment book available for people ; which really creates a stage for people to share and reflect their experiences and feelings. It s really interesting to read those still have all our comment bo oks back from the can come in and go out or they can sit and participate. We have music performance s, lectures, and poetry that are all usually offered in the evening. Which can be challenging because then we have to use artificial light. What I have found is that people connect with the Chapel in different ways. There are some people that come in and because of


93 their past understanding of Rothko, the architecture, past experiences, or where they are spiritually. For some it just resonates deeply immediately. For proba bly the majority of the people, that might not be the case. These people might not even know what they are coming to because it s right nex t to the de Menil C ollection. A lot of people will visit the de Menil Collection and walk through the grounds and stumbl e on the Chapel. I think many people enter the space as if they were entering a museum. They are used to seeing Rothko paintings within the context of a museum and through that type of lens and they to a program or finding out about the history of the Chapel and how it came to be helps to fil l those gaps. U nderstand ing the story e nables them to make that connection. I think a lot of the ways that the building is physically presented, aside from the building itself and the architecture, just the aesthetics of the space and campus and the entire site is really the influence of Mr. a nd Mrs. De Menil who are the founders. They had an idea of how art should be experienced and minimalism in ge neral. I f you walk the site, there s not a lot of signage. You can enjoy the outdoor space and stumble upon these buildings. It s always a little bit of a challenge when considerin g facilitating an experience or just letting the space speak for itself and allowing people to approach it and experience it on their own terms. We do have a brochure that we hand out to everyone that walks in that gives i nformation. We do give tours, but we never talk inside the Chapel. We only speak outside. It s more like telling a stor y of who the de Menils were, how the Chapel came to be, and w hy they selected this artist. We also like to talk about t he significance of the space regarding human rights and the difference it s made international ly It s more of a TO: The Clyfford Still Museum and The Rothko Chapel have an identity you could asso ciate with a shrine. How do you feel about that identity? ACH: We defini t el think of it as a shrine, but more as a destination or a pilgrimage. While it holds paintings by Rothko, it s really not a shrine for him. I think in at it that way. There is some mistaken identity and some confusion around when he completed these paintings. Many people think he completed the commissioned to create the paintings in a correlation between the paintings themselves, the color choice s and the palettes with the fact that he committed s paintings and color choice being more of his idea of what a space of reflection should look like. The bright colors he used previously would not have been the right choice for a


94 space of reflection or for individuals to reflect and feel serene and calm their minds. So the way we tell the story is that there really is no connection. TO: What are your thought s about solitary experience s verses a group of people or just another person? How would you contrast those experiences? A CH I think whe ther an individual chooses to visit the Chapel or comes in a gr oup, I think the fference between going with another person and going when there were lots of people in the Chapel. But you never know. I know from my personal experience, to go in there when no one else is in there, t to totally disengage from whatever else is happening within the space, who else is in there, or where they are located. It allows me to disconnect and reconnect to myself and the space. What do you think? TO: I think that to have the type of personal experience I was looking for it really needs to be by yourself an intrinsic experience verses extrinsic experience. Extrinsic experiences are more like a normal museum experience whe re you go with someone and you have a dialogue about a or see. You see things from different perspectives. This type of engagement creates ntrating on an intrinsic experience which is more self reflective and finding information about your self through engaging with art. That intrinsic and self reflective type of experience I believe is a solitary experience. ACH: I will say that people that return to the Chapel. The majority of people that come to the Chapel are either coming for the first time or are bringing people who have never believe it is s omething significant that they want to share or its individuals who come generally come by themselves. There are people that come together to meditate, but they come with the same intention and meditate separately. And that seems to work. If they not stay as long.

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95 APPENDIX C Observational Research from Clyfford Still Museum Da te Hours Total Visitors Visitors Looked at Text Before Art 05/07/14 3 30 27 05/23/14 2.5 12 10 06/19/14 2 7 7 07/15/14 2 8 6 08/28/14 2.5 13 10 TOTAL 12 70 60 Observational Research from Rothko Chapel Date Hours Total Visitors 03/10/14 2 7