The Dallas Museum of Art announced Tuesday that it would present the first solo museum exhibition for Detroit-based (and Dallas native) designer Chris Schanck next month.
Curbed Vanity: A Contemporary Foil also marks Schanck’s first commission for the museum, and the exhibit will open Feb. 7.
Curbed Vanity: A Contemporary Foil pairs the Gorham Manufacturing Company’s Martelé dressing set, an extravagant example of Gilded Age silversmithing from the DMA’s collection, with a contemporary interpretation by Schanck. Schanck’s vanity is constructed from found objects gathered from the streets surrounding his Detroit studio and bound in aluminum foil. The two works are presented together in a conversation across time about craftsmanship, material, and the vanity that drives them. The exhibition was curated by Sarah Schleuning, Interim Chief Curator and The Margot B. Perot Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and Design. Curbed Vanity will be on view in the Museum’s Focus Gallery II through Aug. 29.
“We are thrilled to welcome Chris back to Dallas and are honored to present his take on a masterpiece of our decorative arts and design collection,” said Dr. Agustín Arteaga, the DMA’s Eugene McDermott Director. “His trajectory is a testament to the transformative power of art, the creative spirit of this city, and the importance of introducing students to the wonder and discovery of art.”
Born in Pittsburgh, Schanck was raised in Dallas and attended Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, graduating in 1994. Through his custom “Alufoil” technique, he transforms nontraditional, often discarded materials into extraordinarily unique objects by assembling the pieces into desired shapes and layering the form with resin and aluminum foil.
His interest in the material can be traced to his childhood in Dallas. Schanck was influenced by the time he spent shadowing his father’s work in an aluminum factory in North Dallas as well as by his mother’s tradition of wrapping Christmas presents in aluminum foil.
“Schanck is a dynamic voice in contemporary design who deftly weaves the fabric of our neighborhoods with the history of design,” said Schleuning. “While his innovative technique is renowned, it is the incredible thoughtfulness and aesthetic acumen that he brings to Curbed Vanity that make this work and project such a vital addition to our Museum. This project has been a journey of inspiration and creativity that we are thrilled to share with our community.”
For his DMA commission, Schanck employed his signature approach to construct a new work inspired by an icon of the DMA’s collection. Introduced at the 1900 Paris World’s Fair, the Gorham Manufacturing Company dressing set was the grandest piece in the firm’s Martelé line of wares. Composed of solid silver of exceptionally pure quality, and requiring over 2,300 hours of skilled labor to create, the opulent dressing set is a monument in the history of American metalwork.
Schanck’s interpretation, although not a copy, honors the historical vanity’s dazzling appearance and laborious construction. The materials for Curbed Vanity came from Schanck’s Banglatown neighborhood in Detroit, an area occupied by former employees of the now closed Dodge automotive factory. In addition to repurposing discarded materials from the neighborhood, Schanck hires local craftspeople as studio assistants. Like the Gorham workers who spent thousands of hours chasing the fine details into their silver, Schanck and his team devoted hours to carefully applying foil layers to achieve the “Alufoil” surface. The result is a transcendent piece that elevates its modest materials.
Curbed Vanity can be seen for free as part of the Museum’s general admission policy. A virtual tour of the exhibition will also be available at virtual.DMA.org in the coming months.