John Wilcox’s Crucifix

The O’Donnell Institute, UT Dallas, and the Dallas Museum of Art will collaborate on scientific study of the paintings of John Wilcox.

Conservation of a contemporary painting:  identifying the working methods and materials used by John Wilcox in the creation of Crucifix

The aim of this project is to characterize the materials and processes used by the artist John Wilcox in the creation of his 1993 polyptych Crucifix. Complimentary analytical techniques will be applied in order to understand the object and the damage it has sustained over the years. This examination will inform a conservation plan, and after treatment Crucifix will be exhibited at the Dallas Museum of Art. 

The work of John Wilcox, a Texas artist active from the 1980s until his death in 2012, is precise, planned, and methodical. His working methods are rhythmic, his materials meaningful and purposeful and the final works a reflection of his complex working process.  Wilcox’s body of work on canvas and paper spans several different styles, using a broad range of materials and techniques to create abstract, subtle surfaces and color compositions.

Crucifix comprises four stretched canvases to which Wilcox applied four different materials: ash, red clay, sawdust, and cloth. This project will focus on understanding Wilcox’s working methods and materials through technical study, including surface examination and material analysis.

The work sustained water damage in storage, and a treatment technique must be developed to address the tide-line staining that interferes with the intended appearance of each individual panel. Wilcox’s Third Prayer, in the collection of the Dallas Museum of Art, will also be examined in relation to Crucifix, and additional works by the artist will be available for further technical analysis if needed. 

Laura Hartman, Associate Paintings Conservator, Dallas Museum of Art

Laura Hartman, Associate Paintings Conservator at the Dallas Museum of Art, examining panels from Crucifix by John Wilcox in the Paintings Conservation Studio at the DMA.
Courtesy Dallas Museum of Art