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The McKay Lodge Conservation Laboratory has many areas of expertise. Sometimes an object needing conservation treatment does not fall neatly into one of these categories, but instead has characteristics of more than one.

This is case with a recent painted aluminum conservation treatment of Diepholz by Frank Stella performed at the Akron Art Museum by Stefan Dedecek, Conservator of Paintings, Murals, and Polychrome Surfaces.

Frank Stella, Diepholz. Photo courtesy of Akron Art Museum

Diepholz is an assembly of shapes cut from inch-thick honey-combed aluminum paneling and painted with rich palette of vibrant colors. At 114 inches by 128 inches, and in some places even protruding toward the viewer by 28 inches, the artwork has a commanding presence. The painted aluminum artwork feels just as much like a sculpture as it does a painting.

French curve-like swirls and ribbons, abstractions, and geometric shapes lead the eye on a dazzling adventure. The paint has texture created where the artist sprinkled metal flakes onto wet paint. There are glossy and matte areas, and there are areas where the paint has been applied with a brush and by spraying. Some parts of the surface were worked over and over again by artist, adding even more visual interest.

The large painting is placed flat on its back in a gallery of the Akron Art Museum.
Stefan Dedecek, McKay Lodge’s Conservator of Paintings, Murals, and Polychrome Surfaces at work on Frank Stella’s Diepholz.

Honey-comb aluminum panels are light-weight and strong, but they are not indestructible. Physical stress applied to the artwork bent one of the narrow elements resulting in a bulge in the metal, separation of a join between two sections and paint damage.

painted aluminum conservation
painted aluminum conservation

A previous insufficient repair left adhesive bulging onto the surface, and it did not correct the split between two panel pieces and the paint damage.

Conservator Dedecek undid much of this former repair by removing aged adhesive and realigning the sections. Using clamps and a strong adhesive, the piece was straightened, the gap closed, and the bulge flattened.

Clamps are used to set down the bulging metal and hold the piece in plane while the adhesive sets.

He then expertly inpainted in the area of damage bringing this painted aluminum conservation treatment to a successful completion.

Detail of Frank Stella’s DIEPHOLZ. The treatment is complete.
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