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Subject: Identifying adhesive

Identifying adhesive

From: W. T. Chase <tchase4921<-a>
Date: Wednesday, March 16, 2005
Stefan Lang <stefanlang [at] utanet__at> writes

>I'm a student of restoration and conservation in Vienna at the
>University of Fine Arts. I am involved with my diploma which is a
>work of the Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama. It's a work from 1966, a
>women's dress where noodles are applied and which then was sprayed
>in gold colour.

Your inquiry about adhesives used by Yayoi Kusama is an interesting
problem. Adhesives have changed some in the last 40 years.  Around
1966, Elmer's Glue (the original polyvinyl acetate emulsion
adhesive) was readily available, but had only been on the market
about 10 years I think.  The cyanoacrylates were just being
introduced, and some of the newer adhesive formulations for would
which we have now were not on the market.  One wood glue in common
use was a powdered urea-formaldehyde (I believe) and it was fiercely
strong, although somewhat of a pain to make up.  I can't think of
anything then on the commercial market which matches your

If I were in New York, I would visit some of the old hardware stores
on the West side--after finding out Kusama's address--and see if I
could find an older shopkeeper who had been there since 1966. I may
have a photograph of a random selection of glues from the 1950s or
60s; if located I will send it on.  Of course, you might get some of
the best information from manufacturers.  Titebond company could be
one to contact.

Old hardware catalogs would be a help, but I don't know who would
have a collection of this kind of thing.

There was a major Yayoi Kusama retrospective at the Tokyo
Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art in late 1999.  I was invited to
the opening, which was spectacular, and then I returned with my
conservation students from Tokyo Geidai University to look at
conservation problems in modern art.  The dress you mentioned or its
counterpart was shown, along with a suitcase also covered with pasta
and painted gold.  You have deterioration due to the base material,
the adhesive, the pasta itself (things eat it), and the "gold"
paint, which is actually bronze or brass powder in something like
nitrocellulose lacquer--a bunch of combined problems.  Are you
planning to do anything to return the gold color to its untarnished

Kusama had assistants during her career.  Perhaps one of them would
remember what was used as an adhesive.  The catalog and curators at
the Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art might have photographs
of her studio.  I believe there was a video of a party in her
studio, but a good still photograph would be better for seeing
materials and bottles.

Good luck in finding your answer,

Sincerely, Tom Chase

                  Conservation DistList Instance 18:44
                 Distributed: Wednesday, March 16, 2005
                       Message Id: cdl-18-44-007
Received on Wednesday, 16 March, 2005

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