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Conservation Notes: A deep look at Floor Burger‘s surface

December 24th, 2012

Incident light image of a cross-section from the meat patty, showing a white preparation and four layers of paint.
© Canadian Conservation Institute, 2012

In recent Art Matters posts, we’ve shared why we are undertaking conservation work on Claes Oldenburg’s Floor Burger (1962), the intriguing story of what happened when the sculpture arrived at the Gallery in 1967 and, most recently, what discoveries AGO conservator Sherry Phillips has made about Floor Burger, inside and out, during her work on the piece.

Sherry gathered a few 1 to 2 mm paint samples from various parts of Floor Burger — the bottom bun, the meat patty, the top bun and the pickle — and then mailed them to the Canadian Conservation Institute. There, Elizabeth Moffat and Jennifer Poulin of CCI’s Conservation Science Division conducted various types of analysis to determine the paint and pigment chemistry and produced cross-section images, include the one you see above.

The goal of the analysis was to learn about the materials and techniques that Claes Oldenburg used to create Floor Burger. Elizabeth and Jennifer used light and fluorescence microscopy of the cross-sections to document the paint-layer structure. In some areas sampled, they discovered as many as eight paint layers, and they were also able to identify the pigments and binding media of the various paints using a combination of analytical techniques. The image above reveals (from top to bottom) a layer of red paint, then orange paint, another two layers of red and a white preparatory layer.

Visitors have been able observe conservators at work in the Irena Moore Gallery (2nd level) Tuesday to Friday, 10:30 am–noon and 1:30–4 pm. Over the holidays, staff will be present on Dec. 26, 27, 28, and Jan. 3 and 4, 2013.


Curious about Conservation?
If you have a burning question about Conservation, leave a comment below. We’ll do our best to give you an answer in an upcoming Conservation Notes post.


Signature Partner of the AGO’s Conservation Program


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