November 30, 2009  |  MoMA PS1
The Bruce High Quality Foundation Intervenes in 1969

One of the most interesting aspects of organizing exhibitions at P.S.1 is the focus on living artists. For the current 1969 exhibition—which explores a wide range of art in MoMA’s collection made during this turbulent year—we invited a younger group of artists to create interventions in the galleries that reflect and even disrupt the collection show. We included The Bruce High Quality Foundation as their work is rooted in artistic practices that emerged in the late ’60s, especially Bruce Nauman’s studio performances and Joseph Beuys’s conflation of art and broader society. Additionally, the collaborative nature of the Foundation resonates with many of the collective actions of the period. In keeping with their anonymous mode of operations, the Foundation secretly enacted this masked showdown with the 1969 artworks while the exhibition was being installed.

November 27, 2009  |  Behind the Scenes, Design
An Average Day At the Museum reinterpreted by Christoph Niemann

Left: Diagram, Average Day at the Museum: The Year's Work: Annual Report to the Board of Trustees and Corporation Members of the Museum of Modern Art for the Year June 30, 1939–July 1, 1940. Annual reports 1931–40. MoMA Archives. Right: Detail.

An average day at the Museum, which appeared in MoMA’s annual report in 1940, was designed by the in-house graphic design department as a way to show the diverse activities taking place at the Museum. The design has been resurrected in recent years on products such as totebags and notepads in the MoMA Design Store. We always liked this infographic, and wondered what a cross-section of MoMA would look like today, seventy years later? Christoph Niemann, whose illustrations appear in The New Yorker and on his blog Abstract City, was the perfect candidate to update the illustration for 2009. While the activities stayed roughly the same, the physical space has changed drastically. For this post I asked Niemann to shed some light on his process and the challenges involved in creating this new illustration, which we used to announce this year’s fall exhibition season. Read more

November 26, 2009
MoMA Is Thankful
Turkey Shopping Bag. Roy Lichtenstein. 1964

Roy Lichtenstein. Turkey Shopping Bag. 1964

The hallmark of this all-American holiday—and great for leftovers, too—the turkey was one of Pop art master Roy Lichtenstein’s trademark food images. He created this iconic Turkey Shopping Bag for Ben Birillo’s innovative American Supermarket exhibition at the Bianchini Gallery in 1964, which presented a variety of food-related art displayed alongside actual and plastic food items. Intended as advertisements for the exhibition, the Turkey Shopping Bags were sold for $12 each, along with editions of Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can on Shopping Bag. The shopping bags were among the exhibition’s most popular items, and many visitors used them to carry their other purchases from the exhibition.

Now in MoMA’s collection, this screenprint is one of the many unique works that MoMA has been able to acquire through the incredible support of our trustees, members and donors, and other generous and enthusiastic friends. Thank you all for your generosity over the past year. I wish you a very safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday.

November 25, 2009  |  Collection & Exhibitions, Events & Programs
Bauhaus Lab: The Secret Ingredient?
Bauhaus Lab: Johannes Itten and Paul Klee Curricula Workshops, The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building

Bauhaus Lab: Johannes Itten and Paul Klee Curricula Workshops, The Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building

In MoMA’s Cullman Education and Research Building, you’ll find visitors sitting at clover-like Bauhaus tables (based on the original workshop photographs) working on drawing exercises devised by Bauhaus masters Johannes Itten and Paul Klee. Interestingly, Klee and Itten themselves were actually not so happy sharing a table—the dinner table, that is. Read more

November 25, 2009  |  Collection & Exhibitions
Daniel Gordon in New Photography 2009

Oh! No mor­tal could sup­port the hor­ror of that coun­te­nance. A mummy again endued with ani­ma­tion could not be so hideous as that wretch. I had gazed on her while unfin­ished; she was ugly then, but when those mus­cles and joints were ren­dered capa­ble of motion, it became a thing such as even Dante could not have con­ceived.” —excerpt from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Daniel Gordon‘s photographs elicit attraction and repulsion. They are irresistibly vibrant and tactile, but also surreal and grotesque. His works are not what  they appear to be at first glance. They look like collages, but upon further inspection the photographs reveal themselves to be pictures of sculptures.  The female figures in the photographs are cobbled together from found images on the Inter­net that the artist prints out and con­structs into three-dimensional tableaus.  The sculptures are photographed and then immediately disassembled so that the artist can use the body parts for new works. The works are made alive and exist only through the act of photography. Read more

November 24, 2009  |  Rising Currents
Rising Currents: Meet ARO

In addition to the four teams working at P.S.1, MoMA has invited Adam Yarinsky and Architecture Research Office (ARO) to contribute to the Rising Currents project. ARO’s existing research will offer valuable contextual material for the exhibition, and a proposed solution for a site that encompasses Lower Manhattan. Here ARO gives an overview of their background as well as some initial design concepts and questions. You’ll hear more from all the teams next week.

Architecture Research Office is excited to join the teams of exceptional designers invited by MoMA to participate in Rising Currents. We come to this project after two years of research into the changing climate’s impact on New York City. Funded through the American Institute of Architects’ Latrobe Research Fellowship and conducted with structural engineer Guy Nordenson and landscape architect Catherine Seavitt, this study forms the basis of the Rising Currents workshop and exhibition. Our team studied everything we could about the Upper Bay—from its ecology to its history to its fluid-dynamic character. We learned that an era of elevated sea levels will produce more frequent and more severe storms, a challenge that necessitates a new relationship between the city and the water. Read more

November 24, 2009  |  An Auteurist History of Film
D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance
<i>Intolerance.</i> 1916. USA. Directed by D. W. Griffith. Acquired from the artist. Preserved with funding from the Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Fund

Intolerance. 1916. USA. Directed by D. W. Griffith. Acquired from the artist. Preserved with funding from the Celeste Bartos Film Preservation Fund

These notes accompany the screening of D. W. Griffith’s Intolerance on November 25 in Theater 2 and November 27 in Theater 3.

The humdrum life of a film archivist can occasionally be ameliorated by privileged moments. One of these was related to Intolerance (1916). Joseph Henabery (1888–1976) played Abraham Lincoln in The Birth of a Nation and had a small part in the French story of Intolerance. In 1916, under D. W. Griffith’s tutelage, he began a career as a director. Unlike some Griffith protégés (John Ford, Erich von Stroheim, Raoul Walsh), he never rose above the status of journeyman, although he did get to work with Douglas Fairbanks, Dorothy Gish, and Rudolph Valentino; he wound up making training films for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Due to happy accident, Henabery’s real legacy lay elsewhere. When Griffith set out to recreate Babylon for Intolerance, he took a leaf from the book of Giovanni Pastrone, director of Cabiria (1914), doing serious research to ensure the authenticity of his recreation. Henabery was assigned to gather together photos and drawings of Babylonian buildings and art and compile them in a scrapbook for Griffith’s use. When Griffith’s papers were acquired by the museum by Iris Barry, the scrapbook was included. Henabery visited the Museum shortly before his death, and my colleagues and I had the pleasure of looking through his work of nearly sixty years earlier with him. The Babylonian set and the introductory crane shot that Griffith and cinematographer “Billy” Bitzer devised remain stunning. The movies had offered nothing like it before, and seldom had since. Read more

November 23, 2009  |  Artists, Conservation
Claes Oldenburg: Conservation of Floor Cake (Week 4)
Floor Cake, MoMA gallery

Floor Cake, installed in a MoMA gallery

Looking forward, our preservation of Claes Oldenburg’s Floor Cake aims to bring the object to a state that more closely resembles the artist’s original intent. It will also stabilize the condition of the sculpture so that it can both endure a rigorous exhibition schedule and be safe in long-term storage. To develop a successful treatment plan, we considered the sculpture in distinct sections based on its materials: Read more

The Tim Burton Website: It’s Aliiiiiive!

Months before an exhibition opens we meet to plan out any related online features. Since we’re a small team we often get developers or designers to help for bigger sites. For the Tim Burton exhibition, we worked with the Brooklyn company Big Spaceship, who built the site for our Contemporary Voices exhibition in 2005.

The Big Spaceship offices. No, they don't eat astronaut ice cream.

The Big Spaceship offices. No, they don't eat astronaut ice cream.

Having nearly broken my VHS copy of Beetlejuice from overuse while growing up, I knew the project would be an exciting one for a design firm to sink their teeth into. In the words of Big Spaceship, “Having the opportunity to work with MoMA for an artist as admirable as Tim Burton was amazing. The quality and imagination inherent to his art speak for themselves—we’re particularly inspired by his breadth of work and desire to experiment.”

One of the most exciting parts of the process is the concept meeting with the designers. After an initial meeting to discuss the exhibition, the crew from Big Spaceship put together three different directions for the site, and we sat down together with the curators to pick a design to build out. We asked them to talk about the three directions they proposed. Read more

November 19, 2009  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions, Design
Musical MoMA: The TENORI-ON by Toshio Iwai and Yamaha

Toshio Iwai. TENORI-ON. 2004

Toshio Iwai. TENORI-ON. 2004

One of the greatest parts of my job is getting to geek out over the many brilliant examples of design that are considered for the Museum’s collection. Among the most exciting (and drop-dead gorgeous) works we acquired last year is the TENORI-ON, by the Japanese artist Toshio Iwai, manufactured by Yamaha. Promoted by Yamaha as “a digital musical instrument for the twenty-first century,” the TENORI-ON’s “visible music” interface is suitable for both serious musicians and beginners to electronic music.

“In days gone by, a musical instrument had to have a beauty, of shape as well as of sound, and had to fit the player almost organically…. Modern electronic instruments don’t have this inevitable relationship between the shape, the sound, and the player. What I have done is to try to bring back these…elements and build them in to a true musical instrument for the digital age.” —Toshio Iwai

Iwai is an established multimedia artist, musician, and inventor, who seeks “the feeling of childhood in the digital world.” He has worked in television and created a number of computer and video games, including the acclaimed (and addictive) Electroplankton (2005) for the Nintendo DS, in which players generate atmospheric music by manipulating sea creatures. Read more