Fast Forward: Modern Moments 1913 >> 2013, published to accompany the latest exhibition in The Museum of Modern Art’s ongoing collaboration with the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, details six significant moments in art history since the beginning of the 20th century. Within each section, the exhibition’s curators chronicle artists’ reactions to advancements in technology in 1913, the widespread shift in artistic and cultural perspectives in 1929, the reconfiguration of artists’ canvases in 1950, the relationship between art and commonplace objects in 1961, artists’ explorations of identity and the body in 1988, and the future of art with contemporary works up to 2013.
Curator Samantha Friedman’s chapter, “1961: Art and Life,” revisits the theme of assemblage, which curator Jodi Hauptman discusses earlier in “1913: New Art for a New World.” By comparing these two sections directly I was able to synthesize some of the themes of the exhibition and noticed one thread running throughout the catalogue: an artist’s difficult position of responding to his influences while simultaneously responding to his contemporary culture.
Friedman cites Robert Rauschenberg’s use of the tire in First Landing Jump (1961) to illustrate the artist’s preference for ubiquitous urban materials. The tire in Rauschenberg’s assemblage alludes to Marcel Duchamp’s 1913 Bicycle Wheel, a readymade work of art that, as Hauptman describes, “subverted such principles of aesthetic appreciation as originality, authorship, skill, and taste.”
The readymade’s influence on Rauschenberg’s assemblages testifies to the cyclical nature of art history; in this specific case, Duchamp and Rauschenberg assigned a quotidian object an artistic status in order to scrutinize the aesthetic standards of their respective contemporary cultures. For using familiar objects such as the tire within a different cultural context, critics referred to the later generation of artists, of which Rauschenberg was a member, as “Neo-Dadaists.” Rauschenberg, who called his own assemblages Combines, described Duchamp’s sculpture as “one of the most beautiful pieces of art” that he had ever seen, even though, as Friedman explains, “readymades were meant to undermine the very idea of beauty.”
For a look inside Fast Forward: Modern Moments 1913 >> 2013, download a preview from MoMA.org/books.
The Museum of Modern Art recently acquired Robert Rauschenberg’s Combine Canyon (1959), from the heirs of the influential art dealer Ileana Sonnabend. Beginning today, Wednesday, November 28, visitors can view Canyon in the Museum’s fourth-floor Painting and Sculpture Galleries.