Put a group of student artists in a room with five hours to complete three days’ worth of work—and then tell them they have to exhibit their work to the public at MoMA the following day. Read more
These notes accompany the Non-California Dreaming: The American Avant-Garde, Program 2 (1948–60) screening program on May 1, 2, and 3.
After Maya Deren (with husband Alexander Hammid) directed Meshes of the Afternoon and moved back east, and Amos Vogel founded Cinema 16, California ceased to be the exclusive center of the independent film movement, and New York became a rival. Read more
When I was in graduate school studying art history, we used to joke about the “this looks like this” problem that we perceived as running rampant in the field. Stated simply, the problem is that it’s very easy to find visual similarities between objects that really have nothing historically, contextually, or subjectively to do with each other. Read more
MoMA’s celebration of the landmark year 1913 continues with the ninth in a series of videos highlighting important works from 1913 in the Museum’s collection. Read more
A Trip from Here to There, a recently opened collection exhibition in the Paul J. Sachs Drawings Galleries organized by Jodi Hauptman, Curator, Department of Drawings, and Luis Pérez-Oramas, the Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American Art, explores how peripatetic artists represent the routes of their wanderings. Though the paths they trace are personal, many of these artists adopt printed maps as their starting points; Read more
These notes accompany the California Dreaming: The American Avant-Garde, 1942–58 screening program on April 24, 25, and 26.
Although nothing quite comparable to the French Surrealist films of the 1920s came out of America, the occasional maverick production had appeared on the periphery of Hollywood over the years. Read more
Throughout the run of Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925 (December 23, 2012–April 15, 2013) we invited contemporary artists to pick a work and say briefly what they find most compelling about it. Read more
I thought I knew about David Moreno’s work when I met with him in his “office,” tucked inside the storage facilities of the Department of Drawings. Read more
It might surprise you to hear that one of the facets of contemporary printmaking that I find most exciting is projects by artists who work predominately in other mediums. These artists often approach traditional printmaking techniques with a fresh perspective, from which they can frequently discover new ways of using the medium to serve their unique artistic goals. Chris Burden’s 2005 print portfolio Coyote Stories is an excellent example of this exploratory spirit. Read more
MoMA’s new book Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light by Sarah Hermanson Meister, curator in the Department of Photography at MoMA, is a fresh look at the work of an iconic British photographer. The exhibition currently on view isn’t the first time MoMA has presented Bill Brandt’s work to the public—the last Brandt retrospective was in 1969. Since then, the Museum’s perspective of Brandt’s work has evolved into a more complete consideration of the nuances and variations in Brandt’s own photo-historical approach.
Brandt’s photography is traditionally presented in thematic groupings at the artist’s own request, but this view alone simplifies a body of work that is multifaceted and far-reaching in style, influence, and subject matter. Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light is the most comprehensive overview of Brandt’s work to date, and it attempts to create a coherent trajectory across five decades of his career.
Beyond the 160 tri-tone reproductions of his photographs, the book features a rich appendix that illuminates different aspects of Brandt’s oeuvre. A section on Brandt’s photo-stories from 1939 to 1945 reproduces spreads from the publications in which they originally appeared, and a detailed survey of his methods for retouching his photos is especially fascinating in today’s world of digital cameras, smart phones, and instant photo filters. Brandt often spoke about how important the retouching process was in his work, and by looking at the various tools and techniques he used to edit and perfect his final images, photo conservator Lee Ann Daffner’s illustrated glossary dives deep into Brandt’s working process. As discussed in a prior INSIDE/OUT post, Dating Brandt, the same negative can look completely different depending on when Brandt retouched it.
Though his influences, subject matter, and technical approach shifted over his long career, Brandt never lost what Meister describes as “his obvious delight in the uncanny aspects of the everyday.” Her introductory essay opens with a quote from Brandt on the role of a photographer:
I believe this power of seeing the world as fresh and strange lies hidden in every human being. In most of us it is dormant. Yet it is there, even if it is no more than a vague desire, an unsatisfied appetite that cannot discover its own nourishment….This should be the photographer’s aim, for this is the purpose that pictures fulfill in the world as it is to-day. To meet a need that people cannot or will not meet for themselves. We are most of us too busy, too worried, too intent on proving ourselves right, too obsessed with ideas, to stand and stare.
Bill Brandt took the time to “stand and stare” in many different ways. Whether through juxtapositions of class structure, wondrous nudes, inventive portraiture, or unearthly landscapes, Brandt’s far-reaching inspirations and approaches generated arresting imagery that still holds magic and wonder today.
For more on Brandt’s expansive career, preview a free PDF sample of the exhibition catalogue.