We started our tour on the fourth floor, in a space filled with several objects from our Architecture and Design collection. Mike was drawn in by the brightly colored, complicated patterning of the computer-chip diagrams that populate this space. He looked at them as artifacts of communication, images that mapped out the vital organs of technologies that have transformed the ways we communicate and interact. These diagrams were the focus of a 1990 MoMA exhibition called Information Art: Diagramming Microchips, in which they were exhibited as works of art in their own right. (Interestingly, that exhibition’s catalogue pictured a few art historical comparisons, including Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie and a textile design by Anni Albers.)We then moved upstairs to the fifth floor, where Donnelly has installed two other galleries. In the first, Mike noticed that the space was installed more tightly than the galleries around it, inviting a closer look at the works on display. What stood out in this room was a drawing by František Kupka, View from a Carriage Window. It was noteworthy to Mike because, up to this point, he had only known Kupka’s abstract works. He was then delighted to see an example of a Kupka abstraction, The First Step, also on view in this room, and commented on how discovering a new style of work by an artist you already know is one of the real gems of exhibitions like this.
Upon entering the last gallery of Artist’s Choice, Mike noted how different each space felt, especially as this one was filled with the work of a single artist, the mid-century photographer Eliot Porter. MoMA has over 90 Porter photographs in its collection, mostly images he took of birds and their nests. However, there are also images from a portfolio that Porter created, called Birds in Flight. As we looked at the four flying-bird photos in this room, Mike paid special attention to one, Barn Swallow, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine. He was blown away that Porter was able to capture these fast flying creates, but also puzzled by thesmoky, shadowlike form next to the bird. What made these photos possible was a special camera developed by the artist. Porter rigged a camera with multiple flash bulbs and a motion-sensor shutter that was triggered by movement. Amazingly, Barn Swallow captures both the bird and a shadow of where it had been just a moment prior.
As we wrapped up our tour, I was reminded of the enjoyment of seeing some of Donnelly’s rarely displaced selections for the first time. Objects like the computer-chip diagrams and the Porter photographs are just a few of the works in this show that made us realize how vast and wonderful MoMA’s collection is. Hopefully many more people will get to experience these discoveries now that the exhibition is on view until the end of July. Come check it out!