For those in attendance at MoMA PS1’s 2012 events, there was one palpable difference from years past: more people.
In 1961 Claes Oldenburg opened a store in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, five years after his official arrival in New York. For two months, Oldenburg hawked commonplace objects out of his storefront: ice cream, oranges, cigarettes, hats, shoes, all things that could be found in surrounding stores, but here, they were specially crafted and singular, specific to the artist and his studio-cum-store. In Claes Oldenburg: Writing on the Side 1956–1969, Oldenburg describes his project neatly:
“The Store, or My Store, or the Ray Gun Mfg. Co., located at 107 East 2nd St., NYC, is eighty feet long and is about ten feet wide. In the front half, it is my intention to create the environment of a store by painting and placing (hanging, projecting, lying) objects after the spirit and in the form of popular objects of merchandise, such as may be seen in store windows of the city, especially in the area where The Store is (Clinton St., for example, Delancey St., 14th St.).
This store will be constantly supplied with new objects, which I will create out of plaster and other materials in the rear half of the place. The objects will be for sale in The Store.”
—Claes Oldenburg (1961)
The excerpt included above is just one of a variety of collected written works in Writing on the Side, the first compilation dedicated to Oldenburg’s writings. Organized chronologically, the book contains diary entries, poems, notes, statements, and sketches, grouped by chapter with titles like: “Fear of New York 1956–1958,” and “Object Consciousness 1965–1967.” The book serves as a written history of Oldenburg’s artistic presence in the 1960s, much of it composed on a typewriter kept in his studio.
Diary entries and notes preceding the opening of The Store evidence Oldenburg’s investment in the seemingly unexceptional: Oldenburg documents every sandwich, coffee, and beer consumed, the names of cafés and restaurants frequented (many of which no longer seem to exist, upon cursory Google searches) with as much care taken to describe creative ideation and art events. In this way, the writings are an important companion to Oldenburg’s body of work, giving insight into this formative period in his career as well as a unique view into a New York that no longer seems to exist (check out what Oldenburg’s store looks like now).
Oldenburg will perform a reading from Writing on the Side at MoMA at 6:00 p.m. on June 28, followed by a reception and book signing. More information about the event can be found here.
Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store is on view through August 5 on the sixth floor in the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition Gallery.
When I was asked to propose a new learning format to MoMA, I suggested a café because I wanted to create a social space where meaning is made in dialogue, where objects can be touched, and where visceral knowledge is honored. MoMA Studio: Exchange Café is a social space dedicated to exchange, from unconventional encounters to barter and reciprocal economies. Read more
Robert Enrico (1931–2001), a contemporary of the French New Wave directors—but one who actually went to film school Read more
What was the cinema’s most glamorous and influential fan magazine? The Museum’s current Glamour Vérité—Paris/Hollywood: Cinema’s Pour Vous Magazine, 1928–1940 exhibition Read more
On June 6, in collaboration with staff from the Education Department at MoMA, we hosted 25 teachers representing the New York City Tri-State area, Pennsylvania, and Toronto—public, private, and charter schools Read more
I’ve just returned from the other side of the world—Perth is our antipodes, at exactly 12 hours ahead of New York—where I was installing the exhibition Van Gogh, Dalí, and Beyond: The World Reimagined at the Art Gallery of Western Australia, along with AGWA curators Gary Dufour and Glenn Iseger-Pilkington. The third installment in a six-show partnership between the two institutions, this exhibition looks at how modern artists have reinvented the traditional genres of landscape, still life, and portrait. A selection of 134 works from MoMA’s collection—paintings, sculptures, drawings, prints, photographs, and a media work—made the long journey to be enjoyed by a new audience from June until December.
Visitors to AGWA will see how the definition of landscape has evolved from 1889, when Vincent van Gogh painted his iconic The Olive Trees, to 2006, the year of Tacita Dean’s neo-Romantic photogravure installation T&I.
They’ll observe how the meaning of a still life has expanded from Paul Cézanne’s Still Life with Ginger Jar, Sugar Bowl, and Oranges (1902–06), to Michael Craig-Martin’s Folio (2004), a portfolio of 12 brightly-hued screenprints depicting ordinary objects like a sneaker and a cell phone.
And they’ll perceive how the possibilities and priorities of portraiture have shifted from Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s La Goulue at the Moulin Rouge (1891–92), to the 2011 installment of Nicholas Nixon’s annual portraits of his wife and her three sisters, The Brown Sisters, Truro, Massachusetts.
Used to the 90-degree angles of MoMA’s galleries, it was first a challenge—and ultimately a great pleasure—to install in AGWA’s galleries, which are shaped like hexagons, and whose walls follow the angles of a ceiling composed with triangles. These angles create long views that encourage visual connections across galleries, many of which were unplanned but fortuitous. Standing in front of Matisse’s The Blue Window in the exhibition’s still life section, for example, you can look back into the landscape gallery and see Milton Avery’s Sea Grasses and Blue Sea, another painting that tests the border between representation and a blue monochrome.
While hardworking registrars carefully planned the transport of these masterpieces, two works didn’t have to be sent at all. Rocks Upon the Beach Sand Upon the Rocks, a 1988 installation by the artist Lawrence Weiner, describes a landscape only in words, and is remade each time it is installed to fit the exact dimensions of the venue. Below is the version designed in collaboration with the artist’s studio for AGWA.
And Urs Fischer’s Untitled sculpture from 2000 consists of half an apple and half a pear, screwed together and suspended from nylon filament. The work was not only constructed anew for this venue, but will be remade regularly throughout the course of the exhibition. A kind of postmodern still life, it takes Cézanne’s desire to express the tangible “thingness” of a piece of fruit to a whole new level.
What do women artists want?
This question is announced through a microphone, repeated—carrying out into MoMA’s Garden Lobby and on to the second-floor Marron Atrium as visitors stop, turn, and listen. Read more
As the leader of the International Style, the Swiss-born, Paris-based architect Le Corbusier had the rare opportunity to build on three continents at a time when airplanes were still a new method of transportation. Read more