Taking monumental frescos to a multitouch screen, MoMA’s eBook Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Josè Clemente Orozco offers a fresh exploration of three great figures in the revival of mural painting that brought modern Mexican art to international attention after the Mexican Revolution of 1910–20. 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.
There is hardly an introduction that does Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night (1889) justice. It is one of the most recognizable and beloved artworks in the world, and for many MoMA visitors, it is the artwork to see—a celebrity perhaps signifying modern art itself. Yet despite its fame, few viewers are likely familiar with the story behind this unlikely masterpiece, one of the many nighttime paintings Van Gogh produced during his stay at a mental hospital in Saint-Rémy, in the south of France.
Now available for the iPad, MoMA’s One on One series offers a sustained meditation on The Starry Night by art historian Richard Thomson that sheds light on the painting and transports readers to the environment in which it was created. In Thomson’s engaging essay filled with vivid visual references and snippets of Van Gogh’s personal correspondences, readers can catch a glimpse of the artist’s complex inner workings and the thought processes that went into creating the nighttime scene.
What’s more, Thomson examines the physical circumstances behind The Starry Night, taking readers to the actual place where Van Gogh focused his attentions to the night sky, and highlighting the artist’s technique and style. Thomson also considers other artwork that Van Gogh may have seen at the time, placing The Starry Night in a broader historical context.
For more on The Starry Night, visit the iBookstore to download a free sample, and check out the other One on One series book available for the iPad, Rousseau: The Dream, in which MoMA curator Ann Temkin illuminates Henri Rousseau’s last major painting.
Without question, one of the most popular works in the Dieter Roth exhibition Wait, Later This Will Be Nothing, is the seasonally appropriate Bunny-dropping-bunny (Karnickelköttelkarnickel). With Easter just around the corner, jelly bean eggs and chocolate bunnies seem to be everywhere, including here in the galleries at MoMA. Read more
Exhibiting Fluxus: Decomposition Contained in Wait Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth
The title of the exhibition Wait Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth befits a number of the works on display that are slowly decomposing in front of spectators’ eyes. This post is dedicated to one particular pocket-sized perishable—Roth’s Pocket Room (Taschenzimmer) from MoMA’s Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection. In 1968, Dieter Roth—who challenged the boundaries of printmaking and publishing by integrating cheese, fruit, sausage, chocolate, and other organic materials into the process—released an unlimited edition comprising a banana slice on stamped paper tucked inside of a plastic container small enough to fit into the owner’s pocket. Read more
One of the most fascinating aspects of working in the Museum Archives is uncovering how iconic artists engaged with MoMA beyond their artwork in the galleries. As one of the most celebrated Abstract Expressionist painters, Robert Motherwell has a rich exhibition history at the Museum that is traceable all the way back to 1944, when MoMA acquired its first work by Motherwell. Read more
Pulled from Dieter Roth’s masterpiece, Snow (1964/69), the title of MoMA’s latest book initially reads as something of a dare to stick around: Wait, Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth. Whether from the curiosity to see how it ends or the desire to possess something fleeting, this call to action sparked our appetite to consume Roth’s editions slowly in order to savor what might not last. Read more
Exhibition research often takes curators to archives, museums, private collections, and galleries. These are usually pristine spaces, where voices are hushed, light levels are low, and temperature and humidity are carefully controlled. But I experienced something very different as I investigated the work of Dieter Roth (Swiss, born Germany. 1930–1998), featured in the current exhibition Wait, Later This Will Be Nothing: Editions by Dieter Roth. Read more