How does an artist approach the grand tradition of history painting in the era of late capitalism, a time marked not by great heroes and legendary victories but by systemic inequity and unrelenting violence? With Flying Carpet with Magic Mirrors for a Distorted Nation, part of a group of three “flying carpet” paintings that was the centerpiece of his 2013 exhibition From a Late Western Impaerium, Lari Pittman considers the heavy psychological toll of life under a declining empire. Read more
On October 12, the exhibition Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs—the largest presentation of this final chapter of Matisse’s work ever mounted— will open at MoMA. Much of the anticipation surrounding this show stems from the fact that this visually vibrant and conceptually radical body of work has not been seen on this scale in New York in over 50 years. Read more
Born to aristocratic parents who were first cousins, Toulouse-Lautrec was afflicted with genetic abnormalities. He stopped growing in his early teens at the height of four feet, 11 inches, and as he continued to mature, the growth of his nose and lips outpaced that of his face, causing drooling, lisping, and sinus troubles. Physically unfit for many of the social and sporting elements central to aristocratic life, Toulouse-Lautrec moved to Paris to study art, where he pursued both his creative and social life with vigor. He spent his days working on painting and lithography, and his absinthe-fueled nights at the opera, theaters, cafés, or nightclubs. His life and work merged; he became a chronicler of the Montmartre scenes he frequented.
Suzuki describes Toulouse-Lautrec’s subjects as “resoundingly populist.” She writes, “Toulouse-Lautrec was a nightly visitor to the theater, the circus, and the opera, finding tremendous freedom and inspiration in those milieus.” Toulouse-Lautrec portrayed the performers he adored, like “The Clowness,” Mademoiselle Cha-u-ka-o, a nightclub entertainer.
An 1893 lithograph shows Toulouse-Lautrec’s friend Aristide Bruant, the proprietor of the Mirliton—a Montmartre café. Although Bruant is shown in profile, his back to the viewer, contemporaries would have immediately recognized his large felt hat and velvet coat; the portrait rests on social signifiers rather than on faithful depiction. Suzuki explains that Toulouse-Lautrec “used the low-cut dress of La Goulue, the high-stepping posture of Jane Avril, the gloves of Yvette Guilbert, and the profile of Valentin, rather than traditional portrait likenesses. Toulouse-Lautrec himself was quoted telling Guilbert, ‘Ma chere, I don’t detail you. I totalize you!’”
Using MoMA’s extensive collection of Toulouse-Lautrec’s prints, posters, journals, songs sheets, theatre programs, and illustrated books as her inspiration, Suzuki paints a portrait of an artist whose unique biography, persona, and taste is clearly reflected in his art. She places Toulouse-Lautrec squarely in and of his historical milieu, positing that his work might be seen as a visual distillation of the spirit of the Parisian belle époque.
Lygia Clark: The Abandonment of Art, 1948–1988 is the companion catalogue to the exhibition under the same title, co-organized by Luis Pérez-Oramas, The Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American Art, MoMA, and Connie Butler, Chief Curator, Hammer Museum, with Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães and Beatriz Rabelo Olivetti, Curatorial Assistants, Department of Drawings and Prints, MoMA. The first comprehensive retrospective to take place in North America, this landmark exhibition is matched by the accompanying publication, containing 13 chapters and 380 plates. Read more
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (1864–1901) was a modern chronicler of Belle Époque Paris. Entrenched in Montmartre life, Lautrec eagerly recorded the late 19th-century dance halls, cabarets, and restaurants integral to his social life with honesty, humor, and liveliness. One of his favorite forms of entertainment was the theater; Read more
This past May and June, MoMA’s Education and Research Building mezzanine was the site of MoMA Studio: Breathe with Me, an interactive space that explored the intersections between art, therapeutic practice, and the ways in which we relate to objects and people through physical encounters. Read more
MoMA recently launched its first digital-only publication, Picasso: The Making of Cubism 1912–1914, edited by Anne Umland and Blair Hartzell, with Scott Gerson. This immersive, interactive study features over 400 high-resolution images and the latest research on 15 groundbreaking Cubist works created by Picasso between 1912 and 1914, and is available as an iPad app through the App Store, or an interactive PDF through MoMAstore.org. Read more
One of the great privileges of being a curator at MoMA is firsthand access to the works that make up our outstanding collection. Yet, even in the case of the Drawings collection, with its share of easily handled, two-dimensional works, this access often begins with an exploration of our digital database. The basic information on a work—artist, title, date, etc.—is readily available here, and makes it an invaluable resource for early research on any project. Read more
Constantin Brancusi (1876–1957) was born in Romania, but from 1904 he lived and worked as a sculptor in Paris. Read more
This May, I had the opportunity to travel to Marfa, Texas, using a generous travel stipend that is one of the fantastic perks of my internship. I’d always wanted to go to Marfa, a small town in West Texas that’s home to site-specific installations by Donald Judd, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Ilya Kabakov, Dan Flavin, and Roni Horn, among others. Read more