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Unpacking Fluxus: The Joke’s On Us

Confetti from George Maciunas’s New Flux Year. c. 1967. The Museum of Modern Art. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift, 2008

Upon opening an orange faux-reptile-skin box marked only with the typed words “top” and “pull,” we received quite a surprise: out jumped a coiled toy snake and a shower of confetti printed with the words “New Flux Year.” Rattled, we soon found that the joke was on us, as we were left returning every last scrap of paper, along with the spring-loaded snake, back into the box before shutting it carefully. Read more

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August 5, 2010  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
The Drawn World of Martín Ramírez
Martin Ramirez, 1895-1963. Untitled (Alamentosa). c. 1953. Pencil and watercolor on paper, 80 1/4 x 34 3/4" (203.8 x 88.3 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Latin American and Caribbean Fund and Committee on Drawings Funds, 2010. © TK

Martin Ramirez. Untitled (Alamentosa). c. 1953. Pencil and watercolor on paper. The Museum of Modern Art. Latin American and Caribbean Fund and Committee on Drawings Funds. © Estate of Martín Ramírez. Photo courtesy Ricco/Maresca Gallery, New York, NY.

I first encountered the work of Martín Ramírez in the winter of 2007, when our neighbors at the American Folk Art Museum mounted a major retrospective of his drawings and collages. Making my way through the exhibition, I was struck by the vibrant landscapes and recurring iconography that appeared to reflect both twentieth-century modernization and the folk traditions of the artist’s native Mexican homeland: images of Madonnas; horseback riders, or jinete; and, as seen in this untitled work, a recent MoMA acquisition and the first work by Ramírez to enter the collection, trains entering and exiting tunnels. Read more

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June 30, 2010  |  Artists, Fluxus
Unpacking Fluxus: An Artist’s Release

Note signed by James Riddle (American, born 1933). The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift, 2008

We found this note attached to an object shrouded in tissue and quarantined within three Ziploc bags. Read more

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June 23, 2010  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
A Closer Look at Robert Ryman’s Classico 5

Robert Ryman. Classico 5. 1968

My colleagues in the Department of Drawings and I are often asked about our criteria for defining what a drawing is. The short answer is that a drawing is typically defined as any unique (non-print) work of art with a paper material support. Taking this question one step further, I often think: Why did the artist use paper and not, for instance, a canvas? In what ways do the materials used by an artist lend themselves to the work, and how do they play out in the composition itself? Read more

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June 17, 2010  |  Artists, Lee Bontecou
The Imaginative Universe of Lee Bontecou’s Sculpture

Installation view of the exhibition Lee Bontecou: All Freedom in Every Sense, on view at The Museum of Modern Art through August 30, 2010. Photo: Thomas Griesel.

Slowly whirling in space at the center of Lee Bontecou: All Freedom In Every Space, now on view on the fourth floor of the Museum, is a suspended sculpture that the artist created over an eighteen-year period from 1980 to 1998. In this remarkable galaxy of forms, the catalyst for the current exhibition, many of Bontecou’s greatest interests converge—in particular, her longstanding fascinations with outer space, flight, and the natural world.

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Unpacking Fluxus

Various artists. Fluxkit. c. 1965. Vinyl-covered attaché case with screenprint, containing objects in various media. The Museum of Modern Art. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift, 2008

“Thus there is in the life of a collector a dialectical tension between the poles of disorder and order,” philosopher and critic Walter Benjamin observed in his 1931 lecture Unpacking My Library. In the museum’s tidy spaces, where a predominant curatorial objective is to make sense out of the jumbled reality of things, this opposition between organization and chaos captures the imagination. As my colleagues and I begin to work with the Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift recently acquired by the MoMA—highlights of which are currently on view in the Fluxus Preview exhibition on the fourth floor—Benjamin’s proposal repeatedly comes to mind. Read more

June 9, 2010  |  Artists, Pictures By Women
Live Through This: Nan Goldin in Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography

Nan Goldin. The Hug, New York City. 1980. Silver dye bleach print, printed 2008. The Museum of Modern Art. Purchase. © 2010 Nan Goldin

Sometimes, after I encounter a great work of art, I feel like I’ve been punched in the gut. And that’s a good thing—the work touches and evokes something deep inside that lingers for months, even years. I had this experience when I first saw Nan Goldin’s The Ballad of Sexual Dependency, a 45-minute slide show of some 700 color pictures set to a soundtrack. Read more

June 2, 2010  |  Artists, Pictures By Women
Action Pants: Genital Panic

VALIE EXPORT. Action Pants: Genital Panic. 1969. Screenprints. Photographed by Peter Hassmann. The Museum of Modern Art. Acquired through the generosity of Sarah Peter. © 2010 VALIE EXPORT

I met with VALIE EXPORT about three months ago at MoMA when she came to New York to preview her friend Marina Abramović’s exhibition. It was a sunny morning in March, and we sat down outside the staff cafe sipping glasses of grapefruit juice and talking about her signature work, Action Pants: Genital Panic. Read more

May 27, 2010  |  Artists, Publications
Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night, now pocket-sized!

Screenshot of the Starry Night app

Instantly recognizable and an iconic image in our culture, Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night is a touchstone of modern art and one of the most beloved works in the Museum’s collection. It draws thousands of visitors every day who want to gaze at it, be instructed about it, and be photographed next to it—yet few viewers are familiar with the story behind this unlikely masterpiece, executed during a tumultuous period in the artist’s life. Read more

May 21, 2010  |  Artists, Conservation
Conservation of Floor Cake (Part 6)

At AIC, Cindy Albertson and Margo Delidow discuss the history and treatment of Floor Cake

We’ve taken a short break from writing about Claes Oldenburg’s iconic Floor Cake sculpture—currently undergoing conservation treatment here at MoMA—to prepare a lecture for last week’s annual meeting of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Conservators, educators, and scientists gather each year to discuss new types of treatments for works of art and to examine the effects of past treatment. Our presentation focused on the history of Floor Cake and its condition (please see our previous posts), as we have been working to conserve this unique and popular work for the past several months. Read more