Isaac Julien (British, b. 1960) is one of the most innovative artists working at the intersection of media art and cinema today. With his vivid multi-screen works—fractured narratives that fuse breathtaking images with immersive sonic elements—Julien is internationally regarded as a key figure in the vitalization of the gallery space through new exhibition strategies of time-based art. Read more
As indicated in the previous posts in this series, MoMA paintings conservators Cindy Albertson, Anny Aviram, and Michael Duffy have been studying five Magritte paintings for the past two years in preparation for Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938. Read more
Isa Genzken is arguably one of the most influential female artists of the past few decades, her impact visible in the work of young sculpture and assemblage artists worldwide. MoMA’s upcoming exhibition Isa Genzken: Retrospective is the first comprehensive survey of her career in the United States, and the largest exhibition of her work to date. The accompanying catalogue explores her unique and decidedly diverse career through illustrated-plate sections and essays spanning a more than 40-year period. Genzken’s artwork is markedly varied and the narrative of her career is unconventional. She’s worked in nearly every imaginable medium, including sculpture, photography, film, assemblage and collage. The catalogue’s essays offer new insights on her aesthetic outlook and approach.
Curator Sabine Breitwieser’s essay covers Genzken’s artistic output from 1970 to 1996, discussing her early geometric drawings and sculptures, and her presence in the art centers of West Germany as a student at the Düsseldorf Academy and in Cologne. In the 1990s, Genzken moved away from post-Minimalism and began to make her first collage works.
Laura Hoptman, curator in MoMA’s Department of Painting and Sculpture, explores this career break and later parts of Genzken’s career—from 1993 to the present—when her collage and sculptural assemblages and installations grew in scale and conceptual complexity.
The book also includes focused thematic essays. Scholar Lisa Lee writes on Genzken’s relationship with architecture and public sculpture in “Isa Genzken: Model Citizen,” considering her experiments with scale, perception and even mutiny, with projects like Fuck the Bauhaus. In “Isa Genzken: Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth),” Michael Darling argues for a thematic consistency in Genzken’s variegated oeuvre, positing that she “has married radical formal experimentation and variety to themes that are timeless, poignant and deeply humanistic, rooting her inquiries in the material facts of our world but offering pathways to topics, experiences, and concepts that, by definition, escape the grasp of easy resolution.” Jeffrey Grove’s essay, “Isa Genzken’s Homage to Herself” discusses motifs of autobiography and self-representation in her work, particularly in photography and film. An illustrated chronology by Stephanie Weber, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Media & Performance Art at MoMA guides readers through the exciting trajectory of Genzken’s career, from birth to her first American retrospective at MoMA.
Isa Genzken: Retrospective is on view from November 23, 2013–March 10, 2014 in the The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery on the Museum’s sixth floor. A preview of the catalogue can be downloaded here.
Though the exhibition There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4′33" primarily draws upon works from MoMA’s collection, with a few key outside loans, the voice of John Cage himself was instrumental in guiding the selection of artists, and, in some cases, the specific works on view. Read more
“This is real time, it is modern history in the making.”—Sarah Charlesworth on her work, Movie-Television-News-History, June 21, 1979
For most graphic designers, typography is one of the most important, challenging, and seductive parts of graphic design. So when Anne Umland, The Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Curator of Painting and Sculpture, and curatorial assistant Danielle Johnson, who organized the exhibition Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary,1926–1938, suggested incorporating Magritte’s beautiful lettering style—or a version inspired by it—for the title wall design, I was, of course, very excited. I began my work on the project by researching and gathering samples of where Magritte’s lettering appeared, such as in his paintings La Trahison des images (The Treachery of Images), L’Apparition (The Apparition), and Le Masque vide (The Empty Mask).
There were many variations from one artwork to another: some had greater contrast of thick and thin, others were more condensed, and there were perceptible shifts in stroke weight—largely due to the proportion of sizes between the brush and the letters he was drawing. Yet, it surprised me to see how incredibly consistent his letterforms were. The letter “p,” for example, the most notably unique character in his alphabet, always had an open counter, and looked like an “n” with a prolonged stem. The end of the letter “s” consistently looped inwards into a soft twirl that finished with a small, delicate node.
To say that my first attempts were not quite there is an understatement.
It took dozens of variations, testing, tweaks, and just plain old graphic designer obsession to get it to a point that felt right and captured the elegant, rhythmic, and gestural quality of Magritte’s original lettering. When I got stuck on how to resolve a particular transition between letters—for example, between the “B” and “r” in Brussels—I would go back to my research and sure enough, Magritte was there to give me a helping hand.
My finished lettering is used in five places throughout the exhibition. Taken out of it’s familiar context in Magritte’s paintings, it now functions as signage that both guides visitors through the galleries and draws them in.
As indicated in the previous post in this series, MoMA paintings conservators Cindy Albertson, Anny Aviram, and Michael Duffy have been studying five Magritte paintings for the past two years in preparation for Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary 1926–1938. Read more
In an era when no cell phones or other digital devices existed, silence was a more common facet of everyday life. Perhaps attention spans were longer, distractions fewer, and maybe the pace of world was slower. It’s nice to be romantic about a period before communication was measured in 140 characters, when the simple act of writing a letter was a considered an opportunity to put one’s thoughts into words, often by hand, in ink on paper. Read more
Halloween at my high school was never boring. The classic 1980 movie Fame was inspired by NYC’s La Guardia HS, and was pretty accurate: you would indeed hear gospel singing in a music room above you during homeroom, see young actors heatedly rehearsing scenes in the hallways, and the art students—ah, the art students. I knew them well as I was among them. Some were mind-bogglingly prodigious, and perhaps as a result, Halloween proved to be a way to show off the skillz that would surely later in life pay the billz. Case in point: Tristan Elwell’s costume one year.
When I saw the above photo again after lo, so many years (please also note the existence of not one, not two, but three mullets behind Tristan), I felt the inevitable surge of nostalgia, and also a sense of synchronicity. The Magritte exhibition had just begun, and as such my head was full of green apples and bowler hats.
I found myself wondering what other Magritte-ian things were out there. As it so happens, Anne and Danielle, the curators of Magritte: The Mystery of the Ordinary, 1926–1938, had already done their own Internet searching and found several clever and charming things like this:
Of course, people aren’t only riffing on The Son of Man.* The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) is equally well-known, if not more so.
In fact, even the cover of the book I was reading at the time happened to reflect this beloved painting.
But I have to admit this last one, inspired by the spooky and haunting The Lovers, is my favorite of these. Not as spooky and haunting as the real thing, but not exactly a laugh riot, either, these parking lot lovers managed to create their own work of art. And as we all know, Plastic Bags Are Not a Toy. How riskily romantic of them!
And then I stumbled upon Andrea K. Scott’s article in the New Yorker, in which she declared “Magritte’s art has been hijacked…from the Beatles’ record label to a Volkswagen ad to a bowler-hat light fixture.” Hijacked is a strong word, Ms. Scott! After all, Magritte’s art isn’t the first to inspire inventive takeoffs.
See a few more Magritte tributes on our recently launched MoMA Tumblr.
* Son of Man is not on view in MoMA’s current exhibition, as it was painted in 1964, after Magritte’s breakthrough years. However, The Lovers and The Treachery of Images (This Is Not a Pipe) are.
In his polemical 1938 speech “La Ligne de vie (Lifeline),” René Magritte spoke of his “objective representation of objects,” claiming that, “In my view, this detached way of representing things is characteristic of a universal style in which the manias and minor preferences of the individual no longer play any part.” Read more