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December 19, 2014  |  Five for Friday
Five For Friday: Hot Pot of Coffee!

Five for Friday, written by a variety of MoMA staff members, is our attempt to spotlight some of the compelling, charming, and downright curious works in the Museum’s rich collection.

A few years ago a series of studies suggested that, despite all evidence to the contrary, coffee might inhibit creativity. Upon learning of this, my initial reaction was something along the lines of, “Why don’t you take your science and cram it, Einstein.” Then I had my morning coffee. Suddenly free of the tyranny of adenosine and flush with sweet, sweet dopamine, my more reasonable nature kicked in and I was reminded of the 11th-century Islamic scholar and jurist Shaikh 'Abd al-Qadir al-Jilani, who said, "No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness." Clearly the authors of these studies were unfamiliar with his work.

Okay, so I googled "coffee quotations." That's beside the point. Some of history's greatest minds relied heavily on that rich, dark, hot brain-fuel for stimulation and inspiration. Beethoven and Balzac craved it. Kierkegaard and Sartre couldn't philosophize without it. (Well they probably could, but they didn't want to.) Bach wrote a 10-movement cantata about the stuff.

And artists? Picasso painted coffee grinders and coffee pots. His buddy Matisse couldn't stop putting coffee in his work. Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner used it to keep their painting sessions going. You could probably say that the development of modernism was fueled in large part by coffee and cigarettes. It's no surprise, then, that MoMA's collection is rife with images of hot java—and design objects that make serving it easier and more enjoyable. Here are a few of my favorite examples, along with more coffee-related words of wisdom I found on the Internet.

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1. Ralph Steiner. Eight O'Clock Coffee. 1935
"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons." – T. S. Eliot
 

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2. Peter Schlumbohm. Chemex Coffee Maker. 1941
"Even bad coffee is better than no coffee at all." – David Lynch
 

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3. Duane Michals. Coffee Cup, Knife and Book. 1980
"Should I kill myself, or have a cup of coffee?" – Albert Camus
 

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4. Mary E. Frey. Women and Children During Coffee Break, from the series Domestic Rituals. 1979–83
"Among the numerous luxuries of the table…coffee may be considered as one of the most valuable. It excites cheerfulness without intoxication; and the pleasing flow of spirits which it occasions…is never followed by sadness, languor or debility." – Benjamin Franklin
 

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5. Kurt Schwitters. N Watercolor 1. (The Heart Goes from Sugar to Coffee) (N Aquarell 1. [Das Herz geht vom Zucker zum Kaffee]). 1919
"If it weren’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever." – David Letterman

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December 18, 2014  |  Collection & Exhibitions
Consider the Rock Concert Poster

I’m one of those people that carries a notebook everywhere so I can be sure to record what mostly turns out to be a lot of useless information, for example rock concert set lists—though not religiously, just when I feel like it. Recently I tried using the notes app on my phone, but it’s just not the same. Read more

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December 12, 2014  |  Do You Know Your MoMA?
Do You Know Your MoMA? 12/12/14

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How well do you know your MoMA? If you think you can identify the artist and title of each of these works from MoMA’s collection—all currently on view throughout the Museum—please submit your answers by leaving a comment on this post. We’ll provide the answers next month (on Friday, January 16). Read more

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December 4, 2014  |  Collection & Exhibitions
Manipulating Cultural Material: Cut to Swipe
Dara Birnbaum. PM Magazine (detail). 1982. Four-channel video (color, three channels of stereo sound; 6:30 min.), two chromogenic prints, Speed Rail® structural support system, aluminum trim, one wall painted Chroma Key Blue, and one wall painted red, dimensions variable. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired with support from The Modern Women's Fund Committee, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, and through the generosity of Ahmet Kocabiyik. © 2014 Dara Birnbaum. Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris. Installation view, Cut to Swipe, The Museum of Modern Art, October 11, 2014–March 22, 2015. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

Dara Birnbaum. PM Magazine (detail). 1982. Four-channel video (color, three channels of stereo sound; 6:30 min.), two chromogenic prints, Speed Rail® structural support system, aluminum trim, one wall painted Chroma Key Blue, and one wall painted red, dimensions variable. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Acquired with support from The Modern Women’s Fund Committee, The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art, and through the generosity of Ahmet Kocabiyik. © 2014 Dara Birnbaum. Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York and Paris. Installation view, Cut to Swipe, The Museum of Modern Art, October 11, 2014–March 22, 2015. Digital image © The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Photo: Jonathan Muzikar

There has been no shortage of commentators noting the effect of the increasing circulation of images on the development of artistic production. From the current “Art vs. Image” issue of Texte zur Kunst to Hito Steyerl’s influential 2009 essay “In Defense of the Poor image,” contemporary art’s concern with mobile images has grown with the proliferation of technologies that facilitate it, both hardware (laptops, smartphones) and software (Tumblr, Final Cut Pro). Read more

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November 21, 2014  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
“Dear Mr. Szarkowski”: Postcards from Nicholas Nixon

Celebrating the publication and exhibition on the 40th anniversary of Nicholas Nixon’s The Brown Sisters, the Department of Photography wanted to share from its collection a selection of “postcards” by Nixon that the photographer sent to the department’s former director, John Szarkowski. On the back of each of these photographs, one finds letters written by Nixon to Szarkowski. Read more

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November 20, 2014  |  Collection & Exhibitions
Matisse and Gober: Two Chapels

MoMA has been called a temple of modernism, even a sacred destination for art lovers, but that religious language is usually just figurative. With the exhibitions Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs and Robert Gober: The Heart is Not a Metaphor open simultaneously, however, visitors can witness the unlikely confluence of two chapels on 53rd Street (not even counting Saint Thomas, next door). Read more

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November 14, 2014  |  Do You Know Your MoMA?
Do You Know Your MoMA? 11/14/14

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How well do you know your MoMA? If you think you can identify the artist and title of each of these works from MoMA’s collection—all currently on view throughout the Museum—please submit your answers by leaving a comment on this post. We’ll provide the answers next month (on Friday, December 12). Read more

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November 11, 2014  |  Collection & Exhibitions
MoMA Celebrates Veterans Day

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U.S. Coast Guard. It Was a Record Day for Allied Soldiers as 34,355 Arrived Here. July 11, 1945

The Museum of Modern Art salutes the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. Thank you for your service, dedication, and courage.

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November 11, 2014  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
Matisse: The Same Thing, Different Means
Henri Matisse. Two Dancers (Deux danseurs). 1937–38. Stage curtain design for the ballet Rouge et Noir. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, notebook papers, pencil, and thumbtacks, 31 9/16 x 25 3/8” (80.2 x 64.5 cm). Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Dation, 1991. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse. Two Dancers (Deux danseurs). 1937–38. Stage curtain design for the ballet Rouge et Noir. Gouache on paper, cut and pasted, notebook papers, pencil, and thumbtacks, 31 9/16 x 25 3/8” (80.2 x 64.5 cm). Musée national d’art moderne/Centre de création industrielle, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris. Dation, 1991. © 2014 Succession H. Matisse / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs, currently on view in the Museum’s sixth floor temporary exhibition galleries, looks closely at the works Matisse created in the final decade of his career.  Adopting painted paper as his primary medium, and scissors as his chief implement, he invented a radically new form that came to be called a cut-out. But while this work was utterly new, its concerns were consistent with those that had driven Matisse throughout his entire career. Read more

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November 6, 2014  |  Collection & Exhibitions
What’s on Your Turntable?

My first record player came built into a portable red-and-white leather case with two locking hasps on either side of its red leather handle. It played both 45s and 33s, and had a black plastic 45 adapter that was stored in a recessed slot in one corner. It was a magnificent machine. Read more