Cara Manes, Collection Specialist, Department of Painting and Sculpture,
Masha Chlenova, Curatorial Assistant, Department of Painting and Sculpture
Installation view of the fifth-floor Alfred H. Barr Painting and Sculpture Galleries, The Museum of Modern Art, summer 2013. Pictured are works by from left to right Kazimir Malevich, [at far left], El Lissitzky, Vasily Ermilov, and Aleksandr Rodchenko. Photo: John Wronn]
MoMA’s collection galleries are always changing. When the Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly exhibition closed this past summer in one of the fifth-floor galleries, the Department of Painting and Sculpture had a chance to use that space to conceive a new installation of Russian art from the Museum’s collection. Read more
The important role played by women in 20th-century art history remains a fertile field of study. Many historians, curators, and critics have focused their attention on great artists—Frida Kahlo, Louise Bourgeois, Eva Hesse, for example—and on countless others who are lesser known but also fascinating. Read more
Hannah Kim, Marketing and Book Development Coordinator, Department of Publications
Cover of Raushenberg: Canyon by Leah Dickerman, published by The Museum of Modern Art
As recounted in curator Leah Dickerman’s new book, Rauschenberg: Canyon, in 1959 Robert Rauschenberg received a call from a friend, the artist Sari Dienes, who wanted to offer him a taxidermied bald eagle she had fished out from the junk heap of a recently deceased neighbor, one of the last of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Rauschenberg had recently become famous for incorporating all types of found materials into his art, so this kind of offer from friends was not unusual. He didn’t hesitate to turn down objects that weren’t quite right, but in this case, he said yes at once.
Rauschenberg affixed the bald eagle onto a canvas that would eventually become Canyon (1959), one in a series of radically experimental works he called Combines, which mixed paint and other art materials with things found in daily life. In Canyon, a seemingly incongruous variety of objects surround the eagle, including a photograph of Rauschenberg’s son, Christopher; a postcard of the Statue of Liberty; a man’s white shirt, cut and opened up; a crumpled tube of paint; fragments of printed words; and an industrial metal drum.
Rauschenberg: Canyon, the latest volume in the MoMA One on One series, sheds light on the genesis of this startling and enigmatic work by tracing the artist’s education, influences, and travels through Italy, Morocco, and Spain. Rauschenberg first started using found materials while attending Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina, where every student was required to pitch in with community labor. Rauschenberg volunteered for garbage collection, and ended up incorporating the objects he found in his classmates’ trash into his art. The hybrid creations he began producing in the mid-1950 with recognizable, everyday items offered a defiant counterpoint to the quintessential American style of Abstract Expressionism that prevailed at the time. As he wrote in his earliest statement on the Combines, in 1956: “I consider the text of a newspaper, the detail of a photograph, the stitch in a baseball, and the filament in a light bulb as fundamental to the painting as brush stroke or enamel drip of paint. In the end, what one sees as my work is what I choose to make with no guarantee of enlightenment, humor, beauty or art.”
Canyon, currently on view at MoMA in Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New, had been in gallerist Ileana Sonnabend’s personal collection since she purchased it from the artist the year it was made. Sonnabend was one of Rauschenberg’s lifelong champions, and her support played a significant role in his becoming the first American artist to be awarded the grand prize at the Venice Biennale, in 1964. Following her death in 2007, her heirs entered a curious debate with the IRS regarding the work. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 made it illegal to buy, sell, barter, or possess a bald eagle in the U.S. Canyon was allowed to remain in Sonnabend’s collection because Rauschenberg had provided a notarized statement saying the bird had been stuffed by one of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders before the laws’ passage, but because it could not be sold, the family’s appraisers had valued it at zero. The IRS disagreed, ruling that it was worth far more, and assessed an estate tax and penalties on the heirs. The resolution they reached allowed the family to donate the work to a U.S. institution in exchange for dropping the tax claim. Thus, in 2012, Canyon was generously donated to The Museum of Modern Art, where it joins five other Combines, to provide an in-depth representation of this key aspect of Rauschenberg’s career.
Installation view of Mike Kelley: Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene), The Museum of Modern Art, October 13, 2013–February 2, 2014
In honor of Mike Kelley’s exceptional career and legacy, Extracurricular Activity Projective Reconstruction #1 (A Domestic Scene), a seminal work in his complex videography, is on view both at MoMA PS1—as part of the artist’s posthumous retrospective—and in MoMA’s second-floor Projects Gallery.
Pamela Popeson, Department Preparator, Department of Architecture and Design
Massoud Hassani. Mine Kafon wind-powered deminer. 2011. Bamboo and biodegradable plastics, 87 x 87 x 87″ (221 x 221 x 221 cm). Gift of The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art. Photo by Rene van der Hulst
Massoud Hassani’s wind-powered land minesweeper, the Mine Kafon, was inspired by the handmade toys from his childhood growing up in the desert north of Kabul, Afghanistan. As a boy, Hassani and his brother would fashion small paper toys to roll in the wind, racing them across the local fields. Read more
Jason Persse, Editorial Manager, Marketing and Communications
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, February 7). Read more
Karen Grimson, Assistant to the Chief Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints
Installation view, León Ferrari homage, The Museum of Modern Art, 2013
One of the most relevant figures in 20th-century art, and a paradigm of the communion of art and politics, León Ferrari sadly passed away last July, at age 92. Paying homage to his achievements and extraordinary legacy, a selection of his work, drawn from MoMA’s collection, was recently on view outside the Museum’s second-floor Marron Atrium. Read more
Installation view of There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33″, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, October 12, 2013–June 22, 2014
John Cage first visited Black Mountain College, in Asheville, North Carolina, in April 1948, while on his way to the West Coast with choreographer Merce Cunningham. Though he only stayed in Asheville for a few days—premiering his composition Sonatas and Interludes—the visit proved formative. Read more
Jorinde Voigt. 3 Views GREEN. Games of Love; “Autumn flowers”, “Face to face”; from the album “Gardens of Pleasure,” China 17th century. Countdown/ Countup in Sek.; Himmelsrichtung N-S; Windrichtung/ Windstärke; Deklination Rotationsrichtung/ Umdrehungen pro Tag. 2011. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Prints and Illustrated Books Fund
One might be surprised to learn that the source material for Jorinde Voigt’s 2011 Gardens of Pleasure—a series of five lithographs with ink additions published by Helga Maria Klosterfelde Edition—is in fact 17th-century Chinese erotic art. Read more
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