Over the past few months, we’ve asked artists represented in the exhibition The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World to share their thoughts on certain works in MoMA’s collection. I have been lucky enough to tour the Museum’s galleries with three different artists to find out which pieces they found most thought-provoking, and why. (Be sure to read about the previous gallery tours.) Read more
Layers of Paint, and What Is (or Isn’t) Painted: A Gallery Tour with The Forever Now Artist Dianna Molzan
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, April 10). Read more
Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901–1985) dedicated years to exploring and recording the natural textures he encountered in his daily life, from the mountainous, rocky landscapes of Vence and the sandy hills of El Goléa to dewy, foggy Parisian mornings or the stars far beyond our skies. Yet his most subtle and intricate depictions of surfaces may be a group of black-and-white ink-on-paper drawings created between 1958 and 1960. Read more
A menagerie of color and the enchanted siren call of classical raga greets visitors entering the carouseling silhouettes of Nalini Malani’s Gamepieces (2003/2009). Installed as part of the exhibition Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Art from the Collection, the artwork was first conceived by Malani in 2003 for the 8th Annual Istanbul Biennial. MoMA’s iteration of this installation is on view for the first time since being acquired in 2007 at the recommendation of Barbara London, former Associate Curator of Media and Performance Art. In discussing the results of the re-envisioned installation, Malani commented, “the architecture of a space has a lot to do with the look [of her work],” but added that it is also the way in which the components adapt to the space that contributes to success. Since our exhibition design, curatorial, conservation, art handling, and registrar teams were presented with an installation design never before attempted by the artist and in consideration of her statement, I wondered if a work of installation art is enhanced or destroyed by the environment in which it is placed? How do you document the variable site?
Gamepieces is comprised of six motorized and painted rotating cylinders, four projectors beaming images of blue clouds, animation, found documentary film footage, and sound. In previous iterations presented at Bose Pacia in New York and Media City Seoul in 2004, the cylinders were suspended and placed in a horizontal row. Existing installation documentation established an environment of overlapping projections that crisscross the painted moving surfaces and cast shadow plays in a traditional cinematic gaze. Images of war and violence were concentrated toward the center of the room while the blue skies were pushed to the extremities. However, in the current display, our space allowed for the exploitation of the Museum’s double-height ceiling. As a result, the horizontal experience is replaced with a vertical thrust that splits the imagery into an upper and lower domain—blues skies above, earthly images below. Video projected through two rows of three rotating cylinders produce a grid-like shadow play of eight distinct quadrants. The viewer enters into the space caught in the menacing human struggle of the lower registers while the blue skies hover idealistically above, mimicking our actual relationship to the world.
When we think of the architecture of a space as being a contributor to the outcome of an installation, one might think solely of the physical aspects that distinguish a location. However, Malani’s comment emphasizes contingency. In the hierarchy of components that constitute an artwork, it seems obvious to emphasize the importance of the constant non-varying components. Yet it is the way in which these parts adapt to a new location that are equally important to document. The height of the ceiling allowed for the placement of the motorized cylinders on the ceiling and a white painted beam for a vertical presentation. The artist specified white ceilings and side walls to maximize light reflection and refraction. Four projectors beam images through the cylinders at angles that encourage a multiplicity of effects from casting an inconsistent number of shadows to cylinders, to the flowing red and blue hues of refracted light on the ceiling, floor, and the side walls that are deepened by the crimson paint on the rear wall. To achieve such effects we document projector specifications and the settings used to achieve the beam throws and angles, as well as contrast, color range, and brightness. Locations and heights of the cylinders, projectors, and speakers are documented. Colors of the painted walls, floor appearance, sound levels, and tone documentation all help guide the future installation and preservation of the artwork in the variable site.
The exhibition Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye explores the ways in which sound technologies have shaped the way we listen to musical culture. Highlighting both technical innovation and design aesthetics, the exhibition includes a number of modern instruments, including a Yamaha Portatone Keyboard and a Fender Stratocaster electric guitar. Read more
What do Susan Kare’s graphic designs for user interface icons, The Living’s mycelium bricks, and Formafantasma’s speculative Botanica series of vessels have in common? Apart from each being compelling contemporary design experiments in their own right, they’re also part of the newest crop of acquisitions welcomed into The Museum of Modern Art’s collection, and all are now on public display in the recently opened exhibition This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good. Read more
When you visit a modern art museum it can be easy to find yourself looking at a blank white canvas or a pile of bricks and wonder, “How is this art? Shouldn’t art be about something?” The problem of appreciating art is not limited to casual viewers. As an artist and employee at MoMA, I too can find it tough to relate to certain artworks. But the good news is that we can do more than just throw up our hands and ask for our money back. With a bit of imagination, we can make up our own ideas about an artwork and those stories may end up having more meaning to us than any art historical analysis. Read more
The Beatles’ Revolver, with Klaus Voorman’s haunting illustration and photo-collage work, was the first LP cover added to the design collection in my time at MoMA and I was thrilled to see it arrive. Recently Help!, Rubber Soul, and Sgt Peppers’ Lonely Heart’s Club Band LP covers were acquired and all are currently on view in Making Music Modern: Design for Ear and Eye along with The Beatles, aka the White Album, from MoMA’s drawings and prints collection. Exhibited together, these Beatles album covers offer a design-based narrative of the band’s evolution, and at same time read as a cultural narrative of the times. Read more
In conjunction with the exhibition The Forever Now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, we invited several artists from the show to walk us through MoMA’s permanent collection galleries and discuss a few artworks. Revisiting key pieces in the Museum’s collection with these artists has truly given me a fresh perspective on the works themselves and their significance today. Read more