Before Romare Bearden turned to the medium of collage in 1964—the multilayered compositions, for which he is best known—he was steeped in the language of drawing and painting. The Visitation (1941) (now on view in the exhibition One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North) exemplifies a critical early moment in the development of an artist who would become a leading voice in the cultural life of Harlem and in the history of American art. Recently acquired by MoMA, The Visitation returns to the Museum’s galleries for the first time since the 1971 retrospective Romare Bearden: The Prevalence of Ritual. Read more
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, May 8). Read more
Scenes for a New Heritage: Contemporary Art from the Collection, a sweeping reinstallation of MoMA’s Contemporary Galleries, is a markedly cross-medium selection of works from the Museum’s collection. Created in the past three decades by more than 30 international artists, the works in the exhibition span a range of approaches that respond to the political, social, and cultural flux of our time.
Situated prominently in one of the final galleries, and on view at MoMA for the first time, Mark Bradford’s set of untitled 2012 etchings leave an unexpected mark—both literally and figuratively. Read more
MoMA’s Department of Architecture and Design has acquired the . (aka “period,” “hard stop,” or “baseline dot”) into its collection.
As MoMA has proven with its recent acquisition of the “@” symbol, it is more important to recognize major design innovations than it is to actually, you know, possess them, and few things are more deserving of recognition that our concise little friend the .. Read more
When the world we live in feels too impossible I find myself imagining the world I want to live in. It’s not just about the major acts of horrific inhumanity that humans bestow upon one another, it’s about the small daily indignities too. In the world I want to live in we’re not senselessly slaughtering each other, and no one throws trash on the ground or holds the entire communal table in the coffee shop hostage with their cell phone conversation, either. And people actually do step aside to let the passengers off the train. In the world I want to live in, it’s understood that we are all in this together. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I’m convinced that the smallest effort toward compatibility goes a long way. Read more
One of the most fascinating pieces in the current design exhibition This Is for Everyone: Design Experiments for the Common Good is a pretty dress with a classically feminine silhouette that wouldn’t look out of place at a fashionable cocktail party. But take a closer look at its supple but strangely undulating texture, and you’ll find that this frock is like no garment you have ever seen—because it was created with a printer. Read more
Layers of Paint, and What Is (or Isn’t) Painted: A Gallery Tour with The Forever Now Artist Dianna Molzan
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
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.