Beginning in the mid-1990s, a loose affiliation of filmmakers, graduates of the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin, began creating films that offered a new, aesthetically-driven form of cinema. Read more
Artist Charles E. Burchfield is known for his mystical and visionary interpretations of American nature. His paintings of natural scenes and landscapes are often florid and psychedelic—the colors richer and deeper, light more radiant and intense, and always with florid texture that seems to radiate on forever. His paintings are nearly fantastical, but seem to speak to something beyond a pure fantasy realm—it is as if he is communicating his sense of an innate, organic technology at work in the natural world.
The First Hepaticas, a 1917–18 painting by Burchfield, is currently on display as part of the American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe exhibition. Burchfield completed The First Hepaticas in the location where he created most of his early works, his childhood home in the city of Salem, Ohio, where he lived from the ages of five to 28. It was there that he experienced what he later deemed his “Golden Year,” 1917, because of a prolific, inspired output.
Hepaticas are a wildflower found in most Northeastern states in America. Their appearance at the end of winter is taken to signal the coming of spring, as they are often one of the first flora to sprout amongst the carpet of brush and fallen leaves left from the cold seasons.
Here, Burchfield captures this symbolic moment. Most of The First Hepaticas is a gloomy landscape of drab, brown leafless trees, some with hollows like gaping mouths. In the bottom right corner you see a small grouping of white flowers haloed by light. The flowers are suggestive of life and optimism in the morass of gloom and deadness. They are harbingers of regeneration, and perhaps Burchfield believes we can learn from nature in this respect.
Several of Burchfield’s early paintings (spanning the years 1916–20) are included in the show and in the exhibition catalogue. The catalogue also includes an essay by MoMA Drawings curator Esther Adler, “The Problem of Our American Collection: MoMA Collects at Home” exploring the museum’s beginnings, drawing on numerous quotations from Alfred H. Barr Jr., founding director of MoMA. The essay provides much insight into the ideas that founded the institution, and the roles figures like Burchfield and his contemporaries played in the shaping of its collection.
American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe is on view now until January 26, 2014, in The Michael H. Dunn Gallery on the second floor.
In 1947, The Museum of Modern Art published a deluxe portfolio of The Prints of Paul Klee, a luxurious green ribbon-bound box encasing 40 individual prints of Paul Klee’s etchings and lithographs, and a booklet by James Thrall Soby, then Chairman of the Museum’s Department of Painting and Sculpture. Read more
If you’ve been following the Jackson Pollock Conservation Project on Inside/Out, you know that Jackson Pollock’s monumental painting One: Number 31, 1950 underwent some changes in our Department of Conservation this past spring after conservators discovered sections of overpaint on its surface, vestiges of a restoration campaign from the 1960s. You can follow the entire process here.
The newest book in our One on One Series, Pollock: One: Number 31, 1950, also examines the history of this specific painting, but in an entirely different way. Author Charles Stuckey’s essay begins its investigation before the painting’s inception and follows it to the present day, considering its legacy and influence, which is visible in numerous contemporary artworks included in the book. In the late 1940s, Pollock began experimenting with a new method of painting, “drip painting” as it came to be known, where he would stand above a vast unframed piece of canvas and render kinetically: flinging, flicking, and, of course, dripping colors onto the canvas with various implements.
Pollock’s method eschewed the conventional notions of painting of the time, opting for raw, unstretched canvas and housepaint over prepared canvas and traditional oils, and darting around the floor of his barn studio rather than working quietly with a palette and easel. One: Number 31, 1950 is a masterful example of this signature style, a monumental work displaying Pollock’s energy and dexterity.
Did you know Jackson Pollock worked as a janitor at the Guggenheim Museum? Or that One: Number 31, 1950 was actually painted after Number 32, 1950 and before Number 30 (now called Autumn Rhythm) and Number 27, 1950?
Drawing from period magazine articles and quotes by Pollock, Lee Krasner, critics, and friends, Stuckey offers a narrative trajectory for the famed painting, following One: Number 31, 1950 from its premiere exhibition, to a stint in an apartment on Central Park West, to its final place in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art.
Young Frank, Architect, MoMA’s first storybook for kids ages three to eight, follows the adventures of Young Frank, a resourceful young architect who lives in New York City with his grandfather, Old Frank, who is also an architect. Young Frank sees creative possibilities everywhere, and likes to use anything he can get his hands on—macaroni, old boxes, spoons, and sometimes even his dog, Eddie—to creates things like chairs out of toilet paper rolls and twisting skyscrapers made up of his grandfather’s books. But Old Frank is skeptical; he doesn’t think that’s how REAL architects make things.
One day, donning matching bow ties, straw boater hats, and Le Corbusier-inspired glasses, they visit The Museum of Modern Art, where they see the work of renowned architects like Frank Gehry and Frank Lloyd Wright. And they learn that real architects do in fact create wiggly chairs, twisty towers, and even entire cities. Inspired by what they see, Young Frank and Old Frank return home to build structures of every shape and size: “tall ones, fat ones, round ones, and one made from chocolate chip cookies.”
Written by award-winning children’s author and illustrator Frank Viva, a frequent cover artist for The New Yorker whose previous books include Along A Long Road and A Long Way Away, Young Frank, Architect is an inspiration for budding architects as well as a lesson for those who think they’ve seen everything. With its rich color palette of grays, olives, ambers, and cream (it’s printed using nine colors instead of the usual four), it’s a great introduction to MoMA’s diverse architecture and design collection, which includes surprising objects like Arthur Young’s helicopter in addition to furniture and architectural models.
Young Frank, Architect is a MoMA Exclusive for the month of August, meaning it’s available only at the MoMA Stores now through its wide release in September. Snag a copy and spend the dog-days of August exploring architecture. What will it inspire you to build?
To see more of Young Frank’s adventure, check out our video book trailer below.
As the leader of the International Style, the Swiss-born, Paris-based architect Le Corbusier had the rare opportunity to build on three continents at a time when airplanes were still a new method of transportation. Read more
MoMA’s current exhibition, Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store, celebrates the early years of artist Claes Oldenburg’s extraordinary career, when he experimented with painting and sculpture by reworking the stuff of every day into larger than life objects made with unexpected materials. Read more
Taking monumental frescos to a multitouch screen, MoMA’s eBook Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Josè Clemente Orozco offers a fresh exploration of three great figures in the revival of mural painting that brought modern Mexican art to international attention after the Mexican Revolution of 1910–20. Read more
French architect Henri Labrouste (1801–1875) may not be an instantly recognizable name, yet he is one of the most influential precursors of modern architecture. Most well known for two luminous library reading rooms built in Paris in the 1800s, the Bibliothèque nationale de France (1838–50) and the Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève (1859–75), Labrouste has been long admired by both modernists and postmodernists for his innovative embrace of then-new technologies, like cast iron and gas lighting. Read more
MoMA’s new book Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light by Sarah Hermanson Meister, curator in the Department of Photography at MoMA, is a fresh look at the work of an iconic British photographer. The exhibition currently on view isn’t the first time MoMA has presented Bill Brandt’s work to the public—the last Brandt retrospective was in 1969. Since then, the Museum’s perspective of Brandt’s work has evolved into a more complete consideration of the nuances and variations in Brandt’s own photo-historical approach.
Brandt’s photography is traditionally presented in thematic groupings at the artist’s own request, but this view alone simplifies a body of work that is multifaceted and far-reaching in style, influence, and subject matter. Bill Brandt: Shadow and Light is the most comprehensive overview of Brandt’s work to date, and it attempts to create a coherent trajectory across five decades of his career.
Beyond the 160 tri-tone reproductions of his photographs, the book features a rich appendix that illuminates different aspects of Brandt’s oeuvre. A section on Brandt’s photo-stories from 1939 to 1945 reproduces spreads from the publications in which they originally appeared, and a detailed survey of his methods for retouching his photos is especially fascinating in today’s world of digital cameras, smart phones, and instant photo filters. Brandt often spoke about how important the retouching process was in his work, and by looking at the various tools and techniques he used to edit and perfect his final images, photo conservator Lee Ann Daffner’s illustrated glossary dives deep into Brandt’s working process. As discussed in a prior INSIDE/OUT post, Dating Brandt, the same negative can look completely different depending on when Brandt retouched it.
Though his influences, subject matter, and technical approach shifted over his long career, Brandt never lost what Meister describes as “his obvious delight in the uncanny aspects of the everyday.” Her introductory essay opens with a quote from Brandt on the role of a photographer:
I believe this power of seeing the world as fresh and strange lies hidden in every human being. In most of us it is dormant. Yet it is there, even if it is no more than a vague desire, an unsatisfied appetite that cannot discover its own nourishment….This should be the photographer’s aim, for this is the purpose that pictures fulfill in the world as it is to-day. To meet a need that people cannot or will not meet for themselves. We are most of us too busy, too worried, too intent on proving ourselves right, too obsessed with ideas, to stand and stare.
Bill Brandt took the time to “stand and stare” in many different ways. Whether through juxtapositions of class structure, wondrous nudes, inventive portraiture, or unearthly landscapes, Brandt’s far-reaching inspirations and approaches generated arresting imagery that still holds magic and wonder today.
For more on Brandt’s expansive career, preview a free PDF sample of the exhibition catalogue.