What are the “means” that modern artists use to express their aesthetic concerns? For decades, the standard approach to modern art was to examine its unfolding movements as a linear progression of formal developments, each leading to the next. Modern Means: Continuity and Change in Art, 1880 to Now, which includes nearly 300 works drawn from all of MoMA’s curatorial collections, finds its own way to tell this complex story. What methods have artists used to address their concerns, and what does “modern” signify in art? This exhibition blends formal and thematic perspectives to answer such questions, even while its chronological core identifies the zeitgeists of historical moments. Each of the exhibition’s four zones, Primal, Reductive, Commonplace, and Mutable, focuses on a concern that flowered in a specific period; history, however, is fluid and amorphous, and Modern Means charts the enduring nature of these themes throughout modernity and demonstrates the strong tie between contemporary thinking and the past.
Organized by Debby Wye, Chief Curator, Department of Prints and Illustrated Books.