The title of this exhibition is adapted from the phrase “the sight of a reason,” a line in Gertrude Stein’s groundbreaking prose work Tender Buttons (1914). In her collection of “portraits” of everyday phenomena, Stein employed experimental syntax to free language from established usage and to “create a word relationship between the word and the things seen.” Sites of Reason: A Selection of Recent Acquisitions begins with a 2012 work by the Los Angeles–based artist Eve Fowler (American, b. 1964), which appropriates phrases from Tender Buttons and Stein’s How to Write (1931) in commercially printed posters originally intended for public display—for instance, stapled to telephone poles or fences. Stein’s probing of the correlation between language and the physical world—and Fowler’s act of recontextualization—exemplify a set of concerns shared by the works presented here.
The exhibition brings together recently acquired contemporary works by two generations of contemporary artists, including Sol LeWitt, Richard Serra with Nancy Holt, Allen Ruppersberg, Seth Price, Simryn Gill, Liz Deschenes, Charles Gaines, Emily Roysdon, Matt Mullican, Hanne Darboven, and Peter Downsbrough. These works engage subtle visual vocabularies to consider image, text, gesture, voice—and hybrids of these—as sites of exchange between aesthetic, ideological, and social systems. As processes of visual and narrative reading coalesce, questions emerge about the assumed role of the artist as singular author and how the migration of information across a range of forms multiplies, or dissolves, its meaning.
The exhibition is organized by David Platzker, Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints, and Erica Papernik, Assistant Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art.
The exhibition is supported in part by The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern and by the MoMA Annual Exhibition Fund.