Installation view of James Siena’s Pockets of Wheat. 1996. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. © 2016 James Siena Photo: Yan Pan

Inbox: James Siena, Pockets of Wheat

MoMA February 26–April 15, 2016
  • The Museum of Modern Art, Floor 1, Museum Lobby

Siena conceived these drawings as illustrations for Pockets of Wheat, a book of poems by contemporary poet, literary publisher, and gallerist Geoffrey Young. Initially, Siena planned to make microscopic drawings, which would be enlarged for the publication. Instead, he made his largest drawings to date, opting to reduce them for reproduction in the book, to take advantage of what he has called “the power inherent in compression.” To achieve the organic and geometric configurations that constitute these drawings—imperfect grids, pulsating spirals, and nesting patterns—Siena relied on various self-imposed “constraints or caveats”: in one composition, lines may not touch, while in another, they may connect only at a single point. Ultimately, however, “constraints and rules and caveats only go so far,” the artist has acknowledged, and “the end result must have something to it beyond its devices.”


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