An exhibition of painting, sculpture, and an installation acquired by The Museum of Modern Art since 1990, Painting and Sculpture: Recent Acquisitions includes a highly diverse selection of thirty-five works, spanning approximately 125 years from the 1870s through this year. A great number of acquisitions have occurred in recent years; this exhibition presents work that has not been previously shown at the Museum.
Almost all of the works on view in the exhibition entered the collection through the extraordinary generosity of donors, as well as through bequests, offering a vivid demonstration of the critical role that such generosity plays in the essential ongoing growth of the Museum’s collections. The exhibition also features works by eight artists who are represented in the Painting and Sculpture Collection for the first time: Mel Bochner (American, b. 1940), Alighiero e Boetti (Italian, 1949–1994), Keith Coventry (British, b. 1958), Günther Förg (German, b. 1952), Martin Kippenberger (German, b. 1953), Per Kirkeby (Danish, b. 1938), James Turrell (American, b. 1943), and David Wojnarowicz (American, 1954–1992).
The exhibition opens with Red-Orange Panel with Curve (1992–93) by Ellsworth Kelly (American, b. 1923), which was purchased by the Trustee Committee on Painting and Sculpture of The Museum of Modern Art in honor of its Director Richard E. Oldenburg. The earliest work in the exhibition is Walking Man (1877–78) by Auguste Rodin (French, 1840–1917), an intentionally “incomplete” figure that represents, in Albert Elsen’s words, “the antithesis of the nineteenth-century statue.” This sculpture was given to the Museum by Mr. Malcolm Wiener in memory of John Rewald.
One of the most recent works on view is Turrell’s installation A Frontal Passage (1994), one of the artist’s “wedgework series” which uses light to reconfigure an architectural structure into a magical space. “In working with light, what is really important to me is to create an experience of wordless thought, to make the quality and sensation of light itself something really quite tactile,” Turrell states.
Other highlights of the exhibition include the conceptual Tapestry of the Thousand Longest Rivers of the World (1971–79) by Boetti; White Cabinet and White Table (1965) by Marcel Broodthaers (Belgian, 1924–1976), a Magritte-influenced sculpture; Henry Geldzahler and Christopher Scott (1969) by David Hockney (British, b. 1937), one of the most important portraits he painted during that period; Cathedral (1959), a colorful late painting by Hans Hofmann (American, born Germany, 1880–1966); and Rhyme (1956), one of the earliest combine paintings by Robert Rauschenberg (American, b. 1925).
Two major Minimalist works on view are Alogon #2 (1966) by Robert Smithson (American, 1938–1973), a sculpture of painted steel cubes with an arrangement based on mathematical progression, and Cage II (1965) by Walter de Maria (American, b. 1935). Also shown is the large, handpainted The Last Supper (1986) by Andy Warhol (American, 1928–1987), one of the grandest of his late paintings.
Among the contemporary European works are Förg’s large untitled three-panel painting (1987), Kirkeby’s abstracted landscape Wald-Variation III (1989), and two of Kippenberger’s sculptures of 1989 and 1990. In addition, Coventry’s witty serial wall work, Credits (1991–92), lists the main characters of the warriors in Homer’s Iliad.
Layers of images appear in paintings by two contemporary American artists: Muscular Paper (1985) by David Salle (American, b. 1952) and Fire (1987) by Wojnarowicz. Other works by contemporary American artists include Beam (1982), a major early shaped canvas by Elizabeth Murray (American, b. 1940); and Double Sitting (1988) by Richard Artschwager (American, b. 1923), which depicts an interior scene furnished with two chairs, a central theme in his oeuvre.
Such early European masters are represented as Jean Arp (French, 1887–1966), whose undulating bronze sculpture, Human Lunar Spectral (1950), derived from the human torso, is the most monumental of his late works. Two Nudes (1910), a significant early painting by Marcel Duchamp (American, born France, 1887–1968), and Soul of the Underground (1959), an important assemblage by Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901–1985), as well as paintings by René Magritte (Belgian, 1898–1967) and Otto Freundlich (German, 1878–1943), are also shown.
Other artists represented in Painting and Sculpture: Recent Acquisitions are Ross Bleckner (American, b. 1949), Chris Burden (American, b. 1946), Jim Dine (American, b. 1935), Joe Goode (American, b. 1937), On Kawara (Japanese, b. 1933), Mikhail Larionov (Russian, 1881–1964), Meret Oppenheim (Swiss, born Berlin, 1913–1985), Francis Picabia (French, 1879–1953), and Joel Shapiro (American, b. 1941).
Organized by Kynaston McShine, Senior Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture.