“Zero means ‘nothing,’” wrote the Japanese artist Saburo Murakami in 1953, “start with nothing, completely original, no artificial meaning.” Bringing together approximately 100 works on paper from MoMA’s collection, Degree Zero: Drawing at Midcentury illuminates how artists used drawing to forge a new visual language in the aftermath of World War II. Modest, immediate, and direct, drawing was the ideal medium for this period of renewal. Mimicking the look of language, it appeared as graffiti-like scribbling, or borrowed from traditional calligraphies. Its geometric forms sought to communicate universal ideals, and its accumulations of marks reflected society’s new urge to amass.
Spanning five continents, the exhibition looks across movements, geographies, and generations to highlight connections between artists who shared common materials and ideas between 1948 and 1961. Featuring works by Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Alfredo Volpi, and many others, as well as recent acquisitions by artists such as Uche Okeke, the exhibition shows how drawing allowed artists at this postwar moment to start again from scratch.
Organized by Samantha Friedman, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints.