Collection 1950s–1970s


Touching the Void



Simon Hantaï. Untitled [Suite "Blancs"]. 1973. Acrylic on canvas, 10' 1/4" x 15' 3 1/4" (305.3 x 466.5 cm). Acquired through the Carol Buttenwieser Loeb and Arnold A. Saltzman Funds
  • MoMA, Floor 4, 413 The David Geffen Wing

One of the most important artistic tendencies of the 1960s was a shift away from the idea that art should express the artist’s interior life. Works in this vein searched for a poetics of bare form and focused on structural elements such as line, plane, and volume. Compositions adhered to the most elementary geometry; color was reduced to the hues of raw materials. The repetition of simple actions—stripping, drawing a grid, folding and unfolding—became central, replacing conventional ideas of art making as spontaneous or intuitive.

Although coming from diverse cultural contexts that endow their achievements with different meanings, artists based in Asia, Europe, and North and South America shared this artistic sensibility and vocabulary. Such cultivation of restraint can be understood, in part, as a rejection of the saturated visual environments associated with the emerging consumerist societies of the time. Whether strict or playful, the work of these artists tested the meditative possibilities of objectivity, challenging viewers to heighten their sensory perception.

Organized by Inés Katzenstein, Curator of Latin American Art and Director of the Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Research Institute, with Julia Detchon, Curatorial Assistant, and Danielle Johnson, former Curatorial Assistant, Department of Drawings and Prints, and Madeline Murphy-Turner, The Cisneros Institute Research Fellow, Department of Drawings and Prints.

14 works online


Installation images

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