A favorite childhood pastime of mine was digging for buried artifacts of the Leni Lenape in my backyard. Another was making maps of the neighborhood. Neither pursuit was entirely productive in any real sense—I never discovered an actual arrowhead and my maps were wholly inaccurate, had frequent changes of scale, and always ran off the page, but I always found some type of valuable object, and charted and plotted my way though all sorts of real and imagined territories.
Being a witness to the making of the Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly installation brought these two beloved tasks to mind. Though works from the every curatorial department make up Artist’s Choice, I was involved in the selecting of objects from the architecture and design collection. As the Department of Architecture and Design preparator, my job involves providing access to works in the architecture and design collection, which means that I spent days in our art storage facility with the curators, opening and unwrapping dozens and dozens of boxes of objects, unrolling textiles, and shifting and sorting through works on paper. The works in our collection are well documented so there was no actual “discovering” or unearthing in the process, but there was a lot of uncovering, chancing upon, and bringing to light.
Trisha Donnelly hit upon and revealed some wonderful objects. And then, as Laura Hoptman describes in her post A Curator Observing an Artist Being a Curator, there was the artist’s process of bringing works together in a new and completely different manner, selected and displayed for reasons having simply to do with how they exist in the world as objects. There’s an undeniable sense of discovery to be found in Donnelly’s selections—both in the overall installations she has created, as well as in the wonderful individual works exhibited—like the seriously cool Polaroid sunglasses from the 1940s (shown above), or a rad designed by Otto Baumberger for PKZ from 1923.
The installation also features a number of enlarged computer-chip diagrams that were first exhibited at MoMA in the 1990 exhibition Information Art: Diagramming Microchips. They function as informational maps of the circuitry of logic boards and microprocessors, but also resemble maps of the unknown—a kind of modern “beyond here lie dragons” terra incognita—aerial views of city plans, or textiles; there’s almost no end to the beauty and imagination found in these diagrams.
Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly, organized by Trisha Donnelly with Laura Hoptman, Curator, and Cara Manes, Collection Specialist, Department of Painting and Sculpture, is on view at MoMA through April 8, 2013.