May 6, 2013  |  Collection & Exhibitions
Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly Gets an Extension and a New Visitor

Taking in computer-chip diagrams in Artist's Choice: Trisha Donnelly

Taking in computer-chip diagrams in Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly

I’ve got some fantastic news to share: we recently extended the exhibition Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly</a>—it will now be on view in our fourth- and fifth-floor collection galleries until July 28. This announcement was met with enthusiasm by a good friend of mine, Mike, who had not yet seen the show and was eager to stop by MoMA to take it in. Mike works for a local politician and, while he enjoys attending gallery openings and visiting museums, he is more of an avid book reader and scary-movie enthusiast. I was lucky to have been part of the curatorial team that worked on this show with Donnelly for nearly two years, and Mike’s interest in the exhibition
Computer-chip diagrams laid out during installation of <i>Artist's Choice: Trisha Donnelly</i>

Computer-chip diagrams laid out during installation of Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly

seemed like a great opportunity to experience Artist’s Choice in a new way. His fresh perspective on the exhibition brought new insights into Donnelly’s selections and allowed me to see the exhibition through a different lens. </p>

We started our tour on the fourth floor, in a space filled with several objects from our Architecture and Design collection. Mike was drawn in by the brightly colored, complicated patterning of the computer-chip diagrams that populate this space. He looked at them as artifacts of communication, images that mapped out the vital organs of technologies that have transformed the ways we communicate and interact. These diagrams were the focus of a 1990 MoMA exhibition called Information Art: Diagramming Microchips, in which they were exhibited as works of art in their own right. (Interestingly, that exhibition’s catalogue pictured a few art historical comparisons, including Piet Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie and a textile design by Anni Albers.)

František Kupka. The First Step. 1910-13

František Kupka. The First Step. 1910–13. Oil on canvas, 32 3/4 x 51″ (83.2 x 129.6 cm). Hillman Periodicals Fund

We then moved upstairs to the fifth floor, where Donnelly has installed two other galleries. In the first, Mike noticed that the space was installed more tightly than the galleries around it, inviting a closer look at the works on display. What stood out in this room was a drawing by František Kupka, View from a Carriage Window</a>. It was noteworthy to Mike because, up to this point, he had only known Kupka’s abstract works. He was then
František Kupka. View from a Carriage Window

František Kupka. View from a Carriage Window. c. 1901. Gouache and watercolor on paper with cardboard overlay with cut out overlay, 19 7/8 x 23 5/8″ (50.6 x 60 cm). The Joan and Lester Avnet Collection

delighted to see an example of a Kupka abstraction, The First Step</a>, also on view in this room, and commented on how discovering a new style of work by an artist you already know is one of the real gems of exhibitions like this.</p>

Upon entering the last gallery of Artist’s Choice, Mike noted how different each space felt, especially as this one was filled with the work of a single artist, the mid-century photographer Eliot Porter. MoMA has over 90 Porter photographs in its collection, mostly images he took of birds and their nests. However, there are also images from a portfolio that Porter created, called Birds in Flight. As we looked at the four flying-bird photos in this room, Mike paid special attention to one, Barn Swallow, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine. He was blown away that Porter was able to capture these fast flying creates, but also puzzled by the

Eliot Porter. Barn Swallow, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine

Eliot Porter. Barn Swallow, Great Spruce Head Island, Maine. July 9, 1974. Dye transfer print, 12 5/8 x 10 3/8″ (32.1 x 26.4 cm). Gift of David H. McAlpin

smoky, shadowlike form next to the bird. What made these photos possible was a special camera developed by the artist. Porter rigged a camera with multiple flash bulbs and a motion-sensor shutter that was triggered by movement. Amazingly, Barn Swallow captures both the bird and a shadow of where it had been just a moment prior.

As we wrapped up our tour, I was reminded of the enjoyment of seeing some of Donnelly’s rarely displaced selections for the first time. Objects like the computer-chip diagrams and the Porter photographs are just a few of the works in this show that made us realize how vast and wonderful MoMA’s collection is. Hopefully many more people will get to experience these discoveries now that the exhibition is on view until the end of July. Come check it out!