Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New is the catalogue published to accompany the exhibition of the same name currently on view at MoMA. Both are a tribute to art dealer and gallerist Ileana Sonnabend (1914–2007) for her taste and enduring influence. Read more
Posts by Makiko Wholey
Isaac Julien: RIOT is not your typical exhibition catalogue. With most of the writing done by artist and filmmaker Isaac Julien himself, it is more like an illustrated intellectual biography. Read more
Isa Genzken is arguably one of the most influential female artists of the past few decades, her impact visible in the work of young sculpture and assemblage artists worldwide. MoMA’s upcoming exhibition Isa Genzken: Retrospective is the first comprehensive survey of her career in the United States, and the largest exhibition of her work to date. The accompanying catalogue explores her unique and decidedly diverse career through illustrated-plate sections and essays spanning a more than 40-year period. Genzken’s artwork is markedly varied and the narrative of her career is unconventional. She’s worked in nearly every imaginable medium, including sculpture, photography, film, assemblage and collage. The catalogue’s essays offer new insights on her aesthetic outlook and approach.
Curator Sabine Breitwieser’s essay covers Genzken’s artistic output from 1970 to 1996, discussing her early geometric drawings and sculptures, and her presence in the art centers of West Germany as a student at the Düsseldorf Academy and in Cologne. In the 1990s, Genzken moved away from post-Minimalism and began to make her first collage works.
Laura Hoptman, curator in MoMA’s Department of Painting and Sculpture, explores this career break and later parts of Genzken’s career—from 1993 to the present—when her collage and sculptural assemblages and installations grew in scale and conceptual complexity.
The book also includes focused thematic essays. Scholar Lisa Lee writes on Genzken’s relationship with architecture and public sculpture in “Isa Genzken: Model Citizen,” considering her experiments with scale, perception and even mutiny, with projects like Fuck the Bauhaus. In “Isa Genzken: Himmel und Erde (Heaven and Earth),” Michael Darling argues for a thematic consistency in Genzken’s variegated oeuvre, positing that she “has married radical formal experimentation and variety to themes that are timeless, poignant and deeply humanistic, rooting her inquiries in the material facts of our world but offering pathways to topics, experiences, and concepts that, by definition, escape the grasp of easy resolution.” Jeffrey Grove’s essay, “Isa Genzken’s Homage to Herself” discusses motifs of autobiography and self-representation in her work, particularly in photography and film. An illustrated chronology by Stephanie Weber, Curatorial Assistant in the Department of Media & Performance Art at MoMA guides readers through the exciting trajectory of Genzken’s career, from birth to her first American retrospective at MoMA.
Isa Genzken: Retrospective is on view from November 23, 2013–March 10, 2014 in the The Joan and Preston Robert Tisch Exhibition Gallery on the Museum’s sixth floor. A preview of the catalogue can be downloaded here.
Artist Charles E. Burchfield is known for his mystical and visionary interpretations of American nature. His paintings of natural scenes and landscapes are often florid and psychedelic—the colors richer and deeper, light more radiant and intense, and always with florid texture that seems to radiate on forever. His paintings are nearly fantastical, but seem to speak to something beyond a pure fantasy realm—it is as if he is communicating his sense of an innate, organic technology at work in the natural world.
The First Hepaticas, a 1917–18 painting by Burchfield, is currently on display as part of the American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe exhibition. Burchfield completed The First Hepaticas in the location where he created most of his early works, his childhood home in the city of Salem, Ohio, where he lived from the ages of five to 28. It was there that he experienced what he later deemed his “Golden Year,” 1917, because of a prolific, inspired output.
Hepaticas are a wildflower found in most Northeastern states in America. Their appearance at the end of winter is taken to signal the coming of spring, as they are often one of the first flora to sprout amongst the carpet of brush and fallen leaves left from the cold seasons.
Here, Burchfield captures this symbolic moment. Most of The First Hepaticas is a gloomy landscape of drab, brown leafless trees, some with hollows like gaping mouths. In the bottom right corner you see a small grouping of white flowers haloed by light. The flowers are suggestive of life and optimism in the morass of gloom and deadness. They are harbingers of regeneration, and perhaps Burchfield believes we can learn from nature in this respect.
Several of Burchfield’s early paintings (spanning the years 1916–20) are included in the show and in the exhibition catalogue. The catalogue also includes an essay by MoMA Drawings curator Esther Adler, “The Problem of Our American Collection: MoMA Collects at Home” exploring the museum’s beginnings, drawing on numerous quotations from Alfred H. Barr Jr., founding director of MoMA. The essay provides much insight into the ideas that founded the institution, and the roles figures like Burchfield and his contemporaries played in the shaping of its collection.
American Modern: Hopper to O’Keeffe is on view now until January 26, 2014, in The Michael H. Dunn Gallery on the second floor.
If you’ve been following the Jackson Pollock Conservation Project on Inside/Out, you know that Jackson Pollock’s monumental painting One: Number 31, 1950 underwent some changes in our Department of Conservation this past spring after conservators discovered sections of overpaint on its surface, vestiges of a restoration campaign from the 1960s. You can follow the entire process here.
The newest book in our One on One Series, Pollock: One: Number 31, 1950, also examines the history of this specific painting, but in an entirely different way. Author Charles Stuckey’s essay begins its investigation before the painting’s inception and follows it to the present day, considering its legacy and influence, which is visible in numerous contemporary artworks included in the book. In the late 1940s, Pollock began experimenting with a new method of painting, “drip painting” as it came to be known, where he would stand above a vast unframed piece of canvas and render kinetically: flinging, flicking, and, of course, dripping colors onto the canvas with various implements.
Pollock’s method eschewed the conventional notions of painting of the time, opting for raw, unstretched canvas and housepaint over prepared canvas and traditional oils, and darting around the floor of his barn studio rather than working quietly with a palette and easel. One: Number 31, 1950 is a masterful example of this signature style, a monumental work displaying Pollock’s energy and dexterity.
Did you know Jackson Pollock worked as a janitor at the Guggenheim Museum? Or that One: Number 31, 1950 was actually painted after Number 32, 1950 and before Number 30 (now called Autumn Rhythm) and Number 27, 1950?
Drawing from period magazine articles and quotes by Pollock, Lee Krasner, critics, and friends, Stuckey offers a narrative trajectory for the famed painting, following One: Number 31, 1950 from its premiere exhibition, to a stint in an apartment on Central Park West, to its final place in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art.
The 16 artists featured in Soundings: A Contemporary Score treat sound as material. Much in the way many painters explore subjective interests through the material properties of paint and pigment, these artists manifest their philosophical and political concerns through sound (though not necessarily always audible). Read more
In 1961 Claes Oldenburg opened a store in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, five years after his official arrival in New York. For two months, Oldenburg hawked commonplace objects out of his storefront: ice cream, oranges, cigarettes, hats, shoes, all things that could be found in surrounding stores, but here, they were specially crafted and singular, specific to the artist and his studio-cum-store. In Claes Oldenburg: Writing on the Side 1956–1969, Oldenburg describes his project neatly:
“The Store, or My Store, or the Ray Gun Mfg. Co., located at 107 East 2nd St., NYC, is eighty feet long and is about ten feet wide. In the front half, it is my intention to create the environment of a store by painting and placing (hanging, projecting, lying) objects after the spirit and in the form of popular objects of merchandise, such as may be seen in store windows of the city, especially in the area where The Store is (Clinton St., for example, Delancey St., 14th St.).
This store will be constantly supplied with new objects, which I will create out of plaster and other materials in the rear half of the place. The objects will be for sale in The Store.”
—Claes Oldenburg (1961)
The excerpt included above is just one of a variety of collected written works in Writing on the Side, the first compilation dedicated to Oldenburg’s writings. Organized chronologically, the book contains diary entries, poems, notes, statements, and sketches, grouped by chapter with titles like: “Fear of New York 1956–1958,” and “Object Consciousness 1965–1967.” The book serves as a written history of Oldenburg’s artistic presence in the 1960s, much of it composed on a typewriter kept in his studio.
Diary entries and notes preceding the opening of The Store evidence Oldenburg’s investment in the seemingly unexceptional: Oldenburg documents every sandwich, coffee, and beer consumed, the names of cafés and restaurants frequented (many of which no longer seem to exist, upon cursory Google searches) with as much care taken to describe creative ideation and art events. In this way, the writings are an important companion to Oldenburg’s body of work, giving insight into this formative period in his career as well as a unique view into a New York that no longer seems to exist (check out what Oldenburg’s store looks like now).
Oldenburg will perform a reading from Writing on the Side at MoMA at 6:00 p.m. on June 28, followed by a reception and book signing. More information about the event can be found here.
Claes Oldenburg: The Street and The Store is on view through August 5 on the sixth floor in the International Council of The Museum of Modern Art Exhibition Gallery.
Provoke (Purovōku) was an experimental magazine founded by photographers Yutaka Takanashi and Takuma Nakahira, critic Koji Taki, and writer Takahiko Okada in 1968. The magazine’s subtitle read as: shisō no tame no chōhatsuteki shiryō (Provocative documents for the sake of thought). Photographer Daido Moriyama is most often associated with the publication, but Moriyama did not join the magazine until the second issue. Read more
As an admirer of both Cindy Sherman and John Waters, I was happy to see a conversation between the artists included in Cindy Sherman, the exhibition catalogue accompanying the Museum’s major retrospective of the artist’s work. Read more