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April 24, 2014  |  Artists, Current Exhibitions
The Inscrutable Gestures of Jasper Johns
Jasper Johns. Untitled. 2013. Ink on plastic, 27 1/2 × 36" (69.9 × 91.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Promised gift from a private collection. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo: Jerry Thompson

Jasper Johns. Untitled. 2013. Ink on plastic, 27 1/2 × 36″ (69.9 × 91.4 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Promised gift from a private collection. © Jasper Johns/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Photo: Jerry Thompson

It caught my eye when I read last week that Jasper Johns has created a print on translucent paper for the May issue of Art in America magazine. Apparently, the print will feature several of Johns’s “signature motifs,” but the translucent paper might be considered somewhat of a signature motif in its own way. Read more

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April 16, 2014  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
Metamorphoses: Paul Gauguin’s Oil Transfer Drawings
Paul Gauguin. <i>Tahitian Woman with Evil Spirit</i> (recto). c. 1900. Oil transfer drawing

Paul Gauguin. Tahitian Woman with Evil Spirit (recto). c. 1900. Oil transfer drawing. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (by exchange), Vincent d’Aquila and Harry Soviak Bequest Fund (by exchange), and acquired through the generosity of The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Endowment for Prints, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mary M. Spencer, and Stephen Dull, 2014

One of the most extraordinary works in the current exhibition Gauguin: Metamorphoses is Tahitian Woman with Evil Spirit (c. 1900), which was acquired for MoMA’s collection just weeks before the exhibition opened. Among the many exceptionally innovative works on paper that are the focus of the exhibition, this exciting new acquisition stands out for its monumental scale and magisterial presence. Read more

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April 10, 2014  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
Another World
Installation view of <i>A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio</i>, The Museum of Modern Art, February 8–October 5, 2014

Installation view of A World of Its Own: Photographic Practices in the Studio, The Museum of Modern Art, February 8–October 5, 2014

“Coming into Brancusi’s studio was like entering another world.” – Man Ray, 1963

Man Ray. Laboratory of the Future. 1935. Gelatin silver print

Man Ray. Laboratory of the Future. 1935. Gelatin silver print, 9 1/16 x 7″ (23.1 x 17.8 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of James Johnson Sweeney. © 2014 Man Ray Trust/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York/ADAGP, Paris

This short but evocative quote currently appears high on the wall just inside the entrance to The Edward Steichen Photography Galleries, on MoMA’s third floor. Read more

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March 26, 2014  |  Artists
Olafur Eliasson’s Little Sun: “A Work of Art that Works in Life”
Artist Olafur Eliasson with his new design the Little Sun. Photo: Tomas Gislason

Artist Olafur Eliasson with his new design the Little Sun. Photo: Tomas Gislason

Since the early 1990s, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has used art to challenge how we experience and interact with the world. The Museum of Modern Art and MoMA PS1′s 2008 exhibition Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson—the most comprehensive exhibition of the artist’s work to date—transformed MoMA’s galleries into hybrid spaces of nature and culture, prompting an intensive engagement with the world and offering a fresh consideration of everyday life.

Nature serves as a constant source of fascination for Eliasson, but light in particular is one of his favorite mediums and most effective tools. For the artist, light is not incidental: it is an instrument through which he communes with the public. For example, in Room for one color (1997), mono-frequency lights eliminate every wavelength except for yellow, and provoke an involuntary neurological response that intensifies the participants’ perception of detail and dimension. Conversely, 360° room for all colours (2002), utilizes a circular enclosure backlit by 750 lamps that change hue slowly, plunging the participant deep into the color spectrum, dissolving the line between reality and the imagination.

The Little Sun is featured on the cover of MoMA Design Store's spring catalog

The Little Sun is featured on the cover of MoMA Design Store’s spring catalog

Light acts as muse once again in his most recent piece, Little Sun, but this time the artist’s ambition is not merely to use art to alter our perception of the environment; it is to use art to affect social change on a global level.

“I have an obsession with light,” says Eliasson. “How light forms a space. How a space forms light. As a child I grew up in Iceland where there is no sunlight in the winter. It simply stays dark all day. Light became [something that] pulled people together. Light became a way of connecting to other people. Light is social. Light is life.”

The brainchild of Eliasson and solar engineer Frederik Ottesen, Little Sun is a solar-powered LED light described by the artist as a “work of art that works in life.” Nearly one quarter of the world’s population does not have access to electricity. When the sun sets, entire communities grind to a halt. Poverty reduction strategies are difficult to implement, as working hours are limited to daytime, medical care is dangerous to provide, and education levels drop since children cannot study after sunset.

Kerosene lanterns are a common off-grid solution to these issues, yet an evening of breathing in a kerosene lamp’s toxic emissions is equivalent to smoking two packs of cigarettes. As they spend more hours in the home, women and children suffer disproportionately from breathing-related problems, burns, and fires caused by kerosene-powered lanterns and candles. And while polluting homes on a local level, kerosene also impacts the environment on a global scale, releasing 190 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere per year.

Little Sun in use for reading. Photo: Michael Tsegaye

Little Sun in use for reading. Photo: Michael Tsegaye

In addition to being healthier and more eco-friendly than kerosene, Little Sun is also more affordable. The cost of one Little Sun lamp (which lasts approximately three years) is equivalent to the cost of three to six months of kerosene-fueled light. The Little Sun may be small, but like its namesake, it is extremely powerful. A five-hour charge produces up to three hours of bright light, and up to 10 hours of lower light.

“It’s for cooking, eating, reading, learning, but it’s also for earning,” says Eliasson. “The distribution part of this project is also powerful. If [local merchants] make a few bucks selling it there’s something there that I consider a work of art as well. The microeconomic infrastructure that needs to take this to the end user is also part of the Little Sun vision.”

Since its 2012 launch at the Tate Modern, Little Sun has not only received official certification from Lighting Africa—a joint IFC and World Bank program—but, to date, 126,402 lamps have been distributed worldwide; one in three going to areas without electricity. The lamp currently has distribution in seven African countries, Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, Uganda, and Zimbabwe, as well as in the United States, the European Union, Canada, Australia, and Japan.

Little Sun window graphics for the MoMA Design Store

Little Sun window graphics for the MoMA Design Store

MoMA and the MoMA Design Store are proud to support this brilliant initiative, and through April our store windows will be dedicated to the Little Sun project, with the goal of bringing these pressing social issues to light and empowering the public through art and design. Every purchase makes it possible for the Little Sun to be sold in off-grid communities at locally affordable prices. To Eliasson, one part of the artwork is the lamp and the activities it enables. The other is the successful distribution of the Little Sun in off-grid communities, and its journey from production to usage.

“I need you to power this project” says Eliasson. “Holding power in your hands is very liberating. It makes you feel resourceful, connected—whether you’re a child or adult, on-grid or off-grid. This is something we all share. In everyday life, it is important that we critically engage in global initiatives and local contexts. Our actions have consequences for the world. Little Sun is a wedge that opens up the urgent discussion about bringing sustainable energy to all from the perspective of art.”

Little Sun windows, now on view at the MoMA Stores. Photo Joshua Casey

Little Sun windows, now on view at the MoMA Stores. Photo: Joshua Casey

Visit any of the MoMA Stores to see the windows, learn more about the project, and to purchase your own Little Sun. Or, if you don’t live in NYC, the Little Sun is also available at MoMAstore.org.

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February 26, 2014  |  Artists, Collection & Exhibitions
Leonora Carrington’s House of Fear
Installation view of Artist/Novelist, The Museum of Modern Art, January 8–March 31, 2014. Photo: Jennifer Tobias

Installation view of Artist/Novelist, The Museum of Modern Art, January 8–March 31, 2014. Photo: Jennifer Tobias

Leonora Carrington and Max Ernst’s The House of Fear (La Maison de la peur) is currently on view in the mezzanine of MoMA’s Lewis B. and Dorothy Cullman Education and Research Building, as part of the display Artist/Novelist. Read more

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February 21, 2014  |  Artists, MoMA Stores
The MoMA Stores Debut Designs by Contemporary Artists
The MoMA Design Store windows at West 53rd Street, featuring TK. Photo: Scott Rudd

The MoMA Design Store windows at West 53rd Street, featuring plates by contemporary artists. Photo: Scott Rudd

In the second installment of Inside/Out’s spotlight on our new series of artist-produced housewares, the MoMA Design Store is excited to debut a suite of candles and Limoges porcelain collectible trays and plates with Ligne Blanche Paris. The collaboration was spearheaded by The MoMA Design Store’s Director of Merchandising Emmanuel Plat and Ligne Blanche Paris Founder Pierre Pelegry, and launched last week at the MoMA Stores.

“Both the MoMa Design Store and Ligne Blanche Paris have a similar goal: to pique the public’s interest in the work of contemporary artists through design. Since expanding the work of artists to high-quality domestic products has become a focus for the MoMA Design Store, the collaboration was a natural fit,” says Plat.

As eclectic as the artists featured, the suite provides a unique survey of disparate artistic voices and methods of creation over the last four decades.

Robert Longo. American Flag tray

American Flag tray by Robert Longo

Robert Longo’s adroit use of chiaroscuro modeling with charcoal heightens the impact of his subject matter, and gives his pieces—from his blackened American flags to his figure and animal studies—gravitas and a timeless quality.

Alex Katz. Jessica dessert plate (left); Sarah Mearns dessert plate (right). 2013

Jessica (left) and Sara Mearns (right) plates by Alex Katz

Alex Katz is recognized as a hugely influential precursor to the Pop art movement and one of the most respected American artists working today. Katz’s portraits and figure studies are characterized by their flatness of form, restrained lines, and aloof subjects.

A bricoleur of everyday objects, Tom Sachs distills the spirit of the modern era and our relationship to consumerism in his flashy reproductions of commodities.

Tom Sachs. Top Mug (left); Jack Pierson. Golden Age. 2010 (right)

Top Mug plate (left) by Tom Sachs; Golden Years plate (right) by Jack Pierson

Drawn to celebrity, melodrama, and erotic narrative, Jack Pierson produces works that are infused with literal and visual references to unrequited love, desire, faded stardom, and sentimental musings. Pierson’s typographic Golden Years (2010) relies heavily on the visual poetics of typography and can be interpreted as wistful homage to the halcyon years of one’s life.

Gilbert & George. Light Headed. 1991 (left); Flight (right)

Light Headed plate (left) and Flight plate (right) by Gilbert & George

From across the pond comes a quartet of plates by British art renegades Gilbert & George, whose prolific career has spanned almost five decades. The dynamic duo juxtapose their look-alike, robotic visages with a hyper-saturated potpourri of images—from anonymous pastoral landscapes to shots of London’s gritty inner-city—to confront the viewer and completely immerse him or her in the visual experience.

The line also includes work by three renowned artists whose prolific and highly influential careers were tragically cut short: Robert Mapplethorpe, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Keith Haring. Though contemporaries during the 1980s, their respective bodies of work encompass distinct experiences that are radically different in tone, character, and execution.

Robert Mapplethorpe. Calla Lily (left); Wrestler (right)

Calla Lily (left) and Wrestler (right) plates by Robert Mapplethorpe

Jean-Michel Basquiat. All Colored Cast 1 (right); Horn Players (left)

All Colored Cast 1 (left) and Horn Players (right) plates by Jean-Michel Basquiat

Keith Haring. Untitled 1 (left);  Untitled 2 (right)

Plates by Keith Haring featuring two untitled works

Ligne Blanche Paris worked closely with the estates of these artists to create products that capture the spirit of those they represent.

“Every product is devised in perfect knowledge of, and with a scrupulous respect for, the works of the artists with whom we work,” says Pelegry.

The MoMA Design Store will carry a limited number of these artist edition plates at two store locations: on West 53rd Street across from the Museum, and in SoHo at 81 Spring Street.

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Constructed Situations: Communicating the Influence of John Cage

Through examining four pieces in The Museum of Modern Art’s collection, one can better understand how John Cage’s embrace of indeterminacy can be traced in the period following 4’33″ (1952) and in more recent years, and how these later works play with the concepts of chance and the ephemeral in different ways. Read more

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February 12, 2014  |  Artists, Behind the Scenes, MoMA Stores
Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari Bring Toiletpaper to the Table
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A scene from MoMA Design Store’s spring catalog cover shoot featuring Seletti Wears Toiletpaper, a suite of dishes, mugs, and tablecloths created by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari for Seletti

This season the MoMA Design Store is pleased to announce the launch of an exclusive new series of artist-produced wares. To celebrate these artistic collaborations we’re going share with Inside/Out readers a behind-the-scenes look at the process of designing these exciting products, and background about the artists involved. Read more

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The Poetry of Silence: Jackson Mac Low’s Drawing-Asymmetry

Jackson Mac Low. Drawing-Asymmetry #5. 1961. Ink and colored ink on paper, 8 9/16 x 11 7/8″ (21.7 x 30.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift, 2008. © 2014 The Estate of Jackson Mac Low

Jackson Mac Low. Drawing-Asymmetry #5. 1961. Ink and colored ink on paper, 8 9/16 x 11 7/8″ (21.7 x 30.2 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Gilbert and Lila Silverman Fluxus Collection Gift, 2008. © 2014 The Estate of Jackson Mac Low


If you visit MoMA’s exhibition There Will Never Be Silence: Scoring John Cage’s 4’33″, you will encounter a suite of enigmatic drawings by Fluxus-affiliated poet Jackson Mac Low, comprising swirling letters and seemingly nonsensical combinations of words. Although they seem like meaningless scribbles, the words are actually legible and meant to be read aloud. Read more

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Diving into Rauschenberg’s Canyon

Cover of Raushenberg: Canyon by Leah Dickerman, published by The Museum of Modern Art

Cover of Raushenberg: Canyon by Leah Dickerman, published by The Museum of Modern Art

As recounted in curator Leah Dickerman’s new book, Rauschenberg: Canyon , in 1959 Robert Rauschenberg received a call from a friend, the artist Sari Dienes, who wanted to offer him a taxidermied bald eagle she had fished out from the junk heap of a recently deceased neighbor, one of the last of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Rauschenberg had recently become famous for incorporating all types of found materials into his art, so this kind of offer from friends was not unusual. He didn’t hesitate to turn down objects that weren’t quite right, but in this case, he said yes at once.

Rauschenberg affixed the bald eagle onto a canvas that would eventually become Canyon (1959), one in a series of radically experimental works he called Combines, which mixed paint and other art materials with things found in daily life. In Canyon, a seemingly incongruous variety of objects surround the eagle, including a photograph of Rauschenberg’s son, Christopher; a postcard of the Statue of Liberty; a man’s white shirt, cut and opened up; a crumpled tube of paint; fragments of printed words; and an industrial metal drum.

Rauschenberg: Canyon, the latest volume in the MoMA One on One series, sheds light on the genesis of this startling and enigmatic work by tracing the artist’s education, influences, and travels through Italy, Morocco, and Spain. Rauschenberg first started using found materials while attending Black Mountain College near Asheville, North Carolina, where every student was required to pitch in with community labor. Rauschenberg volunteered for garbage collection, and ended up incorporating the objects he found in his classmates’ trash into his art. The hybrid creations he began producing in the mid-1950 with recognizable, everyday items offered a defiant counterpoint to the quintessential American style of Abstract Expressionism that prevailed at the time. As he wrote in his earliest statement on the Combines, in 1956: “I consider the text of a news­paper, the detail of a photograph, the stitch in a baseball, and the filament in a light bulb as fundamental to the painting as brush stroke or enamel drip of paint. In the end, what one sees as my work is what I choose to make with no guaran­tee of enlightenment, humor, beauty or art.”


Canyon, currently on view at MoMA in Ileana Sonnabend: Ambassador for the New, had been in gallerist Ileana Sonnabend’s personal collection since she purchased it from the artist the year it was made. Sonnabend was one of Rauschenberg’s lifelong champions, and her support played a significant role in his becoming the first American artist to be awarded the grand prize at the Venice Biennale, in 1964. Following her death in 2007, her heirs entered a curious debate with the IRS regarding the work. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and the Bald Eagle Protection Act of 1940 made it illegal to buy, sell, barter, or possess a bald eagle in the U.S. Canyon was allowed to remain in Sonnabend’s collection because Rauschenberg had provided a notarized statement saying the bird had been stuffed by one of Roosevelt’s Rough Riders before the laws’ passage, but because it could not be sold, the family’s appraisers had valued it at zero. The IRS disagreed, ruling that it was worth far more, and assessed an estate tax and penalties on the heirs. The resolution they reached allowed the family to donate the work to a U.S. institution in exchange for dropping the tax claim. Thus, in 2012, Canyon was generously donated to The Museum of Modern Art, where it joins five other Combines, to provide an in-depth representation of this key aspect of Rauschenberg’s career.

To learn more, download a free preview of Rauschenberg: Canyon by Leah Dickerman.