After seven years of working at MoMA as a school programs educator, I still treated Gallery 20 as a glorified hallway. As we scurried through on the way to the more crowd-pleasing Pop art in Gallery 19, I virtually shielded my eyes
Posts tagged ‘Minimalism’
As Dedalus Fellow in the Museum Archives, I received a travel grant to broaden my understanding of modern art. Last summer, I chose to journey to the American Southwest to view Earth art, Minimalism, and other forms of post-war abstraction in Texas and New Mexico. My goal was to examine the “art pilgrimage” from a critical perspective, while trying to achieve that spiritual experience associated with it: to turn myself into a pilgrim, while remaining grounded in art history.
My first destination was Lightning Field, Walter de Maria’s 1977 work near Quemado, New Mexico. The artwork, which comprises a grid of four hundred stainless steel poles, is located miles from civilization in a flat basin surrounded by mountains. Off to one edge is a cabin where visitors stay overnight. No photographs are allowed; de Maria insists on the primacy of one’s own, subjective experience of the work. Walking among the poles, my feet sank into soft clay. I watched the gleaming metal poles grow brilliant in the sunset, then fade. I listened to birds’ wings. I was rained upon. At night, I walked outside to deafening quiet and a Milky Way sky of exquisite clarity. It became clear why de Maria forbids photography: photographs would document only the New Mexico landscape, not the actual sensation of being here.
Institutions that engage in munificent and far-reaching lending forge important collegial relationships with one another, and in the process help to create a network of public spaces with dynamic, diverse programming. Rarely, however, are these relationships sanctioned in any official capacity, which is what makes the affiliation between MoMA and P.S.1 so special. The two joined forces in 2000, with the goal to “promote the enjoyment, appreciation, study, and understanding of contemporary art to a wide and growing audience.” In the last ten years the institutions have worked together in many ways, but 1969, an exhibition on view at P.S.1 through April 5, is the first time that a group exhibition at the Long Island City center has been drawn entirely from MoMA’s collection.
Occupying an entire floor at P.S.1, the exhibition features some eighty objects representing all seven of MoMA’s departmental collections plus the Museum Archives. I was delighted to discover dozens of works for the first time, as well as to embrace long cherished images that I had never before seen in person. Just as gratifying was seeing several works—works that MoMA visitors are surely familiar with—in a new context.
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