MoMA’s splendor

Thursday, October 21, 2010

From the blog archives: October 2010

Hello Asheville. As a one-time writer for this blog and a recent transplant to New York City (well, Brooklyn, technically), I write to you now from this cultured and crazy city. Want to know a little about my museum adventures? Well, read on fellow art lovers, read on.

Last week, I had the chance to visit MoMA (The Museum of Modern Art), twice. As a current student of film preservation and archiving, the Museum of Modern Art has been one of the leaders of film collection, preservation and projection for decades; their approach to film as an art form was unprecedented when they began to collect. Because of this, MoMA has an incredible film collection, which they mostly now keep off site in stable storage. They also have a film study room and quite an extensive archive of ephemeral material related to their films. Scholars and students can request films to screen and comb the archives, all from the comfort of the cozy study room.

Ok, enough about film. The MoMA also has a wonderful contemporary art collection, which you probably know. I traversed the halls and maneuvered through the crowds to bring you some of the jewels on view (my opinion, of course).

My first stop was MoMA’s exhibition on kitchen design, Counter Space: Design and the Modern Kitchen. The exhibition traverses the history of kitchen design from efficiency during the war- The Frankfurt Kitchen- to post-war personalization options- Tupperware, new appliances and utensils, etc. which grew out of technological design innovations and expendable incomes. The exhibition then turned to the kitchen as a space for discourse on social and gender roles through art, literature, and performance works. Of course, I went through the circular exhibition backwards, to avert the crowds. It gave me a new perspective, where I began with the social and ended with the practical and historical. It was kind of perfect for me. Plus, they used a lot of audio visual material in the show- television clips, old commercials, art works- which made me happy.

above: Anna and Bernhard Blume’s Kitchen Frenzy– where potatoes are used to show the frenzy felt by women stuck in the kitchen (and gendered stereotypes). Sometimes I feel that way when I am studying. It is part of the Kitchen Sink Dramas section, of course.

Waiting for my timed entry to Matisse and Radical Invention exhibition, I hopped over to the Contemporary Art from the Collection exhibition, where watching the people is almost as fun as getting to know the works. Yoko Ono’s 1961 Voice Piece for Soprano resides in the foyer, and to the delight of the employees, patrons step up to a microphone and scream at the top of their lungs all day long. As you are looking through the galleries, you can hear yelling and screaming echoing throughout the building. Interesting. And at the entrance to the show is Kara Walker’s 1994 piece, Gone, a reaction to African American stereotypes in Gone with the Wind. Just its scale is stunning- which I tried to show you here.

Matisse is not my favorite, but the exhibition they had up, from his period in 1913 back from Morocco to his departure for Nice in 1917, was fascinating in that it pointed out the ‘process’ noticeable in his art. Patrons can see sketch marks, sculptures side by side which document his progression, and works of experimentation as Matisse is honing his style. I couldn’t take any photos of this one, so here is one of my favorite Matisse, because I am a fan of his use of negative space- The Red Studio– where the artworks littering the studio create the foundations for the walls, the floor, the furniture. It is the negative space that fascinates me.

Then through the Paintings and Sculpture Galleries, and the Abstract Expressionist galleries rooms, where all the famous people you would recognize reside. and where all the people huddle around Starry Night, Water Lilies, and Les Demoiselles d’Avignon. I stood in front of Georges-Pierre Seurat’s  Evening, Honfleur for a while, moving closer and further away from it so that I could analyze the dots that not only cover the canvas but also the frame.

One of the gems of my visit was a small gallery located on the bottom floor, Abstract Expressionist New York: Rock Paper Scissors, an offshoot of the larger Abstract Expressionist show, where artists’ drawings are positioned next to their sculpture. Here their styles go from 2 to 3D. Louise Nevelson, David Smith, etc. gained new life for me.

On a free Friday night, the crowds can get kind of crazy, so after three hours, I decided it was time to leave. On my way out the door, in a hallway near the toilets I looked over and there was Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World. I couldn’t help myself and I did what you just don’t do in New York- I stopped abruptly. Wyeth in the hallway, and I almost missed it. In that moment, this city is worth all the craziness of crowds and litter and noise and metros. Andrew Wyeth in the hallway and I am the only one who stopped.