Friday, June 2, 2017

Mothers of Invention at MoMA, Part 2

Part 1: Carmen Herrera
Part 2: Hilma af Klint

A friend mentioned that when she visited Making Space there were about one hundred 12-year-old schoolgirls in the galleries. Kids are, for me, a museum-going nightmare--the high-pitched squeals, the selfies, the darting about of so many little groups more interested in the social experience than the aesthetic one. Still, imagine the opportunity for these young women to see so much great work by so many great artists with whom they share a gender. It's another world from the one in which we grew up, immersed in Janson and shown endless slides of naked women painted by men. 
In this Part 2, I'm going to take you through the last two galleries. But first a quick visual recap, at left, of the first three galleries.  Top: In Gallery 1 we're looking at the women of the AbEx era, including Joan Mitchell and Lee Krasner. In Gallery 2, center, we see the Geometric Abstractionists, many coming out of the great Latin American tradition of Art Concrete, such as Lygia Clark, Carmen Herrera, and Lygia Pape. In Gallery 3 are the Reductive Abstractionists, including Eleanore Mikus, Anne Truitt, and Agnes Martin shown here. Now let's round the corner for abstraction in a different medium: fiber.

Gallery 4

The curators, Starr Figura and Sarah Hermanson Meister, saw the connection between the grid, which is the underpinning of so much reductive abstraction, and the warp and weft of textile construction. Indeed, their inclusion in this gallery of prints and drawings that reference the grid make the connection clear.

The most beautiful installation view in the show:
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Ruth Asawa (center), and Lenore Tawney

Below: Closer view of Asawa's, Untitled, c. 1955; brass wire, iron wire, and galvanized iron wire

Magdalena Abakanowicz, Yellow Abakan, 1967-68, sisal

This is one in a series of large woven pieces that the artist, who died recently, named after herself. With their organic shape and labial folds, they offered an unmistakable connection to the female body.  A red Abakan was included in the now-legendary exhibition, WACK: Art and the Feminist Revolution, organized by Connie Butler, which originated at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in Los Angeles, traveled to the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.; PS. 1 in Long Island City; and then the Vancouver Art Gallery in British Columbia

Starr Figura, talking in a MoMA video, also notes the "scarlike" surface of the weaving, pointing out that Abakanowicz was a Polish survivor of World War II. 

Detail below

Lenore Tawnwy, Little River, 1968, linen

Tawney lived in the same Coenties Slip neighborhood at the tip of Manhattan as did Agnes Martin, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns. She was friends with Martin, and in my mind they share an aesthetic, albeit with different mediums

Detail below

I love this pairing: Mira Schendel, Untitled from the series Droguinhas (Little Nothings), 1964-66, Japanese paper; with Sheila Hicks on the far wall

Sheila Hicks, Prayer Rug, 1965, handspun wool

The Asawa sculpture in the center of the gallery will orient you to the wall of drawings, prints, and small weavings to the left of where you enter. The conversation here between and among the works on the wall and the sculptures throughout the rest of the gallery is lively and visually engaging. (The Yellow Abakan is just out of sight on the far wall perpendicular to this one)

Gego, above and below 
Balance, 1960, etching

Untitled, 1963, ink on paper

Anni Albers, Tapestry, 1948, linen and cotton

While her husband was making his color studies, Anni Albers was forging a path in fiber. Interestingly, Sheila Hicks, who studied with Josef at Yale, ended up pursuing a parallel path to Anni's

Detail below

Another Albers: Enmeshed I, 1963, lithograph

Gallery 5

In the transition photo below, we're standing in Gallery 5 looking back into where we've just been. Now let's begin a counterclockwise tour of this last gallery in the show. There's a strong material sensibility here, too, although with different materials.

Viewing counterclockwise, we start with Sarah Grillo, Add, 1965, oil on canvas, then Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1966, enamel paint and string over papier mache

Hesse could easily have been included in the previous room, and indeed, in the 2014 exhibition, Fiber Sculpture: 1950-Present, which originated at the ICA in Boston, she was one of the artists included--just as Sheila Hicks, also in that exhibition, is one of the artists in this show

Hesse detail below

Our counterclockwise tour continues with Hesse, Lynda Benglis, Atsuko Tanaka; Feliza Bursztyn (on pedestal

Lynda Benglis, Embryo II, 1967, encaustic on masonite
Detail left; full view right

That waxy buildup is sublime. After Johns almost singlehandedly revived the use of encaustic in contemporary art in the 1950s, Benglis took it to new heights a decade later

Atsuko Tanaka, Untitled, 1956, watercolor and felt-tip pen on paper

Feliza Bursztyn, Untitled (from the series Histericas), 1967, stainless steel and electric motor
Occasionally the clatter of lightweight metal can be heard in the gallery. That would be this motorized sculpture

Orienting you: As we continue counterclockwise around the room we come to . . .

Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1961; welded steel, canvas, black fabric, rawhide, copper wire, soot

The artist lived upstairs from a laundry. When conveyor belts wore out and were thrown out, they found their way to Bonetcou's studio, where they were integrated into her organic/geometric/industrial/(and slightly terrifying) aesthetic

Bontecou and Alina Szapocznikow

Alina Szapocznikow, Belly Cushions, 1968, polyurethane

If this five-part sculpture looks familiar to you as a MoMA visitor, perhaps it's because you saw it--as well as the Atsuko Tanaka watercolor, and work by Bourgeois, Gego, Nevelson, Kusama and others--in the 2010 exhibition Mind and Matter: Alternative Abstractions, 1940s to Now . The "alternative" aspect of the exhibitions is that each of the 10 artists in the show worked outside the strictures of male hegemony--i.e. they were women

Carol Rama, Spurting Out (Schizzando Via), 1968; ink, gouache, shellac, and plastic doll eye on paper

Rama, who is the subject of an exhibition, Antibodies, at the New Museum, up through September 10, was the bad girl of her time. Her ideas and images, often sexual, drew the ire of fascist Italy. The work shown here is tame, but her explosive imagery suggests a woman who would not be contained

Detail below

Jay DeFeo, Blossom, 1958, collage of photomechanical reproductions

Detail below

Louise Bourgeois, The Quartered One, 1964-65, bronze

We conclude our counterclockwise tour of the gallery with this hanging bronze sculpture. To orient you, Sarah Grillo's paintings is to the left of the doorway; the gallery behond is Gallery 4, which contains the Abakanowicz.

And to conclude the blog post, this is the painting we see in the vestibule on our way out of the exhibition:

Hedda Sterne, New York VIII, 1954, synthetic polymer paint on canvas

A slideshow of 25 works from the exhibition can be found on MoMA's website, as can a
full checklist of works in the exhibition can be found here

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1 comment:

  1. Fantastic experience to relive seeing the exhibition thru your eyes and comments. Thank you for your informed tour. Sas