|František Kupka. Localization of Graphic Motifs II. 1912–13. Oil on canvas, 78 3/4 x 76 3/8 inches (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., image courtesy of the National Gallery of Art, Washington).|
I remember seeing an exhibition at the Met a while back about the origins of photography (it may have been The Dawn of Photography, French Daguerreotypes, 1839–1855, but I'm not sure) and being amazed at how quickly the possibilities of the new medium were explored. I felt the same way at this MoMA exhibition. The show contains early very large paintings by Leger, Boccioni, Picabia, Kandinski, and this one by Morgan Russell:
|David Bomberg, In the Hold, 1913-14, oil on canvas, 78 ½ x 93 inches (Tate).|
|Giacomo Balla, Iridescent Interpretation no. 7, 1912, oil on canvas, with original artist's frame, 32 11/16 x 32 11/16 inches, (Galleria d'Arte Moderne e Contemporanea, Turin).|
|Kazimer Malevich, Suprematist Composition - White on White, 1918, oil on canvas, 31 ¼ x 31 ¼ inches (MoMA) — cool white on warm white, to be more precise.|
The exhibition has justifiably received critical raves, but there have been two valid objections. Jerry Saltz wrote:
Only an institution this besotted with its own bellybutton would title a show “Inventing Abstraction, 1910–1925.” Abstraction wasn’t invented in the West in those years. Abstraction has been with us since the beginning.Of course! There's aboriginal, prehistoric and iconoclastic art (art made by people who literally obey the commandment against making "graven images" — early Christian and Islamic art, for example) and most pottery, rugs, blankets and clothing — just to mention some of the abstract art that's been around for hundreds of years (thousands in the case of prehistoric art). And it makes sense that abstraction has been around for such a long time. Why make something that you can see everyday when you can make something altogether different — something perhaps more magical or holy or decorative than everyday things.
Tyler Green forcefully pointed out that they omitted Matisse. Sure one can always come up with artists that should have been included in a show like this, but to leave out Matisse — come on! I know Matisse never went completely abstract, but neither did Picasso, and they placed him in the first room (albeit with only two small paintings). Certainly Matisse was every bit as important as Picasso in the "invention of abstraction."
|Henri Matisse, Palm Leaf, Tangier, 1912, 46 x 32 inches, (National Gallery of Art, Washington).|
Hexentanz (Witch Dance) by Mary Wegman.
Finally, here are a few MoMA developments, of more or less interest, that have nothing to do with art:
- The food in the 2nd floor cafe is better, and waiters take your order now.
- They have a member’s line for The Scream, although it wasn’t at all crowded last time I went anyway - perhaps people are wising up.
- The member’s coat check is more crowded than non-members'.
- The escalators are not as dangerous anymore. I've been complaining about them for years and they finally installed rope stanchions to induce people to move forward when they get off the escalators so there's less of a chance of a pile up.