I am really blessed to live in NYC, as well as have days like today, when I can sample from some of its bounty.
Just as I was finishing up work early, a friend emailed to remind me about Ecstatic Alphabets/Heaps of Langauge at MoMA, a survey of text-based art. A very well-edited selection of 20th c. works on paper and printed works are on view, followed by a larger gallery with bigger projects by contemporary artists.
Among the first half-dozen works viewers will encounter are:
- Discs with letters glued to them, by Duchamp, for use in his films.
- A video of photographs of a book by Kurt Schwitters, typeset by Jan Tschihold!
- A beautiful book by El Lizzitsky, which alone would be worth telling your graphic designer friends about.
I was hooked. My favorite discoveries in the modern section were:
Marcel Broodthaers‘ version of Stéphane Mallarmé’s “Un Coupe de Dés…” Simple redaction rectangles on translucent vellum. Hints of what will come, and what has past, is visible. The book is time, and the open spread the present moment. It’s such a simple idea, but so well executed, that its elegance is quite profound. Being moved by simple gestures is always welcome.
Carl Andre‘s now now (1967). I have mixed feelings about Andre, but the textual/typographic gesture was so simple, yet so evocative of objects in space, that I really had a durational experience, to my surprise. (See it on page 2 of this exhibition PDF.)
There were many more works I enjoyed by Henri Chopin and Christopher Knowles. Of course, it’s really amazing and cool that Robert Smithson‘s Heap of Language is on view.
The contemporary gallery provided a nice opportunity to see Shannon Ebner‘s large photos of landscape interventions, as well as Tauba Auerbach‘s paintings.
Most of all, Auerbach’s recent RGB Colorspace Atlas series was ingenious and visually lush. They’re books—blank, hardbound, filled with pages so that it forms a perfect cube. Then, it’s airbrushed to create an RGB colorspace. Six examples are on view—three closed, three open—and they’re breathtakingly beautiful.
I also appreciated getting to know the work of Paul Elliman (British, b. 1961), whose Found Fount series is a series of typologies of odds and ends. (Fount/Foundry/Font, get it?) The objects are on view, but the photograms are also very enjoyable.
A few weeks ago, I decided to switch directions in the studio and give text-based art a rest to see what would happen to my work. I was afraid that working with text might be too easy or formulaic, and result in art that is too quick a read. Ecstatic Alphabets/Heap of Language reminded me of the joy of elegant solutions—textual or not—and my love of the printed page.
The crowds were in full force for Free Fridays at MoMA, rewarding persistence and patience. About a mile uptown, I visited Tom Sachs’ Space Program: Mars, organized by Park Avenue Armory and Creative Time.
It was my first visit to the Armory. I knew that art and antique fairs are held there, so I understood that it is a huge space. Still, nothing quite prepared me for turning the corner of the sole freestanding wall in the Armory, and seeing the expanse of space populated by precisely-lit installations/stage sets as well as various artist-made (or artist’s studio-made) space vehicles.
The show was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and I found myself at a loss for words. I don’t want to ruin the experience for anyone, so I’ll leave you with the fragment M shared with me: “It’s so earnest.” The exhibition continues through June 17. I recommend attending a public program, such as the Demonstrations. And allow lots of time.