Sunday, August 21, 2011

“That is modern art”: MoMA and South African art

Today, a friend and I made the trek into New York City to check out the current special exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). I’d been interested in exploring Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now from the minute I heard about it, but predictably I made it in just under the wire (the exhibit closes next week). A complex look at race and power, the exhibit is made up entirely of works from MoMA’s own collections. The curator of the exhibit did a fairly good job of explaining the technical aspects of the prints, which was an added bonus. Nearly all of the artists featured were names unknown to me but I was quickly intrigued and absorbed by them all. Of particular interest were the political posters as well as the pages from Bitterkomix on display. (Here is the basic idea – with a slogan I love – of one of the former. The latter cracked me up with their satirical interplay of text and images).

The exhibit featured one artist who I know (and am appreciating more and more all the time) – William Kentridge. I had first learned of him at another trip to the MoMA (to see the excellent but incredibly crowded exhibit on Tim Burton) and then also found his works on display at the Zimmerli Art Museum and the Jewish Museum (where I went last summer for an exhibit on Curious George). I found out about his production of The Nose at the Metropolitan Opera far too late to even consider going, but that looked like an amazing treat for the eyes and ears! Check out the short clip available here to see what I mean. Unfortunately, even though Kentridge’s films had been at the MoMA in the past, they were not on display while we were there today (at least not anywhere that I noticed). While not an example of printmaking, they still would have been a fitting companion to the Impressions from South Africa exhibit.

Altogether, Impressions from South Africa, 1965 to Now wasn’t a very large exhibit but it had some real gems. If you have the time and access, I would definitely recommend checking it out!

While we were there, we also checked out another special exhibit entitled Talk to Me: Design and Communication between People and Objects. This quirky exhibit looks at the various ways humans and technology interact. One interesting piece was a video about the installation Double-Taker (Snout) at the Pittsburgh Center for Arts. Its ‘curious but shy’ motions reminded me to the movements of a cat and the concept of an emotionally interactive robot reminded me of the Kismet robot I learned about at the MIT museum last month. (Perhaps a post about my recent trip to Boston is forthcoming….) But the take-away piece from this exhibit for me was this hilarious and charming video by a group of Spanish artists: Hi, a real human interface. I challenge you to watch it and not laugh…or at least be amused!

We had a lot of time at the museum today so we also checked out some of the permanent collections, which display works by such greats as Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Henri Matisse, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Paul Gauguin, Henri Rousseau, and my all-time favorite, Rene Magritte. There are also a number of Salvador Dali paintings, including his famous The Persistence of Memory. I always find Dali’s works mind-blowing, especially his Destino short for Walt Disney (beautiful!) and his dream sequence for Alfred Hitchcock’s Spellbound (so fitting to a psychological thriller that pivots around psychoanalysis).

If you can’t find your way out to the MoMA, check out the Great Museums episode about it (video starts loading immediately). It’ll give you a great overview of the history of the museum and a look at its permanent collections.

Update: I forgot to mention that we also saw this small exhibit entitled Harun Farocki: Images of War (at a Distance). It was a bit odd, and not exactly what I was expecting, but interesting nonetheless.

Further Update: I stumbled upon this blog post today featuring the art work of "the new Salvador Dali," Vladimir Kush. Beautiful!!

I also discovered that The New York Times wrote about MoMA's "Talk to Me" exhibit in this article last month.


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  2. Hi Sebastian,

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