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Friday notePad: 02.19.2016

By Peggy Roalf   Friday February 19, 2016

 Modern to Contemporary at MoMA

Two exhibitions across the hall from each other on the second floor offer a coherent view of two defining moments in art. First, the small, scintillating installation of works by Jackson Pollock from the museum’s collections presents about 50 pieces that encapsulate the artist’s struggle to define his process. Through a selection of paintings, drawings and prints, his movement away from the American baroque practice and influence of his teacher, Thomas Hart Benton, can be charted as he shaped a distinctly original approach to abstraction that culminated in his late drip paintings. The show ends with the spectacular One: Number 31, from 1950. At more than 17 feet in width, Number 31 is one of the seminal works of Pollock’s career, and among the forces that shifted the center of art from Europe to New York. Selected works, here.  Upcoming gallery talks, here. The Jackson Pollock Conservation Project, here. Peter Schjeldahl’s New Yorker review, here.

Above: Jackson Pollock, One: Number 31, 1950. 1950. The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Sidney and Harriet Janis Collection Fund (by exchange), 1968. © 2016 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

 Dan Flavin, Roses, c. 1962-66; Aerolux Flowerlite light bulb, ceramic flower pot, cord and light switch. 2015 Estate of Dan Flavin / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. 

Along with Pollock’s drip paintings, his cohort of Abstract Expressionist painters, notably Willem De Kooning, Lee Krasner and Hans Hoffman, created a force field centered on the color and texture of paint on canvas. But a subsequent generation of artists arriving in New York took a different tack. Jasper Johns, who said, "Take an object / Do something to it / Do something else to it. [Repeat.]", started the next revolution in art making that provoked artists working around the world to use everyday objects as their medium. Among them, Robert Rauschenberg, Niki de Saint Phalle, Betye Saar, and Katsuhiro Yamaguchi took things like lightbulbs, newspapers, chairs, and even taxidermied animals as source materials to be painted on, covered over, affixed to, or surprisingly juxtaposed. For the next two weeks, this insightful show continues the story of modern and contemporary art a few yards away from the Pollock show. Roberta Smith likened the experience of seeing these two shows together as walking from one explosion to another. Read her New York Times review here. Gallery talks, here and here.

Jackson Pollock: A Collection Survey, 1934-1954 continues through May 1; Take an Object continues through February 28. The Museum of Modern Art, 11 West 53rd Street, NY, NY. Info


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