Modjesko was a popular drag performer in Paris in the early years of the twentieth century. Art critic, Félix Fénéon, included this portrait in several exhibitions at Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, including the group show Portraits of Men. In 1909, he signed artist Kees van Dongen to a seven-year contract. Both anarchists, van Dongen and Fénéon shared a desire to advocate for the rights of socially marginalized people.
Modjesko, Soprano Singer (1908) was Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
The idea for this work began when Salvador Dalí discovered an inkwell illustrated with the praying couple (from Jean-Francois Millet’s painting The Angelus, 1857–59). He embedded the inkwell in a loaf of bread and placed them both on the portrait bust of a woman.
In 1931, Dalí described Surrealist sculpture as “created wholly for the purpose of materializing in a fetishistic way, with maximum tangible reality, ideas and fantasies of a delirious character.” Retrospective Bust of a Woman (1933) not only presents a woman as an object, but explicitly as one to be consumed. A baguette crowns her head, cobs of corn dangle around her neck, and ants swarm along her forehead as if gathering crumbs. Ants, of course, are a common reoccurring motif in Dali’s work.
Eileen Gray (1879 – 1976) wrote that “Art is not just the expression of abstract relationships. It must also encapsulate the most tangible relations, the most intimate needs of subjective life.
Consistent with these aims, this freestanding Lacquered Wood Screen (1922) which functions both as a movable wall to divide a space, and as an abstract modern sculpture composed of solids and voids. Working in Paris after World War I, Gray popularized and perfected the meticulous art of lacquered furnishings, which struck a chord with the contemporary taste for exotic materials, especially those used in Japanese decorative arts.
In 1964, Italian designer Giancarlo Mattioli, guided by the era’s enthusiasm for space-age forms and materials, experimented with then-newly-available thermoplastic resins. The result was this Nesso Table Lamp, an object represented in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. Invoking an otherworldly mushroom, the Nesso Lamp’s eye-catching shape provides diffused incandescent light. Produced by Artemide, the lamp is available for purchased from the MoMA Design Store (online only) at This Link.
This illuminated diorama-like construction contains eleven, parallel painted-glass panels. Both pictorial illusion and actual depth produce a sense of receding space, from the proscenium arch of the front panel to the sky on the furthest, with various bizarre objects, figures and scenarios sandwiched in- between.
This unusual work may have been Dali’s attempt to recreate “a large, square box” he had seen as a boy: “It was a kind of optical theater, which provided me with the greatest measure of illusion of my childhood. I have never been able to determine or reconstruct in my mind exactly what art was like.
Salvador Dali’s The Little Theater (1934) Was Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art in NYC.
Pampatar Board (1954) heralds the arrival of Colorythms, a series of paintings that, to Venezuelan artist Alejandro Otero (1921 – 1991) are “imbued with the constructive meaning given to me by an intimate and passionate contact with architectural rhythm and space.” In the 1950s, Otero worked with architects on several new public projects to modernize Caracas, often contributing his original murals.
This work’s monumental verticality reflects the artist’s interest in modern architecture, while the composition’s rhythmic arrangement of vivid colors, obtained from industrial paints traditionally used on automobiles, conveys the dynamism of modern urban life that inspired Otero.
A domestic worker who labored for many years in a convent before becoming a housekeeper, Seraphine Louis (1864 – 1942) painted floral motifs on household items, canvases and boards. Her talent was recognized by one of her employers, the German art critic, dealer, and collector Wilhelm Uhde. The title Tree of Paradise (1928) suggests a concern with religious themes, and the work’s arrangement of jewel-like leaves recalls the stained glass windows of Gothic churches. Louis flattened the elements of landscape into a single plane; a tree extends diagonally across water, as grass and sky weave together to create a decorative interplay of patterns.
Writing posts about exhibits in museums that are currently closed: this is now a thing that keeps content fresh when there is nowhere to go, unless a walk around the block counts as a cultural event. What can I say about Judd; the ambitious MoMA retrospective of a major force in contemporary art that was open for just over two weeks before Covid-19 temporarily shuttered this and other museums? Mostly, I feel fortunate that I took advantage of an opportunity to attend a Member’s Preview on February 28th, the Friday evening before the exhibit officially opened to the public. I made the trip uptown from my day job on Wall Street after putting in a full day, and I was pretty beat, but I was so excited to see dozens of works of art by Donald Judd all in one place that I figured it would be worth it. And it was.
I’ve been fan of Judd’s minimalist sculpture since I was studying contemporary art in college, so I knew there was no way I was going to miss this exhibit — but I thought I had months to see it. It’s funny how things turn out. If I hadn’t visited MoMA that Friday, I would have likely missed it for sure. And that would have been a shame. It’s lucky also that I took as many photos as I did, because I hadn’t intended to even write about the exhibit, beyond maybe a featured piece or two in a Modern Art Monday column. Everything is different now.
Until things are back to some kind of normal, it’s a bit of a consolation that I can still bring my readers Art in the Time of Covid. For those who aren’t already familiar with the artist’s oeuvre, let me provide you with basic background on Donald Judd and enhance your enjoyment of these exhibit photos by including text from Judd’s webpage at MoMA Dot Org. Enjoy!
“I had always considered my work another activity of some kind,” remarked artist Donald Judd. “I certainly didn’t think I was making sculpture.” One of the foremost sculptors of our time, Judd refused this designation and other attempts to label his art: his revolutionary approach to form, materials, working methods, and display went beyond the set of existing terms in mid-century New York.
His work, in turn, changed the language of modern sculpture. Bringing together sculpture, painting, drawing, and rarely seen works from throughout Judd’s career, Judd is the first US retrospective in over 30 years to explore this artist’s remarkable vision.
Donald Judd (1928–1994) began his professional career working as a painter while studying art history and writing art criticism. Among a new generation of artists who sought to move past the breakthroughs of Abstract Expressionism, Judd shifted from two to three dimensions, into what he called “real space,” relinquishing a focus on the artist’s gesture. In his constructed reliefs and wooden floor pieces from this time, he established a new type of object-making that rejected illusion, narrative, and metaphorical content.
By the mid-1960s, Judd commenced his lifelong practice of using industrial materials, such as aluminum, steel, and Plexiglas, and delegating production of his work to local metal shops. With the help of these specialized fabricators, he developed a signature vocabulary of hollow, rectilinear volumes, often arranged in series. In the following years, “boxes,” “stacks,” and “progressions” continued as Judd’s principal framework to introduce different combinations of color and surface.
Judd surveys the complete evolution of the artist’s career, culminating in the last decade of his life, when Judd intensified his work with color and continued to lay new ground for what ensuing generations would come to define as sculpture.
Judd was originally scheduled to run through July 11th, 2020, and I imagine there’s a slim chance the museum could reopen in time for people to still see this exhibit. But who can even say at this juncture.
Should the Donald Judd retrospective at MoMA still be on exhibit once the museum reopens, I enthusiastically encourage you to check it out. The museum is limiting the number of guests who can enter the galleries at one time, so that will definitely enhance your enjoyment of these unique, large scale works of art. Personally, I found the experience to be very zen, and heaven knows we will all be in need of both zen and art once this crisis is over.
Morris Hirshfield (1872 – 1946) began to paint at the age of 65, after retiring from a career making women’s coats, suits and slippers. The flattened, decorative forms of Inseparable Friends (1941) echo his garment-making work. Without distinguishing between the floor and the wall, Hirshfield creates a room through thee planes of shapes and patterns: the women at their mirror, the tasseled curtain above them, and the plant and shoes at their feet. While Hirshfield’s compositions are simplified and stylized, he aimed for meticulous, realistic detail and believed that his figures represented the human body “better than the camera can do.”
This linoleum cut print, Speed Trial (1932), was inspired by Bluebird, a race car that reached a velocity of 246 miles per hour at Daytona Beach, Florida in 1932, breaking the land-speed record. Artist Cyril Edward Power (1872 – 1951) used rhythmic, repetitive curves to conjure the rushing motion of the aerodynamic vehicle. He printed the image using three layers of color: light blue, dark blue, and green. He stipulated that the dark blue should be printed “dark on bonnet, paling to tail” — a graded passage that emphasizes the engine, at the front of the car, as the source of its power.