“Slinky was once just a little old everyday spring on a ship,” read a brochure describing the origins of the popular toy. Speaking about inventory Richard James, it continued, “One day Dick took it home to show his family. His little boy, Tommy, surprised everybody by making the spring walk down the stairs — all by itself! That gave Dick the idea to make this little old spring into a toy. His wife, Betty, named it Slinky!” What started as a chance discovery went on to become an international bestseller that has helped generations of children ponder the principles of gravity and tension.
Richard James, who began his career as a naval engineer, spent a few years perfecting his design before bringing it to market in 1945. It was Betty James, his wife, who brought Slinky its international success, marketing the cleverly named toy with a catchy jingle and playful television ads. When she died in 2008, The New York Times estimated that the number of Slinkys sold since the 1940s could circle the globe 150 times.
This Slinky was Photographed as Part of the Exhibit, The Value of Good Design, on View at The Museum of Modern Art Through June 15th, 2019.
After 1952, dripping and pouring paint were no longer the primary means of expression for Jackson Pollack.The totemic forms at the left and right in Easter and The Totem (1953) reflect his renewed interest in using a brush to paint quasi-figurative images. The bright colors and expansive spaces anchored by large swaths of black suggest the influence of Henri Matisse, who was the subject of a large retrospective that Pollack would have seen at MoMA the previous year. The push and pull between abstraction and figuration is a thread that weaves through Pollack’s entire career. As he said in the last year of his life, “I am very representational some of the time and a little al of the time.”
He Did What He Wanted (1927) was included in Yves Tanguy’s first solo show at the Galerie Surréaliste, Paris, in 1927. Before the exhibition opened, Tanguy and Surrealist leader André Breton invented titles for the paintings based on a 1922 book called Treaty of Metapsychics by Charles Richet, a Nobel Prize winner for medicine, which explored mysterious forms of cognition — a subject that resonated with the Surrealist interest in the unconscious and in dream states. The title of this work refers to a phenomenon Richet describes in which hypnotized subjects refuse to obey external commands. In early works, such as this one, Tanguy defined his signature style: a vaguely geological, otherworldly terrain strewn with symbols and enigmatic creatures. His biomorphic forms, rendered with a painterly treatment of surface that approaches abstraction, had a profound impact on postwar painters such as Matta and Arshile Gorky.
In Georges Ribemont-Dessaignes’s machine pictures, painted gears, shafts, and wires create obscure contraptions suggesting that the forces of production have run amok. The words included compound the enigma: the name of a Hungarian city, Szegedin, appears on Silence (1915), for example. For Ribemont-Dessaignes, like many other artists associated with Dada, performance was a key strategy. Dadaists held poetry readings, soirées and other live theatrical events. The artist’s sensational performances at a number of these Paris-held events revealed his combative side: he hurled insults at the audiences, promising to “rip out your spoiled teeth, your pummeled ears [and] your tongue full of sores.”
This portrait from 1889 depicts one of Paul Gauguin’s closest friends, the Dutch painter Jacob Meyer de Haan, in the pose of a thinker. The painting includes two books that reflect Meyer de Haan’s preoccupations with religion and philosophy: John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Thomas Carlysle’s Sartor Resartus. Carlysle’s central character is called Diogenes, after the Greek philosopher who searched by lamplight for an honest man, and the prominent lamp shown here may extend the reference. This work was originally intended to form part of a decorative panel for the door of an inn at Le Pouldo — a small coastal village in France where both artists stayed — and was to be hung next to a companion self-portrait by Gauguin that is now in the collection of the National Gallery in Washington, DC.
Where else but the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden at NYC’s Museum of Modern Art could you see a preserved Snowman in the middle of a summer heat wave? I ask yez.
Damn You, Reflective Glass Case
Snowman (2016) a sculpture composed of an actual snowman encased in a glass-door freezer, by Peter Fischli (Swiss, b. 1952) and his longtime collaborator David Weiss (Swiss, 1946–2012). This Snowman is an updated version of a 1987 site-specific work by Fischli and Weiss that was commissioned by a German thermic power plant whose energy—in the form of heat, paradoxically — was used to keep the snowman perpetually frozen. Though a snowman is, as Fischli observes, a “sculpture that almost anyone can make” simply by rolling three spheres of snow and setting them atop one another, Fischli and Weiss’s Snowman is dependent on a technically complex apparatus for its year-round subsistence. Over the course of three decades of collaboration, the two artists explored and exploited contradictions such as this one and investigated the extraordinary potential of ordinary objects and situations.
Snowman Sculpture Head Detail
Snowman is part of Peter Fischli’s Artist’s Choice presentation in the sculpture garden, which also includes a selection of other works in MoMA’s collection alongside Fischli’s original pieces.
Jasper Johns began to incorporate a cross-hatch pattern in his paintings after seeing it on a car: “It had all the qualities that interest me — literalness, repetitiveness, an obsessive quality, order with dumbness, and the possibility of a complete lack of meaning.” Using encaustic, a method of paint that suspends pigment in hot wax, Johns created lush, layered paintings with richly textured surfaces.
Edvard Munch, Self-Portrait Between the Clock and The Bed
Between The Clock and The Bed (1981) reference’s Self-Portrait Between The Clock and The Bed (1940 – 43), one of artist Edvard Munch’s last works.
Jasper Johns Photographed in the Museum of Modern Art NYC. Edvard Munch Photographed in the Met Breuer, NYC.