Mothers of Invention at MoMA, Part 2
Making Space: Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction, April 15-August 13, 2017
Originally published May 20, 2017
Detail of Ruth Asawa's, Untitled, c. 1955; brass wire, iron wire, and galvanized iron wire
A friend mentioned that when she visited Making Space there were about one hundred 12-year-old schoolgirls in the galleries. Kids are, for me, a museum nightmare—the high-pitched squeals, the selfies, the darting about of so many little groups more interested in the social experience than the aesthetic one. Still, imagine the opportunity for these young women to see so much great work by so many great artists with whom they share a gender. It's another world from the one in which we grew up, immersed in the one-sided view offered by Janson and shown endless slides of naked women painted by men.
The most beautiful installation view in the show:
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Ruth Asawa (center), and Lenore Tawney
Magdalena Abakanowicz, Yellow Abakan, 1967-68, sisal
Detail of Yellow Abakan
Lenore Tawney, Little River, 1968, linen
Tawney lived in the same Coenties Slip neighborhood at the tip of Manhattan as did Agnes Martin, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns. She was friends with Martin, and in my mind they share an aesthetic, albeit with different mediums.
Detail of Little River, whose linen warp threads, woven in separare strips and then brought trogether in ever-larger groupings, are the visible element of the piece
I love this pairing: Mira Schendel, Untitled from the series Droguinhas (Little Nothings), 1964-66, Japanese paper; with Sheila Hicks on the far wall
Sheila Hicks, Prayer Rug, 1965, handspun wool
The Asawa sculpture in the center of the gallery will orient you to the wall of drawings, prints, and small weavings to the left of where you enter. The conversation here between and among the works on the wall and the sculptures throughout the rest of the gallery is lively and visually engaging.
Gego, above and below
Balance, 1960, etching
Untitled, 1963, ink on paper
Anni Albers, Tapestry, 1948, linen and cotton
Detail below text
Update: A recent show at the David Zwirner Gallery in New York City presented a range of work that spanned the artist's decades-long career.
Above: Detail of Tapestry
Below: Enmeshed I, 1963, lithograph
In this last room of the exhibition we see familiar names along with some who are less known. The biggies include Eva Hesse, represented by a linear wall piece that's as much drawing as sculpture; Lee Bontecou, represented by an oft-shown sculpture with its famously gaping maw; and a Lynda Benglis losenge, built from tongues of wax, its fragility underscored by its placement behind a plexi box. There are artists here whose work I'd like to see more of, including Hedda Sterne, the only woman photographed among The Irascibles; and the Italian Surrealist, Carol Rama, both overdue for posthumous MoMA retrospectives.
In this transition photo we're standing in Gallery 5 looking back into where we've just been. Now let's begin a counterclockwise tour of this last gallery in the show. There's a strong material sensibility here, too, although with different materials.
Viewing counterclockwise, we start with Sarah Grillo, Add, 1965, oil on canvas, then Eva Hesse, Untitled, 1966, enamel paint and string over papier mache
Hesse detail below text
Our counterclockwise tour continues with Hesse, Lynda Benglis, Atsuko Tanaka; Feliza Bursztyn on pedestal
Lynda Benglis, Embryo II, 1967, encaustic on masonite
That waxy buildup is sublime. After Johns almost singlehandedly revived the use of encaustic in contemporary art in the 1950s, Benglis took it to new heights a decade later
Atsuko Tanaka, Untitled, 1956, watercolor and felt-tip pen on paper
Orienting you: As we continue counterclockwise around the room we come to . . .
Feliza Bursztyn, Untitled (from the series Histericas), 1967, stainless steel and electric motor
Occasionally the clatter of lightweight metal can be heard in the gallery. That would be this motorized sculpture
Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1961; welded steel, canvas, black fabric, rawhide, copper wire, soot
The artist lived upstairs from a laundry. When conveyor belts wore out and were set out to be picked up as trash, they often found their way to Bonetcou's studio, where they were integrated into her organic/geometric/industrial (and altogether terrifying) aesthetic.
Bontecou and Alina Szapocznikow
Alina Szapocznikow, Belly Cushions, 1968, polyurethane
Carol Rama, Spurting Out (Schizzando Via), 1968; ink, gouache, shellac, and plastic doll eye on paper
Detail below text
Jay DeFeo, Blossom, 1958, collage of photomechanical reproductions
Louise Bourgeois, The Quartered One, 1964-65, bronze
We conclude our counterclockwise tour of the gallery with this hanging bronze sculpture. To orient you, Sarah Grillo's painting is to the left of the doorway; the gallery beyond is Gallery 4, which contains the Abakanowicz.
In the vestibule on our way out of the exhibition: Hedda Sterne, New York VIII, 1954, synthetic polymer paint on canvas
For more on the work of women artists, Blurring Boundaries: The Women of American Abstract Artists is at the Baker Museum of Art, Naples, Florida, through July 25, and will travel, culminating at the Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, Connecticut, in 2023. Info here.
Catalog viewable online here
My walk-through of the exhibition here