MoMA 2019, Part 2: Sur Moderno, David Tudor Rainforest V, Contemporary Galleries

We pick up our report from our recent visit to the Museum of Modern in Art where we left off after Part 1. Working my way gradually downstairs, I came to the special exhibition Sur moderno: Journeys of Abstraction―The Patricia Phelps de Cisneros Gift. This is a major exhibition that fills several galleries with modernist works by South American artists through the 20th century.

As in other parts of the world, South American artists embraced abstraction in the decades following World War II, with lines shapes of minimal color palettes. In his aptly named Curves and Straight Series, Argentine artist Alfredo Hlito takes this to an extreme with thin lines and curves against an off-white background, while Uruguayan artist María Friere used bolder lines and colors in her Untitled.

Alfredo Hlito. Curves and Straight Series / Curvas y series rectas, 1948. Oil on canvas. 27 3/4 × 27 3/4″ (70.5 × 70.5 cm) 
María Freire (Uruguayan, 1917–2015). Untitled. 1954. Oil on canvas, 36 1/4 × 48 1/16″ (92 × 122 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Patricia Phelps de Cisneros through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund in honor of Gabriel Pérez‑Barreiro

Both of these pieces feel like they could have been three-dimensional pieces of design, and in fact, the exhibition does include several striking three-dimensional works. When seen head-on, Jesús Rafael Soto’s Double Transparency appears to be a plat painting or print, but from the side the depth becomes apparent.

Jesús Rafael Soto. Double Transparency  / Doble transparencia, 1956 . Oil on plexiglass and wood with metal rods and bolts. 21 5/8 × 21 5/8 × 12 5/8″ (55 × 55 × 32 cm) 

The lines-in-space motif is also used in Ocho cuadrados (Eight Squares) by Gertrud Goldschmidt, also known as Gego.

Gego (Gertrud Goldschmidt). Ocho cuadrados / Eight Squares, 1961. Painted iron. 66 15/16 × 25 3/16 × 15 3/4″ (170 × 64 × 40 cm) 

The recurring motifs in many of the works show the influence of Piet Mondrian, not just the most familiar neoplastic pieces but his earlier and later work as well. Indeed, I was happy to find Broadway Boogie Woogie hanging in this exhibition after not seeing it in the main collection display. As much as any work in MoMA’s permanent collection, I have a regard for this painting as if it were a friend and not just a work of art.

Piet Mondrian. Broadway Boogie Woogie, 1942-43. Oil on canvas. 50 x 50″ (127 x 127 cm) 

But perhaps the most extreme interpretation of the grid was found in Antonieta Sosa’s Visual Chess.

Antonieta Sosa. Visual Chess / Ajedrez visual, 1965. Acrylic on wood 
37 1/8 × 37 1/16 × 1 3/16″ (94.3 × 94.2 × 3 cm) 

As part of its expansion, MoMA launched a new gallery space called the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Studio, or simply “the Studio”, a space dedicated for live, interactive, and multimedia art. The inaugural exhibit was Rainforest V, an evolution of David Tudor’s Rainforest. Originally a score for a collaboration with Merce Cunningham, it evolved into a performance installation. The latest version, realized by Composers Inside Electronics (CIE), is controlled by computer rather than live performers, as visitors wander through the space.

The installation is constructed from everyday objects, such as a metal barrel, a vintage computer hard disc, plastic tubing, wood crates, and more. The objects and materials are fitted with a vast array of speakers and become resonators that shape and amplify the sound.

The best moments are getting close to an object, such as the barrel or balsa-wood box with simulated earphones, and standing for a moment then walking around. I regret that an iPhone in a crowded gallery is not the best way to record and share it with readers – it really music be seen in person.

There was still more to see, including the newly expanded second-floor gallery for contemporary (1980s-present) works. This period has traditionally been a more mixed one for me, but there are gems and inspirations to be found. There was a large gallery-spanning work by Keith Haring.

Keith Haring

An equally monumental piece by Julie Mehretu called Empirical Construction: Istanbul a fantastic futuristic cityscape radiating in multiple dimensions.

Julie Mehretu. Empirical Construction: instanbul, 2003. Acrylic and ink on Canvas.

On the opposite scale is Eduardo Kac’s Reabracadabra, a video piece realized as graphics inside a vintage Minitel terminal.

Eduardo Kac. Reabracadabra, 1985. Minitel terminal and digital poem transferred to video (0:35 min).

Kac’s piece reminded me of my interest in vintage electronics finding new life as dynamic art pieces.

We end with one panel from a larger work by the artist Zarina, Home Is A Foreign Place.

Zarina. Home Is A Foreign Place, 1999. Woodcuts with letterpress additions mounted on paper.

There is something bleak about an entire musical score made of rests, but also intriguing, and even curious. It is perhaps a reminder that exploring a museum top to bottom invites one to escape one’s comfort zones even at the same time as seeking comfort and solace. I’m glad this visit afforded opportunities for both.

Weekend Cat Blogging: Endangered Wild Cats

Every year on or around earth day (or “erf day”), we at CatSynth dedicate our Weekend Cat Blogging to some of the world’s endangered wild cat species. We look to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as our primary source for species that are “endangered” or “vulnerable”. There are several cat species on this list from many parts of the world, and we present a few of them here.

This year, we focus on South America (for reasons beyond the scope of this article). The Andean region is home to some rather intriguing cats that we have discussed in the past. Perhaps the most intriguing and most endangered remains the gato andino, or Andean Mountain Cat. The Andean mountain cat lives in rocky areas at high elevations of the Andean region of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile and Perú. It is quite small, but has a very distinctive large tail. There is now an organization dedicated to studying and protecting the Andean cat, Alianza Gato Andino. There you can find more about the cat, see photos and also see more of the Andean landscape it inhabits. I am drawn to the starkly beautiful dry landscape, and perhaps will have a chance to visit someday.

In reading about the Andean cat, I also learned about the Pampas Cat. The Pampas cat also lives in western South America, but is not considered nearly as threatened a species. As one can see from this photograph, it bears a resemblance to domestic cats, though with perhaps more squat body shape.

The Guiña, or Kodkod, is a wildcat native to Chile (and parts of Argentina). It is also relatively small, with a thick fur coat and spotted markings.

It is currently listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, and until recently little was known about it. A project was undertaken in Chile to learn more about these cats.

We round out our South American cats with the Oncilla. It looks quite like a domestic cat with wild the coat and markings of a wild cat. In addition to habitat pressures, it has been trapped in the past for the fur trade.

We next go to southeast Asia where several of the worlds most endangered cats live. The very unusual looking Borneo Bay Cat lives only on the island of Borneo. It is quite rare, and little is known about this cat, but it was classified as “endangered” in 2005 primarily due to habitat loss.

The Flat Headed Cat, also from Indonesia, is not one I would immediately recognize as a cat. It lives in the forests of Indonesia on multiple islands, usually near water. Sightings of this car are rare, and it is classified as “endangered.”

Another endangered cat of southeast Asia (and India) is the Fishing Cat. It has an interesting face with a distinctive flat nose and small ears. As the name suggests, it is quite adapted to hunting and eating fish. As such, it is dependent on wetlands and fishing stocks, and is now also classified by IUCN as “endangered.”

Perhaps the most endangered species of cat remains the Iberian Lynx. It is listed as “critically endangered”, with an IUCN survey suggesting between 84 and 143 adults left in two breeding populations in Spain. Conservation efforts are currently focused on supporting these breeding populations. You can read more about the Iberian Lynx in our first “Earth Day Weekend Cat Blogging” article.

If we include large cats as well, there is the even rarer Amur Leopard of northeastern Asia. A census in 2007 counted only about 20 adults remaining. We conclude with this video of the Amur Leopard:

Weekend Cat Blogging #254 is being hosted by Salome at Paulchens FoodBlog?!

The Carnival of the Cats will be up this Sunday at When Cats Attack.

And the Friday Ark is at the modulator.