Week 7 FMP: MoMA part 3: Meeting 4 Americans

Continuing to move through enormous gallery rooms I discovered more and more pieces with resonance for my project work. A huge 1950 Jackson Pollock painting called One: Number 31 dominated a wall in one space, this being one of three wall sized paintings he completed. Not having been close to such a piece before I did not know how to respond and feel. Being worshipped by some and questioned by others I was caught somewhere in between. Despite it looking like random flicks and tangles of paint an aesthetic balance was achieved in the image and the work involved to achieve it, evident. However, it is not a style I would choose to live with and pay large sums for. It made me think of the tangles of beach debris I have been working with, particularly the fishing nets, ropes and lines. Achieving an image with a ‘containing and balanced’ feel to it with (often) non-maleable materials too large for the scanning surfaces I am using is frustrating and requires more patience and time than is available some days.

Jackson Pollock 1950, One: Number 31

I loved meeting Frank Stella’s 1984 work in person for the first time. Bringing together geometric forms and bright colours and protruding from its wall hanging into the room space, Giufa la luna, y ladri et le guardie was an exciting discovery. As with Pollock, the apparent simplicity in the use of colours and lines, almost verging on ‘scribble’ in parts belies the compositional expertise and effort. The piece is stark, ‘in-your-face’ and yet fun and alive without overwhelming and oppressing. My response was instinctive and surface level as the accompanying text explains inspiration came from Italo Calvino’s Italian Folktales 1956 and was made at a significant time when Stella (then 33years old) moved from painting to sculptural work.

Frank Stella 1984, Giufa la luna, y ladri et le guardie

I am now studying Stella’s work in more detail with an increasing number of reflections in relation to my own, albeit on a very small scale in comparison. For example, His metalwork such as Fishkill 1995 looks like an enormous tangled mess (although deliberately welded that way) and reminds me of my metal vase created from metals washed up on the shore. His giant wall image The layers in the Michael Kolhaus Curtain 2008 reminds me of the mixed debris image I made and had printed on a beach towel.

Frank Stella 1995, Fishkill
Sarah Newton 2018, Metal Vase
Frank Stella 2008, Michael Kolhaus Curtain

Continuing with sculptural forms I also encountered David Hammons Untitled (Night Train) 1989 and Untitled 2010. His interest in the utilitarian and disposable connects directly with my intentions to contribute to awareness raising about our throw away culture that spews our own debris back at us on the sea shore while retaining that which has been digested by and has trapped sea creatures. The circular shape and use of bottles in Untitled (Night Train) reinforced my path with Events Horizons. The black plastic taking prominence over underlying art in Untitled 2010 stood out and in my mind was questioning our global responsibilities and priorities (i.e. we must prioritise the plastic and other environmental concerns ‘over’ lesser priorities so that they (e.g. art) can have a world in which to continue to thrive).

David Hammons 1989,  Untitled (Night Train)
David Hammons 2010, Untitled

Lee Bontecou Untitled 1980-98 was the fourth American artist I discovered on this brief visit. With a beautiful mobile structure moving gracefully above my head I was transfixed. As the accompanying caption read the beholder could easily imagine it to be organic and/or manmade and attribute qualities only they perceived in imagination. I spent time thinking about my planetary concept for the current project and in my mind constructing a mobile of my images. If only I had more time to construct a mobile and if only I had the vision and expertise to turn beach debris into a rotating mysterious thing of beauty.

Lee Bontacue, Untitled 1980-98
Lee Bontacue, Untitled 1980-98

If I had to choose which of these pieces I would like to ‘live with’ in my home Lee Bontacue’s mobile would be the one. I could also imagine making blinds and curtains out of fabrics printed with Frank Stella’s colourful designs, given the right room to hang them. For a moment there I was clearly thinking too much inside my domestic  ‘box’, this being one perspective that needs to be put aside (but not ignored) in my project work which is intended to be made public in due course. I am rather belatedly realising that the mindset in making art to have ‘at home’ in contrast to displaying in public spaces can have a significant and possibly restrictive influence on creative drivers and endeavours.

My task now is to distill the thoughts arising form the impact of each of these artists and use the acquired knowledge in my project. One thing that is emerging is my leaning beyond the gallery wall and onto floors and ceilings as well. In an ideal world, expenses for a student project no problem, I would love to have each type of surface used with displays of debris and recycling in many forms.

CAMPBELL, Andrianna, NESIN, Kate, BLALOCK, Lucas & RICHARDSON, Terry.   2018. Frank Stella. Phaidon Contemporary Artists Series. London: Phaidon.

MoMA. 2018. ‘Museum of Modern Art’. Available at: https://www.moma.org/ [accessed 21/11/18].

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