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Open Book: MoMA’s “Sites of Reason”

Sarah Bochicchio

17 June 2014

“Sites of Reason: A Selection of Recent Acquisitions” opened at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) last week. The exhibit brings together the 16 works by 13 artists, all but two of which have never before been seen at  the museum. “Sites of Reason” becomes a meeting place for not only different artists, works, and mediums, but also for the intersection of elusive ideas and their physicality.

The title itself acts as part of the exhibition, making reference to Gertrude Stein’s deconstruction of language’s pretenses. Playing off of “the sight of reason,” a phrase taken from Stein’s Tender Buttons (1914), the title introduces the public to one of the exhibition’s themes as well as Eve Fowler’s 21 posters. Located in the hallway leading up to the full exhibit, the colorful posters have various phrases from Stein’s works and were once displayed in public spaces throughout Los Angeles. Fowler transforms monochromatic volumes that one would read privately into vivid, multicolored maxims that struggle to exist coherently outside of their original context.

Hanne Darboven
Untitled
c. 1972
Ink on ten pieces of transparentized paper
11 5/8 x 16 1/2″ each
Art & Project/Depot VBVR Gift
© 2014 Estate of Hanne Darboven / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Germany
Photo: Thomas Griesel

Somewhat similarly, in his The Picture of Dorian Grey, Allen Ruppersberg transcribes the Wilde novel, but rather than choosing singular phrases, he wrote out the entirety of the book on over 20 panels. In this work, Ruppersberg renders literature into a visual form. His goal was to “conflate reading and writing” and, in doing so, he gives a new audience access to the text.

Again deconstructing our everyday notions and disorientating the viewer, Matt Mullican’s presented works were all created under hypnosis. While hypnotized, he becomes “that person” who is not burdened by age or sex or societal influences. Untitled (Learning from That Person’s Work: Room 1) (2005) is a series of bed sheets displaying ink drawings. The installation welcomes viewers to new sounds, a new interior space, and a new world, dictated by “that person.”

Emily Roysdon
Sense and Sense
A project with MPA
2010
Two-channel video (color, silent)
Fund for the Twenty-First Century
© 2014 Emily Roysdon (related photograph)

While the exhibition contains a range of mediums—text, gestures, visual imagery, and even voice—each work conveys a different type of recontextualization that forces viewers to reexamine their understanding of media. Despite the utilization of blank spaces, illegible writing, hypnosis, and obstructed texts, the exhibit clearly speaks volumes.

Other artists included are Simryn Gill, Richard Serra, Sol LeWitt, Seth Price, Peter Downsbrough, Liz Deschenes, Charles Gaines, Emily Roysdon and Hanne Darboven. The exhibition will be on view through September 28, 2014.

Eve Fowler

SAME AS TODAY

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