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Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) exhibits ” Wunderkammer: A Century of Curiosities”

The Museum of Modern Art presents Wunderkammer: A Century of Curiosities, a contemporary reinterpretation of the centuries-old European “cabinet of curiosities” or Wunderkammer. These cabinets date back to Renaissance Europe, when private collectors began accumulating exotic, wondrous, fantastic, or bizarre objects via travels, scientific experiments and investigations, and other collecting methods. The organization and display of such collections were attempts to rationalize and categorize a vast bounty of information, and today’s museums can be understood as an outgrowth of them. On view through November 11, 2008.

Wunderkammer follows this example, with groups of works organized by theme and taxonomy, and features nearly 130 prints, books, multiples, drawings, photographs, design objects, and sculptures by over 60 artists, from the nineteenth century to the present, and includes a cabinet uniquely constructed for the exhibition that contains numerous pieces from the Museum’s collection. New acquisitions by Jake and Dinos Chapman, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Olafur Eliasson, and Nicolas Lampert, among others, are displayed for the first time at MoMA. The exhibition is organized by Sarah Suzuki, The Sue and Eugene Mercy, Jr., Assistant Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books, The Museum of Modern Art.

In addition to the newly acquired works, a wide selection of works from the Museum’s collection that have never been shown before are also on view. Included are Louise Bourgeois’s (American, b. 1911) 8 foot long woodcut and lithograph, The Songs of the Blacks and the Blues (1996); Joseph Cornell’s (American, 1903-72) Untitled (1972), a construction of a glass eye in a spring within a glass vitrine; a print from Claes Oldenburg (American, b. 1929), Screwarch Bridge, state II (1980); and a lithograph of White Teeth (1963) by Jim Dine (American, born 1935), among others.

Odilon Redon (French, 1840-1916), closely allied with the Symbolist movement, rejected the visible universe in favor of one inspired by dreams and fantasy, trips to natural history museums, and attendance at medical lectures. Included in the exhibition are multiple works by Redon, notably The Crying Spider (1887), an example of his use of invented hybrid characters, figures drawn from that fantastic world of Redon’s studies and imagination.

The Surrealists carried on a similar pursuit, famously declaring in their 1924 manifesto, “the marvelous is always beautiful,” and often relied on chance and the unconscious to look beyond the known. Work by Leonora Carrington (British, b. 1917), Dorothea Tanning (American, b. 1910), Wols (German, 1913-1951), Max Ernst (German, 1891-1976), and Hans Bellmer (German, 1902-1975) illustrate and explore these concepts. In Une Semaine de Bonte (1934), Ernst created a “collage novel,” created by combining imagery culled from nineteenth and early-twentieth century pulp novels, scientific journals, mail-order catalogues, and natural history magazines. To create his series of 34 collotypes Histoire Naturelle (1926), Ernst made rubbings over various surfaces—wood, crumpled paper, crusts of bread—then allowed the resulting textures to inspire him to invent strange landscapes, objects, or animals.

With Mark Dion (American, b. 1961), the Wunderkammer tradition is upheld in the twenty-first century, as Dion accumulates, classifies, and displays curious objects in cabinets of his own creation. Dion’s Cabinet (2004), originally commissioned for MoMA’s 2004 reopening, contains cleaned and classified relics recovered from beneath the Museum’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden and the surrounding area, prior to the construction of the new building.

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August 28, 2008 - Posted by | Art Exhibitions, Artists, Books and Magazines, News, raw art gallery | , , ,

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