Posts Tagged ‘MOMA’

Today I went to see the MOMA exhibition by Francis Alÿs which is very aptly named A Story of Deception.

One of his works, When Faith Moves Mountains, was inspired by a phrase from the bible (Mark 11:23) when he asked  a group of 500 volunteers to move  a 1,600-foot sand dune just  using shovels.

The work is neither a traditional sculpture nor an Earthwork, and nothing was added or built in the landscape. That the participants managed to move the dune only a small distance mattered less than the potential for mythmaking in their collective act; what was “made” then was a powerful allegory, a metaphor for human will, and an occasion for a story to be told and potentially passed on endlessly in the oral tradition. For Alÿs, the transitory nature of such an action is the stuff of contemporary myth. (The Guggenheim)

To go with the piece were some definitions of faith provided by Alÿs, which chime with my own views of religion :

The difference between faith and insanity is that faith is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with evidence, whereas insanity is the ability to hold firmly to a conclusion that is incompatible with evidence (William Harwood, Dictionary of Contemporary Mythology, London, 1st Books, 2002)


Faith is a means of by which one introduces resignation to the present, as an investment in the promise of an abstract future. This off course is the Catholic church par excellence.

I would also recommend his video Tornado where he literally runs into the eye of the storm :

For Alÿs, the dust storm suggests the imminent collapse of a system of government or of political order. The act of running into the storm, which we see repeated over and over again, also invites interpretation: is the artist no longer able to combat the chaos he encounters? Is he recognising the vanity of poetic gestures at a time of calamity? Or is it only within the chaos that he can challenge the turmoil around him?

Reaching the centre of the storm, the artist is breathless and almost blinded, yet he encounters a furtive moment of peace that could hint at a new moment of possibility. (BBC)

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“Pictures must be miraculous” – Mark Rothko in 1947

I am lucky enough to live just a few blocks from MOMA so I get the chance to visit shows more than once and spend time with paintings that I love.

The  first few times I went to see Abstract Expressionist New York I couldn’t get past the rooms of Rothkos and Pollocks where you are surrounded on all sides by their paintings. The feeling you get is summed up by Hedda Sterne, the only woman in the famous 1951 Life magazine cover of the Abstract Expressionist painters, The Irascibles :

Leonardo drew things to explain them to himself…. That’s an essential quality of any work of art, the authenticity of the need for understanding. I once told Barney [Newman] a story which he wanted to adopt as the motto for the Abstract Expressionists: A little girl is drawing and her mother asks her what are you drawing? And she says, “I’m drawing God.” And the mother says, “How can you draw god when you don’t know what he is?” And she says, “That’s why I draw him.” (The New York Review of Books)

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“Henry Cartier-Bresson’s images, many plucked from the everyday whirl of his beloved Paris, had the power and poetry of Zen and particle physics–smashing the atom of the present, bottling its spark, and generating flashes of life and light.”

David Friend, Vanity Fair’s editor of creative development

New York’s  Museum of Modern Art first planned a “posthumous” exhibition of photographs by Henri Cartier-Bresson 60 years ago when they thought he had died in World War II.

However he survived until 2004 and thanks to  a very good friend, I was lucky enough to attend a preview of MOMA’s new Cartier-Bresson exhibition:  The Modern Century. The title is appropriate as not only did Cartier-Bresson survive but he went on to define modern photography though capturing the decisive moments from ordinary life and his photo-journalism.
I had no idea he had spent so much time in Asia and particularly enjoyed the stunning pictures of India and Indonesia. Although he was in India in the 1940s, the images seem to be from a far-gone age and I wish he was around now to give us his unique insight into how the country is adapting to the 21st century.
Cartier-Bresson said:
“It is through living that we discover ourselves, at the same time as we discover the world around us.”
His photos of the world around us truly help us discover ourselves.

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