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Will the Renovated MoMA Let Folk Art Back In? - The New York Times
"Architectural historians argued against destruction, but protest was not universal. The Williams-Tsien building had problems. Conceived on the scale of a compact townhouse, it was only 40 feet wide. Its narrowness created a cramped interior, with corridor-like galleries inhospitable to art viewing. In addition, some people found its façade — composed of more than 60 plates of a copper-bronze alloy textured to look handworked — uninviting, even forbidding. It was hard to tell at a glance what was housed behind them, what the building was about.

At the same time, nobody denied that the design was distinctive, an interruption in a sea of midtown blandness to which MoMA’s facade contributes. Indeed, the Folk Art Museum looked about as un-MoMA as could be imagined: a small, dark, recessive sculpture set against the mega-museum’s stretch of glass and steel. Anyway, it went. A shame. If a work of architecture, loved or hated, has the weight and personality of an aesthetic object, which the Williams-Tsien building did, it should be considered “museum-worthy” and preserved.

There was another factor that made its loss regrettable. The work it housed — by folk artists, self-taught artists, and so-called outsider artists — was not only deeply charismatic, but filled out the story of Modernism in a way that MoMA itself, in recent years, has largely neglected to do.

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This wasn’t always true at MoMA, whose early leaders regarded folk or self-taught artists as foundational figures in Modern art. In 1938, when the museum was operating out of temporary quarters on West 49th Street, it organized a large exhibition called “Masters of Popular Painting,” described as a survey of “Modern Primitives of Europe and America.” Among its 22 artists were Henri Rousseau and Séraphine Louis, known simply as Séraphine, from France, and the Americans John Kane and Horace Pippin. Pictures by all four soon entered the permanent collection, as would work by the Pennsylvania landscapist Joseph Pickett and the Polish-born New Yorker Morris Hirshfield."



"The presence of the Folk Art Museum on 53rd Street picked up the slack. I even tended to think of the smaller museum as a kind of antechamber to the larger one — an entry point, the place you go to first for historical grounding. The museum still offers this, in its 2 Lincoln Square location on the Upper West Side and its “Self-Taught Genius Gallery” in Long Island City, Queens. But in midtown, MoMA is now again on its own with the tradition of self-taught art. And what, if anything, will it do with it?

The full answer remains, of course, to be seen in October and beyond. All we can do at this point is hope for the best, and give some advice. When, in 2014, the fate of the 53rd Street building was announced, MoMA’s director, Glenn D. Lowry, framed the decision in terms of the larger museum’s need for more space, which, he said, would permit the presentation of “transformative” acquisitions “by such artists as Marcel Broodthaers, Lygia Clark, Steve McQueen, Robert Rauschenberg, Gerhard Richter, Mira Schendel, Richard Serra, Sophie Taeuber-Arp and Cy Twombly, among many others.”

I would suggest that we, and MoMA, don’t need any more Rauschenbergs, or Richters, or Serras, or Twomblys. What we do need is “many others.” And some of those Others were, for 13 years, to be found in the Folk Art Museum next door. Maybe MoMA can now be persuaded to acknowledge its spirit, and their genius, in its expanded home."
folkart  architects  design  moma  2019  art  democracy  elitism  hollandcotter  folkartmuseum  culture  museums  nyc 
june 2019 by robertogreco
‘Not Nothing’ Tries to Capture the Artist Ray Johnson - NYTimes.com
"The Siglio book, edited by the poet Elizabeth Zuba, spans most of this history. The first entries, from the mid-1950s, are pure text, blocks of single-space typed prose. Gertrude Stein’s cut-and-paste approach to language is an obvious influence, jazzed up by Johnson’s penchant, verging on compulsion, for associative wordplay and puns.

Even when his work was text-intensive, though, he had an eye alert to shaping it visually. In a second 1950s piece composed of lists of isolated phrases — “Virginia gets tomahawk,” “regards têtes” — he slanted the lists diagonally across the page and turned half the phrases upside down, a graphic that could have been realized only by a radical reimagining of what a typewriter could do.

Johnson had his art heroes — Joseph Cornell, Kurt Schwitters, Allan Kaprow, the Fluxus founder George Maciunas — whom he acknowledged in his correspondence work, placing their names alongside those of pop stars, art world potentates and personal friends. Name-dropping, if that’s what this was, is a recurrent feature of Johnson’s art, but it’s different than Warhol’s celebrity chasing.

Like Warhol, Johnson had an appetite for glamour and the politics of who-knows-who. But he was impatient with hierarchy. Warhol was a worshiper, Johnson a collector, a cataloger. In his work the same plane of importance is occupied by Marcel Duchamp, Anita O’Day and Toby Spiselman, a Long Island friend. It’s hard to imagine Warhol heading up an Anna May Wong fan club, but Johnson did. There’s a sense that for him all names are equivalent in value, are all collage elements, all “nothings,” or rather somethings, equally useful and even soothing in their sameness.

This is not to say that Johnson’s correspondences are embracing and warm. “Every letter I write is not a love letter,” he once wrote, and he wasn’t kidding. Wary distance was Johnson’s default position. When writing to people he didn’t know — Jacques Derrida, say — he could sound jumpy and twisty or haughty. Even in letters to close friends, like the historian William S. Wilson, his most astute biographer, Johnson tended to dance around difficult, intimate subjects.

He would almost certainly have leveled a cool stare at the 21st-century interest — amounting to a faith — in collectivity, collaboration and social practice as utopian models. Mail art, on the surface, looked democratic, nonelitist, even populist; theoretically, anyone could join in. Yet Johnson’s reports from New York Correspondence School meetings speak of members who were summarily banished from the roster for some infraction or other. Johnson himself, in what feels like a punitive spirit, dropped people from his mailing list. Was such policing meant to be tongue-in-cheek, mocking how the real world operated? Impossible to say. Johnson wore ambiguity like a shield.

Occasionally, though, we see him let down his guard, as in a 1975 letter: “I just can’t take it. Overload. My history is too much for me. By the way, the big emotional event of the year is the departure of Richard Lippold with a young Italian.”

For all the zany exuberance surrounding Johnson’s role as mail-art webmaster, there’s a lot of darkness in the book. Death is a running theme, in Johnson’s tight-lipped bulletins on the demise of artists (Albers, Eva Hesse) and weirdly repeated mentions of dead cats. He describes, with gusto, crushing insects in his apartment, and recounts, with bizarre hilarity, the killing of a rooster he witnessed at a boozy art party. His attitude in the telling is beyond irreverence, close to delight.

But was it really? Any conclusions drawn about Johnson’s psychology from his writing must be provisional. He was a master at covering his tracks. Even friends like Mr. Wilson, a frequent presence in his correspondence, felt they barely knew him. He might as well have been the E. T. that he sometimes looked like. We read the correspondences of artists and writers in search of some truth beyond what they give us in their work. But the only sure truth about Johnson is the work: pioneering, stimulating, witty, angry, exasperating and like no other. If there’s a lot we can’t know, that’s O.K. Mystery is part of his beauty and his lastingness."

[See also: https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/b:31e2f33614a6
http://kaleidoscope-press.com/2014/06/readray-johnsons-bookspublished-by-siglio-press/
http://sigliopress.com/book/not-nothing/
http://sigliopress.com/book/the-paper-snake/ ]
rayjohnson  collection  catalogs  lists  namedropping  hollandcotter  104  elizabethzuba  blackmountaincollege  bmc  mailart  art  overload  nothings  happenings  concretepoetry  poetry  writing  letters  fluxus  georgemaciunas  allankaprow  josephcornell  kurtschwitters  hierarchy  horizontality  death  irreverence  newyorkcorrespndenceschool  collectivity  collaboration  socialpracticeart  collectivism  ambiguity  2014  books 
august 2014 by robertogreco

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