Modern Contemporary: Aspects of Art at Moma Since 1980

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9780810962149: Modern Contemporary: Aspects of Art at Moma Since 1980
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Modern Contemporary is the first publication to address the extensive holdings of contemporary art in the collection of The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The book covers an international spectrum of art in a variety of mediums all made within the final two decades of the twentieth century. Organized chronologically and encompassing a prime selection of the Museum's recent acquisitions of painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, drawing, design, prints, film, and video, this rich and varied array of art from 1980 until now offers a virtual compendium of the visual culture of our own time.
This lively panorama of stimulating juxtapositions, sequences, and cross references provides more than 550 works of art, the vast majority in full color, demonstrating just how actively the Museum, celebrated worldwide for its incomparable early modern collection, has been acquiring works from the present and the immediate past.

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Modern Contemporary, a hefty volume illustrating more than 700 post-1980 works from the collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York, functions largely as a fast ride down recent-memory lane. (Cindy Sherman's black-and-white photographs! Paul Rand's IBM logo! Zelig! The first Swatch watches!) Published to coincide with "Open Ends," an exhibition (closing January 30, 2001) of the museum's contemporary holdings, Modern Contemporary is as much about film (popular as well as art-house) and product design as it is about painting, graphic arts, photography, sculpture, and architecture.

Photographs on facing pages often relate to one another in abstract ways (for example, the luminous soft yellow of a vase by Hella Jongerius and the red haze of James Turrell's installation A Frontal Passage). But because the images are organized by year rather than by medium, mood, or aesthetic, paging through this kaleidoscopic book can be mildly disorienting and less than enlightening. Why should we care that the movie Shakespeare in Love (p. 478) and Robert Rauschenberg's painting Bookworms Harvest (p. 479) both saw the light of day in 1998? And what was the point of including film stills, meaningful at best as forms of publicity, not as examples of the art of the director or cinematographer? Architecture also gets short shrift, making sparse appearances in drawings, prints, and models.

But the best part comes last: 35 pages of brief essays by staff curators at MoMA. They write about the ways new technologies have fostered literal transparency in architecture and product designs based on giving one material the qualities of another. They discuss the importance of role-playing in American photography and new forms of documentary photography in Europe. And they save the book from being merely a lifestyle prop for urban professionals anxious to drop the right names. --Cathy Curtis

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Museum Of Modern Art, Kirk Varnedoe (Editor), Joshua Siegel (Editor)
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