Fall Reveal 2021 @MoMA

JTF (just the facts): A partial rehanging of rooms displaying the museum’s permanent collection, spread across the Fifth, Fourth, and Second floors, with included photography (and some video) as follows:

Fifth Floor

501 Motion and Illumination

  • American Mutoscope and Biograph Company/Deutsche Mutoscope und Biograph GmbH: 1 black-and-white film, 1902
  • Brassaï: 2 gelatin silver prints, 1934, 1936
  • Alvin Langdon Coburn: 1 photogravure, 1908
  • Hilaire-Germain-Edgar Degas: 1 gelatin silver print, 1895
  • Frank Jay Haynes: 1 albumen silver print, c1895
  • Lewis W. Hine: 1 collage of gelatin silver prints, c1913
  • Edward Hoole: 1 gelatin silver printing-out-paper print, c1900
  • Robert Howlett: 1 albumen print from glass negative, 1857
  • Gertrude Käsebier: 1 platinum print, c1901
  • Charles Marville: 3 albumen silver prints, 1870s
  • James Mudd: 1 albumen silver print, 1865
  • Edwin S. Porter: 1 35mm film (black-and-white, silent), 4 minutes, 1905
  • William H. Rau: 1 platinum print, 1900
  • Jacob August Riis: 4 gelatin silver prints, 1889/1957, 1890/1957
  • Edward Steichen: 1 pigment print, 1904; 1 direct carbon print, c1910
  • Alfred Stieglitz: 2 photogravures, 1898, 1902
  • Unknown: 3 albumen silver prints, 1889

502 Lillie P. Bliss (no photography)

503 Picasso, Rousseau, and the Paris Avant-Garde (no photography)

516 Pepón Osorio’s Badge of Honor (no photography)

519 Bauhaus and Beyond

  • Florence Henri: 1 gelatin silver print, 1932
  • László Moholy-Nagy: 1 gelatin silver print, c1926; 1 cut and pasted printed papers, airbrushed gouache, ink, and pencil on board, 1923

Fourth Floor

415 Divided States of America

  • Öyvind Fahlström: 1 16mm film transferred to video (black and white, sound), 4 minutes 30 seconds, 1966
  • Martha Rosler: 5 inkjet print (photomontages), c1967-1972/2011

417 Transparency in Architecture and Beyond

  • Michelangelo Antonioni: 1 excerpt from “La Notte”, 1961, 35mm film (black-and-white, sound), 2 minutes
  • Herbert Matter: pages 1-3 of 4 page foldout collage, c1951
  • Walter Niedermayr: 1 set of 3 inkjet prints, 2010
  • Klaus Pinter, 1 gelatin silver print, 1972
  • G.E. Kidder Smith: 18 gelatin silver prints, 1937-1942
  • Ezra Stoller: 8 gelatin silver prints, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1977

418 Marta Minujin’s MINUCODE

  • 1 16mm film transferred to seven-channel high-definition video (color, silent), 4 minutes, 1968

420 Body on the Line

  • Valie Export: 1 video (black-and-white, silent), CRT monitor, aluminum and glass table, glass bowl water, two concept papers, ephemera, 1973/2011
  • Suzanne Lacy, Dori Atlantis, Jan Lester Martin, Nancy Youdelman: 1 installation of gelatin silver prints, black and white instant prints, advertisements, posters, correspondence, bottles, and exercise equipment, 1972

Second Floor

212 Guadaleupe Maravilla: Luz y Fuerza (no photography)

213 Sky Hopinka’s I’ll Remember You as You Were, Not as What You’ll Become (no photography)

214 Critical Fabulations

  • Deana Lawson: 1 installation of dye destruction prints with specimen pins and paint, 2021
  • Cassandra Press: 1 digital print, 2021
  • Tourmaline: 1 video (color, sound), 6 minutes, 2019
  • Unknown: 9 gelatin silver prints, c1900, c1907-1910, c1907-1914, 1920, c1923, c1930s, c1940, c1945

215 Unstable Ground

  • LaToya Ruby Frazier, 1 inkjet print, 2013

(Installation and detail shots below.)

Comments/Context: In the ongoing effort to keep the museum’s permanent collection galleries fresh and to rotate works into public view that have been in storage, MoMA has settled into a quarterly rehanging effort that incrementally reimagines specific galleries in the art historical flow, or reinstalls certain walls in those galleries. Photography is fully integrated into this ever-evolving curatorial timeline, with both a few stand-alone rooms of photographs (that tend to tell a medium-centric story) and other images sprinkled throughout the remaining galleries (that tend to support a wider artistic narrative).

Collector Daily has been tracking the photographic inclusions in these rehanging efforts since the original reopening of the galleries in 2019, starting with the three floors of that first presentation (here, here, and here), and followed by the 2020 Fall Reveal (here), and the spring updates in 2021 (here, here, and here). This 2021 Fall Reveal makes more photographic changes across all three floors of the permanent collection installation, with generally less emphasis on the medium than in previous iterations.

The most meaningful photographic ins and outs of this Fall Reveal come in the very first rooms chronologically, where the early photography display has been reconsidered (and moved forward one room). Curatorially, the ideas have been sharpened and narrowed, moving from a wider sampler-style presentation to seeing photography (and other art forms) in the context of the industrial transformations taking place around the globe at the end of the 19th century, particularly in transportation and illumination.

Roughly half the photographs on view capture the wonder of new forms of movement, from the immense scale of ship chains and turbine cogs to new bridges that span wide rivers and train tracks that run through vast rocky deserts. In some cases, like James Mudd’s image of a locomotive, the mood centers on streamlined, machine age elegance; in others, like Alfred Steiglitz’ “The Hand of Man”, the dark smoky view has an altogether grittier sense of romance and achievement. But it is the awe and astonishment that accompanied these new inventions that feels freshest in these selections – a unknown couple takes souvenir images of themselves on the platform and on the back of the train, reveling in the spectacle of it all, while a swooping film of “The Flying Train” pulls us along hanging underneath the overhead rails, as the train zooms over canals and bridges and through the city streets.

The other half of the images on view in this first room consider the inventions of gas and electric lighting, and explore the new opportunities they created for both nighttime and indoor photography. Charles Marville’s portraits of isolated lamps on the streets of 1870s Paris literally explain where the new light was coming from, while photographers like Brassaï, Alvin Langdon Coburn, Edward Steichen, and Alfred Stieglitz all moved into the night, searching out the mysteries of foggy avenues, fireworks in the air, brightly lit theater marquees, and empty parks. Inside, improvised flash allowed Jacob Riis to make his images of tenement dwellers, exposing the grim trials of urban poverty hiding in the shadows, and artists like Edgar Degas and Gertrude Käsebier took advantage of the flickering lamplight to make moody portraits. Seen together, the two haves of the light and motion theme smartly gather up many of the key ideas from early photography that the curators might want to communicate, allowing the broader idea of the dawn of modernity to be framed through the lens of a camera.

This Fall Reveal doesn’t include any additional full-room re-installs of photography, but there are a number of well placed photo additions strewn through the rest of the rehung galleries. Florence Henri and László Moholy-Nagy make appropriate appearances in a room devoted to the Bauhaus, and Martha Rosler’s late 1960s collages (where images of war and protest are inserted into fancy living rooms and a shag-rugged boys’ bedroom) add some stinging bite to a room titled “Divided States of America”. Other indirect photo highlights include an architecture room focused on transparency with inclusions from Ezra Stoller, Herbert Matter, and Walter Niedermayr, Marta Minujin’s room-filling video of cocktail party attendees and the subtle codes of style and appearance that differentiate the politicians and business people from the artists and fashion designers, and Nancy Youdelman’s 1970’s feminist self-portraits trying out a range of breast-enhancement devices, techniques, and lotions. There are also a few new photographic additions in the more contemporary rooms – Deana Lawson contributes a dense installation of collaged prints that fills an entire corner of a small gallery, while LaToya Ruby Frazier is deservingly represented by one of her aerial views of a steel mill in Braddock, Pennsylvania.

While MoMA’s ever-shifting medium-agnostic approach to its permanent collection can sometimes seem to sideline a deeper understanding of photography, its metastasizing instability is healthy, as it never lets one line of art history, or even one MoMA-approved view of that history, take hold for too long. This Fall Reveal continues the plowing under of one set of ideas to make room another set to grow, forcing us to see the story of art as a malleable process rather than an unchallengeable canonical outcome. What’s exciting is that as alternate perspectives continue to spread and develop, the relevance and influence of photography keep evolving within that larger framework, creating a healthy dose of exciting uncertainty around previously received notions of what’s important.

Collector’s POV: Since this is a museum show of permanent collection highlights, there are of course no posted prices. Given the broad number of artists and photographers included in the exhibition, we will forego our usual discussion of individual gallery representation relationships and secondary market histories.

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