Elements Of The Natural, 1950-1992 - Museum Of Modern Art

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Elements of the natural, 1950-1992 :selections from the drawing collection,the Museum of Modern Art, May 7August 25, 1998AuthorMuseum of Modern Art (New York, N.Y.)Date1998PublisherThe Museum of Modern ArtExhibition URLwww.moma.org/calendar/exhibitions/207The Museum of Modern Art's exhibition history—from our founding in 1929 to the present—isavailable online. It includes exhibition catalogues,primary documents, installation views, and anindex of participating artists.MoMA 2017 The Museum of Modern Art

AwbiWElements of the Natural: 1950-1992Selections from the Drawings CollectionThe Museum of Modern Art, May 7-August25, 1998The MuseumFrom the beginnings of modern art, avariety of artists, most notably PaulCezanne and Claude Monet, found innature a primary source of artistic inspiration. Soon afterwards, nature as subjectmatter was frequently abandoned by theavant-garde in preference of the drama ofurban society and the new stylistic challenges that it provided. Thespectacle of nature, mostoften defined by landscape,was consequently relegated toa secondary status in the hierarchy of artistic genres. Whilenot entirely dismissed by themodern artist, nature as subject now seemed, in manyways, to be in direct conflictwith the notion of modern art.Emphasis on both the materialand form of the industrial landscape continued to color theiconography of modern art untiljust after World War II. It isduring this period, shadowedby the omnipresence of theatomic bomb—considered tobe the most horrific product ofindustrial technology—thatmany artists of the era beganto question the values ofprogress in which they hadplaced their faith. Amid thisatmosphere of nuclear anxiety,these artists began to return toof ModernArt Librarythe natural world for inspiration, newlyappreciating its immaterial beauty, as wellas its impermanence: a quality suddenlyurgent in light of the absolute destructivecapabilities of modern technology.Focusing on the years of 1950-1992,Elements of the Natural begins during thisGeorgia O'Keeffe. Drawing X. 1959. Charcoal,24%x 18%"(63.2 x 47.3 cm).Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (by exchange), 1972

period when the natural world once againbecame raw material for creativity andcontinues through the contemporary era.The works included are not to be considered as part of any organized "back tonature" movement, nor was the selectionbased on any stylistic similarities or progression. Rather, all share a common element: an individual search on the part ofthe artist to capture the essence ofnature.Under the rubric of "landscape art,"Milton Avery's Dune Bushes (1958), JoanMitchell's Untitled (1992), and VijaCelmins's Untitled (Ocean) (1970) capturethe timeless essence of the landscapetheme. However, their depictions of thetangible world of land and water areinformed by a new vocabulary: simplification, abstraction, and elimination of spatialreferents. In contrast, Ellen Phelan'sworks from the Loon Lake series (1983)and Per Kirkeby's two Untitled works(both 1977) also depict an essentialistview of the landscape but express concern with the intangible elements of lightand atmosphere as translated throughtexture and color.Artists such as Jim Dine and AnishKapoor, however, obliterate the surrounding landscape and focus instead on thesingle object in nature. Their artistic concerns stretch beyond the mere transcription of nature's beauty. Dine's depiction ofa solitary tree in A Tree that Shatters theDancing (1980), as well as Anish Kapoor'svegetal imagery in Untitled (Red Roots)(1990) become archetypes used throughout their oeuvres as devices for stylisticexperimentation. Ultimately, transcendence of the object depicted occursthrough each artist's expressive use ofcolor. Using deep blues and grays, Dine'stree becomes an object of both confrontation and contemplation. By employingblood-red hues, Kapoor successfullycollapses the boundaries between thehuman and the natural world; his rootsresemble veins and capillaries, evokingthe spiritual persona of "mother earth."Other artists included in the exhibition donot represent the landscape but chooseinstead to physically engage it as part ofthe artwork. Jean Dubuffet's BotanicalElement: Baptism of Fire (1959), RichardLong's Untitled (1992), and John Cage'sRiver Rock and Smoke 4/3/90 #5 (1990) allemploy nature and natural elements asthe medium. Dubuffet's collage composed of densely layered leaves andLong's substitution of river mud forpigment present the tangible elements ofthe earth, while Cage, in contrast, usesthe intangible element of smoke toimprint the ethereal and swirling structures within his drawing. Suffused withnatural processes, Cage's watercolordemonstrates the interaction of the fourelements: earth, air, fire, and water.Represented by three grid formations thatshe entitles Mountain (1960), Red Bird(1964), and Wood (1965), Agnes Martin isan example of an artist who looks beyondthe exterior design of the natural object,choosing instead to give objective form toher subjective responses to the naturalworld. In Georgia O'Keeffe's Drawing X(1959) and Ellsworth Kelly's Pine Branch(1950), nature has been distilled anddecoded to an extent that its underlyingstructure is revealed. Stripped down totheir essence, O'Keeffe's aerial view of ariver and Kelly's solitary branch express intheir simplicity a stark but precise beauty.

Jim Dine. A Tree that Shatters the Dancing. 1980. Synthetic polymer paint, synthetic polymer spray paint, charcoal,andpastel on cut-and-pastedpaper, 56'A x 5016"(143.4x 127.5cm) (irreg ). Gift of Nancy and Jim Dine in memory of MyronOrlofsky, 1982

While the drawings of O'Keeffe and Kellydemonstrate the elimination of ornamentto the point of purification, ChristopherWool's Untitled (1991), Yayoi Kusama'sUntitled (1952), and Brice Marden's Rain(1991) celebrate that aesthetic artificewhich composes nature's own patterning.Whether portraying the repetitive designof a creeping vine through the techniqueof stamping (Wool), the density of aflower's interior through the multiplicationof nets and dots (Kusama),or the shiftingmotion of wind-driven rain through calligraphic line (Marden), each artist explicitlyconveys the decorative qualities of thenatural world.Yet another dimension of this exhibitionfocuses on the interest in nature's microcosm. Tony Smith's and Terry Winters 'sfascination with biology and botany leadsthem to describe that part of nature whichmay only be seen from under a microscope. While Smith presents the buildingblocks of nature, as exemplified by Untitled (1953-55), drawings from Winters'simportant Schema series (1985-86) highlight plant structures, spores, and botanical diagrams. Devoid of idealization, theseabstract and ordered botanical specimensevoke nature's eternal cycle of germination, growth, death, and regeneration.Far from the interior world of naturedefined by Smith and Winters, "EarthArtists" represented in the exhibition concern themselves with the larger vista ofthe natural environment. Interest in "earthart" emerged when artists like RobertSmithson and Michael Heizer ceased toview the landscape as a natural elementreserved for observation, but rather assomething to be physically manipulatedand rearranged. Their unique sculpturalefforts, located within the landscapeitself, deny both the traditional boundaries of the museum and the materials ofart. Drawings included in this exhibitionsuch as Heizer's Field Painting No. 2(1968) and Smithson's Fossil QuarryMirror (Outdoor and Indoor Proposal)(1968) serve as conceptual "blueprints"for their earth sculptures.Thus, through a variety of guises andmodes of depiction, the drawings includedin Elements of the Natural defy the traditional concept of "landscape" throughtheir unique portrayals of the naturalworld. By combining both the external andthe internal concepts of nature, theseartists no longer simply transcribe thenatural world, but rather, reinterpret itaccording to their personal responses;manipulate it for stylistic experimentation;employ it as medium; and even strip it,redesign it, and break it down into itsmost minute elements. While simultaneously expressing both the simple splendorof nature as well as its universality, theartists represented in Elements of theNatural demonstrate a continuing affinityon the part of the modern artist to addressnature and absorb her lessons, transforming them into pure artistic visions.Elements of the Natural: 1950-1992 wasorganized by Kathleen Curry and KristinHelmick-Brunet, Curatorial Assistants,Department of Drawings.

Elements of the Natural: 1950-1992Selections from the Drawings CollectionAll works are from the collection of The Museum of Modern Art and are on paper unlessotherwise indicated.Milton AveryAmerican, 1885-1965Dune Bushes. 1958Watercolor and gouache onpaper mounted on board2214x 3014"(56.5 x 76.9 cm)Purchase, 1982Joseph BeuysGerman, 1921-1986Untitled. 1947 and 1970sPencil on four sheets of papermounted on painted woodpanel11% x 38% (30.2 x 98.2 cm)(overall)Gift of Agnes Gund andRonald S. Lauder, 1990Dynamis 3. 1960Oil, pencil, and ink16%x 11%"(41.5x29.5 cm)Purchase, 1983John CageAmerican, 1912-1992River Rock and Smoke 4/13/90#5. 1990Watercolor on smoked paper5214x 15" (133.3 x 38.1 cm)Gift of Sarah-Annand WernerH. Kramarsky, 1995Christo (Christo Javacheff)American, born Bulgaria 1935;to United States 1964Packed Tree (Project). 1968Cut, pasted, and stapled cardboard, polyethylene, cloth,twine, pencil, charcoal, coloredpencil, and wash on board22%x 28 x 14"(56.1 x71.1 x1.3 cm)Gift of the artist, 1968Jim DineAmerican, born 1935A Tree that Shatters theDancing. 1980Synthetic polymer paint, synthetic polymer spray paint,charcoal, and pastel on cutand-pasted paper56% x 50%" (143.4 x 127.5 cm)(irreg.)Gift of Nancy and Jim Dine inmemory of Myron Orlofsky,1982iSix drawings from Cold KeyWest Winter. 1981-83Charcoal and lithographic crayon on handmade pink paper25% x 16%"(57.2 x 41.2 cm)eachGift of the artist in memory ofMyron Orlofsky, 1983Jean DubuffetFrench, 1901-1985Tumultuous Landscape. 1952Pen and ink18%x 23%" (47.5 x 60.5 cm)Gift of Mr. and Mrs. LesterFrancis Avnet, 1968Botanical Element: Baptism ofFire. 1959Assemblage of leaves with oilon paper21% x 27%" (54.9x68.9 cm)The Sidney and Harriet JanisCollection, 1967Helen FrankenthalerAmerican, born 1928Great Meadows. 1951Watercolor and syntheticpolymer paint22 x 30%" (56 x 77.4 cm)Purchase, 1984Hamish FultonBritish, born 1946Mountain Skyline FourteenDays Walking Fourteen NightsCamping Wind River RangeWyoming 1989. 1989Pencil and soil243%x 26% " (62.8 x 66.8 cm)Purchase, 1990Vija CelminsAmerican, born Latvia 1939Untitled (Ocean). 1970Pencil14%x 18%"(36 x 48 cm)Mrs. Florene M. SchoenbornFund, 1970Joan Mitchell. Untitled. 1992. Pastel.29%x 2154"(75 x 55.2 cm). Purchasedwith funds given by Mr. and Mrs.Henry R. Kravis, 1996

Brice Marden. Rain. 1991. Black and colored ink. 25%x 34'// (65.4 x 87.2 cm). Gift of The Edward John Noble Foundationand RonaldS. Lauder,1992Michael HeizerAmerican, born 1944Field Painting No. 2. 1968Ballpoint pen, graphite, wash,and cut-and-pasted paper withtypewritten text22% x 28%" (56.2x71.3 cm)Gift of Carol 0. Selle, 1980Anish KapoorIndian, bom 1954Untitled (Red Leaf). 1987Gouache and pencil13%x 12%"(35 x 31.1 cm)Gift of Patricia and MorrisOrden and an anonymousdonor, 1994Untitled (Red Roots). 1990Gouache and ink20 x 19%"(50.9 x 49.5 cm)Gift of Patricia and MorrisOrden and an anonymousdonor, 1994Ellsworth KellyAmerican, born 1923Pine Branch. 1950Pencil161/4x20%(41.9x51.5 cm)Gift of the artist, 1997Per KirkebyDanish, born 1938Untitled. 1977Watercolor on parchment paper16%x 12" (41.2 x 30.5 cm)Purchased with fundsbequeathed by MonaweeAllen Richards, 1996Untitled. 1977Watercolor on parchmentpaper13%x 12%"(35x31.8 cm)Purchased with funds given byAgnes Gund, 1996Yves KleinFrench, 1928-1962Colored Fire: Blue, Pink. 1962Dry pigment in synthetic resinwith gold paint on asbestoscoated paper, partially charred24% x 19" (62.1 x 48.3 cm)Gift of the Scaler Foundationand purchase, 1984Yayoi KusamaJapanese, born 1929Untitled. 1952Pastel and ballpoint pen14%x 11%"(37.9x29.4 cm)Gift of Patricia and MorrisOrden in memory of MicheleFox, 1996

Richard LongBritish, born 1945Untitled. 1992Mississippi mud78 x 43" (198.2 x 109.4 cm)Gift of Agnes Gund, 1992Leo MansoAmerican, 1914-1993Earth 2. 1962Cut-and-pasted painted fabricand paper on cardboard22% x 19%"(83.8 x 50.7 cm)Gift of Dr. and Mrs. RonaldNeschis, 1963Joan MitchellAmerican, 1926-1992Untitled. 1992Pastel29% x 213/4"(75 x 55.2 cm)Purchased with funds given byMr. and Mrs. Henry R. Kravis,1996Giuseppe PenoneItalian, born 1947Untitled (No.1). 1981Cut-and-pasted paper,gouache, charcoal, and penand ink9 x 9%" (22.8 x 23 cm)Gift of the artist, 1983Malcolm MorleyAmerican, born Great Britain1931Landscape. 1983Watercolor19 x 24" (48.2 x 60.9 cm)Purchase, 1988Untitled (No. 5). 1981Gouache, charcoal, and penand ink9% x 9%" (23 x 23 cm)Gift of the artist, 1983Brice MardenAmerican, born 1938Rain. 1991Black and colored ink253/4x 341/4"(65.4 x 87.2 cm)Gift of The Edward John NobleFoundation and Ronald S.Lauder, 1992Georgia O'KeeffeAmerican, 1887-1986Drawing X. 1959Charcoal24% x 18%"(63.2 x 47.3 cm)Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller (by exchange), 1972Agnes MartinAmerican, born Canada 1912Mountain. 1960Pen and ink and pencil9%x11%" (24x30.4 cm)Ruth Vollmer Bequest, 1983Gakyu OsawaJapanese, 1890-1953The Deep Pool. c. 1953Brush and ink26% x 54%" (68.3 x 138.1 cm)Japanese House Fund, 1954Red Bird. 1964Pen and red ink and pencil121/4x 11%"(31.1 x 30.4 cm)Gift of Mrs. Bliss Parkinson,1966Last Light from Loon Lake:Eleven Drawings. 1983Gouache19%x 13%"(50.5x34.6 cm)Gift of the artist in memory ofher father, Thomas EdwardPhelan, 1984Tony SmithAmerican, 1912-1980Untitled. 1953-55Charcoal31% x 39%" (80x99.4 cm)Purchased with funds given byAgnes Gund, 1996Wood. 1965Pen and ink and pencil10%x 10%"(27.7 x 27.7 cm)Eugene and Clare Thaw Fund,1964Mario MerzItalian, born 1925Blossom (Prehistoric Windfrom Iced Mountain). 1982Oil, spray paint, charcoal, pastel, clay, branch, pushpins onburlap on brown paper mounted on cardboard52% x 75%" (134.1 x 192 cm)Gift of Charles B. Benenson,1983Ellen PhelanAmerican, born 1943Late Afternoon Across theLake from Loon Lake: ElevenDrawings. 1983Gouache10%x9%" (27.6x23.2 cm)Gift of the artist in memory ofher father, Thomas EdwardPhelan, 1984Robert SmithsonAmerican, 1938-1973Fossil Quarry Mirror (Outdoorand Indoor Project). 1968Pencil133/4x 103/4"(34.8x27.2 cm)Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rdFund, 1971TerryWinters. Schema (63). 1985-86.Oilstick and graphite. 12 x 8%" (30.4 x21.9 cm). Gift of Lily Auchincloss (byexchange)and of Richard E. Salomon,1988

4"1Helen Frankenthaler.Great Meadows. 1951. Watercolor and synthetic polymer paint. 22 x 301984Pat SteirAmerican, born 1940Untitled (from the series Fromthe Sea). 1985Graphite, powdered graphite,charcoal, gesso, pencil, andblue ink14' 3" x 60%" (434.5 x 153 cm)(irreg.)Gift of Charles B. Benenson(by exchange), 1986MarkTobeyAmerican, 1890-1976Wild Field. 1959Tempera on cardboard2716x28" (68.9x71.1 cm)The Sidney and Harriet JanisCollection, 1967(56 x 77.4 cm). Purchase,Terry WintersAmerican, born 1949Dark Plants 12. 1982Oil crayon and charcoal413/4x29%" (106x75.7 cm)Gift of Margo Paul Ernst, 1982Schema (65). 1985-86Watercolor and graphite12%x 8%" (31.1 x 21.9 cm)Gift of Lily Auchincloss (byexchange) and of Richard E.Salomon, 1988Schema (55). 1985-86Watercolor, gouache, andgraphite12%x 8%" (30.7 x 21.9 cm)Gift of Lily Auchincloss (byexchange) and of Richard E.Salomon, 1988Christopher WoolAmerican, born 1955Untitled. 1991Alkyd paint, stamped52 x40" (132.2 x 101.6 cm)Gift of Charles B. Benenson,1992Schema (63). 1985-86Oilstick and graphite12x8%" (30.4x21.9 cm)Gift of Lily Auchincloss (byexchange) and of Richard E.Salomon, 1988This brochure is made possible by The Contemporary Arts Council of The Museum of Modern Art. 1998 The Museum of Modern Art, New York

The Museum of Modern Art, May 7-August 25, 1998 The Museum of Modern Art Library From the beginnings of modern art, a . Dancing (1980), as well as Anish Kapoor's vegetal imagery in Untitled (Red Roots) . Untitled (1952), and Brice Marden's Rain (1991) celebrate that aesthetic artifice which composes nature's own patterning.

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