Drawings from the Museum of Modern Art New York. The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection

11 March to 29 May 2011

Poster of the exhibition “Compass – Drawings of the Museum of Modern Art New York”

Poster of the exhibition “Compass – Drawings of the Museum of Modern Art New York”

Compass present an extensive selection from The Judith Rothschild Foundation Contemporary Drawings Collection, an extraordinary treasure trove of nearly 2.600 works on paper by over 600 artists, acquired by The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in may 2005.

The collection was amassed between 1003 and 2005 with the intention to give a broad overview over the medium of drawing in all its material manifestations at that time. It includes studies and sketches as well as monumental finished works; works painstakingly produced with the help of technical tools such as rulers and spontaneous scribbles with no special regard for finish; narrative and figurative works and a broad range of abstractions; works in traditional media such as pencil, watercolours and gouache, and various print techniques, as well as rubbings and transfers of soil, pigments, plant extracts, soot, foodstuffs, and body fluids; it incorporates assemblage, collage, and found objects.

The exhibition title “Compass” refers to the collection’s ambition to cover and dis-cover geographically distinct artistic centres (the navigational compass) and its atten-tion to modes of making (the compass as a drafting tool).

The collection is shaped in its foundation by a dual trajectory of figurative practices on the one hand and abstract, Minimal, and Conceptual vocabularies on the other, tracing a rough chronology of each mode from the 1950s right up to the moment of the collection’s completion in 2005. Among the artists represented in the collection are many of the greats of the twentieth century, including Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Donald Judd, Agnes Martin, Edward Ruscha, Lee Bontecou, Martin Kippenberger, Sherrie Levine and Paul McCarthy, a number of well-known contemporary artists such as Kai Althoff, John Currin, Arturo Herrera, Lucy McKenzie, and Paulina Olowska, and introduces into the Museum’s collection artists such as Christian Holstad, Nick Mauss, Seb Patane, and Amelie von Wulffen, all of whom have works presented in this exhibition.

The most recent works in the exhibition suggest new approaches to working with pa-per, using paper as material and source and reconfiguring it in the process. In the first few years of the 2000s, collage and assemblage techniques assume a major role in the production of artists across all disciplines. Appropriation, collage, and montage introduce material experiments and thematic concerns that can range from such dis-crete gestures as transferring found objects into a new art context (a process that is resolutely part of the avant-garde vocabulary since Marcel Duchamps’s Ready-Mades of the 1910s) to more selective imports of elements of found material. These works represent not so much a reversal or rejection of previous approaches and con-cerns or drawing, but rather must be seen as a new application of many different previous techniques and subjects. Selectively pairing works by artists of different generations and urban centres, the exhibition suggests genealogies and influences, highlighting the basic genres and methods that have endured over time. They include representational or narrative works, just as they encompass the material and proc-ess-oriented approaches of the 1960s and 1970s. They cull from popular sources and widely distributed materials such as fashion magazines and press images, an act no longer denotes a critical relationship to the means of technological reproduction and the autonomy of images, but rather simply points to the realities in which images are produced and consumed today. And, they radically expand the notion of drawing from a medium of mark-making – as in the material experiments or process drawings – and a medium of “ideation” capable of expressing fantastical worlds – as in the pol-ished and highly worked-through drawings as finished works – to the more inclusive concept of a “work of paper” able to directly represent the world we inhabit.

Christian Rattemeyer

Organizer: Berliner Festspiele.
An exhibition of the Museum of Modern Art. Under the auspices of The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art. Kindly supported by The Deutscher Sparkassen- und Giroverband (German Savings Banks Association, DSGV
Curator: Christian Rattemeyer, The Harvey S. Shipley Miller Associate Curator of Drawings, Museum of Modern Art, New York.