The Big Picture: Abstract Expressionist NY at MoMA

One: Number 31, 1950, Jackson Pollock

Abstract Expressionist New York at MoMA is a large show, and I only had time to see ‘The Big Picture,’ a painting and sculpture-centric takeover of MoMA’s 4th Floor. Of course, the typically large Abstract Expressionist canvases, bursting with color, are difficult to hang next to each other even when from the same artist. Rather than playing off each other, they often seem strangled. Jackson Pollock’s One: Number 31 was an exception; this enormous canvas could hold its own in a brawl with just about any work of the era.

Personage with Yellow Ochre and White, Robert Motherwell

MoMA has a treasure trove of Abstract Expressionist pieces, so its great to see them all out. The exhibition wasn’t the art history lesson I had hoped to get from it, showing rooms of individual artists instead of making comparisons. Maybe that’s for the better; it’s rather a lot to take in as it is. Yet it felt lackluster and unfocused compared to some of the excellent shows MoMA has put on recently (Marina Abramovic, William Kentridge). On the other hand, this focus on artists made cherry-picking favorites easy enough: Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Barnett Newman. Swoon

No.5 / No. 22, Mark Rothko

Chief, Franz Kline

Two Edges, Barnett Newman

I guess the conclusion is: there’s some fantastic art up on the walls of MoMA right now, but you can’t see it very well.


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