press release

NEW YORK, January 30, 2007--The Museum of Modern Art presents Live/Work: Performance into Drawing, an exhibition that examines the relationship between the time-based medium of performance and the more conventionally inscribed practice of drawing. The installation of more than 80 works-all drawn from MoMA’s collection-includes action painting of the 1950s; works from the 1960s and 1970s, when avant-garde artists were increasingly turning to actions as a form of expression; and examples by more contemporary artists. The exhibition includes drawings by Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys, Chris Burden, John Cage, Jackson Pollock, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Claes Oldenburg; video works by Paul McCarthy; and sculpture by Lygia Clark and Bruce Nauman. Many new acquisitions by such artists as Matthew Barney, John Bock, Lee Bontecou, Mona Hatoum, and Nancy Rubins are on view for the first time. Live/Work, presented from January 31 through May 21, 2007, in The Paul J. Sachs Drawings Galleries on the third floor, is organized by Connie Butler, The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings, The Museum of Modern Art.

“Drawing, with its long history rooted in material permanence and its status as a private and often preparatory activity, may seem at odds with performance art. Yet drawing has been used by artists engaged with performance just as it has by painters and sculptors, to record their actions and for the mapping and preparation of those actions. The deployment of unorthodox materials and approaches to the two-dimensional surface, often involving an intensely physical interaction, has in many cases rendered drawing an action in itself,” states Ms. Butler.

The exhibition begins in the 1950s with a drawing by Jackson Pollock (American, 1912-1956), an artist whose bodily engagement with canvas or paper and paint was a kind of performance. Also from the mid-1950s are works by Lee Bontecou (American, born 1931) and Lucio Fontana (Italian, born Argentina, 1899-1968). Bontecou discovered that by turning down the oxygen flow on her blowtorch and moving the tool across a sheet of paper or board, she could create a surface coated in soot. She then scraped away the soot with a razor blade or her fingers in some areas, and burnished others. Similarly engaged with the process of physicality and the two-dimensional surface, Fontana punctured and tore paper with an expressive vigor that links him formally to Pollock and gestural painters working at the same time.

In the 1960s and 1970s artists in Europe and America were progressively turning to action as a form of expression. Yves Klein (French, 1928-1962) used canvas and paper to record the alchemical residue of paint and other materials, often using the female form as a tool for the direct application of paint or material. In Flag to Fold in the Pocket (1960), Claes Oldenburg (American, born Sweden, 1929) executed a drawing of a flag on a found piece of butcher paper and exaggerated the material’s transparency and flexibility by marking, crinkling, and ripping it, thus exploiting its physicality as well as emphasizing the performative role of the object it caricatures. Similar to Oldenburg, William Anastasi (American, born 1933) created Untitled (Pocket Drawings) (1969) by placing a folded sheet of paper into the pocket of his trousers. Unable to observe his actions, he blindly scrawled with pencil onto the surface resting against his thigh, refolded the paper, and began the process again. Works from David Hammons’s (American, born 1943) Body Prints series (1975) demonstrate how, like Klein, he used the body as a tool, coating his limbs with baby oil and powdered pigment and printing his own image on paper.

Many contemporary artists use paper as just one medium among many to record their activities. Ginny Bishon (American, born 1967) made the unique microcollage Walking (But Missing Much) (2002) by obsessively cutting out thousands of tiny dots from photographs taken on walks around her neighborhood, then painstakingly applying the colored dots to a paper support, creating an organic, abstract form that morphs across the sheet of paper. Gabriel Orozco (Mexican, born 1962) is represented by a poignant group of drawings made through the imprinting and active manipulation of the paper by the artist’s hand.

Live/Work: Performance into Drawing
Kurator: Connie Butler

mit Vito Acconci, Joseph Beuys, Chris Burden, John Cage, Jackson Pollock, Felix Gonzales-Torres, Claes Oldenburg, Paul McCarthy, Lygia Clark, Bruce Nauman, Matthew Barney, John Bock, Lee Bontecou, Mona Hatoum, Nancy Rubins ...