03.26.2012
By Terry Flanagan

The MoMA Elevates Print Media from Pedestrian to Historical

This isn’t the staid trip to the museum that one would normally expect: New York’s best–and arguably most popular–space to view modern art comes alive this spring, with two exhibitions on the glories of print media…plus a set of new sculptures that may or may not be of biblical proportions.

At the Museum of Modern Art in New York, it’s easy to slip into one of several emotions (or no emotions at all, depending on your idea of entertainment) coursing through the bloodstream while strolling about: awe, joy, frustration, indignance, and so on…which is why we’ll take you past the exhibits that tend to elicit such extremes and on to an exhibit that we can all recognize and appreciate. Through May 4, Print/Out and Printin’ (a partner exhibit running till May 14) exhibit pieces that, according to the MoMA, “[examine] the evolution of artistic practices related to the print medium, from the resurgence of traditional printmaking techniques—often used alongside digital technologies—to the proliferation of self-published artists’ projects”. That’s right: it turns that most humble, most pedestrian of crafts–print–into art. And it analyzes it nicely, too, tracking the progression of print, from its most humble beginnings as a vehicle of information, to art’s equal in aesthetic value, to now, when print has become increasingly jeopardized by the advent of digital media. Bonus points for tying in historical context, too: where Print/Out focuses on the progression and technique of print, Printin’ hones in on exactly how print media has been used through the decades, whether it be in advertising or its use in public spaces. Think of it this way: after an afternoon looking at these works of art, you just may, once again, appreciate the familiar feel of that dog-eared copy of your favorite paperback (gone dusty since the arrival of your iPad).

Should you get hungry after all that extended strolling and deep-dive analysis of bits of paper and paint, three of the museum’s eateries await: there is, of course, The Modern, in all of its haute cuisine glory, and Cafe 2 will give a most welcome quick food fix, but for best views, grab a seat at Terrace 5 on the fifth floor. You’ll be overlooking the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden with its current exhibit of Group of Figures, by Katharina Fritsch. Spot the brightly colored Madonna, the St. Michael, and the serpent on the ground, all juxtaposed in a vaguely religious and mythological manner, and discuss with your companions what it could all mean. Order another carafe of wine and round of charcuterie as you discuss. You may not be any closer to an answer upon leaving, but you’ll at least have had your fill of beauty.

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) is on 11 West 53rd Street and is open every day, except on Tuesdays. Find more information at The MoMA’s website.

“Group of Figures” photo courtesy of MoMA.org.

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