The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) continues the presentation of its permanent collection with Points of Departure II: Connecting with Contemporary Art, an innovative exhibition that examines art within six compelling thematic contexts. Opening on November 17, 2001, and running through June 9, 2002, the exhibition will feature a selection of the Museum’s most celebrated artworks shown along with a number of major recent acquisitions and a core of promised and fractional gifts, some of which will be on view for the first time at SFMOMA. Themes include: One Color, No Color; Recalling History; Artifact, Evidence, Residue; Self(?); Other Landscapes; and Between Photography and Painting. These thematic outlines are explored in succinct, single-gallery installations that will take up the Museum’s entire fifth floor. The exhibition comprises more than 60 works of painting, sculpture, photography and works on paper from 1950 to the present.
Points of Departure II is co-organized by Janet Bishop, Andrew W. Mellon Curator of Painting and Sculpture; Madeleine Grynsztejn, SFMOMA’s Elise S. Haas Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture; and John S. Weber, Leanne and George Roberts Curator of Education and Public Programs. In contrast to more traditional groupings (i.e. art historical movements or periods), the curators organized the exhibition around unconventional thematic concepts in order to explore the choices that artists make. “The unique presentation encourages viewers to actively engage with the works in new ways and answers questions they may have about contemporary art,” explains Weber.
The exhibition begins with One Color, No Color, which presents monochromatic works that have proven to be particularly vexing to SFMOMA audiences (according to Museum comment cards). This section explores single-color artworks and the artists’ varied reasons for making them. Some of these works are about the presence of color, while others take advantage of its effective absence. For example, Robert Ryman’s 1958 all-white painting Untitled allowed him to focus on stroke and scale while Yves Klein’s IKB74, a luscious textured monochrome canvas with his signature ultramarine blue, is precisely about color saturation. Robert Rauschenberg’s Untitled (Glossy Black Painting) and White Painting [Three Panel] and Louise Nevelson’s painted wood sculpture Cascade are found in this section, along with Blood Cinema, Anish Kapoor’s stunning red lens sculpture, a recently promised gift.
Recalling History explores how artists reference, critique and draw inspiration from historical facts and images. Anselm Kiefer’s Melancholia, 1990-91, a lead sculpture of an airplane, and his large-scale painting Osiris and Isis, 1985-87, join Kerry James Marshall’s stirring personal meditation on black life in America, Souvenir III, 1998, to demonstrate the varied ways that history affects us in both personal and social ways. Artifact, Evidence, Residue examines the work of art as the result of a performed action, from Rauschenberg’s seminal Automobile Tire Print, made in 1953, to Tom Marioni’s spirited installation Free Beer, which was consumed and created from 1973 to 1979. A section titled Self (?) looks at contemporary self-portraiture through paintings by Philip Guston and Chuck Close, a marble bust by Jeff Koons, a sculpture made of ficus roots by Ana Mendieta and a number of works by Cindy Sherman.
Other Landscapes investigates how artists physically and conceptually engage with the land, including Robert Smithson’s Non-Site (Essen Soil and Mirrors), acquired last year, Jay DeFeo’s relief Incision and Sigmar Polke’s great meditation on the Native American landscape, The Spirits that Lend Strength are Invisible. Lastly, a section titled Between Photography and Painting suggests the interplay between these two mediums and provokes questions about the nature of the work itself. Double Jackie by Andy Warhol, Alameda Gran Torino by Robert Bechtle and Kerze (Candle) by Gerhard Richter take newspaper images or snapshots as their starting points, whereas large-scale photographic works—Futago by Yasumasa Morimura and Tattoos and Shadows by Jeff Wall—reference 19th-century paintings by Edouard Manet. In the end, Points of Departure II continues where the successful Points of Departure (March 23–October 28, 2001) exhibition left off. Weber concludes, “The artworks themselves, the six curatorial themes and the accompanying texts are all seen as ‘points of departure’ for visitors’ own open-ended process of looking, learning and—we hope—arriving at appreciation.”