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Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly – An exhibition of works chosen from the MoMA’s collection

July 6, 2013

ArtsGroup Exhibition | by Maxine Kirsty Sapsford

I was fortunate enough to get a front row ticket to the exhibition many critics are raving about. The tenth exhibition in the Artists choice series at the MoMA: New York’s leading art gallery, by Trisha Donnelly.

Donnelly (an American conceptual artist, born 1974) is well known for the unpredictability of her exhibitions, which can be seen throughout her career (and is highly portrayed within: Trisha Donnelly, Renaissance Society, University of Chicago exhibition, 2008). Her works create an open and personal experience for the spectator, purposely complicating ”the way we typically apprehend and classify a work of art, not to confuse, but to fundamentally enhance the ways in which we experience it”.

Eliot Porter. Blue-throated Hummingbird, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona, May 1959 [Lampornis clemenciae]. 1959. Dye transfer print, 9 5/16 x 7 3/4" (23.7 x 19.6 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of David H. McAlpin. © 1990 Amon Carter Museum of American Art
Eliot Porter. Blue-throated Hummingbird, Chiricahua Mountains, Arizona, May 1959 [Lampornis clemenciae]. 1959. Dye transfer print, 9 5/16 x 7 3/4″ (23.7 x 19.6 cm). The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of David H. McAlpin.
© 1990 Amon Carter Museum of American Art
This exhibition, running until 28th July 2013, brings together a selection of mediums such as film, photography and design, from a broad range of periods and styles, to form three presentations which combined create a fresh perspective of the MoMA’s existing collection. Her fresh and creative take on the works in MoMA’s great, extensive archive allow an honest and open  interpretation by each and every person to view the works.  The three galleries to which this exhibition holds, comprise of; one room dedicated to mid 20th century photographer Eliot Porter, one room for art nouveau type furniture combined with microchip diagrams from the 1980’s, and another room a ‘salon-style road show, spanning the late 19th and 20th centuries’- all very different yet extremely powerful in their own right. A combination not expected to succeed but one that indeed compliments one another greatly. This alternate way of displaying and curating follows Donnellys pattern of being one known to throw ‘curve-balls’ into the art world. One example of her alternative way of approaching exhibiting and the art world in general, can be seen when Donnelly very famously arrived at one of her crowded exhibition openings (Casey Kaplan) on horseback reciting a mysterious speech, just one of the mood enhancing acts she has performed.  Donnelly is often said to be more interested in the delivery of the shows than the items being shown, which is very believable given the overt exhibition première’s and exaggerative speeches she gives.

For this exhibition, Artists Choice, Trisha Donnelly opened by turning the lights down and playing music which she explained to have influenced the curating process of this show; starting with  Domenico Scarlatti’s “Cat’s Fugue” which she explained to “spatially build and generate a dimension that’s somewhat inexplicable.” All aspects that she uses aid in the creation of her desired atmosphere for her works and exhibitions. Donnelly takes into account every aspect;  such as angles, lighting and sound to create an all round ‘performance’ for her exhibitions – something she has greatly made a name for herself as doing. This way of thinking, performing and creating, allows a different view of the works from that of the past and can enhance the viewers experience. With the Artists Choice exhibition this gave the works a much more individual strength and background, for example; ‘Anfibio Convertible Couch’ by Alessandro Becchi, (from the architecture and design department) is, within the context of its department, a mere item, but is somehow transformed within this exhibition and given creative merit, displaying a more artistic approach to the ‘product’ oppose to a catalogue style it can often be seen to fall into. Cleverly Donnelly also manages to pull together strong sets of works such as an entire room dedicated to the works of Eliot Porter who created a specific style of bird photography in the years before his death in 1990. She thus presents an array of artistic angles, times and style, in various forms, and in various collections, causing an overall unique and exhilarating experience that I can honestly say I have not seen these works presented/displayed within before.

Donnelly has a way of causing the audience to take a different perspective of art, with the photographs by Eliot Porter, Trisha Donnelly was said to have experienced a moment of transportation – or time travel – when viewing the works. From one angle the birds in the images represent another way of life, another way of moving through the world, she said “The speed of their lives is so different”, “You have a different idea of the time-space continuum.” when viewing these images. Such a way of seeing can somewhat transport you; another angle that can be taken is the idea that any photo, item, artwork or other from the past can be seen as a means of ‘time travel’. Bringing back memories, or creating new ‘forged’ memories of the past, is inevitably a result of these items/images, and thus a ‘time travel’ idea comes about. Trisha Donnelly thus issues a new method of thinking and viewing, which subsequently causes the works to gain power, gain emotion and gain stature as artworks.

To sum up the entire exhibition, Donnelly simply and passionately says “We are running out of time and each of these works holds in it an infinite mass of exactly that time…Each one is an epic entity.” Giving space and power to the works forms the strengths that you can see within the exhibitions of Trisha Donnelly, strengths that are difficult to find and often lay undiscovered.

Bravo to Donnelly for creatively enhancing the somehow overlooked works and bringing them to the forefront of the art world to be viewed in their deserved strengths.

Words Sarah Everest


Organized by Trisha Donnelly with Laura Hoptman, Curator, and Cara Manes, Collection Specialist, Department of Painting and Sculpture, Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly is part of the Artist’s Choice exhibition series at The MoMA Gallery, New York. Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly runs until July 28. For more information go to – www.moma.org