Archive for September 3rd, 2007

“It’s like the Modern Art section of the Met but, like, the whole museum is modern art.”—overheard in New York on the 4 subway, February, from a North Jersey high school kid to an NYU freshman girl, explaining what the Museum of Modern Art actually was.             

I always get excited to go visit the MoMA for the random small exhibits they have throughout the museum, because they often contain wonderful gems that may never see the light of day from the museum’s collection, or they were pulled in especially for the exhibition from obscure museums, galleries and private collections from around the world.

Currently on display in the special exhibition section on the sixth floor is a huge installation of even larger sculptures by Richard Serra in what could be considered an indulgent exercise as this retrospective of his work from the past forty years involves large expanses of hot-rolled steel and vulcanized rubber that curved throughout the gallery space (and it should also be noted that LVMH, the luxury conglomerate, sponsored the exhibit).  Because many of the pieces were literally on a mammoth scale, they encourage viewer participation and not merely admiration as you wind through the sculptures at times with a small sense of vertigo as the gentle curves distort both vision and perspective.           

Smaller (only by comparison) works involve the precarious positioning of metal sheets welded together in only the most necessary areas and intended to look invisible to the casual observer in partially completed cubes, and vulcanized rubber bent and shaped to look like the pieces of steel elsewhere on the floor.  Its temporary existence prohibited me from taking many pictures of Serra’s work, but those interested can peruse the images on MoMA’s website and also some pictures taken in the outdoor sculpture garden:           

Richard Serra:  40 Years           

My photos (the last half of the album)            

In addition to Serra’s work (which admittedly was a secondary motive to visit), the third floor’s architecture and design department had a small, though informative homage to the font Helvetica, which celebrates its 50th year in use this year.  A documentary following the rise in popularity of this font was released earlier this year; though it is still being shown in select theatres, it’s better to just anticipate the release of the DVD come November.           

Much like how Serra’s work celebrates the basic in excess, “50 Years of Helvetica” spotlights one of the most popular fonts used today as a masterwork of modern design.  Pulling in various examples ranging from German posters to Massimo Vignelli’s signs for the MTA’s NYC subway system, it showcases the best it has to offer:  its clean lines and its aesthetic appeal.  As expounded upon on a wonderful essay on Slate.com (that I won’t try to replicate but will summarize), it’s moved from the de facto font for corporations (see:  Target, American Airlines, Crate & Barrel, and Toyota to name a few) to a somewhat subversive font used by the likes of American Apparel after the advent of the “grunge” era that took hold of Corporate America much later than the actual grunge era circa 1992-93.  It’s also gorgeous in its simplicity and its lack of artifice, and it’s fucking nice to look at.  There’s little wonder why it’s so common to come across it, regardless of what city you’re in, when you’re trying to decipher the labyrinth of the metro system:  it is ultimately the easiest font to understand, no matter what language you read.


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