Sol LeWitt (American, 1928-2007), Rip Drawing, 1973, Torn paper, 13-1/2 x 13-3/8", The Museum of Modern Art. Ruth Vollmer Bequest, 1983, © 2009 Sol LeWitt/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York.

Paper as Medium: Bent, Folded, Mutilated, Pressed, Stained, Slashed

Mona Hatoum (British of Palestinian origin, born in Beirut, Lebanon, 1952), Untitled (Grater), 1996, Rubbing on wax paper, Sheet: 10-3/4 x 14-7/8", frame: 13-5/16 x 17-5/16", Publisher: unpublished, Fabricator: the artist, Sabbathday, Maine, Edition: one of 6 unique variants, The Museum of Modern Art, Acquired through the generosity of Marian and James Cohen in memory of their son Michael Harrison Cohen, 1997, © 2009 Mona Hatoum.

Edward Ruscha (American, b. 1937), Worcestershire Sauce (Lea & Perrins) from Stains. 1969, Worcestershire sauce on paper from a portfolio of 75 mixed media stains, Composition: 5-7/8 x 7-5/16"Publisher: Heavy Industry Publications, Hollywood, Printer: the artist, Los Angeles, Edition: 70, The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of Iolas Gallery, 1970, © 2009 Edward Ruscha.

Dieter Roth (Swiss, b. Germany, 1930-1998), Big Sunset, 1968 (published 1970), Sausage on card in plastic cover, Composition and sheet: 37-3/8 x 25-9/16", Publisher: the artist, Düsseldorf, Printer: Rudolf Rieser, Cologne, Edition: 25, The Museum of Modern Art. Riva Castleman Endowment Fund and Alexandra Herzan Fund, 2003, © 2009 Estate of Dieter Roth.


Museum of Modern Art
11 West 53 Street
New York
The Paul J. Sachs Print and Illustrated Books Galleries, second floor
Paper: Pressed, Stained, Slashed, Folded
March 11-June 22, 2009

Paper: Pressed, Stained, Slashed, Folded, an exhibition of approximately 70 works from MoMA’s collection that explore and manipulate the materiality of paper, comprises prints and illustrated books as well as drawings and a papier-mâché sculpture, the exhibition focuses largely on works from the 1960s and 1970s, when an interest in everyday materials and nontraditional processes fueled the redeployment of some of the most familiar and humble mediums. On view are works by approximately 30 artists, including Lucio Fontana, Eva Hesse, Lygia Pape, Robert Rauschenberg, Dorothea Rockburne, Dieter Roth, and Ed Ruscha, as well as examples by contemporary artists Martin Creed, Ellen Gallagher, and Mona Hatoum, among others. Recent acquisitions by Giuseppe Penone and Mira Schendel are on display for the first time. The exhibition is organized by Starr Figura, The Phyllis Ann and Walter Borten Associate Curator of Prints and Illustrated Books.

In the 1960s Lucio Fontana (Italian, b. Argentina, 1899-1968) experimented with different methods of violating the surfaces in his works on paper, slashing and puncturing them much as he had already done in his works on canvas. Included in the exhibition are his portfolio Six Original Etchings (1964) and artist’s book Spatial Concept (1966). In the etchings Fontana used metal printing plates to puncture the paper, resulting in a pattern of pockmarks on each sheet. What in an earlier era would have been a printing accident was here a deliberate aesthetic decision. Spatial Concept is a small book of gold, accordion-folded paper with die-cut holes through each page.

The potential of paper as a sculptural material is investigated in the work of Dorothea Rockburne (American, b. Canada 1932). Included in Paper are all six prints from her 1972 series Locus. To make them, Rockburne folded large sheets of paper before running them through a printing press, thus creating embossed lines in triangular segments. Aquatint — which appears as a velvety off-white against the white paper — was printed on the portions of folded paper that faced outward and came in contact with the printing plate. The process of folding then unfolding thesheets of paper gives them a sense of sculptural relief.

Ed Ruscha and Dieter Roth created print editions by pressing food and other organic materials onto paper. On display are works from Ruscha’s (American, b. 1937) portfolio Stains (1969), created at a time when the artist was turning away from traditional painting in order to experiment with unusual substances. Here Ruscha applied food, drugstore products, and other wet materials to sheets of paper using an eyedropper. Two works by Dieter Roth (Swiss, b. Germany, 1930-1988), another artist who challenged traditional notions about artistic materials, are also included in the exhibition. To make Large Sunset (1968) and Large Landscape (1969), the artist pressed sausage and cheese, respectively, onto paper using a printing press. Over time the works gradually decomposed, exemplifying the themes of decay and metamorphosis that Roth emphasized throughout his artistic career.

Sol LeWitt, Robert Rauschenberg, and Richard Tuttle, similarly embraced the delicacy and mutability of paper. Included are two works by Rauschenberg (American, 1925-2008), including Cardbird VI (1971), made from corrugated cardboard and sealing tape. During this time, Rauschenberg sought to challenge the strict definitions of centuries-old print processes including woodcut, etching, and lithography. In 1974, he spent time at the venerable Richard de Bas paper mill in Ambert, France, where he experimented freely with paper pulp and developed a series of handmade paper editions titled Pages and Fuses. Page 4 from this series is composed of two sheets of handmade paper formed in a mold designed by Rauschenberg. A piece of twine was laminated into the sheets as they were made, connecting the two and introducing a sculptural element to the work.

This quasi-sculptural approach has extended into the present and is reflected in the work of a younger generation of artists including Martin Creed, Ellen Gallagher, and Mona Hatoum.

Joseph Beuys (German, 1921-1986), Painting Version 1-90, 1976, Oil paint and butter on paper with torn hole, Composition and sheet: 75.8 x 55.8 cm, Verlag Schellmann & Klüser, Munich, Fabricator: The artist, Dielsdorf, Switzerland, Edition: 90, Gift of Edition Schellmann, Munich and New York, 242.1989, © 2014 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Lucio Fontana (Italian, b. Argentina 1899-1968), Concetto Spaziale. 1966, Artist's book with gold paper leporello, punched with holes, Overall (open, approx.): 5 -1/16 x 70-3/4", Publisher: Edizioni del Cavallino, Venice and Sergio Tosi Stampatore, Milan, Fabricator: Sergio Tosi Stampatore, Milan, Edition: 200, The Museum of Modern Art. Monroe Wheeler Fund, 1997, © 2009 Fondation Lucio Fontana.

Robert Rauschenberg, Cardbird VI from the Cardbird Series (1971), Photolithograph and screenprint on corrugated cardboard with tape additions. Overall (irreg.): 26 x 27-3/16", Publisher and printer: Gemini G.E.L., Los Angeles, Edition: 75, The Museum of Modern Art. Gift of Frederick M. Myers Art © Estate of Robert Rauschenberg and Gemini G.E.L./Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.