Thursday, June 15, 2006


From the Eyes of Babes

It was take-my-daughter-to-work day earlier this week, when Joyce accompanied me to the press preview of MoMA's Dada, which opens to the public (aptly) on Fathers Day.

No frequent museum visitor, despite (or maybe because of) my best efforts, my future acoustics engineer perceived a connection between two exhibited works that even the show's curator, Anne Umland, had missed.

She stood for a while gazing at a work that appealed to her, Jean Arp's "Enak's Tear (Terrestrial Forms)," 1917---a painted wood relief in five colors from MoMA's collection. Then she looked at the other Arp reliefs arrayed on the same wall, noticing that "Untitled (Fish and Vegetal Configuration)," c. 1917, was composed of identically shaped (although smaller) pieces of wood. The concurrence was not easy to discern, because the second piece was rotated 90 degrees from the position of the first, was composed of only black wood, and was mounted on another irregularly shaped slab that had no counterpart in "Enak's Tear."

Umland confirmed my guess that she had been unaware of this connection. Rather than juxtapose these cognates for comparison, she had interposed four pieces between them.

Sometimes it takes close looking by eager eyes to glean fresh insights.

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