'Always, Always, Others: Non-Classical Forays into Modernism' exhibition review

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016 Photo: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view
Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016
Photo: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016 Photo: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view
Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016
Photo: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016 Photo: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view
Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016
Photo: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016 hoto: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view
Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016
hoto: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016 hoto: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view
Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016
hoto: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016 hoto: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view
Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016
hoto: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016 hoto: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view
Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016
hoto: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016 hoto: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Ausstellungsansicht / Exhibition view
Always, Always, Others. Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne /  Always, Always, Others. Non-Classical Forays into Modernism, mumok, Wien, 10.10.2015–10.5.2016
hoto: mumok / Laurent Ziegler

Always, Always, Others: Unklassische Streifzüge durch die Moderne' / 'Always, Always, Others: Non-Classical Forays into Modernism', at the Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien from October through to May 16, 2016, looks to suggest an expanded modernism. 

 

“Rationalists, wearing square hats, Think, in square rooms,
Looking at the floor,
Looking at the ceiling.
They confine themselves
To right-angled triangles.
If they tried rhomboids,
Cones, waving lines, ellipses—
As, for example, the ellipse of the half-moon— Rationalists would wear sombreros.” 
(Wallace Stevens ‘Six Significant Landscapes’ 1916) [1]

Curated by artist Ulrike Müller and Mumok curator Manuela Ammer, ‘Always, Always, Others’ sits in parallel with ‘The old expressions are with us always and there are always others’; a solo exhibition of Müller’s works of abstraction two levels below. Together, the exhibitions enable an expanded curatorial premise. Both exhibition titles refer to ‘Others. A Magazine of New Verse’; the experimental New York journal published over the course of four years beginning 1915 [2].

Demonstrating a polyvocal modernism, the exhibition showcases works from the vast Mumok collection with unexpected ends. Recognised positions sit comfortably beside novel injections, communicating the heterogeneity of early 20th-century modernism on varicoloured walls.

Works on paper crowd the exhibition entrance, pointing to the exhibition’s augmented multiplicity in expression. Nearby, attention rests with three engagements in abstraction and figuration; a cubist oil painting Still Life with Tin Plate and Cake Form 1922 – 1923 by Alfred Wickenburg, an early abstract work painted immediately after the end of the First World War Der gelbe Fleck (Yellow Spot) 1918 by František Kupka, and Wolfgang Paalen’s Bella Bella; a churning, cosmic portrait with hints to abstract gestural painting. From here the exhibition diverges into four loosely grouped concepts; ‘Textiles and Tectonics’, ‘Folklorisms’, ‘Metamorphoses’ and ‘Bodies under Pressure’. These themes offer an alternative avenue through the suburbs of modernism.

The most interesting and enlightening engagements with these groupings follow below, providing an entry point to the exhibition’s atypical thematics.

 

Textiles and Tectonics

The interplay between surface and support forms the focus of Textile and Tectonics. Oskar Kokoschka’s ‘unfinished’ Bertha Eckstein-Diener 1910 sketch readily reveals it’s canvas support while Miriam Schapiro’s patterned Pink Light Fan 1979 professes structural similarities in material and frame.

 

Folklorisms

Modernism’s universal aspirations are locally translated through Michaeil Larionov’s Le Fumeur (The Smoker) c.1925, an early assemblage informed by Russian Constructivism. Béla Kádár’s Village Departure of 1925 renders a village scene in cubist interpretation, a more literal link to theme.

 

Metamorphoses

In-between states and evolving transformations are highlighted in Metamorphoses. Karel Malich’s suspended line sculpture Entfesselte Landschaft III (Unleashed Landscape III) 1973/74 offers multiple scenes with moving contours and profiles as the viewer passes. Surrealist works by Andre Masson, Jean Fautrier, and Francis Picabia further the notion of metamorphosis between unconscious and conscious.

 

Bodies under pressure

A new human figure is explored through geometric shape in Skulptur 23 (Sculpture 23) 1923 and stylized curve in Weiblicher Kopf (Female head) 1925, both by Rudolf Belling. Austrian artist Maria Lassnig’s pastel-hued Karyatide (Caryatid) 1974 pictures her own body kneeling, naked, and crammed in the picture frame; a body under physical pressure.  

 

“Come to me       There is something
I have got to tell you               and I can’t tell
Something taking shape
Something that has a new name
A new dimension
A new use
A new illusion.”
(Mina Loy ‘Songs to Joannes XIII’ 1917) [3]

‘Always, Always, Others: Non-Classical Forays into Modernism’ confidently expounds an alternative modernism. Taking stimulus from the experimental New York journal ‘Others. A Magazine of New Verse’, the exhibition accentuates a broad narrative, setting aside conventional categories. Connecting unfamiliar themes to familiar objects, we’re afforded an innovatory approach that also serves to illuminate Müller’s own work. In this way, the exhibition is most meaningful when considered in contact with Ulrike Müller’s solo presentation. Yet ‘Always, Always, Others’ persuades a multifaceted consideration of its own and is an exhibition to delight in. 

 

[1] ‘Six Significant Landscapes – I-VI’ by poet Wallace Stevens was published in ‘Others. A Magazine of New Verse’ in March 1916, Vol. 2 No. 3 pp.174-176.

[2] ‘Others. A Magazine of New Verse’, founded by Alfred Kreymborg and Walter Conrad Arensberg primarily published modernist poetry, and in doing so assisted many poets in launching their careers. Contributors to the journal included T. S. Eliot, Mina Loy, Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, Wallace Stevens, and William Carlos Williams. The journal’s motto “The old expressions are with us always, and there are always other’s” - also the title of Müller’s solo exhibition - underscores the connections between both exhibitions.

[3] ‘Songs to Joannes XIII’ by Mina Loy was published in ‘Others. A Magazine of New Verse’ in April 1917, Vol. 3 No. 6 p.9.

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