SHARE

An excerpt from Ibrahim El-Salahi's Prison Notebook at the Museum of Modern Art Museum of Modern Art

This month, the Museum of Modern Art reopened after a $450m expansion with a resolve to embrace the 21st century and provide a fuller, more global narrative in its permanent collection galleries. Mixed in with the white male giants of the Modernist era, from Picasso to Matisse to Pollock, are more women, more African Americans and more artists from Latin America, Africa and Asia.

Rather than labelling all of the galleries with the old, familiar “isms”—Cubism, Surrealism and so on—the museum has come up with some short thematic titles that invite museumgoers to reflect on certain contexts, such as Paris 1920s, From Soup Cans to Flying Saucers and Before and After Tiananmen. In a bold manoeuvre, MoMA has also dismantled the barriers between media by installing films, architecture and design objects, and works on paper amid the paintings and sculptures on view.

Among the most striking examples of this approach is the fourth-floor gallery titled War Within, War Without, where a constellation of works dating from 1965 to 1979 explore themes of violence, personal turmoil and political trauma.

Given pride of place is Prison Notebook (1976) by the Sudanese artist Ibrahim El-Salahi, who was imprisoned in 1975 after being falsely implicated in a failed coup. Eventually released but confined to house arrest, El-Salahi began filling a sketchbook with pen-and-ink drawings and vivid prose and poetry evoking his experience behind bars. “We knew right away we wanted this amazing object at the centre,” says Esther Adler, an associate curator of drawings and prints.

Beyond focusing attention on a part of the world that MoMA has traditionally bypassed, the notebook reframes more familiar works such as Philip Gustons Deluge II (1975), a prosperous artists evocation of catastrophe in a brutal world. That painting in turn expands when juxtaposed with works by artists exposed to that reality in Venezuela (Marisols full-body lithograph from 1971), post-war Japan (Tetsumi Kudos 1972-73 sculpture) and a divided Korea (Ha Chong-Hyuns 1974 paint-on-burlap piece).

Philip Guston's Deluge II (1975) at the Museum of Modern Art Museum of Modern Art

Punctuating the quiet of the gallery is a 1979 video of Lotty Rosenfelds A Mile of Crosses on the Pavement, in which the Chilean artist turned road markings into crosses in a protest against Augusto Pinochets military dictatorship in Chile.

Benny Andrewss Expressionist painting No More Games (1970) meanwhile evokes the plight of African American aRead More – Source