MoMA redefines the line

Painting, sculpture, drawing – you decide.

On Line: Drawing Through the Twentieth Century” isn’t MoMA’s first exhibition on drawing and it won’t be its last, but this latest curatorial effort is a much more inventive take on the genre than in previous shows. Connie Butler, the museum’s Chief Curator of Drawings and Catherine de Zegher, former director of The Drawing Center, have amassed a collection of works that span just over a century and include mediums beyond simple graphite on paper. One of the earlier works is a short film of the dancer Loie Fuller from 1897. Fuller experimented with what might be called early versions of ribbon dancing by using lengths of silk to create a sort of moving, visual line. She also sewed pieces bamboo into her skirts to stretch them into flat planes of fabric, and what is a drawing if not a line on a plane?

Picasso’s Guitar, which was possibly inspired by Fuller, is another interpretation of what a drawing can be. When Picasso first debuted Guitar, which shows the various planes of the instruments all together in one flat space, people didn’t know what to make of it, and Picasso and his cubist contemporaries delighted in their defiance of the genre’s traditional boundaries.

The line as imagined by Butler and Zegher, is open to interpretation. A long wire suspended in space is a line, therefore it’s a kind of drawing. A piece of fabric moving through space – that’s a drawing. A single, continuously played note – why not call that a drawing, too? These kinds of exhibitions that isolate a definition and stretch its limitations are a museum’s way of having a little fun and they provide a new and interesting context for talking about art. Join in the discussion now through February 7th, 2011.