Graphics at the MoMA

The piece is Untitled by American Christopher Wool. It was created in 1991 using alkyd paint and pencil on cut-and-taped board. It’s currently hanging in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City. This a graphic design that uses typography to both create a visual message and tell a story.  Historically, 1991 had no lack of notable moments. The Gulf War continued, a cyclone hit Bangladesh, the first African American qualified for the Indie 500, the Ethiopian Civil War came to a close, the Italian Proletarian Democracy and Communist Party merged, Croatia and Slovenia became independent from Yugoslavia, the Soviet Union collapsed, basketball player Magic Johnson announced he had AIDS, QuickTime movie reader was first released, and the USSR was dissolved. Just a year earlier, Nelson Mandela was finally released, Latvia became independent, George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev signed a treaty to end chemical weapon production, the most complete skeleton of  a T Rex was discovered, the first World Wide Web page was written and Margaret Thatcher resigned as Prime Minister of the UK. Times were clearly changing as many countries were gaining their independence and breaking free from oppression. Technology was quickly advancing as the internet and movie viewing files were rapidly emerging and evolving. In this piece of art, you can see the message coming to life as you follow the advancement along the canvas. The viewer’s eyes follow the story being born. It’s as if a person is engaging in the action with the audience who is getting up to leave their seats and turning to collect their coats. This piece consists solely of type. It’s big black block letters that appear to be stenciled due to the font and white space. When I first look at this piece, I notice the spacing. More than one word is combined and some words are split between two lines. Even though it is just type, there is a lot of movement in the piece.  This piece is just black and white, causing the viewer to focus on the message and create their own visual image of the scene. It’s simple, not crowded. This piece is all lines. It’s the lines that make up the individual letters, but also the lines of text.

The artist does not use color because an image comes to mind generated by the onlooker. This piece is a narration of an additional work of art that is self-created. Although it is all text, the artist uses shape in the white space. The text takes up the entire length of the canvas, and the majority of the width. The full left side of the canvas has no breaks in text, whereas the right side has small gaps and spaces of white. This causes the message to flow, with small breaks and pauses when necessary. Wool uses some unconventional design tools. He uses the viewer and the viewer’s imagination to paint the actual scene, he uses the way people read from left to right and top down, he uses large spaces to imply breaks, and he uses content of his words to create a piece that will connect to the viewer.  It creates a relatable image. Most everyone has had an experience where they get up from a show and grab their coat. In this way, Wool creates an endless amount of different images because each person will envision this scene in a different way. Maybe each time a person sees this piece their visualization will change.

I think Wool was trying to create a scene that is comforting and happy yet also provocative. After I see a show, generally I am really happy, so to invoke a memory of me leaving a theatre brings me joy. As I first start to read this piece, I automatically smile as I read these words and think back to all of the enjoyable times I’ve had at plays or operas or movies. I like how my memory moves as my eyes move while I read the words. It’s a very interesting piece because I have never seen anything like this. It’s not trying to conjure up an extremely complicated scene. Simplicity is a characteristic that makes this piece so effective and so notable. Just like the historical events of the early 90’s, this piece is moving. The words smooshed together show there is little time to pause. We must keep going. The piece is in a hurry. It makes me feel somewhat rushed as I look at it. I feel like I’m often in a hurry and cannot stop to appreciate my surroundings. This piece also says that once people see a show or something wonderful, they want to leave, to hurry up and get out of there. Why not linger? You just experienced something moving, or mystifying or thought-provoking. Why do you want to quickly grab your coat and exit, to leave the scene and the new world the show has created for you. This idea resounds with me because every time I see a movie or a play, I’m in that scene, that moment, that different life. It’s sad when it ends and you have to retrieve your stuff, leave and enter your real life. It’s nice to have that break from reality, I’d like to linger in the created.  Why can’t life be more like Candide, where you sing your worries away, or Morning Glory, a movie where Rachel McAdams powers through her job as a TV producer and finally meets the beautiful handsome love of her life. These movies, productions, they’re not real but so many people wish they were. It’s morphed our idea of what life and love should be like and sometimes I don’t want to leave that. I like to sit in my seat after something’s done and let it marinate. What’s the rush to go back to the real world, though so many people run out to get to their long to-do list or other obligations. That’s the message that can be taken away from the piece until you get to the last line, no more coats and no more home. You think the spell of these alternate worlds is broken but the audience then goes to do the first mundane act that people do after a show, they turn around to get their coats, “nomorecoats andno more home.” It’s quite shocking. The predictable is not predictable, just as world affairs was showing at that time. Countries were becoming their own, reality was changing. Technology was advancing where things could be fabricated or made to seem real that weren’t. You could be transported to another place or time via the internet and this piece reveals the alternate world becoming indistinguishable with reality. The space after the last word leaves the viewer hanging, it puts them back into a spell almost like when they were watching the production.

I think this piece is definitely valuable because the messages it expresses can apply to everyone. We’re in a rush, but then we pause, but then we’re in a rush again. It’s fantasy and the attempt to wish our lives away.  It’s a created world versus reality, what will win? I think this work is excellent, and the more you analyze it, the more layers you see in it. It’s Hurryupdon’tstop versus  okay    now    you   can   proceed. It’s interesting what type, text and spacing can do visually and emotionally. You’re in another world and when it’s time to come back to life, it’s changed. You’re transported. It’s also interesting to be aware that this was made when technology and the web were first coming about. This piece was made by hand although computers are available by this point and high tech fonts and the ability to easily reproduce has started to emerge. There is something compelling about the handmade quality of the letters though. They are uniform in a way but not manufactured looking. This piece speaks of fabrication. How do we know what is real and what isn’t? Can a story become your life? The spell that was cast, can it be broken? Will you be living in a story now that it’s in your subconscious? Will you be wishing for it and because of that, has it become a part of you? This piece leaves these questions unanswered. It’s for you to decide.


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