Degree Zero

Drawing at Midcentury

Nov 1, 2020–Jun 5, 2021

MoMA

Jackson Pollock. Untitled. 1953–54. Ink and colored ink on paper. 15 3/4 × 20 1/2″ (40.0 × 52.1 cm). Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ira Haupt. © 2020 Pollock-Krasner Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
  • MoMA, Floor 2, 2 South The Paul J. Sachs Galleries

“Zero means ‘nothing,’” wrote the Japanese artist Saburo Murakami in 1953, “start with nothing, completely original, no artificial meaning.” Bringing together approximately 80 works on paper from MoMA’s collection, Degree Zero: Drawing at Midcentury illuminates how artists used drawing to forge a new visual language in the aftermath of World War II. Modest, immediate, and direct, drawing was the ideal medium for this period of renewal. Mimicking the look of language, it appeared as graffiti-like scribbling, or borrowed from traditional calligraphies. Its geometric forms sought to communicate universal ideals, and its accumulations of marks reflected society’s new urge to amass.

Spanning five continents, the exhibition looks across movements, geographies, and generations to highlight connections between artists who shared common materials and ideas between 1948 and 1961. Featuring works by Louise Bourgeois, Yayoi Kusama, Henri Matisse, Jackson Pollock, Alfredo Volpi, and many others, as well as recent acquisitions by artists such as Uche Okeke, the exhibition shows how drawing allowed artists at this postwar moment to start again from scratch.

Organized by Samantha Friedman, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints.

Generous support for the exhibition is provided by Marlene Hess and James D. Zirin and by the Dian Woodner Exhibition Endowment Fund.

Leadership contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund, in support of the Museum’s collection and collection exhibitions, are generously provided by Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, the Sandra and Tony Tamer Exhibition Fund, The Contemporary Arts Council, Eva and Glenn Dubin, Alice and Tom Tisch, Mimi Haas, the Noel and Harriette Levine Endowment, The David Rockefeller Council, the William Randolph Hearst Endowment Fund, the Marella and Giovanni Agnelli Fund for Exhibitions, Anne Dias, Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Kenneth C. Griffin, The International Council of The Museum of Modern Art, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, and Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder.

Major contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund are provided by The Junior Associates of The Museum of Modern Art, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Brett and Daniel Sundheim, the Terra Foundation for American Art, Karen and Gary Winnick, and Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro.

Publications

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Artists

Installation images

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