April 19, 2013  |  Artists, Behind the Scenes
Art/Work: MoMA’s Creative Minds: David Moreno

I thought I knew about David Moreno’s work when I met with him in his “office,” tucked inside the storage facilities of the Department of Drawings. Though there are no ready windows, it is a uniquely private, roomy, and contemplative workspace in stark contrast to the cubicles occupied by most of the Museum’s staff. Happily, I found while interviewing him there was a substantial body of work of which I was unaware and excited to discover.

How long have you worked at MoMA? One year in 1988/89; then I left to live in Turkey for almost a year beginning in 1990. (see painting below, done in Turkey using Turkish soil)

Moreno Red Territory White Invasion, 1989, oil on canvasboard, 56 x 46 cm

David Moreno. Red Territory White Invasion. 1989. Oil on canvasboard, 22 1/16 x 18 1/8″

That was the only time I have had to work consistently. I returned to MoMA in 1992, staying until the present, 20 years plus that first year.

How has the Museum changed in 20+ years? Mainly larger, larger staff; larger everything. Interaction has changed because the scale is different, there used to be more interaction with everyone.

MoMA: When are you able to work on your artwork? When my six-year-old is in bed, approximately 10:00 p.m to midnight and on weekends.

What is the best and worst part of being an artist working at MoMA? Best: handling, seeing, interacting with (art) work all the time which is often inspiring. Being with other people who care about art. Working with other creative people.

The worst is not having the time to act on that inspiration.

Recently, your work seems to have a lot in common with rule-based art, but with a sense of humor not usually associated with that work:

After going through an intense figurative phase during 1998–2003, I wanted to distance myself from that work and began using abstract rules and incorporating chance as an expressive element.

David Moreno, Spiral and Dot Blue, 2010, ink on paper, 13.5 x 6.5 in

David Moreno. Spiral and Dot Blue. 2010. Ink on paper, 13.5 x 6.5″

The above work was made by placing a wet sheet of paper on a sheet of glass, laying down a spiral of thread, and covering this with rows of 2” strips of adding machine paper with ¼ holes punched at regular intervals. Blue ink was added to the holes creating the image, which was revealed after removing the strips of paper and thread. Another work (below) was made by putting paper on the floor, installing a fan nearby, and then hanging a perforated screen above it, I dripped liquid masking solution (Frisk-it) via eye droppers through the grid-like holes in the screen. Because of the fan, some drops were blown “off course” in random directions. I am very interested in process and chance.

David Moreno, Drip Displacement, 2011, ink on paper, 28 x- 22 in

David Moreno. Drip Displacement. 2011. Ink on paper, 28 x 22″

What are your favorite works in MoMA’s collection and why?

[One of David’s jobs early on was to dust the Painting and Sculpture Galleries.] My first year I was very interested in Malevich and the Constructivists. I am excited about the current Dieter Roth exhibition curated by Sarah Suzuki. What I viscerally find most interesting are the materials artists use—inks, paper, etc. [At this point David showed me a drawing in MoMA’s collection by Mangelos, a gouache on metal foil on paper.] Working with the drawings collection has clearly influenced the direction of my work.

Most of your work that I have seen are drawings and you work as a preparator in the Department of Drawings. What are your favorite drawings in the collection?

Guy de Cointet’s Deep in the vast heart of Africa, he seems to use a predetermined graphic system and then writes a seemingly unrelated parable/statement below.

I understand that your work is in MoMA’s collection (exhibited in The Raw and the Cooked, part of the Making Choices exhibition in 2000), how many of your drawings are in MoMA’s collection?

One was purchased in 1997, then a suite of drawings came in with The Rothschild Collection. The Department of Photography has acquired a photograph. The Department of Painting and Sculpture acquired a kinetic sound sculpture in 1997. Curators had seen my work both in my workspace at MoMA and at numerous exhibitions at Feature, Inc.

And you were in the São Paulo Biennial?

Luis (Pérez-Oramas) was asked to curate the 30th São Paulo Biennial. He had seen my work over many years. Two of the pieces he chose for the Biennial had been made in the past as smaller versions but this opportunity allowed me to realize a bigger vision of each.


David Moreno, Silence, 1995-2012, Installation view 2 Sao Paulo Biennial 2012

David Moreno. Silence. 1995–2012. Installation view at the São Paulo Biennial, 2012

David Moreno, Sao Paulo Bienal, 2012

David Moreno. Silence. 1995–2012. Installation view at the Sao Paulo Biennial, 2012

David Moreno, Quietly Oscillating x 16, 2012 installation view

David Moreno. Quietly Oscillating 2012. Installation view at the São Paulo Biennial, 2012

These works are a bit different from what I have seen before, For Silence you have “megaphones” made out of paper attached to the lips of images of a death mask from a found book. In the MoMA PS1 Greater New York exhibition (2005),  you had Stereomo, a kinetic sound work. Can you tell me more about these non-drawing pieces?

Seeing sound is a continuing theme. Referring to Stereomo, by manipulating a speaker (woofer) and experimenting with different sounds I was able to create speakers whose sound makes them move back and forth like a metronome. Quietly Oscillating comprises 16 speakers on the floor with Slinky toys glued to each while the Slinkys are stretched to a shelf nine feet above. An inaudible, low frequency sound is played from a CD which causes the Slinkys to visibly move/oscillate in response. The idea is you are seeing, instead of hearing, sound.

Do you also make music?

Yes, using a modular analogue synthesizer with analogue instruments edited on magnetic tape or in the computer. I’ve been making and recording music since the early 1980s. I just released a 12” vinyl record with Andy Haas, a musician [and long-term MoMA employee in the Department of Film]. The images for the music video were made from postcards I collected in Turkey while living there in the 1990s.