Using Space and "Declaring Space"
Posted by Sarah on November 15, 2007 - 3:41pm

For anyone that has ever visited the Modern, one of the first things you may have noticed is the open and expansive architecture. Walking in through the main entrance, you find that the museum's high ceilings and glass walls overlooking the pool suggest a vast and infinite space. Around the corner is the lower level gallery, currently housing The Modern's permanent collection. Even the artwork itself, in relation to the space containing it, seems to be strategically placed in a way that is spread out, isolated from the next work of art.

Upstairs you will find the current exhibition appropriately entitled Declaring Space, which focuses on artists Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Lucio Fontana, and Yves Klein. The main theme of this exhibition is the development of abstract space in the 1950s and 1960s and how each individual artist came to interpret this space. As curator Michael Auping states,"To my mind Rothko draws back the curtains, if you will, on the opening up of this space. Newman emphatically 'declares' an almost totemic space, while Fontana literally slices through the picture's plane with a razor, and Klein, as he pronounced it, leaps into the void."

Beginning with Mark Rothko, it is clear that the area in which his work is placed has been intentionally designed to imitate a meditative space like that of the Rothko Chapel. The low ceiling and dim lighting reflects his idea that art should be an emotional, religious experience. As you go further into Declaring Space, it is interesting to note how each individual work is placed in relation to the viewer. As with the permanent collection, it is spread out, thus allowing you to become part of the work itself, free of distractions. In every aspect, the Modern's unique use of space draws you in and allows you to experience the art at a cosmic, yet intimate level. While the openness of the museum seems to give you a feeling of smallness, you are approached with a sense of freedom rather than confinement.