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Degree Zero:
Drawing at Midcentury

June 21, 2020 – September 19, 2020

The Museum of Modern Art announces Degree Zero: Drawing at Midcentury, an exhibition that will showcase approximately 100 drawings made between 1948 and 1961 exclusively from the Museum’s collection, on view June 21 through September 19, 2020. Degree Zero: Drawing at Midcentury will look across movements, geographies, and generations to highlight connections between diverse artists who embraced drawing to forge a new visual language in the aftermath of World War II. Modest, immediate, and direct, drawing—to use a phrase that circulated among artists and writers during these years—was the ideal “degree zero” medium for this “degree zero” moment. Within this impulse common to artists from across the world, drawing took many forms, from the abstract to the figurative, the organic to the hard-edged. Whether in scrawled graffiti or looping calligraphy, featuring reduced geometry or recording movement via mark-making, these works share similar conceptual and material concerns that manifested specifically in the medium.

Taking a global approach, the exhibition will feature American artists such as Louise Bourgeois, Sari Dienes, Ellsworth Kelly, and Jackson Pollock; European artists including Karel Appel, Jean Dubuffet, Henri Matisse, and Sonja Sekula; Latin American artists including Hércules Barsotti, Raúl Milián, Eduardo Ramirez Villamizar, and Alfredo Volpi; and Asian artists such as Yayoi Kusama, Joong Seop Lee, Saburo Murakami, and Morita Yasuji. Nigerian artist Uche Okeke, whose drawing practice looks equally to Igbo tradition and Western modernism, will also have work featured for the first time since its acquisition by the Museum in 2015.

Degree Zero: Drawing at Midcentury is organized by Samantha Friedman, Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints.

Support for the exhibition is provided by the Annual Exhibition Fund. Leadership contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund, in support of the Museum’s collection and collection exhibitions, are generously provided by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, Mimi and Peter Haas Fund, Jerry I. Speyer and Katherine G. Farley, Eva and Glenn Dubin, The Sandra and Tony Tamer Exhibition Fund, Alice and Tom Tisch, The David Rockefeller Council, The Contemporary Arts Council, Anne Dias, Kathy and Richard S. Fuld, Jr., Kenneth C. Griffin, The Keith Haring Foundation, Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis, Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder, and Anna Marie and Robert F. Shapiro.

Major contributions to the Annual Exhibition Fund are provided by the Estate of Ralph L. Riehle, GRoW @ Annenberg, Emily Rauh Pulitzer, Brett and Daniel Sundheim, Karen and Gary Winnick, The Marella and Giovanni Agnelli Fund for Exhibitions, Clarissa Alcock and Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Agnes Gund, and Oya and Bülent Eczacıbaşı.


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Uche Okeke (Nigerian, 1933–2016)
Design for Iron Work I, 1959
Ink on paper
11 x 7 1/4″ (27.9 x 18.4 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Walter Bareiss Fund, Curt Valentin Bequest, gift of Mrs. Muriel Stokes, gift of the Weyhe Gallery, Inter-American Fund, gift of William S. Lieberman, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Pepi Borit, gift of the Ian Woodner Family Collection, and Grace M. Mayer Bequest (all by exchange)
© 2019 Uche Okeke, Courtesy Skoto Gallery, NYC

Joan Mitchell (American, 1925-1992)
Untitled, 1957
Oil on paper
19 1/2 x 17 1/2″ (49.5 x 44.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
© Estate of Joan Mitchell

Jean Dubuffet (French, 1901–1985)
Landscape (Paysage), 1951
Ink on paper
11 3/4 x 12″ (29.8 x 30.5 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase
© 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / ADAGP, Paris

Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, born 1929)
Infinity Nets, 1951
Ink on paper
15 1/2 x 10 1/8″ (39.4 x 25.7 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased with funds provided by Jo Carole and Ronald S. Lauder
© 2019 Yayoi Kusama

Jackson Pollock (American, 1912–1956)
Untitled, 1953-54
Ink and colored ink on paper
15 3/4 x 20 1/2″ (40.0 x 52.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ira Haupt
© 2019 Pollock-Krasner Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Karel Appel (Dutch, 1921-2006)
Beast, 1956
Ink on paper
9 3/8 x 12 5/8″ (23.8 x 32.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. The Joan and Lester Avnet Collection
© 2019 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / Van Lennep Producties, Amsterdam

Hércules Barsotti (Brazilian, 1914–2010)
Drawing No. 1, 1958
Gouache on paper
28 x 28″ (71.1 x 71.1 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchase

Otto Piene (German, 1928–2014)
Untitled (Smoke Drawing), 1959
Soot on paper
20 x 29″ (51 x 73 cm)
The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Purchased with funds provided by Sheldon H. Solow
© 2019 Otto Piene / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Germany