Part of my job as an intern at the Frick Art Reference Library this past summer entailed looking through the periodicals collection—more specifically, assessing the condition of old magazines, journals, and newspapers. After examining dozens of publications, I concluded that nothing is more telling of a time or generation than the advertisements, headlines, editorial opinions, and photographs contained within their pages, including the documenting of artists and artworks through text and images.
The Frick Art Reference Library and the libraries of the Brooklyn Museum and The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) offer many resources for scholars investigating Central European modernism. In conducting research related to the visual arts in Prague between the two World Wars, I was impressed by the number of publications dedicated to this topic and particularly to the highly important Czech modernist artist, critic, author, journalist, playwright, and stage designer Josef Čapek (1887–1945) about whom unfortunately little is known outside the Czech Republic. He is beloved among Czech children as the author and illustrator of the Doggie and Pussycat series of stories, but his importance within the modernist movement far exceeds this aspect of his popularity. In addition to his own work, he wrote plays with his brother, Karel (1890–1938), including the seminal Insect Play and R.U.R.
Having a job as Senior Library Assistant at the Museum of Modern Art Library has been a big influence on my artistic practice. I use the library for research and inspiration, and as a site of investigation. In early 2010, I began the performance "Smelling the Books", which consists of me smelling every book in the MoMA Library collection.
A number of notable individuals began their relationship with MoMA not as noteworthy artists and established personalities, but as conventional Museum employees. Curious? Read on ...
At the MoMA Library we recently unearthed an intriguing box of ephemera by artist Ad Reinhardt (1913-1967). The material was gifted to the Library by Walter and Nettie Wittman, who were friends of the artist. The letters, photographs, tear sheets, and some original commercial illustrations form a vignette of the artist’s professional and personal life, glimpsed from the perspective of Mr. Wittman, a lawyer residing in New Jersey.