Nothing HW5: Moma Visit


The motif for this Moma visit are two folds: the different interpretations of the concept “Nothing”, and the development of art styles as how artists react differently toward the WWI & WWII.

 The Enigma of a Day  Paris, early 1914

Nothing as no boundary between reality and unrealities

The Enigma of a Day by Giorgio De Chirico depicts a Turin he created in his imagination. Pseudo two-point perspective, random placement of huge status, white arch hallway that stands for the boundary between “in” & “out”, lots of empty space, De Chirico created this “Metaphysical art world” in which reality and unreality coexist within a surrealistic painting. De Chirico’s work is characterised by strong geometric lines and shapes. His dreamlike and enigmatic visual language form a key touch stone for the French Surrealists in 1920s as part of the anti-war expression.

By simply looking at it, I’ve sensed the unease and disappointment feeling toward reality. The feeling of escape in this painting is exaggerated by placing both real and imaginative objects together, which reminds the audience to get rid of personal feelings and think about the meaning beyond concrete physical shape when seeing this artwork.



László Moholy-Nagy – EM 2 (Telephone Picture) 1923

Nothing as no restriction on the methods of making art

The Hungarian-born artist was shaped by DadaismSuprematismConstructivism, and debates about photography. Moholy-Nagy believed that artists’ understanding of vision had to specialize and modernize. The invention of new technology, such as photography, are refreshing how artists see and feel the world and its “artsy-ness”. Artists have to renounce the classical training, create new formulas for art making, thus stretching human capacity to new tasks and broaden the boundary of “art.” 

His Construction in Enamel 2 and 3 were produced in Germany during the later stage of the Age of Machine at a local factory. ”Why couldn’t art be customized or factory-made?” with this kind of belief, he ordered these pieces by described the design over the phone to the enamel factory which “exaggerating both his distance from the manufacturing process that produced them and the degree of technological mediation involved.”

This revolutionary way of creating art redefines the process of making art in modern society, and the definition of an art piece: Art nowadays could be something made under your order, by phone or via online, with the use of modern technology, just like a customized pizza. You “consume” the creation process of art as a idea producer instead of the real maker.


Cy Twombly – The Four Season 

Nothing as no concrete figures

For long I didn’t have any appreciation of abstract art. Every time I stood in front of those clueless lines and color blocks, I was thinking either I or the artist was insane. But recently I was trying to understand the art appreciation process of it. When studying, or trying to understand abstract art, Cy Tombly is someone you cannot miss.

In fact, abstract art is very close to music, both of them considered the “echo” of the inner world of artists instead of depicting the real world. Therefore, it would be a waste of time to figure out what those strokes, color blocks stand for. The whole piece is just the concretized echo of the inner world on canvas, it’s a poem without language.

In The Four Season, we could see the use of massive empty space and color blocks painted in a care-free way. In between those explosive color blocks and the empty space, we feel the temperatures of different seasons.  With the repeat of similar colors and the transition from one color to the next in this series of paintings, we feel the change of time. From spring to winter, it’s a story about from new born to death.

Henri Rousseau – The Sleeping Gypsy 1897

Nothing as no space between “me” and the image

This painting of Rousseau is full of tension. It’s like a moment captured right before something dangerous happened.  The seeming peace – the sleeping gypsy woman, her instrument and the wild beast passing by – shows, however, such a sense of danger, that it just immerse you into the tension. With the background as the endless dessert and a round but lonely moon, the whole scene gives out a sense of emptiness and mysteries. Some said that the gypsy woman was dead actually, and the lion passing by was just about to eat her.

The work didn’t show any bloody scene, but the emptiness gives it a dreamlike mysticism feeling. The gipsy’s gesture, “sleeping”, in western art stands for more complex meanings more than resting, such as death and lust.

Henri Matisse – The Piano LessonIssy-les-Moulineaux, late summer 1916

Nothing as no extra element

The Piano Lesson was said to be one of Matisse’s most Picasso-like vancasses, with very rigid line expression and full of the feeling of cubism. Matisse eliminated details and extra elements in this painting,  trying to depict the ongoing piano lesson with the simplest strokes: no two point perspective, absolute flat, no complete human figures: sculptures without faces, the boy who is playing the piano with his right eyes in the shadow, which corresponds with the triangle shape of the metronome directly in front of it, and the giant green triangle block that stands for the sunshine coming from the garden.

Some art historians have suggested that this is a painting that is about the opposition between order and structure and the beauty, between sensuality and discipline. Except for the curly music stand and the railing, the rest of strokes and the color palette together creates a moment of depression.



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