(If you can’t make it, Please Come to the Show also has a fantastic online archive of ephemera from the MoMA Library here)
Since its beginnings, the MoMA Library has housed several collections of artists’ files and subject files, which contain assorted printed ephemera like announcement cards, press clippings, posters, and flyers. These materials illustrate an elaborate range of artistic activities and can contain unique elements from an artist’ s practice.
This exhibition gathers a sample of innovative printed invitations, small posters, and flyers from ca. 1960 to the present from the MoMA Library collection. The selection traces ways in which artists, designers, and galleries have used invitation cards and other printed announcements as a part of the staging of conceptual works, installations, performances, and other time-based events and screenings. This diverse grouping of ephemera explores the various, often surprising ways that we have been invited to experience art.
These materials are important research documents. They provide descriptive evidence of particular moments in art history, evoking the setting and spirit of artists’ practices and illuminating networks of artists, spaces, and ideas. The invitations reflect, disguise, or reconstitute artworks and can act as mechanisms that direct the audience’s experience of the work, and some are also artworks themselves. They give clues about librarians’ and curators’ involvement with particular artists or scenes in New York and abroad, and part of their story is the various traces of the hands they have passed through on their way into the collection.
More recent materials characterize the persistence of innovative print invitations within the context of our shift to online communication. Part of the interest in doing an exhibition now of special invitations and flyers is related to the recognition that this phenomenon of the art invitation has changed. As libraries and archives actively work towards collecting digital content and as galleries and museums phase out their printed invitations, it is a fitting moment to reflect on the various forms the printed invitation has taken in contemporary art practices.
David Senior is the Bibliographer at The Museum of Modern Art Library, where he manages collection development, including the library’s artists’ books collection. He also curates exhibitions – most recently ‘Millenium Magazines’ (2012), ‘Access to Tools: Publications from the Whole Earth Catalog, 1968–74′ (2011) and ‘Scenes from Zagreb: Artists’ Publications of the New Art Practice’ (2011) – and the annual program of events for the New York and Los Angeles Art Book Fairs. His writing has appeared in Frieze, Bulletins of the Serving Library, A Prior, Art Papers and C Magazine, and since 2008 he has published an artist’s book series through the New York Art Book Fair, with titles by Dexter Sinister, David Horvitz, Emily Roysdon and Eve Fowler, among others. He is a member of the advisory boards of Printed Matter, Art Metropole, Primary Information, Yale Union, and the Serving Library.