Log in to
Email Address
Password
Forgot your password?
Not a member? Sign up now!

A Decade in Art: Dora Maurer in the 1970s

Since completing her studies in printmaking in Budapest in the late 1950s, Dora Maurer has emerged as one of Eastern Europe’s most rigorously experimental artists of the past fifty years. Her work has alternated fluidly between process-based printmaking experiments and mark-making procedures that favor indeterminable outcomes, on the one hand, and, on the other, formal investigations of rule-based compositional logic and geometric abstraction. Maurer’s working methods include printmaking, drawing, photography, painting, filmmaking and even educational workshops, and her practice is always guided by an empirical approach to conceptual problem-solving. “I do my research with the methods of art,” Maurer explained. Carried out with a sense of play, her methods almost always result in formally resolved, visually arresting and highly intelligent works of art.

The 1970s were doubtlessly Maurer’s most productive and inventive decade. In the span of ten years, she moved from experiments in printmaking to highly conceptual photography, structural film, and process-based drawing. In the mid-1970s, Maurer, together with Miklos Erdely, conducted experimental drawing workshops with vocational school students. At the time, the workshops appeared to have little connection to accepted artistic practice, yet today they seem prescient and radical in their embrace of indeterminacy, pure play, and performativity.

In Maurer’s art, process is made visible and energy and force become apparent, yet the resulting visual forms are clear, resolved and beautiful. Her works from the ’70s seem unconcerned with narrative, ideology, or politics, but by grounding her practice in ephemerality, instability, open-endedness, investigation, and process, Maurer imbued her art with a sense of freedom that today registers as radical, urgent, and engaged.

Author

Screen shot 2012 10 22 at 12.01.45 pm

Christian Rattemeyer

Harvey S. Shipley Miller Associate Curator, Department of Drawings The Museum of Modern Art Christian Rattemeyer is the Harvey S. Shipley Miller Associate Curator in the Department of Drawings at The Museum of Modern Art. At MoMA, he has organized the exhibitions... Read more »
Show Less

A Decade in Art: Dora Maurer in the 1970s

Since completing her studies in printmaking in Budapest in the late 1950s, Dora Maurer has emerged as one of Eastern Europe’s most rigorously experimental artists of the past fifty years. Her work has alternated fluidly between process-based printmaking experiments and mark-making procedures that favor indeterminable outcomes, on the one hand, and, on the other, formal investigations of rule-based compositional logic and geometric abstraction. Maurer’s working methods include printmaking, drawing, photography, painting, filmmaking and even educational workshops, and her practice is always guided by an empirical approach to conceptual problem-solving. “I do my research with the methods of art,” Maurer explained. Carried out with a sense of play, her methods almost always result in formally resolved, visually arresting and highly intelligent works of art.

The 1970s were doubtlessly Maurer’s most productive and inventive decade. In the span of ten years, she moved from experiments in printmaking to highly conceptual photography, structural film, and process-based drawing. In the...

Show More

Since completing her studies in printmaking in Budapest in the late 1950s, Dora Maurer has emerged as one of Eastern Europe’s most rigorously experimental artists of the past fifty years. Her work has alternated fluidly between process-based printmaking experiments and mark-making procedures that favor indeterminable outcomes, on the one hand, and, on the other, formal investigations of rule-based compositional logic and geometric abstraction. Maurer’s working methods include printmaking, drawing, photography, painting, filmmaking and even educational workshops, and her practice is always guided by an empirical approach to conceptual problem-solving. “I do my research with the methods of art,” Maurer explained. Carried out with a sense of play, her methods almost always result in formally resolved, visually arresting and highly intelligent works of art.

The 1970s were doubtlessly Maurer’s most productive and inventive decade. In the span of ten years, she moved from experiments in printmaking to highly conceptual photography, structural film, and process-based drawing. In the mid-1970s, Maurer, together with Miklos Erdely, conducted experimental drawing workshops with vocational school students. At the time, the workshops appeared to have little connection to accepted artistic practice, yet today they seem prescient and radical in their embrace of indeterminacy, pure play, and performativity.

In Maurer’s art, process is made visible and energy and force become apparent, yet the resulting visual forms are clear, resolved and beautiful. Her works from the ’70s seem unconcerned with narrative, ideology, or politics, but by grounding her practice in ephemerality, instability, open-endedness, investigation, and process, Maurer imbued her art with a sense of freedom that today registers as radical, urgent, and engaged.

     

1652 2012 b ricr

Throwing the Plate from Very High

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Riva Castleman Endowment Fund
1652 2012 a ricr

Throwing the Plate from Very High

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Riva Castleman Endowment Fund
2. l 73 %c3%a1tmar part 2

Dripping Acid to the Plate

Image Courtesy of Dora Maurer.
2. l 73 %c3%a1tmar part 1

Dripping Acid to the Plate

Image courtesy of Dora Maurer.
1235 2012 cc

Reversible and Changeable Phases of Movement, Study No. 4

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund
Reverzibilis 2

Dóra Maurer, Reversible and Changeable Phases of Movements, etude 2.

Image Courtesy of Dora Maurer.
Reverzibilis 3

Reversible & Changeable Phases of Movements, etude 4.

Image Courtesy of Dora Maurer.
1236 2012 a cc

Tracing Space I

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund
1236 2012 b cc

Tracing Space II

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund
1236 2012 c cc

Tracing Space - Plan

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund
Minimalmovements p%c3%a1va

Studies of Minimal Movements (peacock)

Image Courtesy of Dora Maurer.
Minimovements groh

Studies of Minimal Movements (walk on the seashore with Klaus Groh)

Image Courtesy of Dora Maurer.
1774 2012 1 cc

Hidden Structures 1

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1774 2012 2 cc

Hidden Structures 2

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1774 2012 3 cc

Hidden Structures 3

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1774 2012 4 cc

Hidden Structures 4

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1774 2012 5 cc

Hidden Structures 5

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1774 2012 6 cc

Hidden Structures 6

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1652 2012 b ricr

Throwing the Plate from Very High

Three gelatin silver prints mounted on paper and one etching composition (photograph, each): 5 1/8 x 7 1/16" (13 x 18 cm); sheet (photograph mount): 27 1/2 x 19 11/16" (69.8 x 50 cm); plate (etching, irreg.): 17 1/8 x 12 1/8" (43.5 x 30.8 cm); sheet (etching): 27 5/16 x 19 9/16" (69.3 x 49.7 cm).

The combination of conceptual rigor and physical directness in Maurer’s early mature work is exemplified in her print Throwing the Plate from Very High. It shows a deformed rectangular gray field that was produced by striking an impression from an unworked printing plate which the artist had thrown from her third-floor balcony. The force of the impact on the plate translates visually into a wedge-shaped gap at the bottom edge of the rectangle and, above it, a dense cloud of applied printer’s ink. Executed in a supremely simple and immediately apparent method, the result is determined by chance, echoing similar process- and chance-based operations in Western art after John Cage.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Riva Castleman Endowment Fund
1652 2012 a ricr

Throwing the Plate from Very High

Three gelatin silver prints mounted on paper and one etching composition (photograph, each): 5 1/8 x 7 1/16" (13 x 18 cm); sheet (photograph mount): 27 1/2 x 19 11/16" (69.8 x 50 cm); plate (etching, irreg.): 17 1/8 x 12 1/8" (43.5 x 30.8 cm); sheet (etching): 27 5/16 x 19 9/16" (69.3 x 49.7 cm).

The combination of conceptual rigor and physical directness in Maurer’s early mature work is exemplified in her print Throwing the Plate from Very High. It shows a deformed rectangular gray field that was produced by striking an impression from an unworked printing plate which the artist had thrown from her third-floor balcony. The force of the impact on the plate translates visually into a wedge-shaped gap at the bottom edge of the rectangle and, above it, a dense cloud of applied printer’s ink. Executed in a supremely simple and immediately apparent method, the result is determined by chance, echoing similar process- and chance-based operations in Western art after John Cage.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Riva Castleman Endowment Fund
2. l 73 %c3%a1tmar part 2

Dripping Acid to the Plate

Six gelatin silver prints mounted on paper and one etching composition.

Image Courtesy of Dora Maurer.
2. l 73 %c3%a1tmar part 1

Dripping Acid to the Plate

Six gelatin silver prints mounted on paper and one etching composition.

Image courtesy of Dora Maurer.
1235 2012 cc

Reversible and Changeable Phases of Movement, Study No. 4

24 gelatin silver prints and graphite on paper, 21 5/8 x 19 11/16" (55 x 50 cm).

Within two years, Maurer was working on a series of photographic studies that track sequences of simple movements and gestures. This example from the series, Reversible and Changeable Phases of Movement, Study No. 4, shows a ball held by two hands, thrown into the air (or caught after a fall), the empty sky, the ball in mid-flight, and the hands awaiting the ball (or after its release). Maurer then scrambled the order of the five images and arranged them in five different sequences (suggesting, but not showing, all possible permutations of the sequence) on a five-by-five grid of square photographic images. A hand-written key at the top of the page explains the sequence.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund
Reverzibilis 2

Dóra Maurer, Reversible and Changeable Phases of Movements, etude 2.

Gelatin silver prints, chalk writing on paper, 21 1/2" x 39 3/8 (70x100 cm).

Image Courtesy of Dora Maurer.
Reverzibilis 3

Reversible & Changeable Phases of Movements, etude 4.

Gelatin silver prints, chalk writing on paper, 21 1/2" x 39 3/8 (70x100 cm).

Image Courtesy of Dora Maurer.
1236 2012 a cc

Tracing Space I

Gelatin silver prints on cardboard, 27 1/2 x 39 7/16" (69.9 x 100.1 cm).

A similar strategy of photographic tracing of movement in space is suggested in Maurer’s series Tracing Space. Here, Maurer maps the walls of her studio with a sequence of images that rotate around two or three pivotal points in the space, providing varying degrees of detail and orientation, or disorientation. A drawing showing the camera’s position and viewing angle complements the photographic series and grounds the image in the abstract logic of the diagram.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund
1236 2012 b cc

Tracing Space II

Gelatin silver prints on cardboard, 27 1/2 x 39 7/16" (69.9 x 100.1 cm).

A similar strategy of photographic tracing of movement in space is suggested in Maurer’s series Tracing Space. Here, Maurer maps the walls of her studio with a sequence of images that rotate around two or three pivotal points in the space, providing varying degrees of detail and orientation, or disorientation. A drawing showing the camera’s position and viewing angle complements the photographic series and grounds the image in the abstract logic of the diagram.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund
1236 2012 c cc

Tracing Space - Plan

Graphite on paper, 11 3/4 x 15 11/16" (29.8 x 39.9 cm).

A similar strategy of photographic tracing of movement in space is suggested in Maurer’s series Tracing Space. Here, Maurer maps the walls of her studio with a sequence of images that rotate around two or three pivotal points in the space, providing varying degrees of detail and orientation, or disorientation. A drawing showing the camera’s position and viewing angle complements the photographic series and grounds the image in the abstract logic of the diagram.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Agnes Rindge Claflin Fund
Minimalmovements p%c3%a1va

Studies of Minimal Movements (peacock)

Gelatin silver prints, chalk, felt pen, thin paper on cardboard, 27 1/2" x 19 11/16" (70 x 50 cm).

Image Courtesy of Dora Maurer.
Minimovements groh

Studies of Minimal Movements (walk on the seashore with Klaus Groh)

Gelatin silver prints, chalk, felt pen, transparent paper on cardboard, 27 1/2" x 19 11/16" (70 x 50 cm).

Image Courtesy of Dora Maurer.
1774 2012 1 cc

Hidden Structures 1

Graphite on paper, 19 5/8 x 25 1/2" (49.8 x 64.8 cm).

In Hidden Structures 1–6, a set of six graphite drawings, Maurer created abstract, linear compositions structured by the creases left in sheets of paper after the sheets had been folded along various axes and then unfolded. The geometric fields delineated by the horizontal, vertical, and diagonal creases are articulated by means of light graphite shading. The fold lines emerge as lighter bands, further highlighting the geometric definition.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1774 2012 2 cc

Hidden Structures 2

Graphite on paper, 19 5/8 x 25 1/2" (49.8 x 64.8 cm).

In Hidden Structures 1–6, a set of six graphite drawings, Maurer created abstract, linear compositions structured by the creases left in sheets of paper after the sheets had been folded along various axes and then unfolded. The geometric fields delineated by the horizontal, vertical, and diagonal creases are articulated by means of light graphite shading. The fold lines emerge as lighter bands, further highlighting the geometric definition.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1774 2012 3 cc

Hidden Structures 3

Graphite on paper, 19 5/8 x 25 1/2" (49.8 x 64.8 cm).

In Hidden Structures 1–6, a set of six graphite drawings, Maurer created abstract, linear compositions structured by the creases left in sheets of paper after the sheets had been folded along various axes and then unfolded. The geometric fields delineated by the horizontal, vertical, and diagonal creases are articulated by means of light graphite shading. The fold lines emerge as lighter bands, further highlighting the geometric definition.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1774 2012 4 cc

Hidden Structures 4

Graphite on paper, 19 5/8 x 25 1/2" (49.8 x 64.8 cm).

In Hidden Structures 1–6, a set of six graphite drawings, Maurer created abstract, linear compositions structured by the creases left in sheets of paper after the sheets had been folded along various axes and then unfolded. The geometric fields delineated by the horizontal, vertical, and diagonal creases are articulated by means of light graphite shading. The fold lines emerge as lighter bands, further highlighting the geometric definition.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1774 2012 5 cc

Hidden Structures 5

Graphite on paper, 19 5/8 x 25 1/2" (49.8 x 64.8 cm).

In Hidden Structures 1–6, a set of six graphite drawings, Maurer created abstract, linear compositions structured by the creases left in sheets of paper after the sheets had been folded along various axes and then unfolded. The geometric fields delineated by the horizontal, vertical, and diagonal creases are articulated by means of light graphite shading. The fold lines emerge as lighter bands, further highlighting the geometric definition.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds
1774 2012 6 cc

Hidden Structures 6

Graphite on paper, 19 5/8 x 25 1/2" (49.8 x 64.8 cm).

In Hidden Structures 1–6, a set of six graphite drawings, Maurer created abstract, linear compositions structured by the creases left in sheets of paper after the sheets had been folded along various axes and then unfolded. The geometric fields delineated by the horizontal, vertical, and diagonal creases are articulated by means of light graphite shading. The fold lines emerge as lighter bands, further highlighting the geometric definition.

The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Committee on Drawings Funds

Latest discussion on:
A Decade in Art: Dora Maurer in the 1970s

Sign in or create your account to participate in the discussion.

Thanks

Posted on 19 Jan

Beautiful work, thanks for the post. Any idea where to find books / catalogues?

Show less »

Beautiful work, thanks for the post. Any idea where to find books / catalogues?

Show more »
M moskalewicz

MoMA Library would be a good start: See the list of books here

Show less »

MoMA Library would be a good start: See the list of books here

Show more »