Michelle Elligott and Tod Lippy: Modern Artifacts


April 15, 2020
April 15, 2020

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Esopus Books announces the publication of Modern Artifacts (May 2020). With essays and an introduction by Michelle Elligott, and designed and edited by Tod Lippy, the book brings all 18 installments of the eponymous series that originally appeared in the nonprofit publication Esopus between 2006 and 2018, together with six newly realized projects by contemporary artists Mary Ellen Carroll, Rhea Karam, Mary Lum, Clifford Owen, Michael Rakowitz, and Paul Ramirez Jonas.

For the series, Michelle Elligott, Chief of Archives, Library, and Research Collections at The Museum of Modern Art, plumbed MoMA’s Archives for long-unseen gems ranging from the records of the Art Lending Service launched by the museum’s Junior Council in 1951 to Alfred Barr’s diagrams mapping art-historical influences for the 1936 exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art. In other installments, handwritten notebooks reveal the process that went into Scott Burton’s early performances, and content from contributors such as Erik Satie and Harold Rosenberg commissioned in the early 1950s for the never-published second issue of Robert Motherwell’s journal, Possibilities, finally finds its way into print. 

Each chapter of Modern Artifacts pulls back the curtains on the inner workings of the institution that more than any other defined the course of modern art by offering meticulous facsimile reproductions—many in the form of removal inserts—of archival documents including curatorial and personal correspondence, loan negotiations, photographs of artworks, and other materials.

For their projects, the six artists were invited to select a particular aspect of the MoMA Archives for further investigation. Rakowitz was drawn to the proposal and research materials for a never-realized exhibition planned for 1940 that was meant to rally the public against fascism, while Lum explored collage in her exhumation of the museum’s 1961 exhibition The Art of Assemblage. Several of the projects feature original artworks, including a hand-pulled screen print inserted into each book by artist Rhea Karam, who encourages readers to wheat-paste it onto public walls in keeping with the “Street Works” series documented in the Archives that inspired her contribution. 

Modern Artifacts, the second publication from the Esopus Books imprint, includes additional material not included in the original series due to space constraints, a new introductory essay by Elligott, and a foreword by Tod Lippythe founder, editor, and designer of Esopus and executive director of The Esopus Foundation Ltd. 

About the authors
Michelle Elligott
 is Chief of Archives, Library, and Research Collections at The Museum of Modern Art, where she was part of the curatorial team for the 2019 opening of the new MoMA and the reimagined presentation of its collection. Elligott’s book René d’Harnoncourt and The Art of Installation was named to The New York Times “Best Art Books of 2018” list. In 2017, she curated the exhibition Devenir moderne, part of the Museum’s exhibition Être moderne at the Fondation Louis Vuitton in Paris. Elligott was a fellow in the 2016 International Curatorial Institute, jointly administered by the Center for Curatorial Leadership, MoMA, and Columbia Business School. In addition, she has also codirected the Museum’s widely acclaimed Exhibition History web archive project and coedited the institution’s first self-published history, Art in Our Time: A Chronicle of The Museum of Modern Art (2004). In 2005, Elligott was a Fulbright Senior Scholar in residence at the Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece.

Tod Lippy is the founder, editor, and designer of the nonprofit arts publication Esopus and executive director of The Esopus Foundation Ltd. His work for Esopus has been featured in exhibitions at the Walker Art Center, Rome’s Contemporary Art Museum, de Appel Art Center in Amsterdam, and the Nasher Sculpture Center in Dallas. From 2009 to 2012, he served as curator and director of Esopus Space in New York City; Lippy has also curated exhibitions at New York City’s White Columns and Pioneer Works. A featured speaker at events for the American Library Association, the AIGA, and MTV Networks, he has also taught at the School of the Visual Arts. Lippy, a filmmaker, musician, and artist, was awarded a MacDowell Colony Fellowship in 2018. 

The Esopus Foundation Ltd. is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization dedicated to providing a forum through which artists, writers and musicians can make a direct connection with the general public. The Foundation’s main program from 2003 to 2018 was the award-winning arts publication Esopus, which garnered critical praise and a devoted following for its unfiltered, dynamic presentation of a wide range of creative expression. The Foundation has programmed exhibitions, events, and performances with institutions including the Kitchen, the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1, White Columns, Pioneer Works, and the New York Public Library. In 2019, it established a new publishing imprint, Esopus Books, whose first publication was Neil Goldberg: Other People’s Prescriptions (Spring 2019). Institutional supporters of The Esopus Foundation Ltd. include the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the Peter and Carmen Lucia Buck Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and Emerson Collective.

Modern Artifacts
Published by Esopus Books, distributed by Distributed Art Publishers (D.A.P.)
May 2020
ISBN: 978-0-98-991177-1 
354p., 235 color illustrations


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