Behind Closed Doors

A shockingly unfeeling and vague idea of home

  • Crafting Modernity: Design in Latin America, 1940–1980, organized by Ana Elena Mallet and Amanda Forment, is on view at the Museum of Modern Art through September 22.

I think I expected a warmer greeting walking into the Philip Johnson galleries at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), given the focus of the show they currently house. Crafting Modernity: Design in Latin America, 1940–1980 posits that in the twentieth century the Latin American home was a “site of experimentation for modern living.” But the spaces in the galleries, instead of reflecting the typical trappings of experimentation—trials, errors, uncertainties, mess—or of home—patina, use, wear, also mess—are rigidly arranged and uncomfortably bare. There is an unwelcoming abundance of space, a definite and disturbing feeling of sparseness, and a sense that the eye has no clear spot to land, that it might not totally matter where it finally does. And yet somehow the rooms are full of stuff. There are chairs everywhere (though because they perch on short platforms, isolated, facing no …

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