This idea is particularly striking when viewing and physically walking around works like Fish (1926), on view at MoMA. “It behaves more like a fish than it looks like one,” noted Paulina Pobocha, who curated the exhibition. Because of the color and striation of the marble, the shape of the flat oval, and the highly polished finish, Brancusi’s sculpture literally is ungraspable, shifting in and out of focus like a minnow darting through water.
Some of Brancusi’s favorite ideas to explore were actually incredibly abstract themselves—for instance, his Endless Column (1918), with its jagged and angular geometry, hints at the possibility of infinite repetition. But looking at the sculpture in person, you get the sense that Brancusi has made the abstract more immediately digestible.
“Something happened when we brought this piece into the gallery space,” Pobocha said. “The lighting makes it possible to see the surface qualities of the oak, and to see how articulate and deliberate the striations are.” Using material and surface as an expressive form was so important to Brancusi, even when trying to communicate intangible ideas. The details always mattered.