LOS ANGELES — One of the major critiques of the iPad is that it’s more suited as a tool for consumption rather than creation. Anyone who’s written an essay, edited a video or made a sketch on an iPad knows this isn’t quite right, but the critique continues. Indeed, most art-related apps I’ve seen, other than sketching tools, focus more on consumption, acting as a digital catalogue of sorts.
MoMA’s new Art Lab iPad app takes a new tack. Beyond simply looking at work, you can learn about it by engaging in creation. Upon opening the app, you’re greeted with a variety of shapes and color options. The shapes can be easily moved, resized and adjusted, and the canvas can change color at the tap of a finger.
If you’re experiencing a creative block, it’s easy to view tips and suggestions. Simply click the Ideas bank, and you can flip through block busting ideas like “Drawn for ten seconds without lifting your finger. Color in any shapes that were created.” This advice can work as well on the iPad as it can if you simply broke out a sketchpad and some markers.
Hit a creative block? Check out the Ideas section for new inspiration and prompts.
My favorite part of the app is how it revives the sketching tradition in a very multimedia way. After all, there are more powerful sketching and making apps out there. But where MoMA brings its strength is in contextualizing the experience into the practice of great artists.
The app can enrich a regular MoMA visit or make one possible for those not in New York. I loved tracing a Brice Marden painting and then creating a sound composition. My fingers run along the painting, and I can map it according to words and sounds that seem to fit. Like art making, this is a game with no end game — the point is to create and experience.
MoMA’s Art Lab iPad app is available on iTunes.
Artist and designer An Xiao looks at the intersection of the digital and analog in the 21st century. She photographs, installs, performs and tweets and has shown her work in publications and galleries internationally, including the Brooklyn Museum, Winkleman Gallery, The New York Times and Art in America. She founded and directs @Platea, a global social media art collective. In addition to writing for Hyperallergic, she serves as a contributing columnist for PBS-affiliate Art21. Find her online at @anxiaostudio and anxiaostudio.com.