Desert Moon

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Desert Moon

United States, 1955
Collage of oil on paper on canvas, and oil on canvas
58 × 42 1/2 in. (147.32 × 107.95 cm)
Purchased with funds provided by Jo Ann and Julian Ganz Jr., Robert F. Maguire III, Leslie and John Dorman, Betty and Brack Duker, John and Joan Hotchkis, Mr. and Mrs. H. Tony Oppenheimer/Oppenheimer Brothers Foundation, Lynda and Stewart Resnick, Sheila and Wally Weisman, Marilyn B. and Calvin B. Gross, Judith and Steaven K. Jones, Myron Laskin, Tally and Bill Mingst, and Irene Christopher through the 2000 Collectors Committee, Director's Discretionary Fund, Judith and Richard Smooke, and two anonymous donors (M.2000.82)
Currently on public view:
Broad Contemporary Art Museum, floor 3

Since gallery displays may change often, please contact us before you visit to make certain this item is on view.

Curator Notes

We commissioned poet Karen Holden to compose a response to this painting. This is her poem:

We commissioned poet Karen Holden to compose a response to this painting. This is her poem:

Quartet for Desert Moon

Painting is the silence of thought and the music of sight. Orhan Pamuk

I. Expectation

Moon, where are you?

Hidden in one, two, three, stark trees
Filtering through a brutal desert sky, a spiky
Desert washed blood red, torn against sharp
Black stones, in the claret-stained night

No fuzzy thumbprint, no cool clear light

Just hard shards, the sharp shards of a cracked heart
Silence and the dulling absence of reflection
Barren desert of cactus, of stone, red sand, pink
Bloom and the moon, diminished

Where is the moon, desert?

Where is that sober, milky light?
Maybe it’s all moon, scraped and shaped by time
A terrain of absence, of waiting in the quiet
Missing moon, making what is present, alive

II. Conversation

Rothko’s red painting, titled “white”
Absent black, floating red, the canvas sighs

Not harmony, but balance
The bruised red of late apples, persimmon and rose

Voices in a hushed room volley
Across the Hoffman, the Motherwell, the Kline

The memory of Matisse’s red room, his own
Discourse with the moon seeping into everyone

III. Inspiration

Approach is everything
Tear the old to paper the new
It starts with red
And then the darkness follows

Finding something in nothing
Making something from nothing
Relationship is everything
In painting and in life

You taught them all
To be bold, not to lie, to stare
The image straight in the eye
Not to flinch in a fight

From outside to inside, the moon
Slides, lighting the studio, where
Your own hard rhythms rise
The red of blood, not fire, the black of night

IV. Revelation

You must get close, and wait
As close as the sky-hidden moon will allow
A stark red desert, night-folded trees
Invisible force of the wind, blunt light

Burnished, but not bright

Not the cool articulate moon, only moonlight
On serrated stones and what’s missing: morning
Horizon, plain, the rest flat crimson and black
Shooting upward out of the frame

Or simply: Paper. Canvas. Paint.

© 2013 Karen Holden


Lee Krasner’s Abstract Expressionist canvases are packed with color and pattern, with layers of forms that overlap and intermingle....
Lee Krasner’s Abstract Expressionist canvases are packed with color and pattern, with layers of forms that overlap and intermingle. By 1942 Krasner had begun to explore collage, cutting up photographs and recycling fragments of her own work to form new compositions. By the 1950s her collages had grown in both scale and ambition. Desert Moon comprises vibrant, carefully arranged snippets of discarded paintings cut into vertical and biomorphic shapes.

Krasner’s work has previously been overshadowed by her links to famous male artists: she married Jackson Pollock, became friends with Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, and studied with Hans Hofmann, who said of one of her paintings, “This is so good, you would never know it was done by a woman.” More recent scholarship and exhibitions have restored her work to the center of Abstract Expressionism.

Wall label, 2021.


  • Landau, Ellen G. Lee Krasner: a Catalogue Raisonné. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1995.
  • Nairne, Eleanor, editor. Lee Krasner: Living Colour. London: Thames & Hudson, 2019.
  • Hustvedt, Siri, and Saskia Flower. Lee Krasner: Collage Paintings, 1938-1981. New York: Kasmin Gallery, 2021.