PHOTOS: Historic New England Open House Day: The Gedney House and Phillips House

Gedney House

Gedney House

Every year in June Historic New England opens the doors of its many historic houses to the public. This year I went to Salem, MA to visit the Gedney House (1665) and the Phillips House (1821). Below are some images of both houses.

Gedney House

Gedney House


Phillips House

Phillips House

Phillips House

Phillips House

Some Highlights of Preservation Month in Boston


May is National Preservation Month and this year’s events in the Boston-area include quite a few walking tours and talks on the city’s built environment. The theme of this year’s city-wide event is “Buildings and Grounds” with a keynote speech on May 1st by Lyn Paget at the Taj Boston.

Here are some of the highlights:

2 | FRI | 6:30 to 8:00 PM | FILM
Jane Jacobs In Her Own Words
A film presenting three interviews with Jacobs followed by a discussion with the audience on how the film relates to the West End and the current exhibit at the West End Museum.

West End Museum, 150 Staniford St.
Free and open to the public.

3 | SAT | 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM | TOUR
Behind-the-Scenes Tour of the All Saints Ashmont Restoration Project

Visit Dorchester’s historic Peabody Square for a behind the scenes tour of the restoration project underway at All Saints Ashmont, the highly influential Gothic Revival church designed by noted architect Ralph Adams Cram.

3 | SAT | 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM | WALKING TOUR
Jane Jacobs in the West End: Could her ideas have changed the neighborhood?

To celebrate Jane’s Walk, the West End Museum will lead a tour focusing on Jane Jacob’s ideas and how they could have been implemented in Boston’s West End.

4 | SUN | 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM | WALKING TOUR
A Walk with Mr. Olmsted through the Back Bay Fens

Of course, what’s Preservation Month in the city of Boston without exploring the history of the city’s historic parks. Join Frederick Law Olmsted, as portrayed by Gerry Wright, and an Emerald Necklace docent as they lead a walk through the historic landscape of the Fens.

10 | SAT | 3:00 to 4:30 PM | WALKING TOUR
Modernist Urbanism: Paul Rudolph and Government Center

The New England Chapter of DOCOMOMO and Timothy M. Rohan from UMass Amherst, will lead an architectural walking tour explaining Paul Rudolph’s never fully completed Government Services Center.

11 | SUN | 11:00 AM to 12:30 PM | WALKING TOUR
Historic Gems of the Back Bay Fens

Another walking tour of Boston’s parks. This tour, which is repeated through the month of May, will explore Olmsted’s 19th-Century sanitary improvements as well as the many structures through the parks, including those designed by H.H. Richardson.

Christian Science Church Complex: In and Out of the City

A tour led by Elizabeth Stifel, the staff architect of the Boston Landmarks Commission, of the iconic (mostly) Brutalist complex.

To find out all the events coming up, click here. 

Tweet, Tweet. The Evolving Critic is Baaaaack and so is Big Red & Shiny!

Today is an exciting day in Boston and I am thrilled to announce that after a two year hiatus, Boston’s biggest, reddest and shiniest online Journal and blogazine Big Red & Shiny is back!

If you ever wondered why I stopped blogging, this is the reason. I am happy to tell you that I am one of five new Executive Editors for this new phase of Big Red & Shiny. Get ready because we’re going to talk about art with a Boston accent. It has been a long journey to get to where we are today and I could’ve never done this alone. Learn about us here:

New Editorial Team! Clint Baclawski, Stephanie Cardon, John Pyper, Anulfo Baez and Brian Glaser

We have so much going on, but we cannot do this alone. We have launched a Kickstarter to get us started on the right foot. Please consider making a donation and sharing this opportunity with those in the creative industries. Your support is very much needed for the long term sustainability of Big Red & Shiny.

Click here to read brand new content, including my post on Prentice Hospital in Chicago.

Join us on September 29th at Mills Gallery to celebrate the re-launch and on October 27th for a conference on art writing and community at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

For more information please visit


The Evolving Critic will Go on Indefinite Hiatus

The Evolving Critic will have to go on indefinite hiatus*starting this March 2012. 

*Please note that ‘hiatus’ means a break, a lapse in continuity. It does not mean that this blog will end.

Thank You.

Photographs with a View of Her Own

For those of us with an interest in Boston’s Gilded Age, the Women’s Suffrage Movement or 19th century female photographers, the name Clover Adams rings a bell. Marian “Clover” Hooper Adams—Gilded Age socialite and portrait photographer, is currently the subject of a small but delightful exhibition at the Massachusetts Historical Society.  

A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life: The Photographs of Clover Adams 1883-1885—traces the privileged life of “a fiercely intelligent Boston Brahmin.” Clover began experimenting with photography in the summer of 1883 while her husband Henry Adams—prominent historian, Harvard professor and novelist—was writing Esther, a novel loosely based on the making of Trinity Church in the City of Boston. Adams modeled the heroine of the novel after his wife Clover, whom he characterized in it as a “second rate amateur” painter.

“I’ve gone in for photography and find it very absorbing” wrote Clover on September 7 1883. “My wife does nothing except take photographs…” wrote Henry to Elizabeth Sherman Cameron on July 26 1883. Artistically dismissed by Henry, Clover continued to make compelling photographs that allowed for an intimate look at America’s Gilded Age. 

Clover’s photographs are marked by quotes or any information she recorded of the individual or place she photographed—often providing a glimpse into the personalities of highly respected figures. When photographed, Senator and future Supreme Court Justice Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus Lamar of Mississippi refused to have his photo taken until “he had rumpled [his hair] all up,” wrote Clover alongside his photograph on February 23 1884.

(Left) Henry Adams seated at desk in dark coat, writing, Photograph by Marian Hooper Adams, 1883 (Right)Umbrella tree at Smith's Point, Photograph by Marian Hooper Adams. Both Photographs courtesy Massachusetts Historical Society.

Clover’s ability to communicate the personality of her sitters is evident in the arrangement of her albums.  She paired a photograph of Henry Adams in his study room alongside a photograph of a lonely tree perched on a mountain top. One can arrive at numerous conclusions, but we can all assume that this arrangement speaks to the lonely life that Henry led.

Organized by the seasons of the year, the exhibition highlights Clover’s three albums and displays them in the context of letters, loose photographs and ephemera—including her personal sketchbook with a watercolor by John La Farge.

Having lived in the immediate surroundings of Trinity Church before moving to Washington, DC, Henry Adams became close friends with Phillips Brooks, Trinity’s then charismatic preacher; America’s premier architect Henry Hobson Richardson and artist John La Farge. Clover photographed Trinity Church and the people behind one of America’s greatest architectural treasures. These photographs, many of them iconic—also form part of this exhibition.

The photographs of Clover Adams are as heartbreaking as the life she led. On the morning of Sunday December 6, 1885 she wrote “if I had a single point of character, I would stand on that and grow back to life.” That same Sunday morning, Clover committed suicide by drinking potassium cyanide, the chemical she used to develop her own photographs. She was 42.

Henry Adams never spoke of her or mentions her in his masterpiece “The Education of Henry Adams,” but he honored Clover’s memory with the bronze seated statue by Augustus Saint-Gaudens–placed over her grave at Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, DC.  

 A Gilded and Heartbreaking Life: The Photographs of Clover Adams 1883-1885 is accompanied by a biography of the same title by exhibition curator Natalie Dystra. The exhibition is on view until June 02, 2012.

Eso Eres / Marea

Video Still from Eso Eres. Image Courtesy of Maria Rondeau and Rafael Rondeau.

My introduction to the work of Rafael Rondeau and Maria Rondeau occurred last summer in Close Distance—a terrific group exhibition highlighting six emerging Boston-area Latino artists. That summer at the Mills Gallery, we saw videos that explored architecture and its ability to frame our experience of place. Once again, this brother and sister duo have collaborated on two separate, experimental video installations that explore the synthesis between the intimate and the public, by engaging structure, image and sound.

Maria, a practicing architect and artist and Rafael, a violinist and composer—have furthered their work with Eso Eres and Marea, two non-narrative, fully immersive works that re-examine and question the spaces we inhabit.

Eso Eres, is projected on a suspended light screen with a reflective mylar background set five feet away from the wall. The video captures a man running along a linear path, but instead of seeing the man’s entire body, we only see his face–an attempt on behalf of the artists to locate a visage as a “place.”

Video Still from Marea. Image Courtesy of Maria Rondeau and Rafael Rondeau.

 Marea, the longest and most immersive of the two videos captures a social encounter—a man sitting at a table in what appears to be an outdoor restaurant overlooking one of New York City’s neighborhoods. Projected on two elongated screens that trace the perimeter of a table—the video holds both foreground and background in focus, creating a sweeping and fluid movement that wraps around the viewer—who is encouraged to weave in and out of both installations. The sound, conceived by Rafael not only considers the spaces projected in these two installations, but also the gallery space where these works are shown.

From the sound of a string quartet—composed and performed by Rafael—to the hustle and bustle of a rural market in Guatemala—to the murmured prayers of women at a pre-Colonial church, Marea takes you on journeys near and far in the span of 10 minutes. The images and sounds in these two videos often collide with one another to awaken and alter our senses, prompting us to reconsider the spaces we experience on a daily basis.

Eso Eres/Marea is on view until March 02, 2012 at La Galeria at the Villa Victoria Center for the Arts in the South End.

A Twitter Response on Art Criticism – The Transcript

The January 27th, 2012, Boston Globe review of the deCordova Biennial caused quite a stir in the Boston artscene– Critic Sebastian Smee’s first sentence tells us why:

Horrible news to have to share (brace yourselves), but the second deCordova Biennial – the preeminent survey of contemporary art made by artists living and working in New England – is a major letdown.

Boston artist and Gloucester MacDowell Colony Fellow 2009-10 Rachel Perry Welty responded to Mr. Smee’s criticism by writing a letter to the Editor. In it, Ms. Welty writes “If Smee could spend more time looking thoughtfully and less time writing reviews “coddled in cleverness’’ (his words) we might all learn something.”

I agree with Rachel Perry Welty. If we all spend more time looking and less talking, writing about or tweeting an exhibition—rather than dismissing a work because we don’t like it or it isn’t our favorite—we may learn a lot about ourselves and maybe in the process transform the way we experience art.

The conversation on art criticism did not end with Ms. Welty’s letter to the Editor. Instead, we continued it over on Twitter where a thoughtful discussion emerged. This is the transcript of the talk. If I have missed a tweet or two, please forgive me as it was a challenge to collect all of them for this transcript.


Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
The kind of “criticism” Smee does for the Globe does nothing for #BostonArts. Great letter by @rpwelty
10:39 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
He described himself as being a bully. There’s a difference between being a bully & being critical. Be critical & not a bully. #BostonArts
10:41 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
Some of these #BostonArts critics make me feel zzZZZZzzzzz.
10:42 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
I don’t waste my time writing/blogging about things that bore me to death or things I hate & make me want to scream. #BostonArts
10:47 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
Why? I don’t get paid & it’ll just make me a miserable human being. Some of Smee’s criticism make him sound miserable & pompous.#BostonArts
10:49 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
I haven’t ranted in a while, but how can #BostonArts grow with bullies out here just waiting to attack?! There’s no growth!
10:51 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
I never finished reading his “critique” of the @deCordovaSPandM Biennial. So sickening. When will we ever learn that being a bully isn’t OK?
10:55 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic For critic, who’s more important? Artists or readers (art’s audience)? Crit of Smee may b valid, but he writes for reader.
11:01 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
.@CRHolland I get it, but what good does it do #BostonArts, saying things along the lines of “I have better things to do on a Saturday?”
11:08 AM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
.@evolvingcritic @CRHolland Good criticism is absolutely necessary in Boston, but the scene is too small for critics not to take risks too

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
@CRHolland his writing makes me not want to support #bostonarts, but I know better of course, others may not and they’re being fed his words
11:10 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic re: “others may not and they’re being fed his words” Have faith in readers. If u keep fighting 4 better crit. It will come.
11:30 AM – 13 Feb 12

Rachel Perry Welty @rpwelty
The Boston Globe published my letter to the Editor today. Bitter cold brisk walk around Village. Studio time on LIML projects. Venison stew.
11:58 PM – 12 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
.@rpwelty I am impressed with you for taking this stand. Bullying does hinder artistic risk-taking #Bostonarts
11:09 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic Don’t make me sound like I’m defending him. :-)
11:16 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
.@CRHolland I’m not making you sound like you’re defending him. We’re having a convo and if ppl are interest they can read the thread. :)
11:18 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic He wrote “I missed this particular spectacle, having other things to do most Saturdays…” Not good, but not “better things.”
11:15 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
@CRHolland that’s why I said “along the lines of” because I didn’t have the letter in front of me to copy.
11:19 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic I was responding to what Welty wrote in her letter. (wasn’t aimed at you)
11:25 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
@CRHolland no no I didn’t get that impression at all. I knew you were responding to Welty.
12:09 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@EvolvingCritic I think @rpwelty weakened her argument against @SebastianSmee‘s “‘criticism'” by suggesting that artists are victims of it.
11:17 AM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
Don’t entirely disagree w @SebastianSmees dislike for ‘lightweight gestures of cling film conceptualism’ cc: @EvolvingCritic Will have to see
11:26 AM – 13 Feb 12

Montserrat Gallery @montgallery
RT @S_Cardon: .@evolvingcritic @CRHolland What is “good criticism”?

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
Devoting as much attention the idea of a work as to its formal qualities, for one thing. RT @montgallery: What is “good criticism”?
11:40 AM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@montgallery Good criticism = Clearly stated ideas backed by valid arguments – According to my 10th grade English teacher :-)
11:40 AM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
meant to say: Devoting as much attention TO the idea of a work as to its formal qualities @montgallery What is “good” criticism?
11:45 AM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland I think that RPW is dealing with only one part of smee’s issues and that doesn’t weaken that part of the argument(s).
11:48 AM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@montgallery good criticism is plausible, surprising, and compelling.
11:49 AM – 13 Feb 12

Anulfo Baez @EvolvingCritic
@S_Cardon @SebastianSmee I don’t entirely disagree either with what I read. I didn’t finish it though, so I’m honest about that.
12:10 PM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
Furthermore @montgallery – good critics don’t equate “I don’t like it” with “it’s bad”. Sometimes the stuff we recoil from gives us the most
12:13 PM – 13 Feb 12

Ricardo De Lima @rdelima
I, fan of polemic, don’t find fault with @SebastianSmee criticism of the deCordova show. The Boston art scene is where Ponzi meets Polyanna
12:16 PM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
Doesn’t the Ponzi follow from the tiny amount of art critics to begin with? RT @rdelima: The Boston art scene is where Ponzi meets Polyanna
12:26 PM – 13 Feb 12

a @quipped
Objective. @montgallery What is “good” criticism?
12:26 PM – 13 Feb 12

a @quipped
Oh, and balanced. It’s important to understand the intent to judge the result. @montgallery What is “good” criticism?
12:35 PM – 13 Feb 12

a @quipped
I think critisism forces it to function outside of a vacuum. Gives it legs. “@montgallery what is criticism meant to do for the art?
1:46 PM – 13 Feb 12

Montserrat Gallery @montgallery
@quipped isn’t art criticism within Art vacuum? Almost 2 distinct responsibilities 1 critique work + curators, 2 connect readers to the work
1:59 PM – 13 Feb 12

a @quipped
@montgallery I think it can be, but the purpose or function is to release it from the artist, to discuss in order to liberate it.
2:01 PM – 13 Feb 12

a @quipped
@montgallery I think if art critique is a vacuum itself, perhaps we are paying to much attention to the artist, not the art.
2:02 PM – 13 Feb 12

Ricardo De Lima @rdelima
@S_Cardon Not enough critics, so I find it a service when those five or six souls and their deadlines don’t collude with the locals.
12:35 PM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
@rdelima agreed. Don’t think today’s polemic criticizes criticism per say only the prima donna approach enabled by critical scarcity.
12:42 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper But for RPW’s closing, we have to accept that crit is for artists & there4 artists r victims of bad criticism, which I don’t buy.
12:49 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland Fair enough, but i think that her point is that when it’s not ‘good’ he’d rather shit on something than think about it.
12:51 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper But I see what you mean!
12:52 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland I think that criticism should be met like praise, thanks them but consider the source. Not everyone’s positive opinion is helpful
1:03 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper excellent point.
1:05 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland Also are you saying that bad criticism has no consequences for an artist? or their career?
1:04 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper Well, if it’s simply poorly argued/written criticism, the consequences (good/bad) will be less significant for an artist’s career
1:10 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper I am, however, concerned if artists think they are the victims of poor writing/criticism. The readers are the bigger losers.
1:12 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland I think artists get so little public feedback that you hope they are at least fair or competently written, right?
1:17 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper I suppose we can only keep trying to perfect the publishing model…
1:28 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
.@johnpyperI think my biggest problem w/ltr is suggestion that people can’t create “groundbreaking work” due to some sort of oppression
1:17 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland what happens when an artist finally gets a solo show and the only review is from a hack? You seem smaller as a professional
1:18 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper Thankfully, there are venues like this one where we can analyze both RPW and Smee’s words and come to our own conclusions.
1:29 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@CRHolland I think people confuse critics with art history. No one remembers your review. and no historian will use it to define you.
1:19 PM – 13 Feb 12

Montserrat Gallery @montgallery
@quipped @S_Cardon @EvolvingCritic @johnpyper @CRHolland: we feel you, thanks for ur replies! now what is criticism meant to dO for the art?
1:31 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@montgallery Critics are voluntary media (mediums?) btwn art and audience. They provide understanding, context, validity to art for readers.
1:52 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@montgallery See Austin Chronicle which @salvocheque just pointed out.
1:53 PM – 13 Feb 12

Ricardo De Lima @rdelima
@CRHolland @johnpyper I feel long-term philosophical/aesthetic champions rather than the occasional detractor is a bigger career factor.
1:32 PM – 13 Feb 12

Montserrat Gallery @montgallery
@CRHolland agreed – always think that if this is the case, more museum/gallery educators should be writing for the papers.
1:57 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@montgallery Lol. Sounds like a conflict of interest. Although… maybe museums should hire unemployed critics to blog for them. :-)
2:00 PM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
@crholland @montgallery Conflict of interest maybe, but it does mean all of that in-depth research and writing gets buried in catalogues.
2:40 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@S_Cardon Catalogs are, unfortunately, one of the few publishing models that can support in-depth research.
3:06 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@S_Cardon Moreover, I think newspaper journalists and museum/gallery educators dive to similar depths of research given their constituencies
3:09 PM – 13 Feb 12

Stephanie Cardon @S_Cardon
@crholland Are you comparing the general art-crowd to small children ;-)
3:16 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
Whenever possible! RT @S_Cardon: Are you comparing the general art-crowd to small children ;-)
3:19 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@S_Cardon Curators, on the other hand, get to have all the research fun.
3:11 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
Curators or critics? MT @rdelima I feel long-term philosophical/aesthetic champions rather than occasional detractor is bigger career factor
1:58 PM – 13 Feb 12

Ricardo De Lima @rdelima
@CRHolland those two intellectual breeds are more similar to me than they are different. I’ll take one of each and an order of fries.
2:11 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@rdelima @CRHolland critic as tastemaker is dead if you ask me. curators still get that status sometimes.
2:13 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@johnpyper @rdelima Maybe this is why there are so many artists/critics/curators these days. And this business
2:16 PM – 13 Feb 12

Ricardo De Lima @rdelima
@johnpyper @CRHolland critic as tastemaker will largely absent until someone invents the pitchfork of the art world.
2:22 PM – 13 Feb 12

Christian Holland @CRHolland
@rdelima But teenagers don’t buy art. ;)
2:23 PM – 13 Feb 12

John Pyper @johnpyper
@rdelima @CRHolland artists and critics are too nerdy to find enough writers. Otherwise, we’d have been musicians.
2:33 PM – 13 Feb 12

salvador castillo @salvocheque
@CRHolland @montgallery @S_Cardon @evolvingcritic Got some more art crit discussion if interested
2:43 PM – 13 Feb 12

A Conversation: William Cordova at the Boston Center for the Arts

William Cordova, the House that Frank Lloyd Wright built for Fred Hampton y Mark Clark, 2006 (installation view, Arndt & Partner, Berlin, 2006). Wood, books and suspended drawing, dimensions variable. Collection of the artist; courtesy Arndt & Partner Berlin

Born in Lima, Peru and raised in Miami, Florida, William Cordova is an internationally known artist practicing across multiple disciplines. Having earned his BFA at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996 and his MFA from Yale University in 2004, Mr. Cordova has exhibited at MoMA PS1, the 2008 Whitney Museum of American Art Biennial and Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston among many other national and international museums and galleries. Mr. Cordova was just awarded $25,000 as part of the Joan Mitchell Foundation’s 2011 Painters and Sculptors Grant Program.

The Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts is currently hosting William Cordova’s first solo exhibition in the city curated by Evan J. Garza—the Exhibitions and Public Programs Coordinator for the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  On view until April 15th, this one’s 4U (pa’ nosotros) brings together new and recent works in sculpture, installation, video and works on paper that give meaning to the past in a contemporary context.

On Friday February 10, 2012 an informal conversation was held at the BCA’s Plaza Theater with William Cordova, Evan J. Garza and Jose Falconi, Curator for the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University.

Mr. Garza opened the conversation by briefly introducing Cordova’s the House that Frank Lloyd Wright Built for Fred Hampton y Mark Clark, a structure made of two by fours that remakes the apartment layout of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, two Black Panther members killed by the Chicago Police. The work, which is included in the exhibition at The Mills Gallery, formed the foundation for this Boston show.

William on his process and the evolution of the House that Frank Lloyd Wright Built for Fred Hampton y Mark Clark:

There are different ways that that piece evolved. In general, I’m interested in architecture and how to represent ideas of resistance through architecture. I’m often gravitating to material history that can represent that or does represent that.

I’m trying to activate certain materials, certain histories for us to reconsider ourselves, how we sometimes are seeing it from a detached perspective. While it may not be happening to us, we assume we have no relationship to that history or that situation, but in actuality, we are probably a lot closer than not.

I tend to create a lot of parallels even in the title, “Frank Lloyd Wright,” “Fred Hampton,” “Mark Clark.” Those relationships may not necessarily be obvious. The way I wanted to approach these projects or art making, was not by limiting myself to making a representation of an image or a situation by making a painting and putting it up on a wall. I wanted to provoke or challenge the way we think and painting can do that, I don’t think it would have been enough for what I wanted to do.

I was thinking about building materials, structures, symbols that represent something in transition.

I am sure everyone is familiar seeing a house—half-way built before there are dry walls; before the electrical parts are installed; before the roof. What I wanted to do was show that first part where you have the foundation and stop there; suggest to the viewer, to provoke them questions. What’s next? Are you going to add something else? Why isn’t there something else in here? Why does it suppose to be revealing?  What does that have to do in relationship to the title, to the architect Frank Lloyd Wright, to the individuals—the activists.

The piece in a way is a transitional piece, is a labyrinth, it’s also a monument, it’s a shrine.  It has different entry points; it’s also very layered. It isn’t specifically about one thing—it isn’t about Fred Hampton, Mark Clark, Frank Lloyd Wright—but about many situations or histories.

The conversation then shifted to the idea of forgotten historical narratives and how we perceive monuments. This part of the discussion focused on the installation the House that Frank Lloyd Wright Built for Fred Hampton y Mark Clark. Cordova discussed his interest in language as it develops in his works, in particular in the title piece of the exhibition this one’s 4U (pa’ nosotros)—a video-sound installation that juxtaposes audio from Federico Garcia Hurtado’s  1984 film Tupac Amaru and video from the documentary by Peter Spirer Thug Angel—about Tupac Amaru Shakur.

William Cordova on language, its meaning, and how titles emerge in his works:

I’m interested in language. I am interested in language and how we interpret it. How we communicate. I am interested in presence and how that is represented or how we represent with others. But I am also aware that in our society of the condition of trying to divide things, categorize and separate and so we might not be able to relate to one another because we’re conditioned just to have certain divisions, even though they may not inherently be there.

I’m more interested in the commonalities than the divisions. I am interested in writing and literature; that’s a big influence in my work.

Untitled (geronimo I & II), 2006-2012. Reclaimed paper bag, feathers, aerosol can. Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Mr. Cordova on the lyrical quality in his titles:

I try to appeal to many different groups, many different audiences and a lot of it is through written word. Some of it is more abstract, some of it is more literal—in order to appeal to as many people as possible.

I incorporate popular culture imagery to a certain extent. I don’t want to promote it or rely on it when I question it and slow it down—how we consume that type of imagery or any type of imagery. A lot of times visual art is considered entertainment. It’s like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, you get it?—and then you move on. It shouldn’t be about that.

Certain work rely more on certain titles, but I am not relying on the title to do the work for the visual art.

The work that I do is completely installation based, so all the works and all the components are in conversation and isolated they may not function the same way. It is really important that all the ingredients are in the same bowl. Otherwise certain things might not necessarily trigger the initial idea I had in mind, but it is all open for interpretation. It just depends on how we are conditioned to absorb, receive or interpret it.

this is not 4 U (I miss U already...), 2009 Aluminum foil, cardboard, reclaimed Plexiglas, tape 17 x 29.5 x 7 inches 43.2 x 74.9 x 17.8 cm. Courtesy Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York

Mr. Cordova on the concept of temporality and how he treats the life of the object he creates (there is a work influenced by the Nazca lines in the window space of the gallery that was created specifically for this show and for that space—therefore will not exist in any other gallery or museum):

A lot of times we rely on digital cameras or digital recordings and everything comes really quick. We don’t necessarily take time to value that moment. When we see something, we to start taking pictures with our phones—and there is something that is lost when we have so much access. It’s like always having candy in a bowl–you won’t desire it because it’s always there. I did this site-specific piece on the floor of the institution [Mills Gallery] and I wanted to represent something that is very close to me, but at the same time it is not something that can be transported and displayed somewhere else. I didn’t want to put any type of financial or superficial value to it. I wanted it to exist. It is not something that you see at every installation. It depends on the space.

The conversation ended with the concept of constellations and how we form our own ideas of representations. Mr. Garza commented on William’s ability to take points that exist in different points in time and in space and connect them to create bridges between them. These connections and bridges are observed throughout this exhibition at Mills Gallery.

This talk  illuminated many of the works in this exhibition and allowed those in attendance to search for a deeper meaning in Mr. Cordova’s works. William Cordova provided a framework to not only better understand the House that Frank Lloyd Wright Built for Fred Hampton y Mark Clark, but also invited us to draw our own parallels with this and other works within the exhibition. William Cordova: this one’s 4U (pa’ nosotros) is on view until April 15, 2012.

Nancy Holt on Nancy Holt

A pioneer in the Land Art movement (and art world hero of mine), Nancy Holt is the subject of a retrospective at the Tufts University Art Gallery which opened on January 19th. A Worcester, Massachusetts native and Tufts graduate (Class of 1960), for the past forty-five years, Holt has created land and site-specific sculptures that explore the summer and winter solstices and sun and moonlight patterns–transforming sculpture into “live experiential instruments.”

On Tuesday January 24, 2012, Nancy Holt talked about her inspiring career as an artist, her process and challenges behind her work. I share some of her thoughts:

Sun Tunnels (1973-1976), Lucin, Utah. Photo by Sean Baron, The University of Utah - College of Architecture and Planning

On collaboration:

I work with a lot of artisans and crafts people and is very important to me the relationship that I have with those people—and is an opportunity for them to have their work appreciated in and of itself.

In reference to Star-Crossed (1979–81) at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio:

Star Crossed, Miami University, Oxford, OH. Photo: The Ohio Outdoor Sculpture Inventory

I’d like to say I think the moon looks better in the pool, so I would say that art improves on nature.

On the passage of time and her work:

I now know more about what happens to my works now through the internet. I get the news items about what’s going on—of people who were at Sun Tunnels…

In reference to Solar Rotary (1995) at University of South Florida, Tampa Campus:

I love seeing my work in different seasons, with snow on them and in this case—I love seeing it with the rain.

On her process:

I didn’t know what process was. All I can say is that certain things inspire me and they live within me and they lead to action later on. It leads to fruition. You never know how it’s going to manifest.

Where is the Love? The Building Bostonians Love to Hate

Boston City Hall, Rear facing Faneuil Hall, Photo Credit: Historic American Building Survey

Yelp has become quite the platform for not only reviewing restaurants, hotels, stores and everything in between, but also architecture and public spaces. Who knew? 

 Curious to see what people had to say about some of Boston’s most beautiful “ugly” buildings, I conducted a search on Yelp.

It turns out, people love the Christian Science Monitor Complex in Boston, a complex with an excellent collection of concrete buildings from around the 1970’s, but hate Boston City Hall. Who knew?  Bostonians love to hate it, while those reviewers from other states like it.

Did you know that in 1976, on a national survey conducted by the American Institute of Architects and taken by architects, critics and historians in the United States, Boston City Hall was voted as one of the ten greatest works in American architectural history? I have been saying that for years, but read it from our very own architecture critic Robert Campbell

I think Boston City Hall is one of the most beautiful buildings in the City of Boston. Let’s agree to disagree.

Yelp Reviews of City Hall:

Jeremy G. from Humble, TX – writes “THIS is the building Le Corbusier **WISHED** he had designed.”

Beans B. from Brighton, MA:  “From the wind-swept brick wasteland outside to the ridiculously narrow and uncomfortable spectator seats in the city council chamber to the lack of sufficient restrooms this building is a disaster.”

Alexandra S. from Hingham, MA: “There’s no avoiding the area for me since I walk through Boston City Hall plaza twice a day during the week. Ultimately, the sad reality is that no matter how much I’ve looked for something to appreciate, I don’t like this building.  

I’ll even go a step further and say that there is in fact nothing redeeming at all about Boston CIty Hall and the red brick environs. I finally just have to admit to myself that this is just one ugly and off-putting building and plaza.”

Sebastian Y. from Boston, MA: “A monstrosity apparently designed by angry communists, which would look more at home on the outskirts of Moscow or Minsk.” 

Hans W. from Brooklyn, NY writes:  “City Hall is a badass spaceship space palace, and it’s sitting downtown because in 1962 someone had an original idea and someone else took a chance on it.  And that’s what life’s all about.”-

K G. from Boston, MA: “I don’t despise the building itself as much as many people seem to.  I have not seen another building like it, so you can call it unique at least.”

Jack M. from Boston, MA: “As a friend of mine once said, “Boston City Hall is the ugliest piece of architecture on the planet”.

Dan B. from Newton, MA: “The Boston City Hall looks like a good design for a maximum security prison in the Soviet Union.  Except even the Soviets would never have come up with the giant concrete stilts, which causes the building’s underside to loom over congress street and the unfortunate security guards who work there.”

Courtney P. from Boston, MA: “This building is just ugly.  With architecture being one of my favorite parts of Boston, it’s so disappointing that this building is City Hall.  Please consider building something else!”

What do you think of Boston City Hall? Let’s hear your thoughts.

Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art at the Peabody Essex Museum

Rebecca Belmore (born 1960), Anishinaabe; Fringe, 2008; Inkjet print on paper; 21 x 63 inches (53.3 x 160 cm); Collection of Catherine Sullivan-Kropa and William Kropa; © Rebecca Belmore, image courtesy Rebecca Belmore, photograph by Henri Robideau.

A terrific dialogue is currently unfolding in the galleries of the Peabody Essex Museum, with an exhibition that explores links between historic and contemporary Native American art. Featuring works drawn from worldwide collections, Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art, takes us on an unforgettable, celebratory journey that transcends boundaries and erases stereotypes along its path.

A concept in Native cultures, shapeshifting refers to the ability of humans changing into animals or supernatural beings and vice versa. In essence, it refers to the idea that creativity has always been part of Native cultures.

“…Native American art has always taken cultural knowledge and metaphors and refreshed them with new ideas and forms[1]” writes Curator Karen Kramer Russell in the exhibition catalog. In the past, “…museum exhibitions have focused largely on either historical or contemporary Native American art, but with very little mixing of the two.” Shapeshifting shatters the notion that all art created by Native Americans is either ethnographic or crafty in appearance.

Kent Monkman (born 1965), Cree; Théâtre de Cristal, 2007; Chandelier, plastic beads, acrylic string, cabouchons, simulated buffalo hide, and Super-8 film: Group of Seven Inches, 2005 (7:34 minutes), edition 1/3; 168 x 240 inches (diam. approx.) (426.7 x 609.6 cm); The Glenbow Museum, Alberta, Canada, purchased with funds from Historic Resource Fund, 2008, 2008.099.001; Courtesy Kent Monkman and Bruce Bailey Art Projects; © Kent Monkman, image courtesy MacKenzie Art Gallery, photograph by Don Hall.

Kent Monkman (born 1965), Cree; Théâtre de Cristal, 2007; Chandelier, plastic beads, acrylic string, cabouchons, simulated buffalo hide, and Super-8 film: Group of Seven Inches, 2005 (7:34 minutes), edition 1/3; 168 x 240 inches (diam. approx.) (426.7 x 609.6 cm); The Glenbow Museum, Alberta, Canada, purchased with funds from Historic Resource Fund, 2008, 2008.099.001; Courtesy Kent Monkman and Bruce Bailey Art Projects; © Kent Monkman, image courtesy MacKenzie Art Gallery, photograph by Don Hall.

Kent Monkman’s electrifying video installation Théâtre de Cristal opens the exhibition and sets the tone for the rest of the show. Referencing a tipi made of clear plastic beads lit by an elaborate chandelier, Monkman critiques and challenges “the dominant Euro-American ethnocentric construction of Native North America embedded in a global consciousness.[2]” Paul Chaat Smith, Curator of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian considers Théâtre de Cristal “a work from the future about people who aren’t supposed to have one.[3]The installation is brilliant and the accompanying text should not be missed (even if you are a White European male, and you’ll know what I mean by this if you see this exhibit).

Kent Monkman (born 1965), Cree; Théâtre de Cristal, 2007; Chandelier, plastic beads, acrylic string, cabouchons, simulated buffalo hide, and Super-8 film: Group of Seven Inches, 2005 (7:34 minutes), edition 1/3; 168 x 240 inches (diam. approx.) (426.7 x 609.6 cm); The Glenbow Museum, Alberta, Canada, purchased with funds from Historic Resource Fund, 2008, 2008.099.001; Courtesy Kent Monkman and Bruce Bailey Art Projects; © Kent Monkman, image courtesy MacKenzie Art Gallery, photograph by Don Hall.

Organized thematically, many works in Shapeshifting rely on politics to convey a concept, while others explore identity, place, and cultural heritage.

Marie Watt’s Column Blanket Stories, evoke the blankets infested with smallpox and other diseases brought by Europeans and distributed to Natives across the Americas. Independent scholar Kara English notes that today, blankets are associated with beauty, honor and respect and that “these [blankets] prized items weave together an intergenerational continuum and are gifted at births, comings-of-age, graduations, marriages, naming and honoring.[4]

Marie Watt (born 1967), Seneca; Column (Blanket Stories), 2003; Wool blankets and cedar; 144 x 20 x 20 inches (365.8 x 50.8 x 50.8 cm); Collection of Deborah Green; © Marie Watt, image courtesy Marie Watt and PDX Contemporary Art.

Rebecca Belmore’s Fringe, a powerful and haunting photograph of a female figure references the abuse of Native women and of the land. Bob Haouzous’ Wheel of Fortune is a deliciously superb work featuring the face of Geronimo surrounded by descriptive words. This wonderful work is a call to Native people to stop hiding behind general stereotypes. And yes, the Wheel of Fortune spins just as it does in the television game.

Bob Haozous (born 1943), Chiricahua Apache; Wheel of Fortune, 2005; Steel and paint; 96 inches (diam.) (243.8 cm); Courtesy the artist; © Bob Haozous.

Shapeshifting is a provocative exhibition filled with complex ideas. It opened my eyes to a world of Native American art making not frequently discussed or exhibited outside non-Native art or anthropological museums. As far as the implications of an exhibition with many politically charged artworks, Karen Kramer Russell says “the intention is that people will have a broader and deeper understanding of Native art and culture.”

Shapeshifting captures the creative spirit and resilience of cultures that have long been repressed.  It’s a remarkable and fascinating exhibition that changed my perception of contemporary Native American art and its transformations through time. The works in this exhibition foster an enriching dialogue that should be nurtured and savored over multiple visits to the Peabody Essex Museum.

Shapeshifting: Transformations in Native American Art is on view through April 29, 2012 at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, MA.

[1] Page 15, [2] Page 24, [3] Page 220, [4] Page 180

Boston Murals featured on Boston.Com

The Boston Globe and caught on to my mural project and asked me if I was interested in highlighting a few of the best ones. Click here to check out the slideshow or head over to the Boston Murals Tumblr page where you can see the latest murals I’ve uploaded. 

Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones, But Destroying Art Will Always Hurt Me

In reference to his site specific work Tilted Arc in New York City, Minimalist artist Richard Serra stated in an interview with The New York Times that “to remove the work is to destroy the work.[1]” In the early eighties, Tilted Arc was at the center of a controversy that eventually led the government to dismantle and tank it.

Tilted Arc, Richard Serra, 1981, sculpture, steel, New York City (destroyed). Photo © 1985 David Aschkenas.

This past summer, I caught Richard Serra Drawing: A Retrospective at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and was struck by one drawing in particular titled “The United States Government Destroys Art (1989).” The drawing, part of the Eli and Edythe L. Broad Collection, is made using paintstick on two sheets of paper arranged to form a slit at the center.

RICHARD SERRA. The United States Government Destroys Art, 1989. Paintstick on two sheets of paper; 113 x 215 ¼ inches. Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Like much of Serra’s drawings, when the drawing above is experienced in person and up-close, it looms over the viewer, it makes us aware of ourselves and of the space we’re in.  Because these drawings are different shades of black with varying degrees of textures, they provoke an intense palpable feeling that lingers on forever.

From left, works from 1989: “The United States Courts Are Partial to the Government,” “No Mandatory Patriotism” (center) and “The United States Government Destroys Art.” Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times. Installation view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Just like with Serra’s Tilted Arc, a similar battle has been unfolding in Downtown Hartford, Connecticut since the late seventies. Steps away from the Wadsworth Athenaeum, is Carl Andre’s Field Stone Sculpture (1977), another site-specific “earthwork” threatened with insensitive changes like the removal and the rearranging of some of its components.

Aerial photo of Carl Andre's Stone Field Sculpture (1977) in Hartford, CT

The sculpture comprises of 36 boulders arranged on a triangular parcel of land bordered by Main Street, Gold Street and the Ancient Burying Grounds. The stones are all local and are positioned on the ground without looking like much intervention happened. This is the point of many of the works born out of the Environmental and Site-Specific Art movement that emerged in the 1960’s. The works of this movement were made accessible to everyone and often encouraged public interaction. Field Stone Sculpture is accessible by everyone and encourages user interaction.

Carl Andre's Stone Field Sculpture (1977) in Hartford, CT. Photo Credit: Anulfo Baez

Field Stone Sculpture has not survived without polemics. Very much under appreciated by the people of Hartford, the work is seen by many as a testament to the power of time, and by others as a field of “rocks.” Do the people of Hartford not know that this is Carl Andre’s largest work and only public commission?

On a recent fall trip to Hartford, I spent time exploring the adjacent historic burying ground and contemplating the stillness that surrounds Field Stone Sculpture.

Carl Andre's Stone Field Sculpture (1977) in Hartford, CT. Photo Credit: Anulfo Baez

In spite of the hustle and bustle of Downtown Hartford, the siting of the work, the scale and arrangement of the boulders on the land allowed my mind to wander around freely. Field Stone Sculpture could not fit in more perfectly in this location. The handsome Colonial Revival buildings that surround it and the nearby parks designed by the firm of Frederick Law Olmsted create a wonderful “natural” and man-made contrast in this section of Hartford.

On October 30, 1963 an editorial in The New York Times lamented the terrible loss of New York’s Pennsylvania Station, a grand Beaux Arts building designed by the prestigious firm of McKim, Mead and White. “…we will probably be judge not by the monuments we build, but by those we have destroyed” were the words that have now shaped the current preservation movement. Should Field Stone Sculpture in the near future suffer the same fate of Tilted Arc, Penn Station and countless other long lost monuments, Harftord will not be judge by the monuments it will builds, but by those it has destroyed.

It would be a terrible shame to alter Field Stone Sculpture because by simply altering it, would be to destroy it.

[1] Grace Glueck, “What Part Should the Public Play in Choosing Public Art?” New York Times, February 3, 1985, 27.

Documenting Boston’s Murals: What They Say and How They Say It

Documenting Boston’s Murals: What They Say and How They Say It, a short essay written for the Boston Society of Architects on my attempts at documenting every extant mural in the City of Boston.

My “Best Art(s) of 2011″ List

El Anatsui, Plot A Plan III, 2007. Aluminum and copper wire, 73 x 97 in. Photo courtesy: Jack Shainman Gallery.

El Anatsui: When I Last Wrote to You about Africa, Davis Museum and Cultural Center at Wellesley College. March 30 – June 26, 2011.

Organized by the Museum for African Art, New York, but premiered at the Davis Museum, this exhibition was my introduction to the work of El Anatsui, whose wall pieces exist somewhere in the realm of textile, sculpture and fashion. Everything I saw was inspiring.

SpiNN, Shazhia Sikander, Digital Animation. Courtesy of the Artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co. New York.

Shazhia Sikander: The Exploding Company Man and Other Abstractions, Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. September 19 – November 26, 2011.

Sikander explores many contemporary issues through an aesthetics that draws primarily from Indo-Persian miniature paintings. The title video work is a feast for the senses, resulting in an explosion of imagery, colors and textures that kept me returning week after week to see this exhibition.

Tristram Lansdowne, Hamburg Palimpsest 35 x 47 Watercolour on paper. Image Courtesy of the Artist.

Contained, curated by John Pyper, Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, March 18 – April 24, 2011.

There were many interesting works in this show that still resonate with me today. Matthew Woodward’s jaw dropping graphite on paper drawings of decorative iron gates and Matthew Best’s diary-like “Suburban Foraging Project” sketches of edible plants he encounters throughout his travels, were phenomenal in this show.

River Street Tower Still #16, Daniel Phillips, 2010

River Street, Daniel Phillips. Public Art Installation, Boston Cyberarts Festival, April 30, 2011.

A site specific installation in Hyde Park and installed on the former site of a paper mill, River Street is an exploration of “place memory.” Moments that vanish before our eyes were captured through the use of approximately 900 photographs a minute, creating a time lapse moving image of the crumbling paper mill and the flora and fauna that live in the heavily polluted Neponset River.

Raul Gonzalez, Wake up Call (On My Last Nerve), 2011 | Ink and Bic pen, 45 by 65 inches acrylic. Courtesy the artist and Carroll & Sons Gallery, Boston.

Close Distance, curated by Liz Munsell, Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts. July 15 – August 28, 2011.

The works of six emerging Boston area Latino artists were richly presented in this exhibition that was as culturally diverse, and distinct as were the artistic practices of the artists in it. The works were engaging and provoking and Munsell’s juxtaposition of Daniela Rivera and Raul Gonzalez allowed for a riveting experience.

Still Life with Glasses and Tobacco, 1633 Willem Claesz. Heda (1594-1680), Oil on panel, 20 x 29 ¾ inches (50.8 x 75.6 cm), The Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Image courtesy Peabody Essex Museum.

Golden: Dutch and Flemish Masterworks from the Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo Collection, Peabody Essex Museum. February 26 – June 19, 2011.

One of the most breathtaking and refreshing exhibitions of 2011. It was thrilling to see so many masterworks by the leading Dutch and Flemish artists of the 1600s including Rembrandt, Frans Hals and Jan van der Heyden among many others. The best part of the show was drooling over the details in the paintings using a magnifying glass provided by the museum.

Dance Hall Girl, Jennifer Steinkamp. 2004-11. Image courtesy of the artist.

Astatic, Sandra and David Bakalar Gallery, Massachusetts College of Art and Design. February 1 – March 5, 2011.

One of the sweetest surprises of 2011 was this exhibition at MassArt exploring the role of animation in contemporary art practice. Jennifer Steinkamp’s “Dance Hall Girl” had me smiling for days. Click on Dance Hall Girl to watch a short animation. Once you’ve finished watching the clip, you can hit “next” to view the additional works under “Dance Hall Girl.”

Prints and the Pursuit of Knowledge in Early Modern Europe, Harvard Art Museums. September 6 – December 10, 2011.

A mammoth of a show examining the scientific investigations of the 16th century through prints created by Northern Renaissance artists. An exhibition rich in scholarship, walking through it felt like a journey through time and space. Gorgeous.

Beg For Your Life, 2006, Laurel Nakadate

Laurel Nakadate: Say You Love Me, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Harvard University. November 17 – December 22, 2011.

I love Laurel Nakadate. This eight video installation at the Carpenter Center hit all the right spots (no pun intended) with work that explores and pushes the boundaries of voyeurism, exhibitionism, and vulnerability. Most of the works were difficult to watch, but they all touched you in ways you never thought possible. Nakadate’s videos were moving, empathetic and funny.

Images of “For You I Feel Lucky” by Mark Sarver, Courtesy of Jessica Gath.

For You I Feel Lucky, Jessica Gath. The Hallway Gallery, Jamaica Plain. November 8, 2011.

A wonderful performance that lingered on until this very day. Click on the title for my review and be sure to check out Jessica at the DeCordova Biennial in 2012.


Lillian Bassman, The V-Back Evenings, Dress by Pauline Trigère, Model Suzy Parker, Harper's Bazaar, New York, July 1955. Courtesy of the artist.

Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion, 1920-1980, Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design. April 15 – July 31, 2011.

What’s not to love about an exhibition on the culture of cocktails and their role in American fashion? This dazzling show featured fashion, jewelry, furniture, barware, textiles, photography and film. If you missed it, you missed a great show! Or you can catch it at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach.

Boston’s Oldest Remaining Fire House Gets a Facelift

The Eustis Street Firehouse in the Summer of 2010. Photo Credit: Anulfo Baez.

Boston’s oldest remaining fire house; the Eustis Street Fire House in Roxbury has been fully restored and is now the headquarters for Historic Boston Incorporated. Built in 1859, the 2 ½ story, brick Italianate Style building was designed by the Roxbury architect John Roulestone Hall. A wood addition was added to the rear in 1869.

The fire house remained vacant for more than 40 years, but thanks to the vision of Historic Boston Incorporated, a preservation organization in the city; the building was bought, restored and re-purposed as their headquarters. Not only has this important piece of Boston history been preserved, but it has also been breathing new life to Dudley Square. Let’s hope this is just the beginning in the revitalization efforts of the other “heart” of Boston.

Eustis Street Firehouse in 2011. Photo credit: Boston Fire Historical Society

I Love These Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A. Videos

(If you are an email subscriber, you may need to head over to the actual blog to check out these wonderful videos)

Everyone on the Internets is loving these amazing videos part of the advertising campaign for the Pacific Standard Time: Art in L.A 1945-1980 exhibition. Everyone knows that The Evolving Critic is a Boston-centric blog, but I just *have* to share these wonderful videos featuring Ice Cube, Jason Schwartzman and Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

First up, Ice Cube shares his love for architecture and Charles and Ray Eames. “A lot of people think L.A. is just eyesore after eyesore, full of mini-malls, palm trees and billboards. So what, they don’t know the L.A. I know.” I LOVE THIS!

Up next is Jason Schwartzman who tries to understand art through the wise words of artist John Baldessari. “I just never had a reaction to art like that. I didn’t know you could react like that” says Schwartzman to Baldessari upon learning of Baldesari’s reaction to Mondrian’s Broadway Boogie Woogie.

Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers celebrates artist Ed Ruscha by driving around Los Angeles with none other than Ed Ruscha. “I definitely relate deeply to the idea of words being art. When I see somebody else whose got such a connection with words, I instantly feel connected to that person,” says Kiedis. “Yeah, I like looking at art that I am not in anticipation of” responds Ruscha. “You know, I feel the same way. My favorite experience with art is visceral where I see it and it just makes me go “OH! OH! OH LOOK AT THAT! OH! Something great happened right there,” says Anthony Kiedis. I LOVE this video so much too!

The Ice Cube video (which has had the most viewers) is making me want to get on a plane and check out all the exhibitions that make up Pacific Standard Time.

Say You Love Me

Exorcism in January 2009, Laurel Nakadate. Type C-print. Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York.

Exorcism in January 2009, Laurel Nakadate. Type C-print. Courtesy Leslie Tonkonow Artworks + Projects, New York

Laurel Nakadate thrives off of meeting strangers. Old, lonely, creepy and sexually repressed men fascinate her, to the point of making them the subject of her videos.  She’s had these men beg for their lives, perform exorcisms, sing happy birthday or pretend to have a telephone conversation, all while in the same room with her. The eight video installation Laurel Nakadate: Say You Love Me at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, is bound to make you feel dirty and in need of a shower (at least, the first time you see the exhibition, not so much the second or third time).

Happy Birthday, 2000, Laurel Nakadate

Ms. Nakadate makes exceedingly difficult work that explores and pushes the boundaries of voyeurism, exhibitionism, and vulnerability. The grittiness and raw video quality in her work adds to the discomfort that perhaps many people feel, when confronted with the creepy and awkward situations Nakadate places herself in.

Good Morning Sunshine, 2009, Laurel Nakadate

In “Good Morning Sunshine,” Ms. Nakadate casts three women who play the role of teenagers and coerces each one into taking their clothes off. Nakadate shows us that a little pressure and sweet talking goes a long way. “Stand up and let me look at you…you know you’re the prettiest girl right? Take your shirt off…” she says in a silky smooth, alluring voice. “You know you’re so pretty right? Let’s see your panties…” We squirm and cringe as we watch each woman succumb to the pressure. It is as if we’re about to watch a casting couch video.

With Laurel Nakadate, we hold our breath anxiously waiting for the other shoe to drop. We expect something naughty to happen following a situation where some sort of sexual tension is explicit or implied. At times, Nakadate leads us into thinking that what we’re about to see are clips of some sort of fetish sex tape. But it isn’t, which allows for a more thrilling voyeuristic experience.

Beg For Your Life, 2006, Laurel Nakadate

Nakadate is always in control of the situation, but I think she does not always come across as being genuinely interested in her subjects. There are times, particularly in the video Beg for Your Life, 2006 (not the video still shown above, but another segment within that same video) where Nakadate’s body language is that of a person thinking “I’m taking advantage of this old, creepy, emotionally unstable guy and he doesn’t even know what he’s in for.” These men are lonely and they need to be loved. Perhaps they see these performances as a means of being loved, but who knows? Regardless of Nakadate’s true intentions, her work is thought provoking and intense.

Lessons 1-10, 2001, Laurel Nakadate.

Her videos are compelling in part thanks to a great soundtrack that includes songs like ‘Devils and Dust” by Bruce Springsteen, “You Were Always on My Mind” by Elvis Presley, “All I Have to Do is Dream” by Roy Orbinson and Neil Diamond’s “I am,” I said” among many others. These songs further underscore the loneliness, vulnerability and hope that present themselves as recurring themes in Nakadate’s work. Her videos may be uncomfortable to watch for some, but they’re also touching, empathetic and funny. These qualities make all the squirming all worth it.

Knitting Nation at the Institute of Contemporary Art Boston

There’s something really wonderful happening right now in museums across the country. Within the past year or so, fashion exhibitions like Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Fashion 1920-1980 at Rhode Island School of Design’s Museum of Art; Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Arnold Scaasi: American Couturier at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston— have all broken attendance records further stressing the demand for more fashion exhibitions in museums.

On Friday November 25th, the Institute of Contemporary Art hosted a performance by Liz Collins entitled Knitting Nation Phase 8: Under Construction, as part of the museum’s latest exhibition Dance/Draw. A textile artist, designer and professor at the Rhode Island School of Design, Liz Collins’ work also falls within the realm of fashion and installation.

Performed in its first phase (Phase I: Knitting During Wartime) in May of 2005 on Governors Island in New York, Knitting Nation employs an army of volunteer knitters who operate vintage knitting machines, and produce lengths of vibrantly colored fabric. Phase 8: Under Construction, is the second phase of Knitting Nation performed in a theater setting. The first phase, Darkness Descends, 2011 was performed at the ICA on October 16th.

Knitting Nation Phase 8: Under Construction, featured 14 female knitters wearing white shorts over fishnet stockings, short-sleeve shirts, over-the-ear headphones and gray Dr. Marten Boots. It also featured 8 knitting machines, and 80 pounds of brightly colored polyester-cotton yarn.

I was reminded of the “mill girls;” the young Yankee women who worked at the large textile mills all over New England under strenuous and unsafe working conditions. While the “working” conditions at the ICA do not in any way resemble those of the textile mills of the 19th and early 20th century America, the repetitive and tiring work the knitters performed did.

Weaving in and out of the installation, I caught about an hour and a half of this ten hour long interactive performance.  Watching these knitters finish one color and start the next was exhausting, yet I caught myself unable to pull away from all the action. The body movements, the sounds created by the knitting machines, and the never-ending lengths of brightly colored yarn had me hypnotized. I lost all sense of time as I am sure the knitters did too.


The Boston Latino International Film Festival – Night 5

Now in its tenth year, the Boston Latino International Film Festival has brought to Boston many outstanding Latin American films that explore a variety of topics—from the environment to politics to music and so on. The festival lasts approximately a week and includes two days of free screenings, making it the largest film festival in New England with more free film programs than any other.  Here are some of the films that stood out for me during the fifth night of screenings.

Director: Edy Soto & Ben Teplitzky / 10 minutes/ Mexico – USA / Short

Reservardo, Directed by Edy Soto and Ben Teplitzky. Image credit: Reservado Facebook Page

Set in Ciudad Juarez, but filmed in El Paso, Texas, Reservado tells the story of Xavier, a waiter at one of the most luxurious restaurants in the city. Based on real life events, Xavier wants to buy his girlfriend an engagement ring; however he just has to work twice as hard to save up the money he earns. The filmmakers take a rather intense and serious story and add humor to it, further stressing the current life and death situation in Juarez. Its seductive cinematography makes for a memorable experience.

Sin Pais
Director: Theo Rigby / 20 minutes / USA / Documentary

Sin Pais (Without Country), Directed by Theo Rigby. Image Credit:

One of the most compelling and heartbreaking documentaries on immigration I’ve seen in a long time, Sin Pais is a testament to the nightmare that many immigrants are living today.

Directed by Theo Rigby, winner of the 2010 Student Academy Awards (The Oscar) for Best Documentary, Sin Pais follows the Mejia family as they face their new reality— deportation. Separated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the parents are forced to leave behind everything they worked hard to attain in the United States.  Rigby will take you on a journey you will never forget.

If this documentary ever plays at a film festival near you, I highly recommend you see it. The film has garnered multiple awards and has been the official film selection for countless festivals across the world. A MUST SEE! You can also purchase a copy of the DVD by clicking on the film title above.

Watch the trailer here:

AbUSed: The Postville Raid
Director: Luis Agueta / 96 minutes / USA / Documentary

An intense and infuriating, yet inspiring documentary about the largest, most expensive and most brutal immigration raid in the history of the United States, AbUSed: The Postville Raid exposes the discrimination and abuse that immigrants working for Agriprocessors—a Kosher slaughterhouse and meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa were subjected to.  Nearly 400 workers were arrested, mentally and physically abused by the company and tortured and treated like cattle while being processed by Customs and Immigration Enforcement. It is a devastating film to watch, but one that will leave you feeling empowered and begging for social justice. You can purchase the film on DVD or ask your library to purchase a copy.