The City is My Inspiration

Where do you get your ideas from?

This is my first #LETSBLOGOFF  Topic!

The things I've seen and continue to inspire me (yes, that includes sneakers)!

To say that one’s ideas are all original is a bit of an exaggeration. We cannot possibly deny the influence of others on our work and our creativity.

I get my ideas from walking the streets of a city. I’m inspired by architecture, urban decay, parks, flowers, sidewalk patterns, fashion and museums, you name it! I’m inspired by community organizers and grassroots activists who go the extra mile to create change for those who need it most. I’m inspired by people who are passionate about about a subject, an object, a person (no, I am NOT talking threesome here) or a place and will share that passion with others, regardless of who they are.

The city inspires me. Its museums open a world of infinite possibilities never thought possible. Its parks and squares re-energize my senses and ground my thoughts and feelings. Its neighborhoods allow me to appreciate the richness of our cultural diversity and differences in opinions. Its people emphasize my interest in fashion and its parallels with architecture and design.

There are so many things that inspire me about a city that I could write a book, but I much rather let you explore it on your own terms.

Where do you get your ideas from? What inspires you?

Riding the Urban Wave

On March 23rd, 2011 as I was walking around the South End photographing murals for an upcoming “project,” I noticed this public art work. It is called LandWave and it is designed by Gillis-Smith/Kilkelly/Cormier led by landscape architect Shauna Gillies-Smith. I think the project is interesting especially given that a good chunk of Boston is built on land reclaimed from the sea, in fact, Boston was known as Shawmut Peninsula. The SHIFTboston blog dedicated a post to this land art work (with more recent images too).

Review: Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens

Photograph courtesy of the artist / David Zwirner, New York. Paradox of Praxis, still from Paradox of Praxis 1, 1997, video, 5

Expecting to encounter sculpture in an exhibition titled Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens, is expecting to be disappointed. When hearing the word sculpture, it is safe to assume that most of us immediately become concern with the technical and aesthetic qualities that are traditionally associated with sculpture. We question whether the sculpture is additive or subtractive, or whether it forms part of a building or it’s a relief panel. In the Francis Alÿs exhibition at the Davis Museum, a viewer’s notion of what sculpture is or should be, is challenged by both the artist and curator.

Born in 1959 in Antwerp, Belgium and having studied architecture and urbanism in Europe before settling in Mexico City’s historic quarters, Francis Alÿs’ work deal with the surrounding physical and social tensions of this dense Latin American city. There are no sculptures to be found in this exhibition at the Davis Museum or in the artist’s body of work, instead a viewer finds works consisting of performances and their video documentation, works; that capture the “moment” where the beginnings of sculpture are articulated.

In the video Paradox of Praxis 1 (Sometimes Doing Something Leads to Nothing), 1997 documents over eight hours edited to five minutes of Alÿs pushing an enormous block of ice around Mexico City, leaving only a small puddle at the end of the day. Paradox of Praxis 1 creates a three dimensional, sculpture like experience by documenting the action of pushing a block of ice. Throughout the performance, Alÿs casts shadows in his path and “pushes sculpture to transparent limits, finally consummated in the imagination.”[1]

Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens features videos, slide projections, drawings and the recently acquired The Sign Painters Series Cityscape, a triptych depicting an urban scene stripped away from any recognizable landmarks. The exhibition primarily takes place in one small gallery with videos and slides projected on three walls. In addition to these, 15 drawings on vellum and 2 color transparencies of the historic quarters are displayed on a light table.

The exhibition at the Davis Museum marks the artist’s first solo exhibition in the New England region and anticipates a major career retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City this May. Francis Alÿs: The Moment Where Sculpture Happens is on view at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College until June 5th, 2011.


[1] Lorna Scott Fox, “Where Sculpture Happens” in Francis Alys: A Story of Deception (London, Tate Modern) 196.

Untitled for Ai Weiwei

Installed on the grounds of the Northwest Labs at Harvard University, Ai Weiwei’s Untitled is an extremely powerful, bone chilling reminder of life’s most excruciating moments. As one of China’s best known contemporary artists, the story of Ai Weiwei appears to have been excerpted from a novel. Having spent 20 years of his life in internal exile with his family, is only part of the Ai’s inspiring story. A story that continues to unfold to this day.

Ai Weiwei is one of three artists featured in the exhibition The Divine Comedy, curated by Sanford Kwinter of the Graduate School of Design. The exhibition seeks to explore the “emerging domain of experimental spatial practice where the concerns of art, design, and activism are powerfully converging today.”

The work Untitled comprises of 5,335 children backpacks, each symbolizing a child killed in the May 2008 Sichuan Province earthquake. Ai Weiwei organized a “Citizen’s Investigation” to cover 150 “tofu construction” schools in 74 towns and gathered the names of those children killed, names that were covered up by Chinese government authorities. Untitled becomes incredibly more profound with the accompanying sound piece Remembrance, a work that recites the names of the 5,335 children killed. It’s an overwhelmingly emotional piece, too emotional to even begin to comprehend the number of children’s lives taken away by the earthquake. Those who have an opportunity to experience Untitled are free to do so while the artist behind the work has suddenly disappeared. “I have to always to ask myself, ‘How long can I last?’ if I’m in extreme conditions such as jail” said Ai Weiwei in an interview with Dan Rather.

On April 3rd, Ai Weiwei was detained at the Beijing Airport and his papers and computer were seized from his studio. He is believed to be in government detention camp.

Please join me, the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, Tate Modern, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and other institutions and people who have already signed the petition to release Ai Weiwei.


Review: The Black Films of Aldo Tambellini

During the sixties and much of the seventies, people lived in a world that changed rapidly in a short amount of time. The politically awkward climate of the era was heightened by the assassinations of Robert and John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., the resignation of Richard Nixon, the Vietnam War, the fight for civil rights and other political and social conflicts. These forces ignited the creative spirit of American artists who further explored the turbulence of the times through the art that was being produced.

For those of a younger generation, it is through the New Hollywood and Experimental films made
during the sixties and seventies that the struggles, turmoil and recreational pleasures of the times are experienced and shared. The Black Films of Aldo Tambellini at Emerson College transport the viewer into a world where the villain was larger than a person, or a thing, it was an ideological villain that shaped the lives of every American citizen.

Born in Syracuse, NY in 1930, Aldo Tambellini pioneered the video art movement in the mid sixties by painting directly on film, which resulted in the production of the camera-less series The Black Films. Each of the films in the series is a journey from within, a journey that captivates our senses and stimulates our imagination.

If “to dislocate the senses of the viewer” was one of the goals behind Aldo Tambellini’s Black Films, the outcome has been a highly successful one. The abstracted forms and images in the films recall the palpability of Abstract Expressionism, in the sense that one sees an Abstract Expressionist painting and our immediate is to want to feel the texture. The work of Tambellini is a “primitive, sensory exploration of the medium, which ranges from total abstraction to the assassination of Bobby Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and black teenagers in Coney Island.”[1] Black for Tambellini is a color, a color he has developed a profound relationship with throughout his artistic career. In the introduction to the Black Gate “a newspaper dedicated to worldwide unity and interest,” Tambellini writes:

black is space black is sound black is color black is darkness black is anger black is void
black is

Among the most memorable films in the series are Black is and Black TV. Black is incorporates abstract forms alongside images of people marching, horses galloping and tanks, juxtaposed to the pulsating rhythms of African drums, heart beats and women and children chanting “black is beautiful.” Black TV is perhaps the most uncomfortable film to watch of all. The anguish and turmoil of the sixties and seventies is inscribed deep within our thoughts by the haunting facial close-ups and footage of Robert Kennedy speaking at the Ambassador Hotel. Throughout the length of the film, the trauma of Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and the fight for civil rights is augmented by the alarming sounds of people experiencing distress and horror. Further adding to the trauma is the voice of radio host repeating the phrase “Senator Kennedy has been shot…Is that possible? Is that possible?” Black TV is painful, disorienting and heart wrenching, crafted to awaken every one of our senses.

Tambellini referred to the Black Films as “paintings in motion” and as I intensely watched each of the seven films, I was reminded of the Suprematist paintings of Lissitzky and Malevich or the Futurist works of Joseph Stella. The films in the installation at Emerson College are presented in an intimate setting and are accompanied by stills and ephemera from various screenings and events organized by Tambellini.


The Black Films of Aldo Tambellini are on view through April 22, 2011 at the Huret and Spector Gallery in the Tufte Performance and Production Center, 10 Boylston Place, 6th Floor, Boston, MA. For more information, please click here.

Aldo Tambellini: The Black Films are a prelude to the 2011 Boston Cyberarts Festival which is
New England’s premier resource for artists, arts organizations, educators, and corporations who are working at the forefront of art and technology. The festival starts on April 22 through May 8, 2011.


[1]
Mark Webber, Independent Film, http://www.aldotambellini.com/film.html

Get Pumped! Introducing Metropolitan Boston’s Newest Museum

A short walk from the Reservoir Stop on the Riverside Line or Cleveland Circle stop on the MBTA, and located inside a gorgeously restored and rehabilitated Richardsonian Romanesque Pumping Station building, is Metropolitan Boston’s newest museum, the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum which opened on Sunday March 27th, 2011.

Designed by Arthur Vinal “Boston’s last city architect,” and built in 1886-87 and expanded in 1897-98, the High Service Pumping Station was the city’s response to the increased demand for clean water resources, which by 1800’s, like many other cities of its size in America, was rapidly experiencing population growth deeming it unfit to live in. The Great Fire of 1872 pushed city officials to locate other clean water resources outside the city to provide a steady and clean water supply for its citizens. As a result of this “push,” the Metropolitan Waterworks was born, breathing new life to Boston and its citizens.

The museum, primarily located in the Great Engines Hall of the High Service Pumping Station contains three massive pumps that will capture the attention of young and old. Through interactive exhibits and displays of tools and instruments, visitors learn of the social, architectural, and public health history of pumping station and its role in the City of Boston. The engines at the museum, once formed part of the largest reservoir water pumping system in the world!

The Great Engine Hall houses the Leavitt Engine, capable of pumping 20 million gallons of water a day is now considered a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The other two engines are the Worthington Engine, the only horizontal and smallest of all them is capable of pumping 15 million gallons of water a day and the Allis Engine, a massive engine which extends three stories above the operating floor and two stories below it. The engines are in the same location they have been since the High Service Pumping Station began operating.

I spent more than an hour “getting to know” the people behind the extraordinary architectural and engineering marvels of the Metropolitan Waterworks. Paying careful attention to (almost) every breathtaking detail of the three massive engines, I walked away with a deeper appreciation for the engineering works of 19th century Boston. Although steam pumping ended in 1976, the engines at the Metropolitan Waterworks Museum allow us to experience an aspect of 19th century life in Boston rarely discussed outside academic circles.

The Metropolitan Waterworks Museum offers guided tours highlighting the history of the landscape and other features of the history of the Chestnut Hill/Reservoir area. Please check the museum’s website or call for more information.