#ICA75

Great moments of learning and inspiration are currently unfolding on Twitter courtesy of the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. Last Friday, the ICA celebrated its 75th anniversary as an institution in Boston and to mark this glorious occasion, the museum has been tweeting interesting historical facts, proving that social media is an excellent tool to educate people with (I was sold on this idea a while back, which is why I love Twitter).

Their first tweet rolled in on September 27th. It was love at first sight for me:

The next day the museum tweeted that Paul Gauguin was the subject of the Institute’s first exhibition, but not without capping off the tweet with a bit of humor courtesy of the eccentric Salvador Dali:

On September 29th, I learned of a “first” in the ICA’s history:

On September 30th, I learned of this bold move:

The ICA made a commitment early on in its existence to celebrate diversity (something that excites me in any museum):

Roughly 15 years before the completion of Harvard University’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, a seminal work in the history of Modernism in Boston and Cambridge, the ICA presented this exhibition:

Another great moment of learning unfolded as I read this tweet regarding the Chilean artist Roberto Matta, whose mural in Valparaiso knocked my socks off in 2004 while studying abroad:

Bostonians were exposed to minimalism through this exhibition:

And what about Andy Warhol?

The above screenshots are just a few of the many “#ICA75″ tweets highlighting the history of the ICA. Follow the ICA on Twitter @ICAinBoston and you’ll learn something new everyday. They’re only up to 1966, so many more interesting facts to come. Thanks to the ICA for this newly acquired wealth of knowledge!

One Gallery I Bet You Didn’t Even Know Existed in Boston

The Fish, Artist: Harbor Arts Team. Image Credit HarborArts.org

Sprawling over the grounds and docks of an active shipyard on Marginal Street in East Boston are thirty contemporary artworks by established and emerging artists from three continents. The Shipyard Gallery, an initiative of Harbor Arts, a collaborative community organization “whose sole purpose is to protect and preserve our oceans and waterways by helping each of us to understand the issues and solutions facing our blue planet” is an outdoor gallery where art meets science. The gallery opened in 2010 and I just recently learned of it while at meeting at the Urban Arts Institute who sponsored the competition juried by Randi Hopkins, former associate curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

2Ralph Berger/Captured Flight & A Toy For Sisyphus. Image Credit: Anulfo Baez

It was love at first sight for me. I love that it is less than 10 minute walk from Maverick Station on the Blue Line. I also love that behind each one of the thirty works (mostly sculpture) on display is a pressing environmental issue facing our oceans. I also love that I get to learn about the sponsoring organization behind each piece and of the work they’re doing to protect our oceans.

Mark Favermann/Zig Zag Benches. Image Credit: Anulfo Baez

This place is so fantastic I hope more people get to see it and experience its magic (sculptures are on loan for at least a year and new ones are added on a seasonal basis). Head over to East Boston and learn about the fabulous organizations that constitute Harbor Arts and see some neat artworks. You’ll thank me later.

The Cheney Building Stands Like a Tree in Downtown Hartford

Here’s a wonderful building in Hartford, CT by Henry Hobson Richardson, the genius behind masterpieces like Trinity Church on Copley Square and the Woburn Public Library among others. The Cheney Building (1875-76) stands like a tree in downtown Hartford, setting itself apart from its neighbors through the polychromatic stonework, rustication, and the floral motifs carved throughout its exterior. Richardson’s influence is felt throughout the United States, Canada and Northern European countries where local and nationally known architects admired his works, often incorporating many of Richardson’s signature elements into their architecture. If you visit Hartford, don’t miss the Cheney Building on Main Street, it’s a gem worth staring at for hour and hours.

All photos credit of The Evolving Critic.

Graphic Design Inspiration: The Mid-Century Posters of the Container Corporation of America

Earlier this summer, I bought a stack of mid-century New Yorker Magazines at the Brattle Bookshop on West Street in Boston and was delighted to find so many interesting advertisements I could use in blog posts. Some of the more striking advertisements weren’t the fashion ones, but the posters commissioned by the Container Corporation of America. Founded in 1926, the Container Corporation of America manufactured corrugated paper boxes and small containers becoming one of the largest corporations in the country, employing over 20,000 people world wide by 1965. Their poster series entitled “Great Ideas of Western Man” found its way to magazines such as Time, Fortune and New Yorker, in the process making great graphic design accessible to anyone and everyone that read these magazines.

These are some of their posters:

Artist: Louis Danzinger

Artist: Noel Martin

Artist: Jack Gregory

Artist: Shiko Munakata

Artist: Munari

Artist: Xanti Schawinsky

Artist: Herbert Matter

Artist: Herbert Matter

Artist: Robert Andrew Parker

REVIEW – Dance/Draw – The ICA’s Newest Exhibition Will Have You Dancing and Drawing

Juan Capistran, The Breaks, 2000, Inkjet print, 40 x 40 in., Collection of the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, The Altoids Curiously Strong Collection, gift of Altoids

Until now, I have not been a fan of most of the exhibitions that have originated at the ICA. Helen Molesworth, the ICA’s chief curator has organized an exciting show that traces the journey of the line from changes in drawing in the 1960’s to its explosion off the page and into three dimensional space, which ultimately finds itself in the realm of dance. Dance/Draw (October 7 – January 16, 2012) is beautiful, dazzling, dynamic and engaging (Cornelia Parker’s Hanging Fire (Suspended Arson) does not convince me yet in this show, but I can be persuaded. Possibly.).

Trisha Brown, Floor of the Forest, 1970, Metal Pipe, used clothing, Trisha Brown Dance Company, Photo: Isabel Winarsch/documenta 12.

Dance/Draw looks back to the 1960’s where artists began to make drawings with “a wide range of materials and they frequently did so using more than simply their hands.”Approximately 100 works ranging from
video, photography, drawings, and sculpture are featured in Molesworth’s first major show at the ICA. A series of live performances will also take place in the galleries and in the theater including Trisha Brown’s 1970 seminal work Floor of the Forest, part sculpture, part dance prop and part performance. This performance is a breath of fresh air.

Trisha Brown, Untitled 2007 Charcoal, pastel on paper Framed 55 ½ x 64 in. Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum, Margaret Fisher Fund. Photo: Katya Kallsen © President and Fellows of Harvard College

In the first gallery, Trisha Brown’s “Untitled, 2007” a charcoal and pastel drawing, is according to Molesworth “the drawing that started it all.” Re-defining the conventional meaning of drawing, the works in this gallery borrow from dance and performance to explore medium using more than just the hand. Feet, eyelashes, hair or the artist’s entire body is incorporated into the creation of a work on paper.

Janine Antoni, Loving Care, 1993, Performance with Loving Care hair dye in

Janine Antoni’s Loving Care, 1992-1996 a performance at the Wadsworth Athenaeum shows the artist dragging her “Natural Black” dye saturated hair back and forth across the floor, in the process creating an “ink drawing.” Butterfly Kisses, another work by Antoni created by battling her mascara-coated eyelashes against a piece of paper. These two works are wonderful and made my heart skip a beat. They’re flirtatious and playful, but so is the rest of the exhibition.

In curating this show, Molesworth did not forget to make it as geographically and as culturally diverse as possible (yes, this matters to me as a person of color). Not only is Dan Ranalli, a Boston artist and Professor at Boston University included in this show, but so are the works of Cecilia Vicuña, Helena Almeida, and Robin Rhode and many other interesting and remarkable artists.

Ruth Asawa, Untitled (S.065), early 1960

Ruth Asawa’s suspended wire bulbous sculptures, Faith Wilding’s womb-like web, Amy Sillman’s gouache and charcoal drawings of couples in intimate positions, and Sadie Benning’s Play Pause, a video made using hundreds of gouache drawings were all pleasantly sweet surprises that stole the show for me.

Another pleasant surprise was seeing the Mediatheque transformed by the Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña’s with a site specific work titled Water Weaving, 2011. A space wasted no more. The exhibition catalog is disappointing as it does not do justice to the show, but c’est la vie.

Dance/Draw is ambitious in scope and it delivers knockout punches that will have you craving for more. The show is the Paso Doble of exhibitions, it starts off strong and finishes off strong.

REVIEW: Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts

Hector Zamora, White Noise – Shed 6 Installation (detail), 2011. Installation originally developed for the Auckland Arts Festival, New Zealand. Courtesy of the artist and XXXXX

This Fall there are two exhibitions in Boston that originated in San Francisco: Shahzia Sikander: The Exploding Company Man and Other Abstractions and Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show, both curated and co-curated respectively by Hou Hanru for the Walter and McBean Galleries in San Francisco.

Hanru is director of exhibitions at the San Francisco Art Institute and an internationally known writer and curator with a “reputation for staging thematic exhibitions.” The more exhibitions curated by Hanru I experience, the more I fall in love with his curatorial approach.

Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show is a group show of eight contemporary Mexican artists that “frame two major tendencies in the current creative scene – social critique and witty design solutions – as entangled and reinforcing strategies to face the complex reality of life in modern Mexico. ” The message, although delivered with humor and irony in most of the works, lingers on with intensity and a sense of “urgency and importance.”

Manuel Rocha Iturbide, I Play The Drums With Frequency (detail), 2007–11. Drum set, sound installation. Courtesy of the artist.

With a focus on the effects of globalization on the Mexican economy, politics and society, “Disponible” is a universal kind of show. Any dense urban setting with empty billboard advertisements with the words “disponible” (“available”) printed on them, is a setting that “allows contemporary art and other experimental and creative practices such as architecture, design and music to flourish, forming one of the most original and intriguing art scenes in the global landscape.” The works in this show are poignant and reinforce the current conversations we’re having on environmental sustainability, social justice and alternative design solutions that foster a safer, healthier and better world.

Among some of my favorite works in the exhibition include Teresa Margolles’ Las Llaves de La Ciudad (The Keys to the City), a performance based installation conceived in collaboration with Antonio Hernandez Camacho, a former small business owner from Ciudad Juarez. On opening night, both Ms. Margolles and Mr. Camacho interacted with those in attendance while Mr. Camacho carved messages of hope into keys. Today, what’s left behind are Mr. Camacho’s carving tools, his desk, metal shavings on the floor and carved keys hanging on a cord. Acting as a metaphor for Ciudad Juarez, this installation also speaks to the violence that plagues the city. Today, an audio recording of the performance played throughout the installation allows for a haunting experience.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (detail), 2011. Installation performance. Photograph by Rafael Burillo. Courtesy of the artist.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (performance with Mr. Camacho), 2011. Installation performance. (iPhone) Photograph by Anulfo Baez.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (performance with Mr. Camacho), 2011. Installation performance. (iPhone) Photograph by Anulfo Baez.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (Key I had made while I interacted with Mr. Camacho), 2011. Installation performance. (iPhone) Photograph by Anulfo Baez. The message (in Spanish) I chose to be engraved into the key was "compasion" because we all need a little more compassion to save the world.

Other works rely heavily on sound and noise to emphasize the human condition. Hector Zamora’s White Noise (Part 2) an installation in its own separate gallery comments on the freedoms available in public and private spaces, while Mauricio Limon’s video Bizco Merolico Chorus examines the subcultures of Mexico City’s street vendors by asking them to repeat their sales pitches, in the process creating a universal chorus often ignored in societies all over. Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show leaves little to be desired. It reminds us that there is much to be done in the world.

Hector Zamora, White Noise (detail). Photo Courtesy of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts

Hector Zamora, White Noise (detail), 2011. Photo Courtesy of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Mauricio Limón, Bizco Merolico Chorus, 2006. Video still, duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds. Courtesy of the artist and Galería Hilario Galguera, Mexico City, Mexico.

Disponible: A Kind of a Mexican Show is on view through November 19, 2011 and was co-curated by Hou Hanru and Guillermo Santamarina. On October 18, 2011 there will be a screening of Natalia Almada’s film El General at the Museum of Fine Arts.

*unless linked to a direct source of reference, quotes were taken from the exhibition brochure.