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

DSCN3947

Phillips House

Phillips House

Phillips House

Phillips House

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: www.bigredandshiny.com

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 www.BigRedandShiny.com.

BOOKMARK IT!

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.

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 bo.st/wUXjvp
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 bo.st/wUXjvp
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 bit.ly/xlEgP2
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 wp.me/pgRi-nx
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.

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

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.

BONUS BEST OF 2011:

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.

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.

The Hermaphrodite – Aphrodite and the Gods of Love

Statuette of Aphrodite untying a sandal (Sandalbinder) Greek, East Greek, Late Hellenistic Period, 1st century B.C. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Catharine Page Perkins Fund.

The Museum of Fine Arts is celebrating the Greek goddess of love and beauty in “the first museum exhibition devoted to Aphrodite.” Aphrodite and the Gods of Love (October 26, 2011 through February 20, 2012) features approximately 160 classical works drawn primarily from the museum’s extensive (and one of the finest in the country, second only to the Metropolitan Museum of Art) collection of Greek and Roman art. The museum’s proactiveness in returning looted works to Italy has resulted in an outstanding collaboration with the Italian government noticeable in 13 important loans in the exhibition, nine of which are from Rome and Naples. The exhibition also features a Sleeping Hermaphrodite which is among these nine loans (more on this work later).

It is only natural for this exhibition to open with the birth of Aphrodite, her rising from the sea out of a shell. According to myth, the Titan Kronos castrated his father Ouranos and flung the genitals into the sea where a mixture of white foam was created, giving birth to Aphrodite.  The goddess’ ancestors, cults, beauty, marriage, and myth are also explored in depth with objects that range from perfume bottles to mirrors. Her place in the history of the female nude in Western art was the subject (for the most part) of a symposium held on November 5th, 2011 (I live tweeted the first half of the symposium, but finding those tweet may be somewhat difficult as I tweet quite often).

Not only is Aphrodite associated with beauty, love and marriage, but also with war and male potency. Aphrodite had many children, including Priapos (the well endowed god of fertility and protector of livestock) and Hermaphroditos, the two-sexed son, portrayed as a beautiful female figure with male genitals. This Sleeping Hermaphrodite is the biggest and most talked about surprise in the show. How could one not discuss its beauty?

I was somewhat surprised at people’s reactions upon seeing the other side of the Sleeping Hermaphrodite. This isn’t the first and only hermaphrodite in art history, but if you go and experience this show, you’ll understand the thrill (for lack of better word) this wonderful work ignites. Here are some examples of other hermaphrodites in art history. You decide for yourself how the hermaphrodite in the exhibition compares to these ones here, but there are many more than the three I have posted here:

Love how the light delicately shines on this hermaphrodite; the material also helps.

Hermaphrodite, Giovanni Francesco Susini (died 1646), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Claus von Bülow, 1977. Metropolitan Museum of Art

(Reverse) Hermaphrodite, Giovanni Francesco Susini (died 1646), Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Claus von Bülow, 1977. Metropolitan Museum of Art

Possibly the most famous hermaphrodite (at the Louvre) in the history of art:

Borghese Hermaphroditus, Roman copy of Greek statue C2nd BC Altered by Bernini. Musée du Louvre, Paris, France

And of course, there are also standing hermaphrodites:

Statue of Hermaphroditus, Marble, Pergamum, Hellenistic style, 3rt ct. BC. Istanbul Archaeological Museums. Photo: User Sandstein on Wikimedia Commons

The most recent out of the hermaphrodites I present here, proving that Aphrodite is a force to be reckon with.

Sleeping Hermaphrodite, 2008 – 2010, Barry X. Ball, after the Hermaphrodite Endormi (Ermafrodito Borghese). Belgian Black Marble

Sleeping Hermaphrodite, 2008 – 2010, Barry X. Ball, after the Hermaphrodite Endormi (Ermafrodito Borghese). Belgian Black Marble

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.

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.

Shahzia Sikander: The Exploding Company Man and Other Abstractions

The Last Post, 2010 (still); HD video animation; 10 min. Courtesy of the Artist and Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York. Source: ArtPractical.com

A fantastic exhibition curated by Hou Hanru for the Walter and McBean Galleries at the San Francisco Art Institute is currently up at MassArt. Shahzia Sikander: The Exploding Company Man and Other Abstractions (September 19 – November 26) gathers five of Sikander’s most recent animated videos along with paintings and drawings to create an explosion of sumptuous imagery, color and sound. I loved this exhibition so much I cannot wait to return to the gallery and see each video again and again.

With a BFA from the National College of Arts in Lahore, Pakistan and an MFA from the Rhode Island School of Design, Shahzia Sikander explores the British colonialism of the subcontinent, the British opium trade with China, military rhetoric, news media, identity and other contemporary issues through an aesthetics that draws primarily from Indo-Persian miniature paintings.  This exhibition is a feast for the senses and is not to be missed. This show has received glowing reviews all across the board; won’t you go see it for yourself? It’s TERRIFIC!

There will be an artist talk on Monday October 3, 5:30PM in the tower auditorium and an opening reception at 6:30PM in the Bakalar Gallery. A musical performance by Du Yun (her collaboration with Sikander can be seen in “Gossamer” also in the exhibition) is scheduled for 7:00PM.

Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” at the Museum of Fine Arts

If you haven’t heard the news, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is opening on September 17, a new wing devoted to contemporary art. To celebrate this opening, the museum will show Christian Marclay’s “The Clock,” a work acquired with the help of the National Gallery of Canada. Marclay’s “The Clock” has been one of the year’s most talked about works of art and recently won the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale.

The “news” that is circulating on twitter and on blogs isn’t about the MFA’s role in Boston’s contemporary art scene. It also isn’t about this new wing, which is over 21,000 square feet and triples the museum’s contemporary art exhibition space. Instead it’s about a $200 ticket people have to pay to view the first 12 hours of Marclay’s work.

How is the $200 ticket all of a sudden news when it has been published on the MFA’s website for some time now? I prayed every day that it was an error, but it wasn’t.

There goes the power of prayer people.

The price tag is a bit outrageous and it obviously caters to those who can afford to pay $200 for some drinks and 12 hours of the film. Yes, people attending the premiere of “The Clock” are also paying for a party organized by Chelsea Clinton’s wedding planner. If you can’t afford to see the first twelve hours, you can enjoy the other twelve hours for free on a Free Community Day on Sunday September 18th.

As much as I love art and the Museum of Fine Arts, I think this move is a bit elitist. Why not throw the opening party in the middle of the week and show “The Clock” for free that same weekend?

I’ll be honest, I was disappointed in the price tag because I had been waiting for a while to see “The Clock.” I think I’ll wait until later in the Fall when it will be shown for another 24 hours for FREE (with regular museum admission I assume. I hope not).

The MFA has already set the bar very high for contemporary art in Boston with the acquisition of “The Clock.” The message I’m getting is that they’re ready to take contemporary art seriously. If “The Clock” is any indication of where Boston’s contemporary art scene is heading, then we have a great leader in the MFA to take us there.

I’m very much looking forward to the opening of the new wing and excited to see Lynda Benglis’ Wing among many other works. I can only expect to be blown away and I think I will be judging from the “sound” of things.

Boston’s contemporary art scene seems to be pushing in a positive direction. Let’s keep it that way.

Image of Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” taken from the Museum of Fine Arts’ Press page.

In Retrospect…

I do not write about every show I see, but I do tweet about them (@evolvingcritic). This summer I have seen some outstanding and some not so outstanding shows, here I go:

Cocktail Culture: Ritual and Invention in American Culture, 1920-1980 at the Museum of Art at the Rhode Island School of Design was one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time. I briefly drooled over this show earlier this summer, but I loved it so much I went to see it again with a friend. I thought it was well researched and the exhibition design by Nader Terahni was truly an artwork in it of itself. If you missed this show, you missed out on some amazing gowns, jewelry, shoes, barware and so much more. RISD published an exhibition catalog which is on my list of books to get.

MassArt had a really great show titled Flourish: Alumni Works on Paper. Sorry, I can’t remember any names, but I did tweet about those works that were interesting.

I thought The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl at the ICA was good. There were some standout pieces by Xaviera Simmons, Carrie Mae Weems, Christian Marclay and David McConnell, but not everything in it was really outstanding.

Catherine Opie: Empty and Full is just that, empty and full. For the most part, I felt like I was in a Roni Horn exhibition with Catherine Opie in the center portion of the gallery. There’s a disconnection between Opie’s landscape images and her images of community and politics. I loved her images depicting sunsets and sunrises, but other than this, the exhibition is empty.

I was extremely disappointed and sad when I saw Eva Hesse: Studioworks at the ICA. Four large cases and a table surrounded by mostly empty white walls display “experiments” by Hesse. Hesse was an amazing and influential artist, but this show doesn’t really do much. It’s sad and It’s boring. This show had been traveling for a long time, and it finally made it to Boston. Sebastian Smee of the Boston Globe sums it up nicely.

Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass. It only took me less than 10 minutes to walk through the entire exhibition. Dale has definitely carved out a name for himself in the glass world, but this stuff isn’t fine art. And for the record, I think craft is underappreciated and frowned upon in the art world, but there are museums out there dedicated to works like these. He’s a crowd pleaser and those who went to see this show at the MFA loved it. The MFA is asking people to donate money to purchase the giant lime-green icicle tower for their permanent collection. That was one excellent move on behalf of the MFA, in my honest opinion.

The one exhibition that truly stole my heart this summer was Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I waited an hour just to get in line and another 3 hours in line to see the exhibition. The gallery was so crowded it took me 1 hour and 15 minutes to walk through it. All that said and done, it was one of the most thrilling, moving and memorable exhibitions I have seen this year. McQueen’s designs are breathtaking and the Metropolitan Museum elevated his craft through heart pounding displays, haunting musical scores, seductive lighting and special effects like a hologram of Kate Moss. It was as dramatic as McQueen’s runway shows were known to be. I couldn’t forgive myself, ever, had I missed this exhibition in person but I WILL NOT WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE TO SEE AN EXHIBITION EVER AGAIN.

I also caught Vienna 1900: Style and Identity at Neue Galerie. I thought it was a very fascinating exhibition and had I also seen it when it first opened, I would have gone back to see it again and again. Otto Wagner’s furniture, Egon Schiele’s drawings and Klimt’s portraits stole the show for me.

Summer is almost over, but I have yet to see the Man Ray/Lee Miller: Partners in Surrealism as well as Painting the American Vision both at the Peabody Essex Museum. I’m looking forward to Ellsworth Kelly: Wood Sculpture, Degas and the Nude both at the MFA this Fall. I need to head to the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford to check out the Matrix 162 Shaun Gladwell as well as their outstanding collection of American Art. The Portsmouth Museum of Art has an exhibition of street murals which has been driving those who live in Portsmouth crazy, this show is calling my name.

Any must see shows before the summer ends?

Image: Alexander McQueen (British, 1969–2010). Dress, autumn/winter 2010–11. Courtesy of Alexander McQueen. Photograph © Sølve Sundsbø / Art + Commerce

5th Annual Bumpkin Island Art Encampment

For five days this past week, twenty-five artists were invited to live on Bumpkin Island and create works inspired by the human and natural history of the island. The event is in its 5th year, however this was my first experience and most definitely will not be the last.

The works ranged from sound installation, sculpture, performance to mixed media and explore the flora and fauna of the island, the concept of restraint and many other themes. I saw a couple of very interesting works and because all these works are site specific, I’m intrigued as to how they will translate when exhibited in a gallery this coming Fall.

One of the best works I saw was Packrat, by Dirk Adams, Jesse Kaminsky and Helen White. These three artists literally used the entire island as their “canvas” and connected Bumpkin’s flora and fauna through giant string funnels. Unfortunately, the work was too interesting I did not take many photos of it, but I did go on a hike and followed the string until emerged from the harbor waters. I also found the performance by Sarah Buamert of the Pop-Up collective very interesting.

Review: Laila Rahman: New Paintings and Etchings

Laila Rahman: New Paintings and Etchings at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ BAG Gallery is the culmination of artist’s residency at the school. Rahman, born in Lahore, Pakistan is the first visiting Fulbright scholar at SMFA and explores religion and myth within contemporary society through gut-wrenching imagery and symbolism.

The exhibition features 22 works which investigate “manipulation, through the exercise of power of strength, of evil [and] of temptation.” The story of Creation, our idea of Heaven and Hell, and the down fall of Pride are re-imagined into provocative and at times unbearable images.

The anguish projected though No Words Written, 2010, Fallen Angel, 2011, Was it Knowledge, Apples or Even Pears?, 2010 is in-escapable. Our imagination of what Heaven and Hell would feel and look like is challenged through the inclusion of mutilated bodies juxtaposed with the light and at times seductive colors on the canvas.

The works completed by Rahman during her residency are all about triggering the viewer’s emotions. The hallway where these works are shown limit the viewer from experiencing the same “journey from within” the artist describes in her statement. These new paintings and etchings are powerful, but the constant walking back and forth by school’s employees and students detract from the works’ potential impact on the viewer.

Laila Rahman: New Paintings and Etchings at the BAG Gallery, 230 The Fenway, Boston is on view until June 30, 2011.

IMAGE: Laila Rahman, Armoured Memories, 2011. Oil and graphite on canvas. 36 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Review: Where I Live

Where I Live is an interactive sound installation featuring the voices of teens of The Urbano Project, a Boston based youth not-for profit arts organization. Under the guidance of Alison Kotin, the aim of this installation is to “promote civic engagement through works of art that address issues of our time.”

The installation does address pressing issues in our society. It addresses the crime and violence that are plaguing our streets and taking the lives of innocent citizens on a daily basis. In an indirect way, it also addresses the lack of attention paid by local officials to peripheral urban areas and the teens and adults that inhabit these.

Using motion tracking software and an overhead camera, the participant in this installation is confined to a square demarcated by four columns in the center of the gallery and black tape on the floor. It is within this space that we as participants begin to experience the effects that growing up in an urban environment have had on the teens behind Where I Live. More than anything, I believe the installation stresses the importance of arts education in lending a voice to those without political power or political awareness in our communities.

“We all need to support the arts” says Former U.S Attorney General Janet Reno in a report sponsored by the United States Department of Justice. “In doing so, we are telling America’s youth that we believe in them and value what they can be.[1]” Consistently throughout our educational history, arts education, in particular in public schools has been neglected and frowned upon.

Art classes offered in urban schools are seen as a waste of tax payers’ dollars, often leading to the partial or complete elimination of art programs in many of our nation’s schools. As a result of budget cuts, small community based youth arts organizations like The Urbano Project have taken on the role of bringing art education to inner city young adults, performing the work that schools, in my opinion, must do to better our society.

Studies sponsored by the United States Department of Education, the National Endowment for the Arts, American for the Arts and other highly respected cultural policy and arts advocacy organizations, have demonstrated that community collaboration through the arts has had a more far-reaching effect on youth at risk than any other youth programs in the United States. These studies have consistently emphasized that participation in the arts by young people, in particular those living in poverty stricken inner city neighborhoods, brighten up communities and inspire and equip young people with the tools needed to make positive change happen in the world.

Organizations like The Urbano Project most often include participants who have never had any formal training in the arts and also come from families who have never been exposed to cultural institutions and related arts activities growing up. This is the case for most students who attend the Boston Public School systems as I did. Because most of these organizations are founded with the mission of serving inner city youth and other underserved populations in major cities, their impact extends far and beyond their participants, an impact that is often difficult to quantify for policy makers.

The gallery in which Where I Live is installed doubles as an office and reception space, detracting from the intensity and even more powerful impact that this interactive sound work could have had on participants who experience it.

Where I live is a perfect example where communities engage in the process of creating social change through art making. This installation demonstrates that kids are the heart and soul of organizations like The Urbano Project; they identify the problems in their communities and bond together to make change happen. This is exactly what Where I live has achieved. It has given a voice to teens “not heard or heeded by adult policymakers.”


[1] Pederson, Julie and Adriana de Kanter, et al. Safe and Smart: Making After School Hours Work for Kids, United States Department of Justice (December 1999). 1.