Anonymous Boston

Photo Courtesy of Joanna Marinova Jones

The last time I saw an exhibition that literally made me tremble was at the Institute of Contemporary Art during the Mark Bradford show (November 19, 2010 – March 13, 2011). This time around, it wasn’t Bradford that almost moved me to tears, but rather an exhibition at Fourth Wall Project on social justice and gun violence in Boston. Words could not even begin to describe the emotions I felt as I read every wall text, looked at every photograph and listened to the desperate pleas of families (a haunting audio piece was part of the show) in Anonymous Boston a multimedia exhibit that focused on life, rather than the devastating effects of gun violence.

Organized by media producer and human rights activist Joanna Marinova Jones, Anonymous Boston directly and indirectly brought to light many issues that have long been ignored by public officials, and people not directly affected by gun violence. Anonymous Boston aimed at empowering those families who have experienced devastating losses—by giving them a voice with which to tear down the derogatory comments left behind by anonymous bloggers on online news articles.

Newspaper clippings with stories on the victims made this exhibition not only interesting, but relevant on so many levels. The headlines are nothing short of sensational, they nurture the anonymous monsters that leave tactless comments that hurt victim’s families.

Fueled by the insensitive, inaccurate and superficial media coverage of violence in Boston, these anonymous bloggers further exacerbate the situation by relentlessly attacking not only grieving families, but an entire race. Their comments, some of which I have quoted above, are difficult to stomach.

It’s much easier to ignore the issue or point fingers and blame the victim’s family, rather than to take a stand to stop gun violence. It is also much easier to say “if it is not happening to me, then it’s not my problem— why should I care about all the violence that is destroying your community?”

Photo Courtesy of Joanna Marinova Jones

What happens in Boston is everyone’s responsibility. I could not help but feel mentally drained and spiritually devastated, but always remaining hopeful—as I was confronted with blatantly racist and ignorant comments left by these bloggers next to a victim’s photograph. It’s easy to hide behind a veil rather than to discuss the real underlying issues as to why these things are happening in our city.

To say that what happens in Roxbury, Dorchester or Mattapan isn’t my problem— is to be part of the problem, as a family member of one of the victims in Anonymous Boston was quoted saying.

Anonymous Boston communicated a powerful message and I sincerely hope that those who experienced it listened. Gun violence is the product of complex cultural issues. We as a culture are obsessed with guns and yet we wonder why there is so much senseless violence in this country. My only regret was not being able to experience this exhibition more than once, as I went on the second to last day before closing. 

All other uncredited images are by Anulfo Baez.

Angel Reapers

Martha Clarke and Alfred Uhry's "Angel Reapers" American Dance Festival in Durham, N.C.(Photo by Sara D. Davis/ADF 2010)

Finely crafted furniture and harmoniously proportioned buildings are some of the things that come to mind when one hears the name “Shakers.” The Shakers (their formal name was The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing) considered work as a form of worship, a belief reflected in every aspect of their lives, from their simple unadorned furniture to the separate but equal living quarters. They believed in being perfect and in practicing celibacy. This fascinating group of people are the subject of Angel Reapers, a hybrid theatre, music and dance show presented by Arts Emerson at the Cutler Majestic Theatre.

Angel Reapers is choreographed and directed by MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Martha Clarke and written by Alfred Uhry, winner of the Academy Award (Driving Miss Daisy. Yes, this Driving Miss Daisy), two Tony Awards (Parade, which I saw a few years ago at the Boston Center for the Arts and The Last Night of Ballyhoo) and a Pulitzer Prize (not to brag, but last night’s opening was even more fantastic thanks to the presence of Clarke, Uhry and Arthur Solari, the musical director). Angel Reapers isn’t shy to explore and indulge in the many pleasures that the Shaker denied themselves. It is ravishing, seductive, and erotic made compelling by Clarke’s marvelous choreography and the many traditional Shaker songs sung a cappella. Angel Reapers will leave humming one or two of those songs as you exit the theatre. Of this, I’m certain.

Angel Reapers is playing until November 20th. For ticketing information, trailer, and more images click here.

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

For You I Feel Lucky

Boston painter and performance artist Jessica Gath, known to many of us as The World Famous Secretary, has been exploring performance as a means of making people feel loved. “For You I Feel Lucky,” her latest work in the series entitled “For You,” was performed on Tuesday November 8th at The Hallway Gallery in Jamaica Plain. The goal of this performance was to “create in a room of strangers, a potential for an increased affinity in a short amount of time,” says Ms. Gath.

Strangers formed the core of this work. To participate, personal references were required by the artist who then contacted these via telephone or email. Three fill in the blank questions were asked and at least any one of the three was required from the reference. The answers provided the framework for the performance.

Three rules were also set in place. One, participants were asked to take the time to experience the beauty of what was about to unfold in the gallery. Two, the performance was not to last more than thirty minutes. And three, participants and performers needed to feel comfortable in their own skin. And so it began.

Any anecdotes or insights provided by the references were shared anonymously with the participants. Ms. Gath read these line by line, at times injecting her own remarks to compensate for those people who said similar things about the participants. In the end, For You I Feel Lucky was about celebrating the participants rather than the artist. It was a reflection of the participants and of those that loved them. This performance was also a reminder that each one of us has a very important role to play in fostering a strong sense of community.

For You I Feel Lucky lingered on hours after it had concluded. I felt lucky to have shared this wonderful experience with a friend and with total strangers, because their presence and being makes this world a much better place. Jessica Gath has gained a new fan, and I’m beyond excited to see what else is in the works!

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

Ten Thousand Waves

 

Isaac Julien, "Red Chamber Room (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endora Ultra photographs, diptych, 70.9 x 90.6 in. each. Courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro Gallery, London

Brace yourselves Bostonians, Isaac Julien’s Ten Thousand Waves is now showing at the Institute of Contemporary Art! This breathtaking video installation had its US premiere in December 2010 at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami, now it’s our turn to stimulate our senses with beautiful imagery and sound. Viewers are immerse in a new form of storytelling – three narratives unfolding simultaneously on nine screens. Shot mostly in China’s incredibly diverse landscape, Ten Thousand Waves features images of lush bamboo jungles, daily life in Shanghai and panoramic views of the coast of England.

Isaac Julien, "Blue Goddess (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endura Ultra photograph, diptych, 70.87 x 94.49 in. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London.

 

Isaac Julien, "Mazu, Turning (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endura Ultra photograph. 70.87 x 94.49 in. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London

 

Isaac Julien, "Yishan Island, Dreaming (Ten Thousand Waves)," 2010. Endura Ultra photograph, 70.87 x 94.49 in. Courtesy of the artist, Metro Pictures, New York, and Victoria Miro Gallery, London

 

Ten Thousand Waves is gorgeous to look at, mesmerizing and oh, so stylized that it reminded me of the films of Wong Kar Wai in particular In the Mood for Love as well as the films of Terrence Malick. Julien takes his viewers on a magical journey, one made even more entrancing by the appearance of Maggie Cheung as lead actress. Seriously, wasn’t she great in In the Mood for Love? Examples of stills from In the Mood for Love and The Thin Red Line:

In the Mood for Love, (2000) Wong Kar Wai

The Thin Red Line, Ben Chaplin, 1998, Terrence Malick, Director. TM and Copyright (c) 20th Century Fox Film Corp. Courtesy: Everett Collection

Issac Julien: Ten Thousand Waves in on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art until March 04, 2012. You’ll be mad if you miss this installation!

An Evening with Patti Smith | Patti Smith: Camera Solo

It wasn’t long ago that I was introduced to the work of Patti Smith, not as musician, but as visual artist. Using narrative form and content in song lyrics, Patti Smith pioneered the Art Rock movement in New York City. Her debut album “Horses” became an instant classic that defined a generation. It also rocked my world to say the least. Apart from her music, Patti Smith has been exploring photography since she was a teenager, but it was alongside Robert Mapplethorpe that she began to explore the medium in depth. Her most recent photographs are the subject of an exhibition at the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, CT.

Patti Smith, Self-Portrait, NYC, 2003. © Patti Smith. Courtesy the artist and Robert Miller Gallery

Billed as the first large scale museum exhibit in the United States in nearly ten years, Patti Smith: Camera Solo isn’t a show of epic proportions, but rather a show of intimate moments. The exhibition highlights the relationship between Smith’s photography and her interest in poetry and literature. Approximately 60 new black-and-white silver gelatin photographs and multimedia installations created between 2002 and 2011 are exhibited.

Many of the works are small and require the viewer to make more of an effort in developing a personal relationship with these. As a whole, the exhibition is much larger than I envisioned it, as I personally think of Patti Smith as having contributed more to our culture as a musician and performer than as a visual artist. Yet, since 2002, Smith has had countless solo exhibitions in museums and galleries across the country.

Patti Smith, Robert's Slippers, 2002. © Patti Smith. Courtesy the artist and Robert Miller Gallery

Camera Solo is a deeply personal exhibition, an aspect I experienced firsthand listening to Patti Smith talk about her work at the Wadsworth. The photographs suddenly became meaningful as she discussed objects that belonged to Robert Mapplethorpe, or when she poked fun at her lack of technical skills while talking about her cameras. Those cameras are a Polaroid Land 100 and a 250 which she candidly referred to as having been “made for someone who is technically a moron.”

Gallery Talk by Patti Smith on Friday October 21st at the Wadsworth Atheneaum. Image by Diana Guay Dixon.

Smith doesn’t photograph her own things because she doesn’t have the “right camera,” she says, instead she photographs other people’s stuff. Patti Smith feels her photographs don’t need any explanation; they’re just her “sharing stuff.” That “stuff” is what curator Susan Talbott has termed “symbolic portraits” of things and people close to her heart, like Robert Mapplethorpe’s slippers which Smith says “taking a photo of Robert’s slippers is like taking a photo of Robert to me.” Her photographs are “similar to nineteenth-century amateur photographers.” Yes, some of Patti Smith’s works do come off as amateurish in technique (I’ve taken both a university level studio photography course as well as a survey course), but she obviously doesn’t have a problem with it and neither did I.

The exhibition Patti Smith: Camera Solo is on view until February 19, 2012 at the Wadsworth Athenaeum. For more information, visit: http://www.thewadsworth.org/

#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.

A Psychotic State of Mind: Laurie Anderson’s “Delusion”

Before attending last night’s performance of Laurie Anderson’s Delusion, I knew very little of Anderson’s craft. However, because most of the time I am surrounded by artists and other creative types, it only took one friend to get me beyond excited for what I was about to experience at the Paramount Theater.

Laurie Anderson is considered a legend in the performing art world. Known for her multimedia presentations and innovative use of technology in art, theater and experimental music, Anderson’s latest solo performance Delusion allows for one beautiful and mesmerizing journey that sticks with you hours after experiencing it.

If you’re wondering what Delusion is, “Delusion is a mediation on life and language,” a meditation enhanced by the violin, electronic puppetry, music and on screen visuals.

The performance lasts 90 minutes which may be among the best 90 minutes of your life. There were moments that took my breath away and moments that made place many things into perspective. There was a moment in the performance that reminded me of the visuals of Terrence Malick, in particular his shots of grass and wheat. Re-visiting familiar territory (which for me was the moment Malick’s stunning grass visuals were referenced by Anderson) is part of Delusion.

Delusion is only playing until Sunday October 2, 2011. If you can make it, I highly recommend it for its beautiful visuals and music. Click this link for more information.

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.

Making Boston Awesome One Community Garden at a Time

As an urban dweller, there are many things that make me happy to live in a city. One of those many things is being able to talk to people tending their plots in community gardens. According to the Boston Natural Areas Network, there are nearly 200 community and school gardens in the City of Boston and its surrounding towns. These gardens are cared for by more than 10,000 urbanites working towards making Boston a more sustainable, healthier and greener city.

Boston’s community gardens are thriving, but is evident from this sign that people are eager to garden more. The current demand for more community gardens is pushing city planning officials to re-consider zoning in Boston.

Empty, unattended land parcels are eye sores in many of the poorest neighborhoods of Boston.

These empty sites are uninspiring and promote among many other things, blight. In contrast, community gardens promote safe and healthy communities, they nurture good neighbor relationships, promote exercise, healthy eating habits, and many other benefits.

Bostonians are eager to make this city an even more awesome one, one community garden at a time. Are city planning officials listening to the people?

PHOTO ESSAY—Ashmont Hill: Exploring the Architecture and Beauty of a Boston Streetcar Suburb

Sam Bass Warner’s Streetcar Suburbs: The Process of Growth in Boston (1870-1900) documents in great detail the process of growth in Boston, from the 2-mile radius city that it was once to the metropolis that it is today. Last
summer I explored the gardens of Highland Park, a small segment of the once streetcar suburb of Roxbury and felt this summer should be dedicated to Dorchester, one of the first streetcar suburbs of Boston.

The three (Roxbury, West Roxbury and Dorchester) streetcar suburbs discussed in Warner’s classic study were enormous in size compared to the old pedestrian city of 1850.

By 1900, the population of these suburbs (now neighborhoods of Boston) boomed to about 227,000 compared to about 60,000 in 1870. That’s an alarming growth rate! According to the building records Warner studied, between 1870 and 1900—22,500 houses went up: 12,000 single family houses, 6,000 two
family houses, 4,000 three-family houses, and about 500 larger structures (35).

Walking around these streetcar suburbs can be disorienting because “the shape of the land is buried under endless streets so filled with houses and so patched together that the observer cannot orient himself in a
landscape larger than a block or two (35).” The 22,500 houses built in these streetcar suburbs “were the product of separate decisions made by 9,000 individual builders” (37).

The houses we see today serve as examples of social class building patterns. Their style and size are testament of Boston’s rich immigration history. Some great examples of the Stick Style, Shingle Style,
Arts and Crafts Movement, Queen Anne and Colonial Revival among other types and styles can be found around Ashmont Hill in Dorchester.

For in depth information on Boston’s streetcar suburbs consult Sam Bass Warner’s book mentioned above. Douglass Shand-Tucci’s Ashmont: An Historical Guide to Peabody Square, Carruth’s Hill and Ashmont Hill and the Architecture of Edwin J. Lewis, Jr. and John A Fox complements Warner’s book very well.

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

One on One: Exploring the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists

The best way to get to know a city or a neighborhood is by walking its streets. Earlier this summer, I set out to explore the area of Roxbury roughly bounded by Seaver Street, Walnut Avenue and Crawford Street. I headed down Walnut Avenue and walked around the grounds of Abbotsford (Oak Bend), one of the finest stone mansions in Boston.

Abbotsford, designed in 1872 by Alden Frink in the Gothic Revival style is home to a gem known as the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists.  The grand mansion has served many purposes in the past which include a disciplinary school for boys in the Boston Public School system. It was purchased in 1976 by the National Center of Afro-American Artists and is now the largest independent black cultural arts institution in New England. Its collection exceeds 4,000 works of art which include well known artists such as Charles White, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Jacob Lawrence as well as living contemporary black artists from around the world.

John Wilson’s Eternal Presence (1987) greets viewers upon entering the museum. Wilson drew inspiration from various cultures including Ancient Olmec and Buddhist works to represent the African Diasporas dispersed throughout the world (also represented in the museum’s collection). Once inside, visitors can expect to experience “Aspelta – A Nubian King’s Burial Chamber” one of the museum’s most notable and delightful exhibitions.

Apart from looking at the art currently on display, my experience at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists also included a 45 minute long conversation with Ben Alleyne, a painter and sculptor who has been the caretaker of the mansion for more than twenty years. His monumental sculptures can be seen on the grounds of the museum.

For an off the beaten path museum experience in Boston, the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists is an excellent choice. The museum is easily accessible by public transportation. The MBTA Bus Routes #22 from Ashmont, Jackson Square or Ruggles Station and #29 from Jackson Square or Ruggles stop at Walnut Avenue. The museum is roughly a ten minute walk from the bus stop.

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.