Archive for January, 2011

Cook and Giuliano

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Last fall, Charles Giuliano (spied, at left, at the opening of the MFA’s new Art of the Americas wing in November), the longtime Boston art critic who’s now based in the Berkshires where he runs BerkshireFineArts.com, and New England Journal of Aesthetic Research custodian Greg Cook began an e-mail dialogue about their art criticism and the state of art and New England. BerkshireFineArts.com has begun publishing their long virtual conversation, which begins like this:

Charles Giuliano: Frankly I have become more apathetic about art. For these past three years I have been more involved with theatre and music. It is what is available to me here. There is not that much art in the Berkshires.

I just read the latest issue of Art New England and it bored me to tears. There was nothing I wanted to read. Which is how I feel about most art magazines. I subscribe to Art Forum, Art in America, and Art News. Of these the least interesting is Art News for which I was formerly a correspondent. I have stopped looking at Art Net. I just find most art criticism boring these days.

Of course that was never true when I was in the thick of it.

So what is that about? Just age and apathy? Or was there a paradigm shift that occurred over time? When the theorists and philosophers took over the academy the result has been enervating at best. Most of the Mass MoCA exercises in the avant-garde are not worth getting excited about.

Read the rest of the first installment here.

Bread and Puppet’s “Return of Ulysses”

Sunday, January 30th, 2011

Peter Schumann’s Bread and Puppet Theater from Vermont ends its run of “The Return of Ulysses” (primarily for ages 12 and older) with a 7 p.m. show at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St., Boston, tonight, Jan. 30, 2011. Pictured: Friday’s performance of the condensed Claudio Monteverdi opera, as photographed by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

The company also performs the family-friendly “Decapitalization Circus” (our photographs of last summer’s version of the show) at 4 this afternoon. Tickets for the performances available for purchase [cash or check only] in the Cyclorama one hour before each performance. For advance tickets, log onto www.breadandpuppet.org or call 866-811-4111 (toll free).

Angela Ruo

Friday, January 28th, 2011


Our review of abstract oil paintings by Angela Ruo of Providence at AS220 in Providence:

“Body II” (pictured at top) features bloody horizontal scratches and crusty red bumps that bring to mind berries or scabs. The paintings have a visceral charge with all the reds that drip down like blood, but they feel too pat. The painting “Diversity” stands out with its pale turquoise and rusty browns that look like billowing clouds softly piled one atop the next. The difference between “Diversity” and the other paintings is its air of mystery.

Angela Ruo, AS220′s Main Gallery, 115 Empire St., Providence, Jan. 9 to 29, 2011.

Corrin to leave Williams College Museum

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Williams College Museum of Art Director Lisa Corrin will step down from that position on June 30, after leading the college museum since fall 2005, according to an announcement from the western Massachusetts school. She plans to “teach at the college and serve both as a Clark Fellow at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute and as a visiting scholar in museum studies at New York University.” Williams says it will launch a national search for her successor.

Corrin was previously chief curator at The Contemporary Museum in Baltimore from 1989 to 1997, chief curator at the Serpentine Gallery in London from 1997 to 2001, and deputy director of Art at the Seattle Art Museum from 2001 until coming to Williams. In Seattle, she also curated the new Olympic Sculpture Park.

David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly”

Thursday, January 27th, 2011


Our review of David Wojnarowicz’s film “A Fire in My Belly,” which is screening at AS220 in Providence:

In late November, the conservative Catholic League in New York complained of “a video that shows large ants eating away at Jesus on a crucifix” in “Hide/Seek,” a historical exhibit of gay portraiture at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C.

League president Bill Donohue called on Congress to “reconsider future funding” of the Smithsonian because Wojnarowicz’s video is “hate speech. … The creator of this ‘masterpiece’ video is dead of AIDS. But he did not die without blaming society for his self-destructive behavior. David Wojnarowicz said, ‘When I was told I’d contracted the virus, it didn’t take long for me to realize that I’d contracted a diseased society as well.’ Who did he blame? Besides some politicians and government workers, he fingered ‘those thinly disguised walking swastikas that wear religious garments over their murderous intentions.’”

Soon after, incoming Speaker of the House John Boehner and other Republican Congressional leaders called on the entire exhibit to be closed. Within days, the Smithsonian knuckled under, and pulled the video from the show. Since then numerous art institutions across the country have begun screening the film and presenting Wojnarowicz’s other work as a free speech protest. Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art screened the film from Dec. 20 to Jan. 2. AS220 screens the film in its Main Gallery, 115 Empire St., Providence, from Jan. 9 to 29, 2011. AS220 also hosts the “Queer Representation and Resistance as Acts of Justice Symposium” on Jan. 29 and 30.

Wojnarowicz courted controversy and was the subject of similar vitriol when he was alive. He reportedly made the 13-minute film made in 1987 in part as a response to the death of his friend and former lover Peter Hujar from AIDs, and his own diagnosis with HIV. After Wojnarowicz died in 1992 at age 37, a separate seven-minute version was found in his studio. The two films comprise a series of brief snippets collaged together: a shirtless street performer who breathes fire; pans down Mexican streets; a street market with a close up on a bin full of corn; an ambulance on the side of a road; a cockfight; Mexican wrestling; a bloodied bull staggering around at the end of a bullfight; a circus with trapeze artists, monkeys, lion tamer, stunt motorcycle rider; pyramids; man in devil mask and leather jacket walking down a street; hands stitching a broken loaf of bread back together; a man’s mouth literally sewn closed; a snake eating; mummies; an actor playing an exhausted Christ in a crown of thorns; a marionette shot and burned; coins falling from or into a bandaged hand; a man stripping off his clothes and masturbating; and ants crawling over a crucifix. The Catholic League said it was upset by what it erroneously described as “large ants eating away at Jesus on a crucifix.”

“A Fire in my Belly” is an interesting but not great surrealist film that taps Catholic art’s long tradition of gruesome imagery (see Grünewald, Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of the Christ”) and using Biblical stories as analogies for contemporary issues (Joan of Arc). It’s an emotional time capsule from Reagan America, when AIDS was a death sentence, and the federal government and Catholic Church seemed more interested in ostracizing the victims than in helping them. (The church can still be out of touch. During a visit to Cameroon in 2009, Pope Benedict said, “You can’t resolve [AIDS] with the distribution of condoms. On the contrary, it increases the problem.”) The film references homosexuality and death, but it’s a howl, not an argument.

So when you finally see the film, you might find yourself thinking: “That’s what all the fuss is about?” But that fuss is a serious shot across the bow from the new Republican Congressional majority that progressive values in the art world — and America generally — are under attack.

Schedule for the “Queer Representation and Resistance as Acts of Justice,” a free, public program presented by AS220 and RISD’s Office of Public Engagement, Division of Fine Arts, and Office of Multicultural Affairs:

Saturday, Jan. 29th, 3:00 PM
AS220, 115 Empire Street
Nayland Blake; artist, writer, educator and curator, was born in 1960 in New York City, where he currently lives and works. Over the past twenty four years he has exhibited widely throughout the world. His works are in the permanent collections of The Museum of Modern Art, The Whitney Museum, Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, the Brooklyn Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and many others. In 1995 he was the co-curator, with Larry Rinder, of In A Different Light, the first museum exhibition to examine the impact of Lesbian, Gay and Queer artists on contemporary art.

Sunday, Jan. 30th, 12:30 PM
AS220, 115 Empire Street
“Identity, Place, & Practice” panel with Matthew Lawrence, Laurencia Strauss, Gil Cozzens, and Mickey Zacchilli
Sometimes artists make work from personal experience, sometimes their work engages ideas outside their daily life. Both modes of art making require tools of self-awareness and an understanding of social context, calling upon artists to bring the totality of their being into the making process. This panel will explore the ways that queer identity intersects with creative practice. Panelists will share how being queer has served to inform their creative practice and work.

Sunday, Jan. 30th, 2:00 PM
AS220, 115 Empire Street
“Institutional Silenc(es)” panel with Deborah Bright, Rob Brinkerhoff, Liz Collins, and Michael Kurt
Queer people and Queer artists have endured a long history of censorship, as well as the more insidious dynamics of silencing and invisibility within cultural institutions. While much has been done in past decades to expose and engage these dynamics, we’ve recently experienced a new wave of institutional attempts to silence ideas, forcing us to challenge traditional power structures. This panel will discuss the ways that artists, cultural institutions and higher education can provide leadership for free expression and social justice.

Above: David Wojnarowicz’s film “A Fire in My Belly” from ppow_gallery on Vimeo.

Scott Alario

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

From our review of Scott Alario’s photos at AS220 in Providence:

Two years ago, when his daughter Elska was born, Scott Alario of Providence began making her the star of a series of photos he calls “Our Fable.” “I wanted to tell her stories. I wanted to pass something down to her,” he says. “It’s my attempt to build a folk tale for my daughter.”

Together with his partner and Elska’s mother Marguerite, they mixed play, costumes, and some special effects that he records with a large format camera. On view at AS220′s Main Gallery, the black-and-white digital prints blend clear-eyed realism with curious dreamlike rituals.

Read the rest here.

Scott Alario, AS220′s Main Gallery, 115 Empire St., Providence, Jan. 9 to 29, 2011.

Pictured from top to bottom: Scott Alario “Tea Party in Father Fort” and “Rupee and Stars,” both digital archival prints.

Maine College of Art offers scholarships

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Maine College of Art in Portland has announced a new program, the “Portland Area School Scholarship,” which it says will “provide a guaranteed $12,000 scholarship each year for four years or until they complete the bachelor of fine arts degree, provided they maintain good academic standing,” to students graduating from selected Greater Portland high schools. “With an estimated fall 2011 tuition of $29,000 this brings the initial tuition cost to approximately $17,000,” the art school says.

Qualifying schools include Cape Elizabeth High School, Casco Bay High School, Catherine McCauley High School, Cheverus High School, Deering High School, Falmouth High School, Gorham High School, Greater Portland Christian Academy, Greely High School, North Yarmouth Academy, Portland Arts & Technology High School, Portland High School, Scarborough High School, South Portland High School, Waynflete, Westbrook High School, Windham High School, and Yarmouth High School.

Details here.

Got art inspired by Brutalist RI college?

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

Community College of Rhode Island’s Knight Campus Art Gallery in Warwick is seeking artworks for a show entitled “We Talk about Architecture, Architecture Talks Back.” They’re looking for new or existing artworks in any media — including cake — inspired by the Brutalist-style megastructure of the Knight Campus. Deadline for submissions: Feb. 12, 2011. Details here.

Last day to vote for Art Awards

Tuesday, January 25th, 2011


Today is the last day to vote for the 2010 New England Art Awards, a contest organized by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research to honor the best art made here, local writing about local art, and exhibits organized here in 2010. And we want you to help us pick the winners via the online ballot here. You must follow that link to vote. Votes submitted as comments will be ignored. Votes must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25, to be counted.

Everyone is welcome to vote here. Winners will be chosen by (1) local active art journalists and (2) anyone else who wants to vote – and will be announced in terms of these two categories of voters.

Winners will be announced at the 2010 New England Art Awards Ball at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, at the Burren, 247 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville, Massachusetts. The event is free and open to all. Creative attire is encouraged.

How to vote:
Voting is automated – and our robots are standing by to receive your picks. You are welcome to vote in as many categories as you like or to leave lots of blanks. Please invite your friends to vote too. The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research will tally the votes. Nominees with the most votes in each category will win.

Voting will only be accepted via the robot voting form. We ask each voter to submit a name and e-mail address to prevent fraud. Cheaters will be banished. If you spot factual errors in the ballot, please send corrections here.

The aim of the awards, which are organized by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research, is to promote a more exciting local art scene by encouraging and celebrating the work of artists, curators and art writers active in New England (except Yalies).

Bread and Puppet at BCA this week

Sunday, January 23rd, 2011

Peter schumann’s Bread and Puppet Theater from Vermont presents “The Return of Ulysses” and “Decapitalization Circus” at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St., Boston, from Jan. 24 to 30, 2011. “The Return of Ulysses” (primarily for ages 12 and older) will be performed at 7 each evening on Jan 27 to 30. The family-friendly “Decapitalization Circus” is at 4 p.m. Jan. 29 and 30. Schumann also presents “Nolanguage,’ a political art installation from Jan. 24 to 30, beginning with an art opening at 6 p.m. Jan. 24 featuring a talk by Schumann, short skits performed by Bread and Puppet, and live music performed by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra and the Dirty Water Brass Band. Tickets for the performances available for purchase [cash or check only] in the Cyclorama one hour before each performance. For advance tickets, log onto www.breadandpuppet.org or call 866-811-4111 (toll free).

Pictured: Bread and Puppet performed “The Return of Ulysses” in Glover, Vermont, in August 2010. Photo by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Cook drops out of Art Awards ballot

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

A note from Greg Cook of The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research:

Some people have been criticizing my appearances on the New England Art Awards ballot, and I think they have a point that it can appear unfair, so I’m going to discard all votes for me and remove myself from the running. (I’d just remove myself from the ballot, but unfortunately the fellow I have in control of the vote-counting robots is away for a week. And I don’t have the computer expertise to make the change in his absence. Yeesh.) Voting continues through 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25. Follow this link to have your own say in who wins.

How the ballot is formed
The New England Art Awards ballot is formed through a big group process, as I’ve previously explained. Anyone could nominate, and this year 123 people made nearly 900 nominations. I invited readers and recruited some more folks to help me pare down those submissions into a manageable ballot. This team was Maggie Cavallo, outreach coordinator for the galleries at Montserrat College of Art; Franklin Einspruch of Franklin Einspruch’s Journal; Katherine French, director of the Danforth Museum; Liz Geller of FiveSevenDelle Project Space; Debbie Hagan, editor-in-chief of Art New England; and James Montford, director of Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery. Two of these people I’ve never talked or corresponded with previously.

The final ballot reflects the thinking of this group. Each member of the group was asked to rank their top six choices in each category. They were asked not to address categories in which they or their institutions were nominated. So not everyone voted in every category. I compared these selections, and the nominees with the most votes in each category are on the ballot. I did vote as part of this group, one vote among seven, and in an oversight role was involved in every category, but I never voted to put myself on the ballot in any category. Most of the time my votes just served as tiebreakers.

I also played an administrative role, including moving some nominees into correct categories and eliminating nominees that did not qualify under the posted rules. For example, some artists, including Elizabeth Duffy, were mistakenly nominated in the “new media” category, apparently because people confused “mixed media” and “new media.” So most of these nominees were instead considered in the “drawing and printmaking category.” Brian Knep’s show at RISD, which had enough votes from the ballot committee to be on the final ballot, was eliminated because Knep won at 2009 New England Art Award for the same work when it was presented at Tufts. A number of nominees for the category “essay by a local writer about locally-made art” had to be rejected because they were actually essays about art from elsewhere (like L.A. artist Mark Bradford). Some curatorial nominees had to be rejected because they were not organized by local curators or institutions. For example, the Luis Melendez show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts was favored by the ballot committee, but the show didn’t qualify because it was organized by the National Gallery of Art. Also some nominees were eliminated because they seemed to have not presented the artwork in New England in 2010.

As I wrote previously:

The “essay by a local writer about locally-made art” [is] a category which has been suggested to us by several people since we began the awards. We, of course, believe that art writing is vital to creative communities. But as we are in the writing game, we’ve felt odd about overseeing such an award. But participation in the awards nominating and voting has grown large enough that we believe we can offer this award without undue conflict of interest.”

From the inside, it feels in many ways that I administrate this thing, but the ballot does not represent my own vision. Though I certainly have a voice in it, as I should, since I organize it. But there are many things on the ballot that aren’t my favorites, and many things I think should be on the ballot that aren’t. And there are so many people voting on the final ballot that my one vote has little or no effect on who wins or doesn’t. Last year 18 local art writers voted plus more than 1,880 other people. As of this writing, so far more than 1,300 people have voted for this year’s awards.

Also remember this is an all unpaid volunteer project, with no prize money at stake. And it’s hard in the New England art community (or any art community for that matter) to avoid all conflicts of interest. I’d also say that it’s not unusual for members of the organizations running such an awards to be in the running for the prizes. For example, the 2010 Pulitzer Prize board included folks from the New York Times, the Denver Post and (editorial page editor of) The Dallas Morning News. Pulitzer winners last year included The New York Times, Denver Post and editorial writers for The Dallas Morning News.

But this can all seem like splitting hairs. So I’m taking myself out of the running. Because I don’t want this to distract from the purpose of the New England Art Awards, which it to get lots of people together to recognize the best of what we’re making here in New England, and have a party about it. Hurray!

“Boston Does Boston IV” at Proof

Thursday, January 20th, 2011


Our review of “Boston Does Boston IV” at Proof Gallery in Boston:

Proof Gallery rounds up a compellingly idiosyncratic snapshot of local talent in its fourth annual “Boston Does Boston” show. Gallery director Kara Braciale invited three artists — Suara Welitoff of Cambridge, Rebecca Roberts of Newton, and Kurt Ralske of New York (he teaches at RISD) — to exhibit. Each was also asked to pick a local artist to join the show; they chose, respectively, Jonathan Calm, Julia Featheringill, and Meg Rotzel.

Welitoff makes brief looped videos, often of found, grainy footage that’s been slowed down, with the color contrast pumped up. Most are not narratives, but at their best they can suggest curiously mesmerizing amplified dream moments: two hummingbirds seeming to kiss, police running off protesters, a couple chatting. Here she presents “Girl with a Book” (pictured at top), a brief, black-and-white, slo-mo shot of a seated woman reading. The woman runs her finger back and forth across the page, as if following along with the words, or maybe reading Braille. As usual, Welitoff is looking to pinpoint the alluring edge between ordinary and mysterious, but in the end this image feels too ordinary, so the spell doesn’t hold.


Roberts’s “Now and Then” (pictured above), with its catchy, lyrical pattern of alternating, wiggly curved lines stitched together from blue, green, brown, and orange fabrics, calls to mind hard-edged mid-century Los Angeles abstraction. Ralske offers “The Enraged Algorithm,” a video of flickering North African faces (excerpts for the 1966 film The Battle of Algiers run through facial-recognition software) to which he adds some tacked-up papers: a Google map of venues screening the movie; piles of rocks, with a green square around one that might be picking out its resemblance to a face; a blurry image that resembles a mass of digitally stretched hands; and a sheet of words with Arabic origins with the “al” or “el” cut off (“chemy, cohol, gebra, gorithm”). His point is vague — perhaps he’s hinting at something about profiling people and Middle Eastern strains in our own culture.

Featheringill presents a deadpan-joke photo of a wastepaper basket filled with Post-it notes scribbled with the word “done.” Rotzel sketches a pair of abstract bars (or wood planks) on the wall — a cloud swirls around the middle of one, an arrow shoots through the center of the other. Calm offers a grainy abstract photo of a rectangle. These works are less satisfying, in part because their points are obscure. More context — like a selection of Featheringill’s dry, witty, fumbling observations — might help.

Boston Does Boston IV” at Proof Gallery, 512 E. 2nd St., South Boston, Dec. 11, 2010, to Jan. 29, 2011.

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Thursday, Jan. 20, 12:15 p.m.
Marla Miller, associate professor and director of the public history program at UMass Amherst, speaks about “Betsy Ross and the Making of America” at Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington St., Boston. $6.

Wednesday, Jan. 26, 6 p.m.
Beehive Collective of Machias, Maine, presents “The True Cost of Coal,” a “picture-lecture” about their 15-foot graphic about mountaintop removal coal mining and the broader impact of coal usage in Appalachia and beyond to prompt a discussion of contemporary struggles over energy and coal. At Cambridge Arts Council Gallery, Cambridge City Hall Annex, 344 Broadway, Cambridge.

Thursday, Jan. 27, 12:15 p.m.
Textile historian Lynne Bassett talks about “Out of Whole Cloth: Quilting in the Pre-Industrial Era” at Old South Meeting House, 310 Washington St., Boston. $6.

Thursday, Jan. 27, 6 p.m.
Susan Danly, curator of photography at the Portland Museum of Art, speaks about “Photography at a Crossroads: Charles Moody and Early Art Photography in Maine” at McArthur Public Library, 270 Main St., Biddeford, Maine. Free.

Saturday, Jan. 29, 2 p.m.
Melissa Renn, a research associate at the Harvard Art Museums, speaks about “Life Magazine’s Key Role in the Promotion of American Modernism: Modernism Comes to the Americas, 1940–1960” at Harvard’s Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 485 Broadway, Cambridge. Free.

Friday, Feb. 4, 2:30 p.m.
Meet the models who inspired Norman Rockwell’s art as they share their personal stories at Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Route 183, Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Vote for the 2010 New England Art Awards

Monday, January 17th, 2011


The 2010 New England Art Awards is a contest to honor the best art made here, local writing about local art, and exhibits organized here in 2010. And we want you to help us pick the winners via the online ballot here. You must follow that link to vote. Votes submitted as comments will be ignored.

Everyone is welcome to vote here. Winners will be chosen by (1) local active art journalists and (2) anyone else who wants to vote – and will be announced in terms of these two categories of voters.

Winners will be announced at the 2010 New England Art Awards Ball at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 9, 2011, at the Burren, 247 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville, Massachusetts. The event is free and open to all. Creative attire is encouraged.

How to vote:
Voting is automated – and our robots are standing by to receive your picks. You are welcome to vote in as many categories as you like or to leave lots of blanks. Please invite your friends to vote too. Votes must be submitted by 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 25, to be counted. The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research will tally the votes. Nominees with the most votes in each category will win.

Voting will only be accepted via the robot voting form. We ask each voter to submit a name and e-mail address to prevent fraud. Cheaters will be banished. If you spot factual errors in the ballot, please send corrections here.

The aim of the awards, which are organized by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research, is to promote a more exciting local art scene by encouraging and celebrating the work of artists, curators and art writers active in New England (except Yalies).

What’s happened so far:
The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research invited everyone to make nominations in late December and 123 people made about 900 submissions. (Thank you.) We asked readers to volunteer to help us cull the nominations and recruited some more folks to pitch in. This team – Maggie Cavallo, outreach coordinator for the galleries at Montserrat College of Art; Franklin Einspruch of Franklin Einspruch’s Journal; Katherine French, director of the Danforth Museum; Liz Geller of FiveSevenDelle Project Space; Debbie Hagan, editor-in-chief of Art New England; and James Montford, director of Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery (thank you) – helped us narrow down the nominations to the final voting ballot that we present here. (Note: These kind folks were asked not to address categories in which they or their institutions were nominated.)

To those of you who received nominations but did not make the final ballot, please keep at it. We want you to kick ass in 2011 and be on next year’s ballot.