Archive for April, 2011

Institute for Infinitely Small Things “The Border Crossed Us”

Saturday, April 30th, 2011

It was around 10 a.m. one March day last year, when Catherine D’Ignazio and her sister drove away from the Arizona home of Ofelia Rivas, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation who has opposed the construction of the U.S. border fence through the tribe’s reservation [pictured above], which straddles the U.S. and Mexico. Rivas’s home is a simple one-room house in the desert village of Ali Jegk, located between two mountain ranges.

After visiting Rivas to talk about the fence, they were headed back to D’Ignazio’s sister’s home in Tucson, while Rivas followed in her minivan. A U.S. Border Patrol SUV tailed them for a while before its lightbar began flashing and the officer pulled over Rivas. “Not even a half mile from her house the Border Patrol stopped her,” D’Ignazio says. The D’Ignazio sisters turned around and waited for Rivas, who was asked a few questions before being sent on her way again.

“It was eye opening because it was she who was stopped and not us,” D’Ignazio says. “I felt like such a foreigner in that land. I felt so out of my normal landscape, my normal sun. This is where she was born. Their tribal creation story is set in this land. … I talked to her afterwards and she said it was an everyday occurrence.”

Out of such experiences came “The Border Crossed Us,” an installation that D’Ignazio has created under the banner of the Boston art collective The Institute for Infinitely Small Things at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst campus through May 1. The centerpiece of the project is a 400-foot-long barrier interrupting busy walkways through the campus. It’s made from five sections of chain-link fence covered by mesh printed with photos of the U.S. –Mexico border fence.
“My original goal was to create—it was always going to be a fiction—but to create this fiction of a material encounter with the fence,” D’Ignazio says. “When you actually encounter it in the landscape, it’s so stark and so striking. … It’s so regular and so violent and like a Christo piece. And also it’s dividing this community in half. … They’re living in this state where they’re under constant suspicion because they’re not white.”

Since the Sept. 11 attacks, D’Ignazio has been contemplating “these visible ways we’re becoming more scared.” It has prompted art projects she has done with The Institute for Infinitely Small Things and solo pieces like “It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston,” which had her jogging Boston’s entire evacuation route system in 2007, routes the government marked in 2006 to identify ways for residents to vacate the city in the event of a massive calamity. And now this contemplation had brought her from her home in Waltham, Massachusetts, to the Tohono O’odham Nation and the U.S.-Mexico border fence. [Pictured below, from left: Rivas, D'Ignazio's sister, D'Ignazio's son Gus, and D'Ignazio at Rivas's home.]

Parts of the United States’ border with Mexico have long been fenced, but the U.S. government’s “Secure Fence Act of 2006” authorized construction of hundreds of miles of new fencing along the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as new checkpoints and electronic surveillance, all “to control our borders and reform our immigration system.” This lead in 2007 to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security erecting a fence that bisected a 75-mile stretch of Tohono O’odham land, the second largest Native American reservation in the country. Some tribal leaders supported the fence as a way to reduce drug smugglers and undocumented immigrants from crossing their land, according to news reports, but other members of the tribe, like Rivas, protested the division of tribal lands and how it would divide their people and obstruct ceremonial practices.

“The border is in her backyard basically. It’s a quarter mile from where she lives, where she was born,” D’Ignazio says. “Her father’s community is 25 miles away [in Mexico]. She used to be able to get there in an hour and now it takes her six hours because of all the checkpoints.”

“There’s this border fence, but there’s also this security apparatus. It’s not only the land divided, but you’re under suspicion at all times,” D’Ignazio adds. “…It’s a way of living that we can’t really imagine and we wouldn’t stand for if it was happening to everyone. … It’s this military security state down there.”

When UMass Amherst invited D’Ignazio to do a project there as part of a series of pieces the school was curating while its art gallery is undergoing renovation, she proposed a replica fence. Plus a sign usually displaying a campus map has been repurposed for the run of the show with posters printed with border checkpoint questions like “Why are you here?” “How did you get here?” “Are you a citizen?” “May I touch you?” “Where are you going?” Viewers are invited to text their response the project website. The vents of a nearby campus parking garage broadcast a field recording of helicopters flying over the border fence and Rivas singing an “Eagle” song, which she describes as a song for strength, and giving a blessing thanking the people of Amherst for hosting the project. The project has also been the subject of UMass class assignments and featured in panels about public art, social activism and indigenous sovereignty.

Of course, doing the project on a major college campus demanded compromises. “There are too many concessions to people’s convenience. If there were a real fence it would be really inconvenient,” D’Ignazio says. “I wish it could have been more outrageous because what’s going on down there is really outrageous.”

“This really matters to all of us,” she adds. “Just like the evacuation routes, these are aesthetic symbolic manifestations of fear. It really matters that we’re erecting hundreds of miles of this fence along the southern border, in the same way it matters that we’re erecting gated communities. I think it’s a problem for democracy that we’re walling ourselves off.”

Institute for Infinitely Small Things “The Border Crossed Us,” University of Massachusetts at Amherst Campus, April 20 to May 1, 2011.

Yokelist Manifesto 10: Is the architecture against us?

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Is new museum architecture against local art?

Looking at the Institute of Contemporary Art’s Foster Prize exhibit showcasing local artists last fall, I kept wondering why the Boston-made art often looked small in the ICA. For example, I’d seen Matthew Rich’s abstract paintings and paper cutouts in other shows and they always felt good sized, even big. But at the ICA they seemed small, which made the art’s ambition and ideas feel small.

A problem is that galleries for post World War II art in the major new structures at the Institute of Contemporary Art and Museum of Fine Arts are built to the scale of the international art Circuit, which is supersized. Like similar contemporary art halls across the country, they’re designed for mural-sized paintings and monumental sculptures. Even Abstract Expressionist canvases can seem dwarfed by the largeness of the top floor of the MFA’s new Art of the Americas Wing.

But in Boston—and other non-art-world-capitals—which artists can afford to make giant paintings and sculptures? And if you make them, who can afford to ship and store them? To keep up a giant output often demands help from assistants. With Boston’s meager art economics, who can afford to hire help? Our economics mean that local artists—especially emerging artists—tend to make smaller works, which get dwarfed by our new architecture.

Many local curators seem unaware of this size problem. There is a fix. At Brown University’s Bell Gallery in Providence, for exhibits of smaller works, the curators often paint the top of the gallery walls a dark color to effect an optical illusion that makes the gallery feel smaller. And it flatters small and mid-sized works.

The dilemmas of size and shipping aren’t just a local issue. Nigeria-based sculptor El Anatsui, whose giant shimmering bottle cap curtains are featured in his splendid retrospective on view at Wellesley College’s Davis Museum, said in an interview for his 2006 exhibit at David Krut Projects in New York: “I think the nomadic aesthetic developed as a result of the need to address a certain problem: to create works that are packing, storage and transportation efficient or friendly. It applies to work that I have done but more especially to what I’m doing now [the bottle cap curtains], which always comes in considerable sizes but can contract and like a nomad, I can move around.” Would these amazing metal curtains, which El Anatsui produces with help from as many as 20 assistants, have become so celebrated internationally if they were less easily shipped?

The Yokelist Papers:
Yokelist Manifesto Number 1: Boston lacks alternative spaces?
Yokelism at the 2008 Boston Art Awards.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 2: Montreal case study.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 3: Hire locally.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 4: We need coverage of our living artists.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 5: We need local retrospectives.
Yokelism update: Coverage of our living artists: Sebastian Smee responds.
Yokelism update: Dangers of Provincialism.
Yokelism update: Re: Dangers of Provincialism.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 6: Could the CIA help?
Yokelism at the 2009 New England Art Awards.
Re: “Yokelism with your wallet out.”
Globe: The revolution begins with Harvard – a Yokelist response.
Yokelist questions Globe diss of Boston.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 7: Can you love Boston art and still love the Foster Prize?
Yokelist Manifesto 8: We need local art history.
Yokelism and the Maud Morgan Prize.

Farver wins Kepes Prize

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Jane Farver, who is scheduled to retire from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s List Visual Arts Center in May after serving as its director for nearly 12 years, has been awarded the 2011 György Kepes Fellowship Prize by MIT’s Council for the Arts, an international volunteer group of alumni and friends established to support the arts at MIT.

The Kepes Prize aims to encourage and celebrate individuals at MIT whose creative work reflects the vision and values of Gyorgy Kepes (1906-2002), the founder of MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies. Juliet Kepes Stone, daughter of György Kepes, is expected to present the award to Farver on May 4.

Jenny Holzer at Williams

Wednesday, April 27th, 2011

Williams College recently installed RISD alum Jenny Holzer’s “715 Molecules,” a stone table and benches sandblasted with the diagrams of 715 molecules including water, caffeine and DDT. The subject of this new public artwork is inspired by its location in the college’s science quadrangle in Williamstown, Massachusetts. It was commissioned by alumni and friends to honor Williams alumnus (class of ’52) and longtime chemistry professor J. Hodge Markgraf (1930-2007).

“A few years before his death,” the school reports, “Hodge encountered a large-scale installation by Jenny Holzer and became fascinated with her work. Corresponding with the artist, he began to pursue the idea of commissioning a piece for the Williams campus. After his death in 2007, students, alumni, and a myriad of supporters decided to continue the task, contributing funds to see Hodge’s dream become a reality on the college campus.”

We’ve not yet seen this piece in person, but the power of Holzer’s work resides heavily in her words, so color us skeptical about how evocative the scientific diagrams will be.

Karl Stevens named finalist for LA book prize

Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

Boston-area cartoonist Karl Stevens, whose work regularly appears in the Boston Phoenix, has been named one of five finalists in the graphic novel category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes for his 2010 comic “The Lodger,” which was also a finalist in the book category of The New England Art Awards earlier this year. Winners are expected to be announced Friday. Stevens is also scheduled to appear at the Boston Comic Con at Hynes Convention Center this weekend.

“The way that comics look are extremely conservative,” Stevens tells the Times. “They haven’t really changed since they’ve been around a hundred years or so. They’re just, by and large, really abstracted, iconic visual pantomimes. There’s just a weird consistency to them. I would like the words ‘comic strip,’ ‘graphic novel,’ whatever, to be more about a different type of a visual narrative. … I really want to make comics very subtle. For the past 100 years there have only been a few exceptions, and I feel like that can really be explored. Even the ones that are about just people, even those have a certain kind of exaggerated quality that just seems false.”

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Monday, April 25th, 2011

Tuesday, April 26, 5-7 p.m.
Public reception and dedication of new public artwork by Scottish artist Martin Boyce in the lobby of MIT’s David H. Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, 500 Main St., Cambridge.

Tuesday, April 26, 7 p.m.
Artist, architectect and researcher Mark Shepard talks about “Pathetic Fallacies and Category Mistakes: making sense and nonsense of the (near-future) Sentient City” as part of the “Upgrade! Boston” series, at MIT Media Lab (E14), sixth floor room 633, 75 Amherst St., Cambridge. [Pictured above: Shepard’s "Sentient City Survivial Kit: RFID_hers and RFID_his.”]

Wednesday, April 27, 7 p.m.
Barbara Bernstein, an artist and adjunct lecturer at Rhode Island School of Design, presents a grant writing workshop at Hera Gallery, 327 Main St., Wakefield, Rhode Island. $25. Pre-registration required.

Wednesday, April 27, 3 p.m.
The New Hampshire State Council on the Arts celebrates the seven winners of the 2011 Governors Arts Awards with a reception at Red River Theatres, 11 South Main St., Concord. Space is limited to 160 people, so make a reservation by calling 603.271.2789 or e-mail

Thursday, April 28, 2 p.m.
Mike Griffin, congressional liaison with the National Endowment for the Arts discusses how to apply for the federal grants at the Courthouse Center for the Arts, 3481 Kingstown Road, West Kingstown, Rhode Island. RSVP by contacting Suzanne Augenstein at 401-732-9400 or email no later than April 25.

Thursday, April 28, 6:30 p.m.
Artist and educator Robert Rindler discusses his site specific installation with curators Robert Henry and Selina Trieff at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum, 460 Commercial St., Provincetown, Massachusetts. Free.

Thursday, April 28, 7:30 p.m.
Roger Mandle, who became executive director of the Qatar Museums Authority in 2008, speaks about “Emerging World Cultural Leadership from the Gulf – Questions and Issues” at Williams College’s Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall, Bernhard Music Center, 54 Chapin Hall Drive, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Mandle is the former director of the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio (1977-1988), former deputy director and chief durator of the National Gallery of Art (1988-1993), and former president of the Rhode Island School of Design (1993-2008). Free.

Friday, April 29, 6 p.m.
Jane Yolen and Grace Linn speak following a screening of “Library of the Early Mind: A Grown-Up Look at the Art of Children’s Literature,” at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, Massachusetts. $5, reservations required.

Saturday, April 30, to Sunday, May 1
Boston Comic Con at Hynes Convention Center, 900 Boylston St., Boston, features Joe Kubert, Neal Adams, J. Scott Campbell, Gahan Wilson, Stan Sakai, Liz Prince, Joe Quinones, Karl Stevens, Boston Comics Roundtable, and many others.

Monday, May 2, 4 p.m.
Photographer Sally Mann gives the first of three “2011 William E. Massey Sr. Lecture in the History of American Civilization” at Harvard University’s Sackler Auditorium, 485 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Free.

Tuesday, May 3, 5:30 p.m.
Photographer Sally Mann gives the second of three “2011 William E. Massey Sr. Lecture in the History of American Civilization” at Harvard University’s Sackler Auditorium, 485 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Free.

Wednesday, May 4, 4 p.m.
Photographer Sally Mann gives the third of three “2011 William E. Massey Sr. Lecture in the History of American Civilization” at Harvard University’s Sackler Auditorium, 485 Broadway, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Free.

Wednesday, May 4, 5:30 p.m.
The Hive Archive presents a talk on “Preparing for a Craft Fair or Art Festival” at the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, 26 Benevolent Street, Providence. Free, “donations appreciated.”

Judge: Maine Gov. LePage can remove mural

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

A federal judge today rejected a petition for a temporary restraining order seeking to overturn Maine Governor Paul LePage’s unilateral decision to remove a labor history mural from the state Department of Labor offices in Augusta in late March. LePage has complained that the mural was too pro-labor.

“LePage’s removal of a mural from the walls of a state office because he disagreed with its contents may strike some as state censorship; instead, it is a constitutionally permissible exercise of gubernatorial authority,” John A. Woodcock Jr. (pictured above), chief justice of the U.S. District Court of Maine, writes in his 45-page ruling. The resolution of the debate between those who criticize LePage’s move and those who support it, he adds, “must not rest with judicial authority of a federal court. It must rest instead with the ultimate authority of the people of the state of Maine to choose their leader.”

In denying the request of plaintiffs John Newton, Donald Berry, Jonathan Beal, Joan Braun, Natasha Mayers and Robert Shetterly, Woodcock declared that stated-owned works of art “are government speech” and “It is not the business of the federal court to decide what messages the elected leaders of the state of Maine should send about the policies of the state.” Woodcock concludes, “Maine’s political leaders, who are ultimately responsible to the electorate, are entitled to select the views they want to express.”

“Now and Then and When” at RIC

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

From our review of “Now and Then and When” at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery:

“Now and Then and When,” organized by Bebe Beard, aims to channel something about telecommunications and graphing, I think, but the exhibit is all set-up and little payoff.

The collective Astrodime Transit Authority (of which Beard is a part) commemorates the laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable in 1858 with a video documenting a 2008 performance in which participants lined up on one of the Boston Harbor islands to relay messages via tin can telephones.

Read the rest here.

“Now and Then and When,” Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery (600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Providence, April 7 to 27, 2011.

Pictured at top: Audrey Goldstein’s “Data Bearer.”

Astrodime Transit Authority.

Kasia Molga.

“Contained” at BCA

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

“Contained,” a group show guest curated by local art critic John Pyper at the Boston Center for the Arts’ Mills Gallery, mulls “the life cycle of buildings, the unimaginable size of shipping containers and the vulnerability of nature to the more common trash barrels, plants and decorative gates that we interact with everyday.”

Philadelphia artist Alex Lukas’s untitled 2011 tour-de-force painting (pictured above) depicts ruins of buildings standing in a swamp under an ominous overcast sky. Rendered with watercolor, gouache, ink, acrylic and silkscreen and displayed on an about 10-foot-wide, custom-built frame that resembles a scaled-down billboard, the picture depicts destroyed cinder block walls of buildings. They’re cracked and moldy, and sprayed with graffiti. Chimneys, left after the rest of their buildings apparently rotted away, stand as sentinels. Elevated train tracks break off into a sheer dead end. An overturned car sits in a stream dotted with tires. A dead tree is carved with graffiti. It feels like the post-global-warming end of the world—though it’s mysterious why the buildings would be shattered the way they are. Maybe there was a war too?

It’s instructive to compare Lukas’s astonishing realism to the pair of watercolors here of graffitied old mill buildings by Tristram Lansdowne of Toronto. (Pictured above: Lansdowne’s “Hamburg Palimpsest.”) At first glance the works feel similar, but Lansdowne’s rendering is not as sharp, which spoils the illusion. And Lansdowne’s pictures are more straightforward representations, without the alluring apocalyptic intrigue of Lukas’s visions.

Other works include Pennsylvania artist Mark Franchino’s little wooden trash dumpsters that seem to be made from repurposed pre-fab cabinets; Miami sculptor Frances Trombly’s fabric woven to resemble a black plastic trash bag surrounded by crumpled up sheets of lined notebook paper on the floor; Medford, Massachusetts, sculptor Ted Ollier’s long Plexiglas box holding a tiny model of a shipping container to demonstrate the relative scale of cargo ships and their cargo; and Hartford artist Matthew Best’s quick, loose, little sketches of edible plants he spotted on visits to D.C. or Paris or Providence. (Pictured above: Best’s “SuburbanForaging.”) Aesthetically these works are interesting, but not exactly riveting.

But Pyper has put his finger on a current trend toward serious, highly-detailed realism and scale modeling to depict urban architecture and decay. It seems to somehow come out of Lowbrow’s gleeful, rascally embrace of kids cartoons, toys (models), and urban graffiti.

“Contained,” Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St., Boston, March 18 to April 24, 2011.

“The History of American Graffiti”

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011

From our report on the new book “The History of American Graffiti” by Caleb Neelon of Cambridge and Roger Gastman of Los Angeles:

“‘Taki 183′ Spawns Pen Pals,” announced the headline in the July 21, 1971, New York Times. It told the story of a 17-year-old Greek kid named Demetrius (Taki is a traditional nickname) living on 183rd Street in Manhattan who had taken to scrawling “Taki 183″ in marker on subway cars and stations between his home in Washington Heights and his high school in Midtown, on lampposts and walls while on his job delivering cosmetics to Upper East Side and Gramercy Park homes, and really all over New York City. His tagging made him famous among his peers, inspiring many others to take up markers, and infamous among civic leaders, who struggled to control the vandalism.

“I just did it everywhere I went,” he told the Times then. “I still do, though not as much. You don’t do it for the girls; they don’t seem to care. You do it for yourself. You don’t go after it to be elected president.”

Forty years on, Taki is honored as one of graffiti’s founding fathers in the new book “The History of American Graffiti” (Harper Design, $40) by Caleb Neelon of Cambridge, whose own paintings will be exhibited at the DeCordova Museum in Lincoln in June, and Roger Gastman of Los Angeles, a co-curator of the April exhibit “Art in the Streets” at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art. In a proliferating library of graffiti books, the 410-page tome stakes a major claim at being the definitive history of the art form. And it’s astonishingly illustrated by hundreds of snapshots, mostly by the artists themselves. “Nearly every single artwork featured in this book,” Neelon and Gastman note, “has been destroyed.”

Read the rest here.

Pictured at top: Ryze, Boston, 1992.

Taki 183 and Worship God, Manhattan, c. 1970.

Kindo and Part, Coney Island maintenance yard, 1976.

Iz The Wiz, New York City subway, c. 1981.

Tracy 168, Fab Five Freddy, and Lady Pink painting the Coolidge Corner Theater for the Wild Style Boston Premiere, December 1983.

Austin, Texas graffiti writer, c. 1986.

Popeye, aka Jordan Knight of the New Kids on the Block, Mattapan trolley line, 1986.

SR.One, Brookline, 1986.

Smith, Sane, and Case2, Queens, c 1987.

Revs and Cost, Manhattan, 1993.

“American Graffiti” by Revok and Rime, Los Angeles, 2010.

Meme to close in May

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

Meme gallery has announced that it plans to close at the end of May, after two years of exhibits and performances at 55 Norfolk St. in Cambridge. And the gallery is inviting people to a close out night of performance, sound, video and food on May 21.

“”Meme has been primarily a self-funded project sustained out-of-pocket and managed during those hours between work and sleep,” organizers Alice Vogler, Vela Phelan and Dirk Adams write. “As working artists pursuing the scheduling at Meme and our day jobs, we have had little time for much else. First as a team of six people, then as a team of three, Meme has been a challenge both in terms of time and money. We have no complaints doing it this way, but the fact is, this model for an art space is unsustainable.

They add: “Cities like Cambridge and Boston have programs designed to reach everyday citizens through public art and community art. They put money toward this effort, have meetings about it, and write guidelines for implementing these programs. What often gets in the way of these admirable efforts is a bureaucratic over-thinking of what the public wants and gets out of art and other creative enterprises. We at Meme discovered that if you run a space guided by your own vision and enthusiasm, people will find enjoyment or connection in unexpected places. It was never our focus to make art for the local community. We put on shows that we wanted to see and people responded, in particular, folks from our local neighborhood in Central Square.”

Shellburne Thurber

Tuesday, April 19th, 2011

From our review of Cambridge photographer Shellburne Thurber‘s exhibit at “9 Wellington Street” at Barbara Krakow Gallery in Boston:

Shellburne Thurber is sometimes identified as the one Boston School photographer who stuck around. Like those who left — Nan Goldin, Philip Lorca diCorcia, Mark Morrisroe — she has photographed friends and family. But the Cantabrigian is best known for her shots of interiors: her late mom’s childhood home, motels, the Boston Athenæum undergoing renovations, and abandoned, falling-apart Southern houses. “I became intrigued by the uncanny way in which inhabited spaces take on the energy of those who live and work in them,” Thurber has said.

Her exhibit “9 Wellington Street” at Barbara Krakow Gallery features photos from 2004 to ’09 of the former South End brownstone of environmental scientist, lawyer, writer, and painter Ralph Horne.

Read the rest here.

Shellburne Thurber, “9 Wellington Street,” Barbara Krakow Gallery, 10 Newbury St., Boston, March 19 to April 26, 2011.

Pictured at top: Shellburne Thurber, “9 Wellington Street: First floor library – two ornate carved side chairs and lace curtain,” 2004-2009.

Krakow Gallery installation view.

Shellburne Thurber, “9 Wellington Street: Back yard with statue and gazebo,” 2004-2009.

Shellburne Thurber, “9 Wellington Street: Dennis’ bedroom – Toy closet and Victorian cane chair,” 2004-2009.

Shellburne Thurber, “9 Wellington Street: Ralph’s bedroom – Long view of window wall with teddy bear,” 2004-2009.

Shellburne Thurber, “9 Wellington Street: Statue on banister in front hallway,” 2004-2009.

Krakow Gallery installation view.

Globe’s Smee wins Pulitzer

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Sebastian Smee, art critic for The Boston Globe, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for criticism today “for his vivid and exuberant writing about art, often bringing great works to life with love and appreciation.” The prize, which is the preeminent award for newspaper journalism, comes with $10,000 cash. Globe art critic Mark Feeney won the Pulitizer Prize for criticism in 2008. This seems to make the Globe the only newspaper in America to have two full time staff Pulitzer Prize winning visual art critics.

Rachel Perry Welty

Monday, April 18th, 2011

Our review of Rachel Perry Welty‘s exhibit “24/7″ at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum:

Gloucester artist Rachel Perry Welty’s exhibit “24/7,” organized by deputy director Nick Capasso and curatorial fellow Lexi Lee Sullivan at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, shows where Pop Art has gone in the wake of Rosler, Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s ’70s homemaker performances, and the accumulationist (plus Martha Stewart) æsthetic of contemporary Minimalists like Tara Donovan.

Welty makes absurdist conceptual art about the consumerist junk — email spam, twist ties, store muzak — that inundates contemporary American life. In the 2001 to 2004 video “Karaoke Wrong Number” (pictured at left), she lip-synchs to wrong-number messages she’s received. You laugh at how well her face becomes the various callers, especially as their mistakes dawn on them. Elsewhere, she transcribes the lyrics of songs she’s heard in a liquor store or an orthodontist’s office into cut-out-magazine-letter ransom notes of canned romantic longing. But when she leans toward data processing — like 37 pages of her son’s medical bill obscured behind a code of colored dots — the art loses its emotional core and grows tedious.

Her 2010 “Lost in My Life” photos (pictured at top and below) show Welty dressed in outfits that camouflage her into backgrounds of cereal boxes, bread twist ties, Styrofoam take-out cartons. In the best one, she chameleons into the background because her clothes, her tote bag, everything is covered with a fabric she printed from price tags. It’s a magical disappearing act in which she and consumerism beautifully, unsettlingly become one.

Rachel Perry Welty “24/7,” DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln, Massachusetts, Jan. 29 to April 24, 2011.

Pictured at top: Rachel Perry Welty, “Lost in my life (Price tags),” 2009.

“Lost in my life (fruit stickers),” 2010.

“Lost in my life (Boxes),” 2009.