Archive for September, 2011

Hub Review and NEJAR sagely examine

the MFA contemporary wing

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Thomas Garvey of the highly recommended Hub Review and New England Journal of Aesthetic Research custodian Greg Cook have teamed up for an e-mail discussion of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ new Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art. And Garvey has kindly posted their exchange for our readers’ general edification.

Highlights of part one, include Garvey saying:

“If ever there was a local piece of design crying out for some sort of transformative violation, it was I.M. Pei’s elegantly dull West Wing (Pei himself didn’t like it that much). But the MFA hasn’t made any such architectural gesture, and so much of the space now awkwardly maps to its new program. And the changes they HAVE made are sometimes puzzling – or don’t feel like much of a change at all.”

And Cook saying:

“Yeah, it strikes me as dull shopping mall architecture too. Partly I think it’s the glass galleria (the MFA’s term), and the way the middle of the building becomes a long, awkward hall taking you past the bookstore and, uh, food court. Which is why Michael Phelan’s 2009 neon “Bless You Taco Bell,” installed above the MFA’s Bravo restaurant, is amusing. Perhaps unintentionally, it teases this mall-ness that aspires to something more classy.”

Cook adds:

“You can’t help noting that the new MFA wing presents a number of artists who’ve been featured at the ICA in recent years—Bradford, Charles LeDray, Roni Horn, Kader Attia. But except for Attia, the MFA acquired these works before their ICA surveys. I mean, the MFA got the Horn in 1992 and LeDray in 1994, more than a decade and a half before their 2010 ICA surveys.”

And in part two, Garvey contends:

“As I toured the galleries, I was slightly startled to realize that in the past fifty years or so the MFA hasn’t picked up a single masterpiece, and only a few truly major works. They certainly have major artists on the walls, but those artists are rarely represented by their best stuff.”

In part three, Cook argues:

“I think the MFA has decided that its unique brand is that it’s encyclopedic. What they mean by that is that they’re comprehensive, they’ve got everything from all time. It’s not about a special vision, or highlighting your institution’s idiosyncratic strengths. It’s about acting like you’ve got everything. So maybe the contemporary collection is based on the standard history because to do otherwise would somehow say that the MFA is not truly comprehensive, not truly encyclopedic.”

Photo by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Honk fest is this weekend

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

New England’s landmark Honk marching band festival blasts into Somerville, Massachusetts, this weekend. It features performances by 28 bands from as close as Boston and Providence and Portland, and as far away as Austin, Milwaukee, Montreal and Vancouver. It is one of the rare New England art projects that has inspired spin-offs around the country–and was a people’s-choice prize winner at the 2010 New England Art Awards.

Honk includes a ticketed show at Johnny D’s Uptown on Sept. 30; free outdoor performances from noon to 9 p.m. around Somerville’s Davis Square on Saturday; a free parade from Somerville’s Davis Square to Cambridge’s Harvard Square beginning at noon Sunday; free outdoor performances at the Harvard Square Oktoberfest from 2:15 to 6 p.m. Sunday; and ticketed performances during a Boston Harbor cruise at 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

If that’s not enough Honk for you, the related Pronk marching band festival in Providence runs from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, 2011. Performances at India Point Park from 4 to 6 p.m. Parade down Wickenden Street at 6:30 p.m. Showcase performances on the Providence River from 7:15 to 10 p.m. Free.

Also, while you’re at Honk, check out the Honk photo show at Inside-Outside Gallery (aka the CVS windows), 1 Davis Square, Somerville, through Oct. 2. It features photos by New England Journal of Aesthetic Research custodian Greg Cook (conflict of interest alert!) plus Mark Dannenhauer, Jesse Edsell-Vetter, Ben Greenberg and Chris Yeager.

Photo of Honk 2010 at top by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Naho Taruishi

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

From our review of Naho Taruishi’s “Corner Projection Series No. 6″ show via R.K. Projects in Providence:

The excellent, nomadic, local curatorial duo Tabitha Piseno and Sam Keller of R.K. Projects has a new pop-up exhibit at 60 Orange Street (through September 30) by Naho Taruishi of New York. Her aptly titled “Corner Projection Series No. 6″ is an eight-minute projection of white geometric designs into the corner of the room, with the standard-issue buzzing drone soundtrack by Laura Cetilia. A blade of light grows in the corner and transforms into columns and rectangles inside rectangles, kaleidoscopically mirrored across the corner. It’s slow and meditative, but at times dull. Some might register spiritual cues in the dawning lights, or it might read simply as animated minimalism.

Originally published here.

Naho Taruishi’s “Corner Projection Series No. 6,” R.K. Projects, 60 Orange St., Providence, Sept. 9 to 30, 2011.

Damon Lehrer, Rick Berry

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

Two things stand out about Damon Lehrer’s paintings—(1) paint doing what it’s meant to do and (2) naked ladies.

Lehrer’s art is featured with paintings by Rick Berry in “It Figures” at William Scott Gallery in Boston, which has operated in Provincetown since 1995 and opened in Boston in February.

Berry of Arlington, Massachusetts, has a flashy (sometimes too flashy), brooding, sexy, bravura style of illustrative painting in the tradition of LeRoy Neiman. [Berry's "The False Maria" is pictured above.] It’s a style that has made him a premiere illustrator for Marvel and DC comics (including Neil Gaiman’s 1990s gothic fantasy series “Sandman”) and various book publishers (he’s often credited with the “first digitally painted cover for a novel in the world” for his cover for William Gibson’s 1984 novel “Neuromancer”).

But we’re more interested in Lehrer, whose realism is, well, more meaty. Lehrer lives in Lexington and shares his Somerville studio with the Boston Figurative Art Center, an organization he founded to promote figurative art in Boston, and his paintings often have the verisimilitude as well as a staginess that can come from working faithfully from live studio models. Lehrer’s technique is lush, and rife with the enjoyment of paint as he imagines the scantily-clad models in fantasy scenarios.

For example, his painting, originally titled “The Nymph” (pictured above), of a bored-looking blonde woman in blue underwear laying prone on pillows in an imagined wilderness. (He’s since renamed it “Girl in Woods (Blue Bikini).”) Or “Lethargic Picnic,” which features two naked guys and a naked lady tangled up together, and tangled with a tiger as well, all set in a sketched in landscape leading to a blue, blue sea. Or “Boxer” (pictured at top), which depicts a topless busty blonde woman wearing boxing gloves, shorts and mismatched shoes. She stands in a heroic desert and mountains landscape, with her arms raised, hiding her face (and making her anonymous), and showing off her breasts. In “Pirates” (pictured below), a pale naked lady embraces or wrestles a pirate above a tropical beach. A string of pearls shatters in her hand. He’s wearing Timberland boots—which breaks the illusion of historical (and somewhat cheesy) fantasy, gives the scene an air of B-movies, and reminds us of the bizarro studio reality.

Basically we’re in Bouguereau territory, but with the Frenchman’s neoclassicism replaced by a pulp sensibility—and thongs. Lehrer’s paintings also bring to mind John Currin’s ironic paintings of naked ladies. But there’s no irony in Lehrer.

“It Figures: Rick Berry and Damon Lehrer,” William Scott Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, Sept. 9 to 30, 2011.
Berry “Club Night”

Berry “Amanda in ‘Cabaret’”

Berry “Blind Faith”

Berry “Ride”

Lehrer “Itinerant”

Lehrer “The Grownups”

Rhode Island College faculty exhibit

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

From our review of Bannister Gallery‘s “Annual Faculty Exhibition” at Rhode Island College:

William Martin’s “Plugjoint” (pictured above) sits on the floor, resembling a giant keychain or a pair of steampunk jet engines fashioned from rusty metal and scorched wood barrel planking. His “Zugverbindung” (the title is apparently German for railroad service or train connection) looks (pictured below) like the matte black steel boiler and smokestack of a mini-steam train locomotive. A chain comes out of one end and links to a metal ball surrounded by a pair of rings. It’s like a cross between a prisoner’s ball-and-chain and a mace or a naval mine. It speaks of bondage and industry and maybe S&M. But mostly Martin’s curious industrial shapes, with their dreamlike echoes of familiar machines, are alluring mysteries.

Read the rest here.

Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery, “Annual Faculty Exhibition,” 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Providence, Sept. 8 to 30, 2011.

MFA transfers classical statue to Turkey

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts announced Friday that it has given the government of Turkey the museum’s 2nd century Roman marble sculpture “Weary Herakles” (pictured above) so that it could be with its matching bottom half, which is owned by the Antalya Museum in southwestern Turkey. The MFA says its agreement with Turkey stipulates “that the MFA acquired the object in good faith and without knowledge of any ownership or title issues.”

The MFA reports:

“The MFA acquired a half-interest in the sculpture in 1981 from a dealer in Frankfurt, Germany; the other half-interest was owned by collectors Leon Levy and Shelby White. The work was accessioned into the MFA’s collection at the end of 1981 and first displayed in 1982. …

“In 1990, when the statue was on loan to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition ["Glories of the Past: Ancient Art from the Shelby White and Leon Levy Collection" in 1990–1991], a scholar noted its similarity to the bottom half of a Herakles sculpture that had been excavated in 1980 in Perge, Turkey (the bottom half held by the Antalya Museum). Shortly thereafter, the Turkish government claimed ownership of the sculpture. In 1992, the museum conducted scientific testing on ‘Weary Herakles,’ and casts were made of the MFA torso and the sculpture excavated from Perge. The two pieces fit together, and it was determined that they originally formed one sculpture, which was at some time broken apart. When the break occurred and when and where the torso was excavated have not been documented.

“The MFA and Turkey have been in discussions since the early 1990s regarding how the two pieces might be reunited. After the museum acquired full interest of the top half of the sculpture in 2004, it contacted Turkey regarding a resolution, and yesterday (September 22, 2011) the MFA’s Board of Trustees voted to deaccession the sculpture.”

“Outside the Lines” at Providence Art Club

Monday, September 26th, 2011

From our review of “Outside the Lines: New Classics from Top Drawer Art Center,” featuring 20 artists from Top Drawer’s art programs in Warren, Rhode Island, for adults with developmental disabilities, at the Providence Art Club:

The collection is a mixed bag, but the most striking artworks are fired by an obsessive drive to animate every space. … Michael Pascale’s marker drawing “That 70s Show” (pictured above) is a radiating field of dozens and dozens of smiling people, drawn in a beguiling childlike manner amongst patches of blue, red, green, and yellow. At the top Pascale writes a list of “friends” from the television sitcom, and includes himself. It might be about craving that sort of community, but at the same time it’s infectiously happy.

Read the rest here.

“Outside the Lines: New Classics from Top Drawer Art Center,” Providence Art Club, 11 Thomas Street, Providence, Sept. 6 to 30, 2011.

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Monday, September 26th, 2011

Monday, Sept. 26, noon
David Leff, author of “The Last Undiscovered Place,” a portrait of the town of Collinsville, Connecticut, uses the town as a case study to discuss what physical and community features must be preserved, enhanced or be allowed to change in order to maintain a place’s social and economic viability. At Architects Building, 52 Broad Street, Boston. Free. RSVP to

Monday, Sept. 26, 7 p.m.
Tess Thackara, director of Survival International, speaks about “Popularizing the Fight for Indigenous Rights: How Using Films and Images Can Shift Public Opinion and Change History” at MIT’s Bartos Theater, Wiesner Building (E15), 20 Ames St., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Free.

Wednesday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.
Lucie Searle of AS220 speaks about “How to Secure a Space of Your ‘Own’—To Buy or Not To Buy” at 131 Washington St., suite 210, Providence, Rhode Island. Organized by Rhode Island State Council on the Arts. Free. Register:

Thursday, Sept. 29, 6 p.m.
Pavel Schmidt with panel discussion speaks about his exhibit at “Franz Kafka—Verschrieben & Verzeichnet,” Harvard’s Carpenter Center, 24 Quincy St., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Free.

Thursday, Sept. 29, to Saturday, Oct. 1
The Center for Cartoon Studies, 94 South Main St., White River Junction, Vermont, hosts the International Comic Arts Forum, an annual academic conference “dedicated to promoting the scholarly study and appreciation of comic art.” Free.

Friday, Sept. 30, to Saturday, Oct. 1
A symposium about art and war, in connection with the exhibit “For the Record,” at Montserrat College of Art, Beverly, Massachusetts. Includes talks or workshops by James O’Neil, Combat Paper Project, Wayne Burton, Susanne Slavick, Nina Berman, Steven Dubin and Gordon Arnold. Keynote speech by Robert Storr at 8 p.m. Sept. 30. Free but registration required. Contact:

Friday, Sept. 30, to Sunday, Oct. 2
The Honk marching band festival features performances around Somerville, Massachusetts, all weekend, including a ticketed show at Johnny D’s Uptown on Sept. 30; free outdoor performances from noon to 9p.m. around Somerville’s Davis Square on Saturday; a free parade from Somerville’s Davis Square to Cambridge’s Harvard Square beginning at noon Sunday; free outdoor performances at the Harvard Square Oktoberfest from 2:15 to 6 p.m. Sunday; and ticketed performances during a Boston Harbor cruise at 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Details at

Saturday, Oct. 1, 9 a.m. to noon
The Costume Society of America’s annual meeting focuses on the work of the late Cape Ann textile guild Folly Coe Designers. At the Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant St., Gloucester, Massachusetts. Program includes a short film and talk by independent curator, Elena Sarni. $40 non-members. Registration and pre-payment is required.

Monday, Oct. 3, 4-10 p.m.
Pronk marching band festival in Providence. Performances at India Point Park from 4 to 6 p.m. Parade down Wickenden Street at 6:30 p.m. Showcase performances on the Providence River from 7:15 to 10 p.m. Free.

Monday, Oct. 3, 5:30 p.m.
Shahzia Sikander speaks in connection with her exhibit “The Exploding Company Man and Other Abstractions” at MassArt’s Tower Auditorium, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston. Free.

Friday, Oct. 7, 7 p.m.
Greg Cook of The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research presents a free screening of videos from YouTube documenting the Afghanistan War on the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the fighting at Montserrat College of Art’s Odd Fellows Building, room 201, 194 Cabot St., Beverly, Massachusetts.

Saturday, Oct. 8, 5:30 p.m.
Greg Cook of The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research presents a free screening of videos from YouTube documenting the Afghanistan War on the 10th anniversary of the beginning of the fighting at AS220, 115 Empire St., Providence, Rhode Island.

Mass. Independent Comics Expo is Saturday

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

The Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo runs from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, 2001, at Lesley University’s University Hall, 1815 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, Massachusetts. Admission is free. The show features booths of independent, alternative, small-press and self-published comics, webcomics and zines. The expo also offers an exhibit of comic art from New England in University Hall’s Atrium Gallery from Sept. 10 to Oct. 16, 2011, from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. daily.

A.R.A. Gallery to close

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

A.R.A. art gallery, run by Ingrid Swanson in Hamilton, Massachusetts, is planning to close after a final show and sale from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23, 2011. The gallery was founded in 1975.

RI Food Bank’s “Nothing” campaign at Craftland

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

Craftland at 235 Westminster St. in Providence is hosting the Rhode Island Community Food Bank’s “Nothing” campaign from Sept. 1 to 30, 2011. The installation is a faux old timey grocery store filled with stacks of cans labeled “Nothing–An Unnecessary Tradition.” Each empty can is on sale for a donation of $2.99 to the food bank, which says for each can it sells it will be able to provide its Rhode Island clients with 10 pounds of food.

Alex MacLean

Thursday, September 22nd, 2011

Alex MacLean of Lincoln, Massachusetts, photographs while flying his small two-seater airplane, gazing down at housing developments and parking lots, harbor docks and orchards. What from ground often seems like chaos is revealed from a bird’s-eye-view as ornate, fractal pattern, as if American civilization was in fact some great industrial Busby Berkeley number. In his show at the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, the images fall somewhere between tilt-shift aerial photography, which turns communities into cute toy landscapes, and Edward Burtynsky’s documents of industry, but with not so much of the environmental critique. Instead MacLean, looking down from heights at which people look like ants, conveys a sense of people as social creatures creating elaborate, dense, wondrous colonies.

Alex MacLean “Along the Shore,” Clark Gallery, 145 Lincoln Road, Lincoln, Massachusetts, Sept. 6 to Oct. 2,2011. Note: MacLean speaks at the gallery at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 23.

Pictured at top: Alex MacLean, “Dinghies Clustered Around Dock – 2.”

“Goodyear, AZ – 4″

“Larsen, Oahu, HI – 5″


“Codevigo, Veneto, Italy”

AS220 Photo Lottery is Sept. 24

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

AS220 at 115 Empire St. in Providence holds its fifth biennial Photo Lottery from 6 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011. “When you purchase a ticket to the Photo Lottery you are guaranteed to win one of over 150 photo-based artworks. In addition to helping AS220 Photo meet our financial goals, your artwork donation or ticket purchase supports a growing community,” AS220 explains. “A number on each ticket sold will correspond at random to one of the works of art on the wall at the reception.”

Among the photos each $125 ticket could win are a shot of Elvis in the Army (at top), “Bathers” by Danny Floyd (immediately below), and “Beavertail” by Myles Dumas (at bottom). See them all in the alternative art center’s main gallery.

MFA’s new contemporary wing—full review

Wednesday, September 21st, 2011

From our review of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ new Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, which it opened on Sept. 17 and 18:

A conundrum lies at the heart of the Museum of Fine Arts’ Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, which debuted last weekend: how does a museum showcase a subject it has long neglected?

The answer from Edward Saywell, chair of the contemporary wing; senior contemporary curator Jen Mergel, and their team is to just act as if the MFA hadn’t overlooked contemporary art for decades, and elegantly conceal how thin the permanent collection is by grouping some 240 artworks (including loans) by themes (“Familiar — Altered,” “Quote? Copy? Update?”) rather than chronology.

Ultimately, the curators give a CliffsNotes-style, conventional history of art of the past five decades: Picasso, poured color-field painting, Pop, Minimalism, appropriation, multiculturalism, and the uncategorized tumult of the past decade. This approach can highlight gaps (big names like Chuck Close, Barbara Kruger, George Segal, Ed Ruscha, and Cindy Sherman are often not represented by their best work), but also signals the MFA’s desire to compete in the contemporary-art big leagues.

Read the rest here.

Previously: Our first take on the MFA’s new contemporary wing, with lots of photos.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.