Archive for October, 2011

“The Official Houdini Seance” in Holyoke

Monday, October 31st, 2011

When Harry Houdini, the great magician and escape artist, died on Oct. 31, 1926, he left his wife Bess (pictured above with Houdini and his mom) a secret phrase that he promised he would use if she was ever able to successfully contact him beyond the grave. Houdini had spent his last decades debunking spirit writing, table rapping, spirit manifestations, spirit photographs, levitation and seances, and this was his last effort. On the anniversary of his death, each Halloween for a decade, she held seances without reaching her late husband, so she gave up. “Ten years is long enough to wait for any man,” she is reported to have said.

But magicians, including Houdini’s brother who performed under the name Hardeen, continued the tradition. And this Halloween night, in honor of Sidney Radner of Holyoke, Massachusetts, who died last June at age 91, the 85th annual seance will be held at the Wistariahurst Museum in Holyoke, by invitation only. (Pictured above: 1948 Houdini seance held in New York City, with Radner third from right.)

“In attendance will be members of the Inner Circle of The Official Houdini Séance and special guest, world reknowned magician, Teller, of Penn and Teller fame. This year’s medium will be Kandisa Calhoun,” the organizers’ website explains. “Bill Radner will be presenting a special tribute to his late father.”

Sidney Radner (pictured above at the 2005 Houdini seance in Newton, Massachusetts) had performed as a professional magician while running his family’s Holyoke rug store. In the Army in World War II, he began debunking crooked gambling and later wrote books on the subject. But he’s perhaps best known as a major collector of Houdini’s props and, since the 1940s, was the organizer of the annual Halloween Houdini seance.

The seance is a curious or at least impish way to remember a man who spent decades of his life debunking them. But it seems Houdini began outing fraudulent spiritualists after the death of his mother prompted him to earnestly seek contact with the dead. “I too would have parted gladly with a large share of my earthly possessions for the solace of one word from my loved departed,” Houdini wrote in his 1924 book “A Magician Among the Spirits.” “[So I] became deeply interested to discover if there was a possible reality to the return, by Spirit, of one who had passed over the border and ever since have devoted to this effort my heart and soul and what brain power I possess.”

Houdini reported that “I have made compacts with fourteen different persons that whichever of us died first would communicate with the other if it were possible, but I have never received a word. The first of these compacts was made more than twenty-five years ago and I am certain that if any one of the persons could have reached me he would have done so.”

“If there had been any real unalloyed demonstration to work on, one that did not reek of fraud, one that could not be produced by earthly powers, then there would be something for a foundation,” Houdini wrote, “but up to the present time everything that I have investigated has been the result of deluded brains or those which were too actively and intensely willing to believe.”

But the magicians continue. “One time the medium asked for Houdini to make his presence known, and a gal standing around, her beads broke and fell on the floor,” Radner told NPR in October 2010. “Another time, a book fell down off a shelf. We had some strange things happen.” But nothing that seemed proof of the ability to reach out to spirits beyond the grave.

“If I can’t contact Houdini, and I’ve been trying for many, many years, maybe it can’t be done,” Radner told NPR. “But if it does come, I want to be there, believe me.”

Pictured above: Houdini’s grave in Queens, New York.

Adams grants funding restored in MA

Monday, October 31st, 2011

The Massachusetts State Legislature and Governor Deval Patrick have approved $750,000 in supplemental funding to restore the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Adams Arts Program, the agency reports. The Adams grants, which fund arts projects and festivals across the state, were cut “due to a combination of cuts in state and federal funding” that resulted in an MCC “budget cut of nearly $1 million for the fiscal year that began July 1,” the arts agency said.

Elisa D’Arrigo

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Our review of New York artist Elisa D’Arrigo’s exhibit at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery:

D’Arrigo joins small paper and fabric tiles into patchwork wall reliefs with lots of heavy stitching, like something Dr. Frankenstein would be proud of. One wall piece features a bumpy collection of pink rectangles stitched together into what could be a rough outline of Kentucky. “Recollection . . . drawing” assembles dozens of small white rectangles with black stitching into a lumpy rug-like wall hanging. In some places the rectangles become boxes that protrude out; at bottom, it all turns tarry black, as if burned.

“Inside out” (pictured above) is lots of blue oval loops of fabric, looking a bit like purses, lined up as if they’re cascading down the wall and into a pool of bubbly rings of fabric on the floor. There are echoes of traditional quilting or El Anatsui’s bottlecap textiles. It’s about repetition and texture accumulating into satisfying rhythms.

Elisa D’Arrigo, Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery, 600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Providence, Oct. 6 to Nov. 2, 2011.

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 3:30 p.m.
In the panel discussion “This is Boston Not ___________,” MFA curatorial research associate LIz Munsell, Samson Projects owner Camilo Alvarez, artist and author Caleb Neelon, artist Raul Gonzalez, and The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research’s Greg Cook discuss “the creative culture of Boston and the surrounding areas” at Montserrat College of Art, 23 Essex St., Beverly, Massachusetts. Free.

Tuesday, Nov. 1, 6 p.m.
Theodore Stebbins, former Museum of Fine Arts curator and distinguished fellow and consultative curator of American art at Harvard’s Fogg Museum, presents “The MFA, the Boston School, and Me,” a talk about the Boston School of Painting, an important movement in American art in the early 1900s, at the Lenox Hotel, Boylston Street, Boston. Tickets are $50 and “help support preservation of the Fenway Studios on Ipswich Street in Boston.

Wednesday, Nov. 2, 7 p.m.
Sonya Sum Yin Lee, a specialist in religious art and architecture of pre-modern China, speaks at Smith College’s Weinstein Auditorium in Wright Hall, off College Lane, Northampton, Massachusetts.

Thursday, Nov. 3, 11:30 a.m.
Artist Kirsten Reynolds speaks at Montserrat College of Art, 23 Essex St., Beverly, Massachusetts. Free.

Thursday, Nov, 3, noon
Neal Rantoul, who is retiring after teaching at Northeastern University for 30 years, speaks about his photography at his exhibit “Neal Rantoul: 30 Years” at the university’s Gallery 360, Eli Hall, 346 Huntington Ave., Boston. Free.

Thursday, Nov. 3, 6:30 p.m.
Screening and panel discussion of Lynn Hershman Lesson’s film“!War: Women Art Revolution—The Secret History of Feminist Art,” with Barbara Lee, Kelly Hager, Linda Bond, Randi Hopkins and Suzanne Leonard at Simmons College, room C103, main building, 300 The Fenway, Boston. Free.

Saturday, Nov. 5, 1 p.m.
The performance collaborative Robbinschilds and students from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts perform at DeCordova, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln, Massachusetts. “Museum visitors are welcome to participate as performers or spectators.”

Sunday, Nov. 6, 1:30 p.m.
Screening of “NetWorks 2011” videos at RISD’s Chace Center, 20 North Main St., Providence. The videos profile Rhode Island artists Andrew Moon Bain, Nilton Cardenas, Barnaby Evans, Nancy Friese, Philip Jamoulis Jameson, M.D., Shawn Kenney, Scott Lapham, Janet Prip, Andrew Raftery, Duane Slick, Esther Solondz, Mark Taber, and Laura Travis.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 11:30 a.m.
Artist Elizabeth Alexander speaks at Montserrat College of Art, 23 Essex St., Beverly, Massachusetts. Free.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 6:30 p.m.
Photographer Lynn Saville speaks about “Explorations in Night Photography” at Boston University’s Photonics Building, Room 206
8 St. Mary’s Street, Boston. $10.

Wednesday, Nov. 9, 7 p.m.
Stage director and playwright Robert Wilson speaks at MIT Room 10-250, somewhere around 77 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, Massachusetts. Free, but reservations required. eventbrite.com/event/2116615855

“Sustainable Beauty” at Clayton

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

“Sustainable Beauty,” a five-person show at Candita Clayton Studio is about pretty nature and pretty flowers. Jenny Brown (pictured above) makes delicate ink and collage drawings of bouquets of blood red and inky black flowers. Mimo Gordon Riley paints impressionist trees with sun shining through the branches like stained glass. Kate Blacklock photographs arrangements of hydrangeas and other blossoms. It’s all rather saccharine. Didi Suydam is in this same sweet, sweet territory with her digital photos of cherry blossoms and reflecting lakes in which she inverses the colors so they resemble negatives. This inversion freshens the theme. The leaves of a forest all turn blue. What looks to have originally been a setting sun becomes a black hole. In “Flash Dream,” tree trunks turn icy white against a lilac background. Here and there are turquoise smudges. The results are painterly and slick with a wintery chill.

“Sustainable Beauty,” Candita Clayton Studio, 999 Main Street, unit 105, Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Sept. 23 to 31, 2011.

Mimo Gordon Riley, “Dreamkeepers.”

Cai Guo-Qiang

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

From our review of Cai Guo-Qiang’s “Move Along, Nothing to See Here” at Brown University’s Granoff Center, which closed Oct. 28:

Cai Guo-Qiang has mounted his two big crocodiles at head height, where you can peer into their snapped open jaws lined with fangs. The yellow, pasty maws give away that the brawny critters are made of cast resin. But they still feel lifelike. Even though they’re each impaled on half a dozen pointed bamboo poles, and stabbed with hundreds of rusty pocket knives, scissors, forks, and screwdrivers, it’s unnerving to stare into those jaws, especially if you’re familiar with how still live crocs can sit as they lay in ambush. Cai, a Chinese artist based in New York who was the subject of a major 2008 retrospective at New York’s Guggenheim Museum, calls the crocodiles “Move Along, Nothing to See Here.”

Read the rest here.

Cai Guo-Qiang, “Move Along, Nothing to See Here,” Brown University’s Granoff Center, 154 Angell Street, Providence, Sept. 14 to Oct. 28, 2011.

Serena Perrone

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

Our review of Serena Perrone’s show that closed at Cade Tompkins on Oct. 29:

St. Louis artist Serena Perrone’s exhibit “Volcanoes and Voyages” is a series of dreamy visions. Drypoint etchings with chine collé and hand coloring depict a naked girl with her hair braided into pigtails and an actual pig tail curling from her behind wandering a strange landscape of woods and jungles, stage set buildings, potted plants, and a smoking volcano.

Often Perrone’s draftsmanship is just okay, and her symbolism is interestingly mysterious but doesn’t seem to add up. “27 Views of Shangri-La” (detail pictured above) is a group of circular slices of logs burned with drawings of places named Shangri-La — a café, a campground, a cocktail lounge, and many sad, modernist hotels. The drawings feel like selections from a Google image search — like somewhat random copies of images rather than something lived — but the parade of motels hints at dreams of paradise turned into commercial one-night stands.

Serena Perrone, “Volcanoes and Voyages,” Cade Tompkins Projects, 198 Hope Street, Providence, Sept. 10 to Oct. 29, 2011.

Andrew Moon Bain

Sunday, October 30th, 2011

From our review of Providence and New York artist Andrew Moon Bain’s show that closed at AS220′s Project Space on October 29:

In “Talking Leaves,” Andrew Moon Bain’s show at AS220, his painting and collage “Triple Black” (pictured above) depicts a red mermaid and black seahorses floating atop a tumultuous sea amidst old sailing ships. A black head hovers in a deep red sky patterned with yellow and green diamonds and breathes out wind. All the various patterns — stylized S curves and upsidedown Us for waves; red, orange, white, and green stripes; constellations of diamonds — harmonize. The more pattern, more characters, more diamonds and stripes Bain adds the better.

Read the rest here.

Andrew Moon Bain, “Talking Leaves,” AS220 Project Space, 93 Mathewson Street, Providence, Oct. 2 to 29, 2011.

Andrew Moon Bain, “I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It.”

Rose Art Museum reopens

Sunday, October 30th, 2011


Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum reopened Thursday, Oct. 27, for the first time after a $1.7 million renovation this summer and the July settlement of a lawsuit against the school prompted by its 2009 threat to close the museum and sell its revered modern art collection. After international outcry, the Waltham, Massachusetts, school backed down. The museum remains open, and the current exhibits showcase its permanent collection. Below is a brief round-up of reports on the reopening from Brandeis and elsewhere.

“This is a story with a happy ending,” Brandeis President Fred Lawrence told guests at Thursday’s opening, according to the university. Then corrected himself: “It’s a story of a new beginning.”

Also at the reception, Rose director of operations Roy Dawes recalled a conversation when Lawrence told him, “A museum on a university campus is a sacred thing,” the Brandeis Hoot student newspaper reported. Dawes said: “I felt a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders that day.”

“A university is about education, and a museum is about preserving art works, those were my two fundamental concerns,” Adam Weinburg, the Whitney Museum director and Brandeis alum, tells WBUR radio. “People gave the art works as a trust to the university, and it saddened me that a trust had been broken.” And Weinberg said it will take time for a lot of people to regain that sense of trust, adding, “but the great thing is the works are still here.”

Brandeis’s preview.

Photo of Thursday’s reception by Brandies University photographer Mike Lovett.

Iron Guild’s 6th Halloween Iron Pour

Friday, October 28th, 2011


The Iron Guild presented its sixth annual Halloween Iron Pour, entitled “Molten Masquerade,” at the Steel Yard in Providence tonight. Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Previously: Our photos of the 2010, 2009 and 2008 Halloween Iron Pours.





Provincetown Museum gives grants

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

Provincetown Art Association and Museum has announced the winners of its 2011 Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation Grant: Karen Cappotto of Provincetown, Massachusetts (art pictured above); Joan Ryan of East Boston, Massachusetts (art pictured below); and Deborah Martin of Twentynine Palms, California. They each receive $10,000 and inclusion in a three-person show at the museum in fall 2012. The grants are offered to American painters aged 45 or older who demonstrate financial need.

Halloween Iron Pour is tomorrow

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

The theme of this year’s edition of Iron Guild‘s Halloween Iron Pour is “Molten Masquerade,” which means they’ll be making “larger-than-life flaming masquerade masks,” accompanied by live music by the Empty House Cooperative at the Steel Yard , 27 Sims Avenue, Providence, on Friday, October 28 at 7 pm. But what makes this one of the best art events each year is that they’ll be melting down and pouring some 500 pounds of iron, oozing orange and showering sparks. And at the finale, they’ll open up the furnaces and set the night sky ablaze. Because that’s really what you want for Halloween: pyromania. Admission is just $10.

Photo at top of the 2010 Iron Pour by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research. See more of our photos of previous Iron Pours here.

“Palimpsestic” by R.K. Projects

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

From our review of “Palimpsestic” by R.K. Projects in Providence:

The title of “Palimpsestic,” the new show organized by Sam Keller and Tabitha Piseno of R.K. Projects in a pop-up gallery in a rundown building at 891 North Main Street in Providence, refers to a writing material that has been scraped clean so that it could be used again while leaving traces of its previous use behind. Here it’s a way of talking about the art of layering.

The theme is most straightforwardly explored in the paintings of Annabeth Marks of Providence (as shown in the background above), like the untitled, rough-edged scrap of painted canvas scraped or clawed away like an old wall to reveal bright paint, red and green and pink beneath. Other paintings are loose, geometric abstractions, like “The Four Story Mountain I” which features a sort of a triangle shape divided into smaller triangles, with each section filled in differently — a blue and green spiral, red and orange daubs on a black squiggle, radiating black lines dotted with red paint blobs. Marks’s paintings have the messy, offhand feel of a lot of stylishly “bad” abstraction these days. They hold together because of underlying compositional structures, like those triangles, and her eye for color.

Read the rest here.

“Palimpsestic,” R.K. Projects, 891 North Main St., Providence, Oct. 6 to 29, 2011.
Matthew Underwood, “Optics (for Anthony McCall),” installation, 2011.

Waschek named director of Worcester Art Museum

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Matthias Waschek has been named the new director of the Worcester Art Museum. The institution says he’ll begin work on Nov. 16, filling the shoes of James Welu who has worked at the museum since 1974 and been director of the museum since 1986. Welu will become director emeritus.

Waschek has directed the Pulitzer Foundation for the Arts since 2003, beginning there just two years after it opened. He announced in January that he would be departing the St. Louis institution. He was previously director of academic programs at the Musée du Louvre in Paris for 11 years. He was was born in Germany and earned his Ph.D. at Bonn University, concentrating in art history, classical archaeology, and modern history.