Archive for January, 2012

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Monday, Jan. 30, 7:30 p.m.
Sprout, 339R Summer St., Somerville, Massachusetts, hosts its monthly spaghetti dinner on the theme of “Heat,” with puppetry by Ellen Anthony, Daniel Bergey talking about weatherizing buildings, Joseph Bergen talking about hacking thermal receipt printers, and Parts and Crafts demonstrating a homemade Ruben’s tube. $10 suggested donation.

Tuesday, Jan. 31, 11:30 p.m.
Artist Joelle Dietrick speaks at Montserrat College of Art, 23 Essex St., Beverly, Massachusetts. Free.

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 3 p.m.
William Kaizen speaks about the exhibit “Raymond Pettibon: The Punk Years, 1978-86” at the UMass Lowell gallery, McGauvran Student Center/Union on UMass Lowell South, 71 Wilder Street, Lowell. Free.

Thursday, Feb. 2, 11:30 a.m.
Artist Natalie Lanese speaks about her collaged and painted mural works at Montserrat College of Art, 23 Essex St., Beverly, Massachusetts. Free.

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 11:30 a.m.
Filmaker Robert Monticello speaks at Montserrat College of Art, 23 Essex St., Beverly, Massachusetts. Free.

Tuesday, Feb. 7, 6 p.m.
New York-based landscape designer and artist Paula Hayes speaks at MassArt’s Trustees Room, Tower Building, 621 Huntington Ave., Boston. Free.

Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show

Sunday, January 29th, 2012

The Amherst Railway Society Railroad Hobby Show, the largest railroad show in the Northeast, is being held at the Eastern States Exposition Fairgrounds in West Springfield, Massachusetts, from Jan. 28 to 29, 2012. (The society’s Amherst Belt Lines layout is pictured above.) It’s hard to underestimate the scale of the show, which fills four giant buildings at more than 7 acres to feature scale model railroads, manufacturers, vendors, historical societies, and operators of real life railroads. Most of the layouts are built by clubs and appear to be developed in separate rectangular sections designed for shallow, varied dioramas (lots of Northeast-flavored industry, rolling hills, and coast in this show) that connect up end to end into long railways. From scene to scene, individual creativity tends to be favored over a common overall theme. The photos here are from The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research’s visit yesterday.

Overview of displays in the Better Living Center building.

Bachmann Trains.

Bachmann Trains.

Bachmann Trains.

Bachmann Trains.

Quaboag Valley Railroaders of East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

Quaboag Valley Railroaders of East Brookfield, Massachusetts.

UFO landed under lake in flooded volcano by Northeast N-Trak of Lowell, Massachusetts, region.

Northeast N-Trak of Lowell, Massachusetts, region.

Northeast N-Trak of Lowell, Massachusetts, region.

Northeast N-Trak of Lowell, Massachusetts, region.

Amherst Belt Lines of Amherst Railway Society.

Valley HO Trak of Connecticut.

Valley HO Trak of Connecticut.

Valley HO Trak of Connecticut.

Scenic Express Inc. of Pennsylvania.

Antoniadis and Stone

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Visiting Boston duo Alexi Antoniadis and Nico Stone’s show “Rough Shape” at Boston’s Samson gallery is like entering a not so distant America in ruins—and it’s one of the best exhibitions of this still new year. You first encounter “Support System” (pictured above), which seems to be three concrete pillars, pitted and pocked and stained with age. The two on the left are broken and toppled over onto the pillar on the right, neatly, miraculously nesting together. The square columns’ monumental scale is emphasized by Samson’s long, narrow gallery. You sense heavy weight leaning in a precarious balance.

Behind it is “Social Climber” (above), which appears to be two concrete stairways, gray and scuffed and repainted as if to hide graffiti, then turned upside down and leaned against each other to form an arch. Underneath stands an empty paper bag crinkled in the shape of an absent 40.

Last comes “Deadline,” which appears to be a black steel frame supported by one bent bar. The points of a rusty, broken beam on one side hold a dirty Styrofoam coffee cup. But almost nothing is what it seems. Concrete is actually craftily carved and painted wood or foam. Paper and metal are actually plastic. The trickery isn’t obvious, but it creates an undertow of suspicion and destabilization, a sense that the world is not what it appears.

Antoniadis and Stone’s art often has the surreal feeling of familiar things come at from an odd angle so that their deep strangeness becomes apparent. Sometimes, as in the duo’s current installation in the current DeCordova “Biennial,” their structures appear so crumbled, so rearranged that maybe you don’t recognize them until, like at the end of “The Planet of the Apes,” you suddenly realize that, oh my god, we’ve been in the ruins of New York all along. But here the architecture feels familiar—the crappy, generic constructions of strip malls, subways and Brutalist government buildings like the campus of UMass Boston.

It’s the ugly, shoddy but ubiquitous architecture of America, and there’s a curious melancholy, despair and of-course-ness provoked by seeing this junk in ruins. It’s like glimpsing the future and having your belief confirmed that the bankrupt direction the country has been pursing must end badly.

Antoniadis and Stone, “Rough Shape,” Samson, 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, Dec. 16, 2011, to Jan. 28, 2012.

Boston Athenaeum gets $2M gift

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Anne and David Bromer, proprietors of the rare books dealers Bromer Booksellers in Boston’s Copley Square since 1980, have donated $2 million to endow the Anne C. and David J. Bromer Curator of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the Boston Athenaeum, the institution announced yesterday.

The first Bromer Curator will be Stanley Ellis Cushing (pictured above right with the Bromers), the athenaeum’s current curator of rare books and manuscripts, a staff member there since 1971, and organizer of the exhibition “Artists’ Books, Books by Artists,” which is on view at the Athenaeum until March.

Photo by Megan Manton for the Athenaeum.

MCC grant winners

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

The Massachusetts Cultural Council has announced the winners of its 2012 grants in drawing, painting and “traditional arts.” The awards total $102,500.

For drawing, Damian Cote of Holyoke, Andrea Evans of Jamaica Plain, Joo Lee Kang of Medford, Andrew Mowbray of Dorchester, August Ventimiglia of Wellesley won $7,500 grants. Amy Borezo of Orange, Raul Gonzalez of Somerville, Zehra Khan of Provincetown, Dave Ortega of Somerville, and Jieun Shin of Amherst won $500 grants.

For painting, Sophia Ainslie of Arlington, Warner Friedman of Sheffield, Mary Bucci McCoy of Beverly, Richard Raiselis of West Newton, Daniela Rivera of Wellesley, Elaine Spatz-Rabinowitz of Cambridge, Joseph Wardwell of Jamaica Plain, and Douglas Weathersby of Medford won $7,500 grants. Natalie Alper of Brookline, Matt Brackett of Jamaica Plain, Prilla Smith Brackett of Boston, Kelly Carmody of Melrose, Paul Endres, Jr. of Somerville, Shelley Reed of Brookline, and Elizabeth Slayton of Jamaica Plain won $500 grants.

In “traditional arts,” Joe Derrane of Randolph and Yary Livan of Lowell won $7,500 grants. And Khenpo Chopel of Arlington, Danny Mekonnen of Jamaica Plain, Veronica Robles of Saugus, and Jorge L. Santiago Arce of Roxbury won $500 grants. is back, plus more local blogs

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Bostonian Franklin Einspruch has relaunched, after about a year and a half hiatus. One of the original art blogs, it’s back with its signature thoughtful essays about big art ideas.

Some other notable Boston-area blogs:
Anulfo Baez’s “The Evolving Critic” digs into art and architecture around Boston. He’s also a wicked Twitterer

Liz Devlin Flux Boston features weekly listings of cool art stuff happening around town.

The Boston Institute of Contemporary Art’s “Currents” blog features occasional reports on its projects plus interviews with ICA artists.

And Thomas Garvey’s Hub Review remains the most thoughtful, charged and combative theater writing in the region. And he’s damn prolific. Also check out his dispatch from one of the last nights of the Occupy Boston encampment.

Bread and Puppet’s “Attica”

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

Last September marked the 40th anniversary of the uprising at Attica prison in western New York and the bloody retaking of the facility by state troopers in which 29 inmates and 10 hostages died.

Within days of the end of the revolt in September 1971, Bread and Puppet Theater founder Peter Schumann staged a show about the tragedy at Goddard College in Vermont, where he was in residence, having moved out of New York City in 1970. Schumann revised the play, which he then called “Whitewashing the Dirty Sheets of America,” over the following year, before a run as “Revenge of the Law” at Coney Island in summer 1972, where the company had maintained a satellite outpost since March 1970. It was one of the brief shows Schumann devised, directed and built to be performed there numerous times each weekend—often when Schumann himself was busy in Vermont or elsewhere.

Four decades later, Bread and Puppet performs a revival of “Attica” or “Revenge of the Law” at the Boston Center for the Arts Cyclorama at 7 each night from Jan. 26 to 29. It’s accompanied by another prison drama, “Man of Flesh and Cardboard,” a shrill iteration of the shows Schumann has been creating for at least a year now about the imprisonment of Bradley Manning, the soldier accused of leaking thousands of American war documents to Wikileaks. We saw the paired shows when Bread and Puppet performed them at the Theater for the New City in New York in December. Bread and Puppet is also performing its family-friendly “Man = Carrot Circus” in Boston at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

A narrator and band—including Schumann on violin and kazoo—standing to the left of the stage introduce “Attica,” explaining that it begins in New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller’s office.

“This is a good country. This is not a bad country,” the governor, played by a performer in a grotesque, fat, lumpy, wrinkled mask says in a plodding, breathy voice. “…I am a good governor. Everything is fine.” A mailman, fawning and nervous, knocks and enters, saying, “It is raining outside.” “It’s still a good country,” the governor responds, then adds, “there are a few problems in our country, but everything else is fine.”

As the scene changes, a narrator announces, “In Act One you saw the governor in his office. You witnessed the arrival of his daily mail. You learned that you live in a good country and everything is fine. In Act Two, we take you to a prison in the same country in the same state to cell block one.”

A silver plastic curtain rises on a white guard beating a black prisoner (all the performers are masked) with a rifle to the sound of a buzz saw. “Fight back. No more!” a narrator declares. In the next scene, the black prisoner, armed with a spoon, takes away the guard’s rifle. Back in the governor’s office, the mailman informs the governor that the prisoners have taken hostages and ask to talk to the governor. “No, I will not go,” the governor says. “What shall be done,” the mailman asks. “Shoot them,” the governor responds.

Returning to prison, an angel pulls strings causing the prisoner to bang on a drum until a soldier shoots the prisoner dead. A spotlight flickers in darkness revealing demons laying a shroud over the dead prisoner. Back in the governor’s office, the mailman worries, “The prisoners are dead. The hostages are dead. The throats of the hostages have not been cut. Forty-three have been killed by the guns of the National Guard.” The governor responds in a sinister, breathy, plodding voice: “They broke the law. That’s why they died. I am the governor. I will conduct an investigation to find out the truth and the truth will say that I am right.” He adds, “Send my condolence to the families of the hostages who died.” “Yes,” the mailman says. “Send flowers also,” the governor says. The final act shows an angel standing over a black woman bent over a bloody shroud. A voice repeats, “Wake up,” as a mournful horn blows. It ends with blackout.

In the 40-year-old piece, Schumann (pictured above at left) was working in a signature format, alternating between scenes like clockwork, and with a sort of omniscient perspective on a preordained doom. What sets the piece apart in Schumann’s oeuvre is that it is a rare example of him telling a topical tale in such a straightforward narrative. Typically, current events are his jumping off point for a more mythical allegory. But here he uses masked performers to distill the prisoner uprising and the governor’s brutal response to its bare bones. The show is an indictment against the governor, whom Schumann makes evil and callous bureaucracy incarnate, while the prisoners are victims rising up against their oppressors. Schumann pares away nuance until it becomes a black and white parable. The effect is too simple, particularly in the depiction of the governor. But the simplicity, dramatic dark lighting and ritualistic movement make the depictions of the prisoner striking and heartbreaking.

Bread and Puppet Theater performs “Attica” and “Man of Flesh and Cardboard” at 7 p.m.
Jan. 26 to 29 at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St., Boston. Admission $12. The company performs “Man = Carrot Circus” there at 2 p.m. Jan. 28 and 29. General admission is $12. Students, seniors, and pre-school children pay $6. Children age 2 and younger are free.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Monday, Jan. 23, 6 p.m.
Andrea Zittel speaks at the Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square, Portland, Maine. Free.

Thursday, Jan. 26, 5:30 p.m.
Marlboro College art historian Felicity Ratte speaks about “Islamic Urban Design: Observations, Ideas and Common Cultural Practice” at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, 10 Vermon St., Brattleboro, Vermont.

Wednesday, Feb. 1, 3 p.m.
William Kaizen speaks about the exhibit “Raymond Pettibon: The Punk Years, 1978-86” at the UMass Lowell gallery, McGauvran Student Center/Union on UMass Lowell South, 71 Wilder Street, Lowell. Free.

Marisa Martino

Friday, January 20th, 2012

Our review of Marisa Martino at Hallway Gallery:

Martino’s show “Dormit, Non Est Mortua” (“Dreaming, Not Dead”) at Hallway Gallery (66a South Street, Jamaica Plain, through January 29) is an homage to the old art of fisticuffs. She screenprints black-and-white photos of retired boxers and then surrounds them with elaborate decorative borders. Boston boxer Tony DeMarco, apparently stunned by a punch, is framed by cutout drawings of flowers set on a turquoise, blue, and black decorative matte and border.

Martino seems fascinated by stereotypically masculine violence, and contrasting it with decoration that’s often seen as feminine. But really these works are about the pleasures of decorative design.

Read the rest here.

Marisa Martino, “Dormit, Non Est Mortua” (“Dreaming, Not Dead”), Hallway Gallery, 66a South Street, Jamaica Plain, Jan. 5 to 29, 2012.

Pictured at top: Martino’s mixed media work “Tom Sharkey.”

“Carlos ‘Teo’ Cruz”

“Untitled (3D)

Robin Mandel

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

In Robin Mandel’s “Everywhere and Nowhere” at Laconia Gallery in Boston, spotlights shine through metal stencils to project blobs onto five of the six-sided gallery’s walls. Small, flat, mirrored arrows stuck into the walls cast black shadow arrows into the light blobs and reflect gray arrows around the perimeters. Together it looks like a series of islands or amoebas with their edges obsessively marked inside and out by arrows — like an overzealously annotated Google map. The arrows insist that you look here and here and here, but frustratingly don’t really point out much of anything. The Cushing, Maine, artist’s real aim — and where his talent lies — is to use simple machines to create sensational auroras of light or conjure memories.

Robin Mandel’s “Everywhere and Nowhere,” Laconia Gallery, 433 Harrison Ave., Boston, Dec. 17 to Jan. 29, 2012.

This review originally appeared here.

Olsen named director of Williams museum

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

Christina Olsen, director of education and public programs at the Portland Art Museum in Oregon, has been named the new director of the Williams College Museum of Art, the Williamstown, Massachusetts, institution announced today. She is expected to begin work May 1, taking over from Katy Kline, who has been serving as the museum’s interim director since Lisa Corrin stepped down at the end of June 2011.

Olsen was born in New York and grew up on the city’s Upper West Side, the daughter of a social worker and Abstract Expressionist painter. She did her undergraduate studies in art history at the University of Chicago, then earned her masters and doctorate in art history from the University of Pennsylvania, “specializing in the creation and reception of new leisure and visual forms and practices in 15th century northern Italian courts.” Her doctoral dissertation was titled “Carte da Trionfi: The Development of Tarot in Fifteenth-Century Italy.” She developed museum audio tours for the firm AntennaAudio and worked at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. She began working at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles in 1997, and from 2005 to ’08, she was a program officer at the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles, where she oversaw the foundation’s worldwide grants to museums and archives for scholarly catalogs and publications, archives, and interpretation, and launched an international initiative to develop prototypes for online scholarly catalogs for museums. She joined the Oregon museum in 2008.

Also check out this long, detailed 2010 profile of Olson from the Portland Oregonian: “At the intersection of art and life: Christina Olsen, director of education at the Portland Art Museum.”

Previously: January 2011: Corrin to leave Williams College Museum.

“Degas and the Nude” at MFA

Wednesday, January 18th, 2012

Our review of “Degas and the Nude” at Boston’s MFA:

One of the remarkable things about the Museum of Fine Arts under director Malcolm Rogers is its ability to straddle highbrow and lowbrow simultaneously. Its fall blockbuster exhibit “Degas and the Nude” is a perfect example — a splendid survey of a modern master as well as girls, girls, girls.

From the Frenchman’s portraits and paintings of race horses, laundresses, and ballerinas, the MFA’s George Shackelford (who’s leaving for Texas’s Kimball Art Museum), and Xavier Rey of the Musée d’Orsay in Paris isolate 162 nudes (mostly ladies) by Degas and by a smattering of contemporaries like Ingres, Toulouse-Lautrec, Gauguin, Picasso, and Caillebotte. Instead of being pin-ups, Degas’s pastels, monoprints, and paintings turn patient observation of women unselfconsciously stepping out of tubs and toweling off into intimacy and tenderness.

The show spans the entire career of Degas (1834-1917), from early academic copies of Rembrandt and Botticelli to awkward history paintings that he showed in the French Académie’s annual juried salons beginning in 1865, to secret sketches of brothels in the 1870s [pictured above: "The Serious Client," 1876-77], to paintings of the 1890s that became increasingly free and expressive in their use of color.

The sweet spot is the 1870s and ’80s, when Degas pioneered his dramatic sense of lighting (perhaps derived from the ballet) and dashing pastels. It’s most evident in his monotypes of prostitutes in their beds and women bathing indoors. Paired prints and drawings show how his signature pastels often illuminate the moody darkness of the inky monotypes with radiant strokes of color.

One of his finest artworks is his 1885 to ’86 pastel “Woman at Her Toilette, Drying Her Left Foot.” Sharp outlines that hark back to his early delicate academic figure studies dissolve under loose pastel strokes that convey supple pink flesh revealed as the seated woman bends over to towel her foot, folding her other arm between her legs and belly. Purposely awkward poses, asymmetrical compositions and cropping reflect photography (Degas took up the camera himself in the 1890s; note his self-portrait photo here) and Japanese prints. Degas’s attention to motion — in ballerinas, horses, and bathers (not included at the MFA except for a smattering of ballerinas) — also reflects his study of Eadweard Muybridge’s landmark stop-motion photos of animals and people.

Shackelford and Rey aim to provide “a new interpretation of the artist’s conception of the nude.” We learn that Degas liked to make nude studies before he depicted ballerinas in their tutus. But the main takeaway is that Degas liked to watch from behind — buttocks, hourglass curves, breasts in profile, faces hidden, no eye contact, anonymous, voyeuristic.

Compare Degas’s approach to his contemporaries: William-Adolphe Bouguereau, whose polished academic paintings of naked nymphs and classical deities represented everything the Impressionists were rejecting; or Pierre-Auguste Renoir, an Impressionist who continued to idealize women even as he painted contemporary life. What remains fresh about Degas’s approach is how wonderfully ordinary everything seems. There’s no swooning or come-hither stares — even when he sketches girl-on-girl action in brothels. There’s a feeling of ease, comfort, and relaxation. And perhaps this makes Degas’s nudes more sexy than his peers’ in the way that amateur porn can be — or Manet’s nudes were — because of the implication that this isn’t fantasy, but reality.

“Degas and the Nude,” Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, Oct. 9, 2011, to Feb. 5, 2012.

This review originally appeared here.

Pictured at top: Degas, “The Morning Bath,” about 1887–90, The Art Institute of Chicago.

“Nude Woman Lying on Her Back, Study for Scene of War in the Middle Ages,” 1863-65, Musée d’Orsay.

“Scene of War in the Middle Ages,” 1863-65, Musée d’Orsay.

“Nude Woman Combing Her Hair,” 1879-83, Musée d’Orsay.

“Nude Woman, Standing,” about 1878, Musée d’Orsay.

“The Tub,” 1886, Musée d’Orsay.

“Woman Seated on a Bathtub Sponging Her Neck,” 1880-95, Musée d’Orsay.

Life-sized stormtrooper cake is “greatest sculpted cake ever”?

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

The ten-person staff of Amanda Oakleaf Cakes spent two weeks assembling this 6-foot, 4-inch tall stormtrooper cake to feed 600 people at last weekend’s Arisia Sci-Fi Convention in Boston. The Winthrop, Massachusetts, bakers blog:

“Along the way we even had to invent completely new cake making methods so it could be put together modularly onsite, hold its fondant over long vertical stretches, and stand on two beautifully sculpted Rice Kripsy legs that supported his 300 lb body –all while keeping every bit of cake tasting light, fluffy, and delicious! It was a challenge to say the least, but we’re all incredibly proud, as we think it is perhaps the greatest sculpted cake ever created.”

Check out their slideshow of the making of the thing. (via)

Brian Zink

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Our review of Brian Zink’s exhibit at Boston’s Howard Yezerski Gallery:

For some time now, East Cambridge artist Brian Zink has been rummaging through the history of ’60s minimalism. His last body of work was wall reliefs assembled from Band-Aid-colored plastic handrails or bumpers like the ones you see in hospitals. They’re serious, striped constructions, but also faintly humorous — like sculptures Carl Andre might make if he was confined to a nursing home.

Zink’s new show, “Assembled” at Howard Yezerski features handsome, hard-edged abstractions assembled from mod, jitterbugging patterns of flat Plexiglass tiles.

Read the rest here.

Brian Zink, “Assembled” at Howard Yezerski Gallery, 460 Harrison Ave, Boston, Jan. 6 to Feb. 7, 2012.

Pictured at top: Brian Zink, “Composition in 2026 Black, 2308 Turquoise and 3015 White,” 2011.

Brian Zink, “Composition in 2026 Black and 3001 Gray,” 2011

“Composition in 2026 Black and 3015 White,” 2011

“Composition 2662 Red and 2026 Black,” 2011

“Composition in 2026 Black and 3015 White,” 2011