Archive for August, 2012

Impossible video games, a man cave and 17 Cox hits its stride

Friday, August 31st, 2012

Anthony Montuori’s ‘80s-style video games in the group show “Start Over” at 17 Cox invite you to take on impossible challenges. In one, you’re the legendary Sisyphus trying and failing to lift a boulder to the top of a hill. In “Ragz” (pictured above), you get to dress your character for a “Mario Bros.”-type game of running and leaping along ledges. Mostly my guys, dressed in just socks and underpants (like me, of course), repeatedly fall to their death.

Montuori’s piece de resistance is “Debtris,” a version of “Tetris” in which your goal is to pay off crushing student loan debt while earning something like minimum wage for as long as you can keep the game going. With graveyard humor and retro panache, his games send up the air of futility that hovers over Great Recession America. (Play some of them here.)

And they’re another example of how 17 Cox, beginning about a year after its first exhibit in March 2011, has really hit its stride. Montuori’s console games along with Benjamin Benson Evans’s “TV Dinner” installation there this spring are some of the sharpest art seen in the region this year.

The gallery is named for its location at 17 Cox Court in Beverly, Massachusetts. It’s operated by Lucas Spivey, a gallerist and art preparator who arrived here from Seattle in 2010 to become exhibitions manager at Monsterrat College of Art (where NEJAR custodian Greg Cook teaches) just up the road.

As part of “Start Over,” Fish McGill and Dave Tolmie have also put up a playful mural (above) and, as Dispatchers Worldwide, the duo invite visitors to join them in patching cracks and fissures in Beverly buildings with Lego bricks this Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Benjamin Benson Evans, who graduated from New England School of Art and Design at Suffolk University in 2011 and resides in Boston, Massachusetts, built a wood shingled shack in the gallery for the two-person show “You Are Here,” which also featured Doug Bell’s handsome stacked walls of vintage suitcases, books, cereal boxes, circuit boards, and table legs from April 25 to June 23.

Inside Evans’s installation, which he called “TV Dinner” (above), a vintage bikini babe poster was pinned to the wood panel wall above a brown striped couch. Clothing lay balled up in a corner. A 1990 copy of People magazine jammed into the cushions touted Paula Abdul as the “Most Wanted Woman.” A TV tray was folded against the wall. An end table offered an ashtray overflowing with cigarette buts, a bottle of Budweiser, receipts from the 1990s, and a bottle of hand lotion. Crumpled tissues were stuck between the couch cushions nearby. Pictures on another wall suggested a separated couple. A television facing the couch looped the scene in “Casablanca” of Rick’s memories of romancing his ex Ilsa in Paris.

The clues seemed to add up to a separated or divorced guy, still holding onto the bruising memory of the relationship, and perhaps masturbating alone in his man cave to pass the time. The one off note was that the place was too neat. But overall the immersive narrative installation was impressive—clearly the work of a very talented artist who will totally knock our socks off with one of his next projects.

“Start Over,” 17 Cox, 17 Cox Court, Beverly, Massachusetts, Aug. 11 to Oct. 7, 2012.
Above: Anthony Montuori’s “Ragz.”

Above and two below: Anthony Montuori’s “The Adventures of Sisyphus.”

Above and following: Benjamin Benson Evans’ “TV Dinner,” photo by Elizabeth Woodward.

Zayde Buti raps the Mac Hip Hop

Thursday, August 30th, 2012

Zayde Buti of Boston, who was kind enough to perform at our 2011 New England Art Awards Ball, has a new video in which he raps “I found this beat on my Apple computer,” in his satirically probing wiseass way, over the “Hip Hop Beat 02″ that actually comes standard on many Mac computers. Of course, his lyrics and performance match the mind-numbing blandness of the found clipart track. You’ve got to check out the audience’s reactions when he performs it live in the video below.

Fund Boston-Chicago performance art exchange

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Help spread Boston-made art across the land. The Present Tense, a Boston performance art curating duo, has teamed up with Defibrillator, a Chicago gallery focused on performance art, to present a swap of performance artists from the two cities that they’re calling “Rough Trade II.” (The first exchange happened in 2007.) And they’ve launched a Kickstarter campaign to help pay for it.

Boston artists Marilyn Arsem, Philip Fryer, Daniel DeLuca, Sandrine Schaefer, Sandy Huckleberry and Jeff Huckleberry are scheduled to perform at Defribrillator on Sept. 7 and 8. Chicago artists Mothergirl, Joseph Ravens, Meredith & Anna, Adam Rose, Claire Ashley, and Elena Katsulis & Erin Peisert are scheduled to perform at MassArt’s Posen Center in Boston on Sept. 21 and 22.

Funding is requested to help pay for the artists’ travel costs, materials and stipends.

Bread and Puppet Circus in Cambridge Sunday

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Vermont’s legendary Bread and Puppet Theater performs “The Circus of the Possibilitarians” on Cambridge Common in Massachusetts at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2. For free. We saw an earlier version of the politically satirical show, “Possibilitarian: The Complete Everything Everywhere Dance Circus,” at the theater’s home base in Glover, Vermont, on Aug. 19. Bread and Puppet’s mask and papier-mâché circuses are always fun, funny, astonishing spectaculars, but this show was an average effort, without too many sharp jokes. Acts zinged the Mars rover (“I am here in search of intelligent life and I promise I will not exploit you…to make athletic shoes…”), student loan debt, increased public education costs in Quebec, NAFTA, and the governor of Vermont. The most prominent theme was anti-wind power, which the skits barely argued, and so it came across as a not-in-my-backyard complaint about wind farms going up on northern Vermont mountain crests. Bread and Puppet’s main stated criticism is damage to birds, bats and wildlife habitat. Circuses aren’t conducive to complex discussion of alternatives, so none get addressed. But could different wind turbine siting—like, say, along mountain highways—be as effective in energy generation while reducing damage to nature? And some research suggests that birds and bats more easily avoid larger wind turbines. The upshot is that, as in last summer’s pageant, it reads as an indictment of all energy sources (except wood fires?), civilization be damned.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

The outdoor natural amphitheater in Glover, Vermont.

Arrival of the ringmaster.

Above two photos: Anti-war, pro-raw milk act.

Satire of Virginia lawmakers’ attempt to require women undergo ultrasounds before having abortions–with jailed women singing: “Get politics out of our skits or we’ll give you a rectal exam. It could hurt. So consider this your final warning.”

Lions and lambs mingle peacefully during the announcement of Afghanistan War casualties.

A dance “in resistance to the imposition of English as the primary language in the public schools of Puerto Rico.”

Wind turbines as monster, long-armed skeletons.

Thrilling (papier-mâché) tiger tamer act.

Previous five photos: A complaint about “profiteers” selling natural gas, “industrial wind,” coal, “industrial soil,” hydro power, nuclear power. Bread and Puppet’s answer? “Local control of local energy.”

The show concluded with performers circling with flags and founder Peter Schumann dancing atop super-high stilts. Notably, Schumann didn’t strut out as far as usual, and had two spotters—as sign that the 78-year-old’s stilting days may be winding down.

O&G Studio

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

Our review of furniture by O&G Studio of Warren, Rhode Island, on view at Providence’s Craftland:

Founded in 2009 by jewelry designer Jonathan Glatt and interior architect and theatrical set designer Sara Ossana, who met in a 2003 RISD furniture class, O&G produces “modern home furnishings with old soul.”

What that means is crisp, classic Yankee colonial wooden chairs, stools, tables, and mirrors in bright “turmeric, persimmon, and cyan” hues or dark blue or black stains that bring out the swirling wood grain. But O&G often stretch the traditional forms, making chair backs seemingly taller or the seats wider than usual. This emphasizes the grace of their spindle construction, while also giving them an odd duck humor.

An example of that humor is “Point Street Bench,” which mounts three elegant colonial wooden spindle-backed chairs on a basic horizontal floor support that recalls the supports of benches in midcentury modern airport waiting rooms or bowling alleys. The familiarity of the designs makes them seem homey, while the subtle shifts keep the forms fresh.

O&G Studio, Craftland, 235 Westminster St., Providence, Aug. 2 to Sept. 1, 2012.

This review originally appeared here.

Bassett turns glass from dump into art

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

John Bassett of Rockport, Massachusetts, will transform glass he finds at the town dump, via kiln heating, into “colorful, textured sculptural panels” as part a $1,500 grant from the “Partner with an Artist” program of the Cape Ann arts promotion group SeArts. The panels are expected to be displayed prominently in the Rockport restaurants Brackett’s Oceanview, Roy Moore’s Fish Shack and 7th Wave this fall.

Photo by Susan Quateman.

Marsden Hartley finds himself in Gloucester

Monday, August 27th, 2012

From our review of “Marsden Hartley: Soliloquy in Dogtown,” at the Cape Ann Museum in Gloucester:

Marsden Hartley returned to Gloucester in 1931 like so many traditional painters making the summer pilgrimage to the city’s shores and fishing wharves, except he was part of Alfred Stieglitz’s Modernist circle in New York, had imbibed French Cubism in Paris and German Expressionism in Berlin, and was a friend of Gertrude Stein and Wassily Kandinsky.

The Maine-born Hartley arrived from New York that July recovering from a winter bout of bronchitis, losing his hearing, depressed, a frustrated visionary, not having painted in nearly a year. He was a balding, hound-dog-faced, sunken-eyed, lonely gay man still harboring a thing for Aryan youth, like the German lieutenant “friend” whom he’d lost in the fighting of World War I. He was deeply isolated and alienated.

But a 1920 glimpse of Gloucester’s undeveloped center glimmered in his mind. “I had remembered the rocks and the name Dogtown — that’s a great name,” he wrote in his autobiography, “and in all the years of Gloucester painting celebrity no one ever had done anything about Dogtown.”

In his typical contrary way, the 54-year-old turned away from the waterfront where he lodged and each afternoon hiked five miles into Dogtown, a colonial settlement that had been abandoned in the mid 18th century, and by some accounts nicknamed for stray dogs that departing residents left behind. Today it’s gone wild again with forest, but in Hartley’s era it remained open grazing pastures with stone walls, fields of boulders believed scattered by the glaciers of the last ice age, and here and there cellar holes of the ghost town.

“Marsden Hartley: Soliloquy in Dogtown” reveals in 13 paintings and 13 drawings the breakthrough he made that summer, as he extended his stay into the fall, and pioneered his late, raw, direct style.

Read the rest here.

“Marsden Hartley: Soliloquy in Dogtown,” Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant St, Gloucester, Massachusetts, to Oct. 14, 2012.

Pictured at top: Hartley, “Rock Doxology,” 1931, Oil on board, 18” x 24”, Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, gift of Robert L. and Elizabeth French, 2009.

Hartley, “Summer Outward Bound, Gloucester,” 1931, Oil on board, 17 ½” x 23 ½”, Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, gift of Robert L. and Elizabeth French, 2009.

Hartley, “Blueberry Highway, Dogtown,” 1931, Oil on composition board, 18 ¼” x 24”, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia; Purchase with bequest of Charles Donald Belcher.

Hartley, “Wind-Bitten Moors, Dogtown,” 1931, Oil on academy board, 17” x 23 ½”, Private Collection, Courtesy Babcock Galleries, New York.

Hartley, “Rocks, Dogtown,” 1931, Ink on paper, 18 ¼” x 24⅛”, Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, Museum purchase.

Note that Dogtown was in fact open and pastoral, as John Sloan conveys in his 1916 painting “Dogtown” (above, Oil on canvas, Collection of the Cape Ann Museum, gift of Dr. and Mrs. Hollon W. Farr, 1991). Hartley’s accomplishment — which would fuel his later works — was to suffuse it with his psychological charge. It’s not just Dogtown, it’s Dogtown as Hartley felt it.

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Sunday, Sept. 2, 3 p.m.
Bread and Puppet Theater performs “The Circus of the Possibilitarians” at Cambridge Common, near the intersection of Massachusetts Avenue and Garden Street. Free.

Tuesday, Sept. 4, 7 p.m.
Photographer Henry Horenstein speaks about his new monograph “Honky Tonk,” documenting the country music scene for the past four decades, at Brookline Booksmith, 279 Harvard St., Brookline, Massachusetts. Free.

Boston Caribbean Carnival

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

The 2012 Boston Caribbean Carnival Parade in Roxbury and Dorchester today as photographed by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Previously: Our photos of the Caribbean Carnival Parade in 2010, 2009 and 2008. Also, history of the Caribbean Carnival in our review of Michael C. Smith’s carnival photos and preview of the 2008 parade.

Bread and Puppet’s “Shatterer of Worlds”

Friday, August 24th, 2012

“Shatterer of Worlds,” Bread and Puppet Theater’s Friday night summer show in Glover, Vermont, begins in silence and darkness. A gang of six, naked, brown papier-mâché giants, perhaps 20-feet-tall, stand on the dirt floor, matching the color of the wood theater barn, decorated with hundreds of low-relief papier-mâché figures. Founder and artistic director Peter Schumann, an old man with a white beard and long hair, dressed in peasant work clothes, lights a candle from a large wooden cylinder supported by a wood stand at the center of the stage, and announces the show: “Shatter-of-Worlds Chapel with nationalization services for applicants requesting citizenship in the shattered world.”

He replaces the candle on the cylinder device. A man turns a crank on the back and the cylinder spins and makes a noise like wind. Behind this device, a brown papier-mâché screen, covered in a low relief depicting writhing people, is carried off stage, revealing three wooden wheels built into the back wall. A performer sets these “metronomes,” driven by old window sash weights, spinning and clicking and thudding.

Schumann sits in a chair at the front of the stage sawing upon a violin combined with a horn. The cast of dozens, dressed in brown peasant attire, files in from the back. A clamp light dangles lower and lower, down from the ceiling over Schumann. He announces, “The overt and extrajudicial capabilities of the society system allow the Shatterer of Worlds to function legally and to cultivate destructions so minute and gigantic, the eye cannot perceive and the wind cannot behold them. No politician, no hazardous substance, but a well-established tradition and demon strengthened by endless practices of devastation, the Shatterer continues to plot the assassination of existence-as-it-is, while disguising his activities as benevolent maneuvers meant to cure the two ailing adversaries: the planet and humanity.”

When the cast is all assembled in loose rows amidst the giants, one by one they lay hands on each other’s shoulders, only to have the others shake them off. A performer in a bulging-eye mask stands up at the left and lifts an accordion into the air. It has wooden wings, and seems to be symbolically flying as it’s played. The dangling light begins to sway right and left, and the cast sways with it. Then they stop and most of the performers fall to the floor. Some walk or crawl amidst the others.

Nearly the only illumination for the show is a woman in a long white dress on the dirt floor and some white-masked figures on the balcony above holding clamp lights that they slowly wave about and click on and off—directing your attention and then, just as quickly, abandoning it. Everything seems to be in movement on the main stage, on the balcony. It’s hard to take it in. The actions don’t seem necessarily coordinated. Your focus is pulled about seemingly randomly, fostering frustration.

A woman at a desk on a small elevated platform at left shouts, “Next.” Half a dozen people line up at the front of the stage waiting as she reads questions from an immigration application—“Family name,” “Name and address of petitioner,” so on. She shouts “Next” again and they fall to the ground.

What to take from the two main texts—an immigration questioneer and riffs inspired by the Hindu Bhagavad Gita scripture, in particular the section that Robert Oppenheimer, the physicist who lead the American effort to develop the atomic bomb during World War II, quoted upon witnessing the world’s first nuclear test: “Now I am become death, the destroyer of worlds”? The Shatterer seems to refer to nuclear war as well as to be a sort of catchall symbol for all that is wrong with the world, from politics to the environment. Perhaps the immigration part addresses the people still trying to join the Western world, despite its troubles. Perhaps the connection between the two themes is also autobiographical—reflecting Schumann’s lifelong theme of bombing, stemming from witnessing air assaults as a boy growing up in Germany during World War II, as well as his subsequent immigration to the United States?

A few performers come to the front right and haul on the squeaky ropes that support the giants, pulling them up and then letting them lean forward. As various machines clank and howl, performers wearing large white face masks wander slowly through the crowd and also appear on the balcony at the back of the stage, like ghosts. The woman appears at the desk again to shout “Next” and ask the half dozen people who line up immigration questions. “Next,” she hollers again, and they fall to the ground.

The brown papier-mâché giants slowly bob up and down, sort of seasick. Performers raise their arms toward these puppets as if simultaneously praying to them and trying to keep them from toppling over.

Someone runs a power drill on the left. Three wooden “metronomes” click and bang. The wind machine howls. Ropes holding the giant puppets squeak through pulleys. A white masked performer dumps rocks—or something—into a wooden chute attached to the right wall, and they bang and clang down to the stage below. The cycling movements and noises suggest an oppressive factory, or being trapped inside an old, rusty, interminable machine.

Slowly the giants lean over, on their sides, shuffled, onto the dirt stage floor. Schumann sits in a chair in front of them and saws away on his violin-horn as a clamp light dangles down from the ceiling. White masked performers watch from the balcony, like witnesses.

“There is no worship in this chapel but an awe and a realization of the need for battle cries against the Shatterer,” Schumann announces. “Battle cries based on the analysis of Shatterer characteristics, stripping the human figure of its disguise and civilization, rewriting it with its prehistoric self, a bird and beast-like co-inhabitant and Possibilitarian.”

Schumann plays the violin and throat sings. The performer in the bulging-eye mask plays the flying accordion.

A light goes on at the left backstage, revealing performers slowly wandering among black, flat cardboard trees as if lost in a maze. Guys at backstage right pluck piano strings for a horror movie soundtrack. Schumann exits. White faces fitfully illuminate on the balcony. The noise of the metronome, the wind machine, the squeaking pulleys continues.

Flashes, like from a searchlight, reveal a brown papier-mâché person dangling upside-down from a hole in the ceiling. Dangling lower and lower. Shaking. The body seems skinned, maybe.

White mask faces appear among the backstage walkers. Some of the walkers get down on their hands and knees and begin to crawl through the fallen giants, back onto the dirt main stage. Some stand up amidst the puppets, writhing and waving their arms. It feels like being trapped in an anxiety dream, claustrophobic.

The wind machine accelerates and the giants stand up again. The performers raise their arms toward the puppets. Schumann sits in a chair in front, plays his violin-horn under the descending dangling light. “Unstoppable bodies amidst giant stops which occur in the electric world in the center of the electricity, in the failing bird universe, in the museum of extinctions,” he pronounces. “Only those of no particular calling in the particular world, only the no-defenders and military non-elites, only the battle criers in their savage pursuit of the whole and the all, only those with the essential battle cries in their brain, only those who can within the cannot.”

The masked performer plays the flying accordion. Schumann exits. The woman in the long dress stands on his chair and shines a clamp light on the chest of one of the giants. A brown flower bud on its breast opens into white petals. She repeats this with each of the giants. A flower blossoms on each chest. The theater has gone quiet except for the accordion and Schumann breathing loudly through a horn.

Schumann sits back down in the chair at front as the cast exits and the stage falls dark. He throat sings as the wind machine slowly howls. Schumann lights a candle on the wind machine and brings it to his music stand. He says, “Death, the Shatterer of worlds, is become life, the splendor of thousands of suns blazing all at once, receiving the exulted soul.”

Silence. Schumann blows out the candle and the stage falls into darkness. The end.

Bread and Puppet Theater’s “Shatterer of Worlds,” 753 Heights Road, Glover, Vermont, Fridays at 7:30 from July 6 to Aug. 24, 2012.

Photos copyright by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

“I would never have drawn my sword”

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012

Abolitionist broadsides from the BPL

“I would never have drawn my sword in the cause of liberty! If I could have conceived that thereby I was founding a land of slavery!” the Revolutionary War hero the Marquis de Lafayette seemingly shouts from the poster. It is from a set of great 19th century anti-slavery broadsides in the collection of the Boston Public Library’s Rare Books & Manuscripts Department that the library recently posted online. Massachusetts was a leader the abolitionist movement in the years leading up to the Civil War–while at the same time Massachusetts’s great 19th century textile mills, an engine of the local economy, were primarily processing Southern slave cotton.

Above: An 1853 poster by Earle & Drew Printers advertising a “railroad excursion” to Framingham, Massachusetts, to celebrate the 19th anniversary of the abolition of slavery in the British West Indies.

An 1854 broadside about a slaveholder refusing to sell a slave named Anthony Byrnes to a minister who intended to free him.

An 1852 broadside.

A 19th century broadside quoting Thomas Jefferson.

Rhode Island fellows announced

Monday, August 20th, 2012

The Rhode Island State Council on the Arts has announced its 2013 Fellowship Recipients. The visual arts winners are: Crafts: Jill Ann Colinan (one of her sculptures/dolls is pictured at top), Jay Lacouture; Film & Video: Ann Fessler, Steven Subotnick; Photography: Denny R Moers, Maria Teresa Scaglione; Three-Dimensional Art: Jesse Thompson, Frank Poor.

Maxfield Parrish

Monday, August 20th, 2012

From our review of the retrospective of New Hampshire painter Maxfield Parrish (1870-1966) at the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport:

An otherworldly light glows from Maxfield Parrish’s paintings — part golden sunset, part moonlight, part fairy dust. It gives his paintings of dreamy women, wandering knights, Greek gods, fabled Bagdad merchants, and uncannily still landscapes an air of romance and mystery.

As Modern art was transforming reality into the urgent flaming brushstrokes of the Fauvism and the cracked planes of Cubism, “Maxfield Parrish: The Retrospective” at the National Museum of American Illustration seems to reveal a resolutely conservative realist artist. In some ways, these painters were all responding to the rise of photography in the 19th century. The Modernists seemed to ask: If cameras could be so true to reality, why not just leave realism to photographs? But for Parrish, one of the most beloved illustrators of his era, the camera was a tool he used to crack open windows onto dream worlds.

Read the rest here.

“Maxfield Parrish: The Retrospective” at the National Museum of American Illustration, 492 Bellevue Avenue, Newport, Rhode Island, May 28 to Sept. 2, 2012.

Pictured at top: Parrish, “Century Midsummer Holiday Number,” 1896.

Parrish, “Morning,” 1922.

Parrish, “Venetian Lamplighter,” 1924.

Parrish, “Evening Winterscape,” 1956. Note how the trees uncannily retain their leaves even in deep winter snow.

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Monday, August 20th, 2012

Thursday, Aug. 23, 5:30 p.m.
Curator Joyce K. Schiller speaks about “Howard Pyle and his Students” at the Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Massachusetts 183 Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Saturday, Aug. 25
Boston Caribbean Carnival parade on Blue Hill Avenue, Dorchester, Boston. Free.