Archive for September, 2012

RI man grows world’s heaviest pumpkin

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Ron Wallace of Greene, Rhode Island, reportedly broke the world record for heaviest pumpkin during the 28th annual Giant Pumpkin Weigh-Off at the Topsfield Fair in Massachusetts on Friday. The monster he grew this summer came in at 2,009 pounds and is believed to be the first pumpkin weighing more than a ton. Which won him $10,000 in addition to $5,500 he won for taking first place in the contest.

The 1-ton pumpkin is one of those arbitrary but monumental barriers–like Roger Bannister in 1954 becoming the first person recorded to run a mile in less than four minutes.

Chris Stevens of New Richmond, Wis., has held the Guinness World Record for heaviest pumpkin for a 1,810.5-pound behemoth he brought to the Stillwater Harvest Fest in Minnesota in 2010. At the Deerfield Fair in New Hampshire on Thursday, Steve Geddes of Boscawen, New Hampshire, seemed to best that record with a 1,843.5-pounder. Impressive, but it only stood until Wallace’s pumpkin tipped the scales the following day.
Photos courtesy of the Topsfield Fair.

Danforth receives $500,000 gift

Friday, September 28th, 2012

The Danforth Museum and School of Art has announced that it has received a “$500,000 unrestricted gift from an anonymous donor … the largest single donation in the 37 year history” of the Framingham, Massachusetts, institution. The museum reports:

“’This represents a vote of confidence in what we are doing,’ says Museum Director Katherine French, ‘and is particularly welcome as we consider relocation to a new facility.’ Troubled by long standing facilities issues, the Danforth has been considering a move to a Town owned facility on the historic green in Framingham Center. Last May Danforth Trustees responded to an RFP issued for a municipally owned building, which was conditionally approved in June by Framingham’s Board of Selectmen, subject to negotiation of acceptable terms and final approval at Town Meeting. In July the Danforth received a $30,000 Cultural Facilities grant from the Massachusetts Cultural Council to create a strategic site plan for the new location and has been working with Ann Beha Architects to realize this plan.”

Albion Park in Somerville

Friday, September 28th, 2012

Most playgrounds across the country are limited variations on a theme because they’re built with elements from a handful of manufacturing companies. Albion Park in Somerville, Massachusetts, features a nice, but standard issue variation on slides, swings, and so on from Kopan of Tacoma, Washington. What distinguishes the playground is its sprinklers. The water turns on when you press down on plungers atop three different poles around the edge of the “splash plaza.” Each plunger triggers different sprays, and the sprays vary when activated in combination.

The less than one acre site has been a public playground since 1950. A 2009 renovation, which also offers a playground, basketball court, seating area and community garden, received a 2010 Boston Society of Landscape Architects Honor Award.

Notably the park only offers two slides. A mounded lawn in the center could support some sledding in winter. But the stress is on climbing–with a climbing net on the playground section for 2- to 5-year-olds, and lots of climbing wall handholds built onto the outsides of the section for older kids.

Albion Park on Albion Street at Albion Place and Lowell Street, Somerville, Massachusetts.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Dr. Seuss National Memorial

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

In 2002, the Springfield Museums dedicated the Dr. Seuss National Memorial, set in the quadrangle between the buildings in the Massachusetts town where Seuss was born in 1904 as Theodor Seuss Geisel.

The project was first floated when Seuss paid a visit to Springfield in 1986, but didn’t get approval until after his death in 1991. Sculpted by Seuss’s step-daughter, Lark Grey Dimond-Cates, it includes a life-sized Seuss sitting at a drafting table with the Cat in the Hat. The Grinch peeks around a 10-foot-tall “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” book. A giant book serves as a pedestal for 14-foot-tall Horton plus Sam-I-Am, Thing 1 and Thing 2, and Thidwick the Moose. A tower of Yertle turtles and the Lorax, standing on a stump, stand on their own, away from the main group.

Ten years on, it remains undeniably fun. Dimond-Cates does a good job of rendering the famous characters and giving (most of them) a sense of animation and wit. But the two giant books and the decision to render everything in unpainted bronze are awkward solutions. Dr. Seuss, himself, made lively painted plaster sculptures of his critters while he was alive. The bronze here may be primarily about durability, but it seems to also be about asserting the importance of Dr. Seuss and his work, insising it’s art. But leaving it unpainted feels unplayful and miserly. And suggests that the organizers weren’t confident enough in Seuss’s work to hold its own.

Dr. Seuss National Memorial at the Springfield Museums, 21 Edwards St., Springfield, Massachusetts.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Randy Regier “discovers” lost crate of vintage toys

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Randy Regier, who studied at Maine College of Art and then lived in Portland for a while before decamping for Kansas last year, is one of the best sculptors working in the U.S. He mates awesome craftsmanship of vintage-looking toys and machines to intriguing invented narratives. Which is why his “Dime Star” installations across Maine won the critics’ pick for best sculpture at the 2011 New England Art Awards. Though he’s no longer here in New England, we love receiving news of his most recent work. “I was commissioned to find a lost shipping crate of early 1950′s era space toys from a Wichita, Kansas,-based company called ‘Wichitoy,’” he e-mails. “The search – most of which occurred in my studio – was ultimately a success.”

2011: Randy Regier’s “Dime Star.”
2010: Randy Regier’s “Out of the Box” installation at Wentworth Institute of Technology.
2010: Regier in the DeCordova Biennial.

MFA debuts gallery of ancient jewelry

Wednesday, September 26th, 2012

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts has opened a new gallery of gems and jewelry from the ancient Mediterranean. The MFA says half of the works will be gems from the MFA’s collection of some 700 Greek and Roman gems, “considered the finest in the United States,” and the other half of the works will be examples of Etruscan, Greek, and Roman jewelry, including the MFA’s gold “Earring with Nike driving a two-horse chariot” from about about 350 to 325 B.C. (pictured at top).

“Cameo with portrait busts of an Imperial Julio-Claudian couple,” mid-1st century A.D., Sardonyx.

“Cameo with the Wedding of Cupid and Psyche or an initiation rite,” Tryphon, Mid–to late 1st century B.C., Layered onyx cameo. These photos all © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Howard Pyle: The illustrator who invented pirates

Tuesday, September 25th, 2012

When Disneyland was developing the 1967 “Pirates of the Caribbean” ride, Marc Davis—a Disney animator-turned-Imagineer—realized that there wasn’t much historical imagery of pirates: “The artist who really invented pirates as we see them now was an illustrator by the name of H[oward] C. Pyle. He was the guy who really decided how pirates should look.”

“Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered” at the Norman Rockwell Museum, organized by the Delaware Museum of Art, is a retrospective of the brilliant American painter of manly adventure—much like Winslow Homer, who began in illustration and developed a career as a “fine” artist.

Pyle (1853-1911) spent most of his life in Philadelphia or his native Wilmington, Delaware. Through his teaching (students included N.C. Wyeth, Maxfield Parrish, Jessie Wilcox Smith) and popular magazine and book illustrations of Robin Hood, the Arthurian legends, the American Revolution, and pirates, Pyle deeply influenced American culture—particularly Hollywood.

Wyeth’s paintings are filled with he-men and Parrish’s have a dreamy stillness, but Pyle’s people are more natural and nearly always in dramatic action. In “The Flying Dutchman” (1900, pictured at top), rendered in seasick greens, seawater rushes down the wildly pitched deck. But our perspective matches the masked captain, hauntingly standing sturdily upright in the gale. In the Revolutionary War scene “The Attack upon the Chew House” (1898, pictured below), Pyle stresses the difficulty of the soldiers’ charge through the gun smoke to the building by directing the action from right to left—against the way we read. The gray men crash against the stone house like an exhausted wave.

“Howard Pyle: American Master Rediscovered,” Norman Rockwell Museum, 9 Route 183, Stockbridge, June 9 to Oct. 28, 2012.

Pictured above: “Howard Pyle at his studio easel,” taken by C.P.M. Runeford, 1898 Howard Pyle Manuscript Collection.

This review originally appeared, in slightly different form, here.

“The Attack upon the Chew House,” 1898.

“Away they rode with clashing hoofs and ringing armor,” 1888.

“Retreat through the Jerseys,” 1898.

“We Started to Run back to the Raft for Our Lives,” 1902.

“The Buccaneer Was a Picturesque Fellow,” 1905.

“An Attack on a Galleon,” 1905.

“Marooned,” 1909.

“The Mermaid,” 1910.

Ori Gersht’s history of violence

Monday, September 24th, 2012

From our review of “Ori Gersht: History Repeating” at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts:

At the heart of Ori Gersht’s art is a question: how to capture the ghosts of the Holocaust, Hiroshima, and Israel’s wars? Gersht’s work is about the persistence of trauma, the elusiveness of memory — “an attempt,” he tells me, “to hold onto something that’s already lost.”

In “History Repeating,” a striking survey of 25 works since 1998 curated by Al Miner at the Museum of Fine Arts, the London-based artist’s answer is a violent poetry. Hyper-detailed lush videos and photos show trees crashing down in a forest, a man falling apart as he crosses mountains, and — in the work for which he is best known — Old Master-style still-lifes blasted to bits.

Born in Tel Aviv in 1967, Gersht’s first war was the Arab-Israeli Six-Day War when he was a baby. Childhood memories include his father, who ran an art-house cinema, called up for Army service; the sirens and bomb shelters of 1973′s Yom Kippur War; his mother sheltering him with her body; officials visiting the neighborhood to announce soldiers’ deaths. His grandmother spoke of leaving Poland for Israel in 1933 to avoid an arranged marriage, and about the family she left behind disappearing into the Nazi death machine. Gersht served in the Israeli Army as a medic in the ’80s, where he was lucky enough to avoid crisis action, but constantly rehearsed treatment of traumatic wounds and chemical burns.

In 1988, he moved to London seeking anonymity, and attended art school. He found his subject by driving to Sarajevo in 1998, a few years after the seige there during the Bosnian War, and photographing the city’s scars. Then a plane to Poland in 1999. Riding a train from Krakow to Auschwitz, he photographed passing buildings that seemingly remained as mute witnesses to Nazi murders.

But Gersht’s reputation depends on videos…

Read the rest here.

“Ori Gersht: History Repeating,” Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, Aug. 25, 2012, to Jan. 6, 2013.

At top: “Pomegranate,” excerpt, 2006. Photo of Gersht by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

“Big Bang,” excerpt, 2006.
“Falling Bird,” excerpt, 2008.

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Monday, September 24th, 2012

Thursday, Sept. 27, 7 p.m.
The Rhode Island Film Collaborative offers a panel on tax credits for local film productions at the Blackstone Valley Visitor’s Center, 175 Main St., Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Speakers are Anthony Ambrosino, film producer and creative Director at The 989 Project; Bert Crenca, artistic director of AS220; Steven Feinberg – executive director of the RI Film & TV Office; Gary Glassman, founder of Providence Pictures; Andrew Lund, director of the Integrated Media Arts MFA Program at Hunter College, City University of New York; Edward Mazze, professor of business administration at the University of RI; and Kimberly Wyman, an accountant who is head of film tax audits at Carl Weinberg & Co. Free.

Thursday, Sept. 27, 8:30 p.m.
Andy Adams, creator of, and Jorg M. Colberg, publisher of the website Conscientiousnes, discuss photography in the digital era at the RISD Museum’s Metcalf Auditorium, 224 Benefit St., Providence.

Friday, Sept. 28, 6 p.m.
Letterpress printmaker Amos Paul Kennedy Jr. speaks at AS220, 115 Empire St., Providence. (At top, check out the preview of the documentary about him, “Proceed and Be Bold.”)

Friday, Sept. 28, 7:30 p.m.
Jason Rosenfeld, Distinguished Chair and Professor of Art History at Marymount Manhattan College, explores the recent art of Williamstown-based painter Stephen Hannock at Brattleboro Museum & Art Center, 10 Vernon St., Brattleboro, Vermont.

Saturday, Sept. 29, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Massachusetts Independent Comics Expo at University Hall, Lesley University, 1815 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge. Free.

Saturday, Sept. 29, 3 to 7 p.m.
The seventh annual “What the Fluff?! Fest” presented by the Somerville Arts Council in Union Square, Somerville, Massachusetts.

Monday, Oct. 1
Deadline for 2013 Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship applications in Crafts, Dramatic Writing, and Sculpture/Installation.

Monday, Oct. 1
Deadline for Rhode Island State Council on the Arts fellowships for Choreography, Drawing & Printmaking, Music Composition, New Genres and Painting.

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 5:30 p.m.
W. J. T. Mitchell, Gaylord Donnelley Distinguished Service Professor of English and Art History at the University of Chicago, speaks about “Seeing Madness: Insanity, Media, and Visual Culture” at the Clark Art Institute, 225 South Street, Williamstown, Massachusetts. Free.

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2012, 7 p.m.
Dallin Museum trustee Christine Sharbrough speaks about “Dallin and the Native Americans” at the museum, 611 Massachusetts Ave., Arlington, Massachusetts. The late culptor Cyrus Dallin was creator of “Appeal to the Great Spirit” outside Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts.

MFA announces small change:
Ancient coins gallery to open

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts plans to debut its new Michael C. Ruettgers Gallery for Ancient Coins on Sept. 25. The museum reports:

“It is the only gallery dedicated to coinage in a major US art museum and is unique for its emphasis on ancient coins as works of art—masterpieces on a miniature scale. The gallery will also illustrate how coins are both a form of cultural expression—reflecting the customs, beliefs, and ideals of those who produced and used them—and primary documents of ancient history. … Ancient coins, shown thematically and chronologically, will be drawn from the Museum’s extensive numismatic collection, which comprises more than 19,000 coins, medals, medallions, paper currency, and tokens ranging from the 7th century BC to the mid 20th century.”

Pictured at top: Tetradrachm of Akragas (Agrigentum) with two eagles and hare, obverse view, Greek, Classical Period, 413–406 B.C., Silver. Photos all © Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Aureus with bust of Aelius Verus, A.D. 137, Gold.

Reverse view of Tetradrachm of Akragas (Agrigentum) with two eagles and hare, Greek, Classical Period, 413–406 B.C., Silver.

Dekadrachm (Demareteion) of Syracuse with quadriga, Greek, Early Classical Period, about 465 B.C., Silver.

Shay Culligan burns conservatives

Friday, September 21st, 2012

Shay Culligan’s political broadsides in his exhibit “No Inherent Wisdom,” at NK Gallery (the gallery’s final show) are a withering indictment of conservative politics of the past decade.

The Irish native, who’s lived in Boston since 1992, hangs Bush Administration leaders with their own words. CIA Director George Tenant is framed by his statement, in giant stencil letters, “Slam Dunk”—stating his confidence that their evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction was true. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice warns, “We don’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Colin Powell sits behind a sign reading “United States,” with Tenant behind him, as he presented the Bush Administration’s case that Iraq was harboring WMDs to the United Nations. Culligan doesn’t add anything to this one, he just lets the buzzing television image damn itself.

Vice President Dick Cheney proclaims in 2003 that “We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators.” Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insists that the Iraq war won’t last more than five months. Need it be said that every one of these Bush Administration proclamations about Iraq proved false?

Culligan’s screenprints deploy stencil lettering and acid-colored, grainy reproductions of the players photographed from televisions. The effect is familiar and simple but effective. The Bushies buzz as bloody-minded incompetents.

Culligan’s punches fall wide of their marks when he tries to hit presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying he doesn’t care about poor people, his vice presidential running mate Paul Ryan, a teary-eyed Speaker of the House John Boehner, Newt Gingrich, Russian President Vladimir Putin, bankers and financiers. The images don’t have the same grittiness (Culligan says he’s now photographing from high definition televisions) and he’s less sharp at identifying the powerbrokers’ most self-damning quotes—perhaps because history hasn’t shaken them out yet.

Shay Culligan, “No Inherent Wisdom,” NK Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, Sept. 7 to 21, 2012.

Rethink Robot debuts “Baxter”

Thursday, September 20th, 2012

Rethink Robots of Boston this week announced its development of “Baxter,” a manufacturing robot designed to help “small, mid-size and large domestic manufacturers use automation to compete with manufacturers in low-cost regions of the world.” But what stands out to us is that the sort of spidery, sort of humanoid machine features an LCD monitor with cartoon eyes to give “clear visual feedback.” And which make it seem so, ahem, warm and friendly/creepy. The monitor also serves as a computer screen for programming.

Shipments of the robots (starting at $22,000, which apparently doesn’t include base and hands!) are planned to begin in October. The company was founded by Rodney Brooks, former director of MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Laboratory and co-founder of iRobot, best known for the Roomba vacuum cleaner robot, but which also produces military bots.

Sept. 14, 2012: More scary robots from Boston.
April 16, 2012: Boston Dynamics robot climbs stairs Plus new military robot tech from iRobot.
March 6, 2012: Boston Dynamics’ new killer robot: “When is some local museum going to get around to showcasing the freaky, astounding stuff Boston Dynamics is producing?”

Ezra Jack Keats’s Civil Rights Landmark

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

From our review of “The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats” at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art:

Ezra Jack Keats published “The Snowy Day” in 1962 — around the time Freedom Riders were being beaten for trying to integrate bus travel in the South and James Meredith was being barred from the University of Mississippi.

The picture book — a civil-rights landmark in its own right — was a calm and beautiful and poetically simple tale, stylishly illustrated, of a little African-American boy named Peter, who is entranced when snow transforms his city neighborhood into a wonderland. It was one of the first times — and the most prominent occasion — that an African-American was the star of an American children’s book. Previously, the most famous black children’s book character was the racist caricature Little Black Sambo. “The Snowy Day” deservedly won the Caldecott Medal, which honors great picture books, the following year.

“The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats” at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, organized by New York’s Jewish Museum, marks the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication with a survey of Keats’s career (1916-1983).

Read the rest here.

“The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats,” Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, 125 West Bay Road, Amherst, June 26 to Oct. 14, 2012.

Pictured at top: Ezra Jack Keats, “Crunch, crunch, crunch, his feet sank into the snow.” Final illustration for “The Snowy Day,” 1962. Collage and paint on board. All Keats images from Ezra Jack Keats papers, de Grummond Children’s Literature Collection, McCain Library and Archives, The University of Southern Mississippi. Copyright Ezra Jack Keats Foundation.

Above: “So he made a smiling snowman, and he made angels.” Final illustration for “The Snowy Day,” 1960. Collage and paint on board.

“He told his mother all about his adventures.” Final illustration for “The Snowy Day,” 1962. Collage and pencil on board.

“Before he got into bed he looked in his pocket.” Final illustration for “The Snowy Day,” 1962. Collage, paint, and pencil on board.

Ezra Jack Keats, “Peter’s mother asked him and Willie to go on an errand to the grocery store.” Final illustration for “Whistle for Willie,” 1964. Collage and paint on board.

Ezra Jack Keats, “In his great hurry, Peter bumped into Amy.” Final illustration for “A Letter to Amy,” 1968. Watercolor, paint, and collage on board.

Dan Walsh’s friendly Minimalism

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

From our review of Dan Walsh’s “Uncommon Ground” at the RISD Museum:

When Minimalist art began in the 1960s and ’70s, it was difficult stuff. Painters reduced their vocabularies to lines and grids as they pared painting down toward its essential ingredients. It was often severe, ascetic, and buttoned-up, a sort of colonic for the senses predicated on the notion that if you concentrated on it hard enough — and were worthy — you might discover transcendence.

But Dan Walsh’s works in “Uncommon Ground,” a selection of eight paintings plus three handmade books chosen by curator Judith Tannenbaum at the RISD Museum, are part of a warming trend in Minimalism that is also seen in the crowd-pleasing sculptures of Anish Kapoor, Tara Donovan, and the like. It still has the clean, fresh simplicity of classic Minimalism, but now it’s sweeter, friendlier, more playful.

Walsh still adheres to lines and grids as can be seen in his 2009 painting “Visitor” (pictured above), a grid of violet concentric squares against a black background. As in classic Minimalism, the paintings are about process. You can see how it was built, how each brushstroke was dragged across the canvas. The grid, which can often seem mechanical, is softened by Walsh’s not-quite-perfect marksmanship. The lines wiggle and wobble a bit, vaguely doodley, making the composition more obviously handmade and human.

Read the rest here

Dan Walsh, “Uncommon Ground,” RISD Museum, 224 Benefit St, Providence, June 8 to Oct. 21, 2012.
Dan Walsh, “Grotto,” 2010.
Dan Walsh, “Table,” 2010. All these paintings © Dan Walsh. Courtesy Paula Cooper Gallery, New York.
Museum of Art Rhode Island School of Design, Providence.