Author Archive

Architecture critic Ada Louise Huxtable has died

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

Ada Louise Huxtable, a Pulitzer Prize winning architecture critic who championed the Brutalist design of Boston’s City Hall, died in New York on Jan. 7 at age 91. She split her time between the Big Apple and Marblehead, Massachusetts.

She was an assistant curator of architecture and design at the Museum of Modern Art from 1946 to 1950. She became the nation’s first full-time newspaper critic of architecture when she wrote for The New York Times in 1963 until 1982. A champion of historic preservation and thoughtful new development, she won the Pulitzer for her writing in 1970. More recently, she had written for the Wall Street Journal.

Welcome Ulysses….

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Friday, we welcomed Ulysses to The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research family. Hurray! He’s happy and healthy. But everyone else is exhausted. And, you know, healthy and happy, too.

Photo above by our executive director for these past three and a half years, Jasper.

Mickalene Thomas interview: The Seduction of Blackness

Monday, January 7th, 2013

“So much of the beauty that I really try to capture and emulate in my own work stems from my mother.”—Mickalene Thomas.

Over the past half decade, one of the hottest artists in New York has been Mickalene Thomas (pictured above). Her rhinestone-encrusted paintings of black women in boldly patterned interiors that evoke the 1960s and ‘70s are the subject of a five-painting exhibit at the Institute of Contemporary Art (100 Northern Ave., Boston, through April 7) and a larger traveling show now on view at the Brooklyn Museum (through Jan. 20). On Dec. 11 at the ICA, we spoke to her about her mom (a fashion model in her youth), everyday middle class African American women, and the intersection of black beauty and black power.

“Growing up, my mother [pictured above in Thomas's 2009 painting “Sandra: She’s a Beauty"] would walk into a room and her beauty was so powerful that she could get whatever she wanted from people—attention, conversation,” Thomas says. “People just wanted her energy. They wanted to be around her. No matter if she said something or not. I think beauty has a form of power. And then on top of a woman being beautiful that way, if she’s intelligent, then that’s a double. And that was my mother. And I always wanted to understand that. People didn’t look at me that way. I didn’t possess my mother’s beauty in that sense. She had that ideal beauty that you just wanted to know. You knew that woman when she was in the room. I’m just trying to understand the power of that beauty.”

Read the rest here.

Mickalene Thomas’s 2007 painting “Baby I Am Ready Now.”

Bernard Chaet’s far horizon

Friday, January 4th, 2013

From our review of Bernard Chaet “A Life in Art” at Boston’s Alpha Gallery:

When painter Bernard Chaet died on Oct. 16 at age 88, Alpha Gallery, which had been planning a solo show of his work for December turned it into a mini overview of his career. And the news from that exhibit, “A Life in Art,” is that in his last decade, focusing on the shore and sea of Cape Ann, Massachusetts, he painted the best canvases of his life.

Chaet (1924-2012) grew up in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood and studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Tufts University. Early on he found inspiration in Boston Expressionism, a psychologically charged style of Modernist realist painting that emerged here in the 1930s and ‘40s.

In the 1950s, he experimented with abstraction. In the 1970s and ‘80s, he painted still-lifes and studio portraits in a stripped-down, flat realism. But again and again he returned to landscapes and seascapes painted with an expressionist realism.

His oil paintings tended to exhibit a sturdy competence, but undistinguished vision. His expressionist stylizations could be formulaic. Cows he painted grazing in hot hued fields—a signature motif over the years—tended to be caricatures, not animals carefully observed and fully felt. He was best known for teaching art at Yale University in Connecticut from 1951 to 1990 and authoring the influential 1970 book “The Art of Drawing.”

But as early as the 1960s, Chaet began summering at Cape Ann. After his retirement, he often split his years between Connecticut and there. Cape Ann’s rugged shore became a primary subject. He favored a few locations—particularly Bass Rocks in Gloucester and Pigeon Cove in Rockport—painting them again and again.

Read the rest here.

Bernard Chaet “A Life in Art,” Alpha Gallery, 37 Newbury St., Boston, Dec. 1, 2012, to Jan. 9, 2013.

Pictured at top: Chaet’s 2008 oil painting “Blue.”

Chaet’s 2004 to 2006 painting “Breaking Out.”

Best of 2012: Art made here

Friday, January 4th, 2013

Our roundup of the best art made in New England that we saw here in 2012:

Over the past decade, art museums and institutions around Boston have put more than $1 billion into renovations and expansions—from the Museum of Fine Arts’ Art of the Americas Wing to the new Institute of Contemporary Art building to the work ongoing at the Harvard Art Museums. Despite all this new infrastructure, it remains rare to find locally-made contemporary art in our local museums. For example, the MFA has perhaps three Boston area artists on view in its contemporary art wing, while the ICA seems to have just one local artist on view in the whole museum. But that doesn’t mean great art isn’t being produced here. Below is a sampler of the best art made in the region in 2012:

Antoniadis and Stone “Rough Shape” Samson, Dec. 16, 2011, to Jan. 28, 2012. The Boston duo’s sculptural installations (pictured at top) channel the essence of the crappy, generic architecture of strip malls and tired subway stations. Two concrete pillars toppled over, but remained neatly balanced on a third like an anti-triumphal arch. A pair of concrete stairs, turned upside-down and balanced foot-to-foot became an arch over a little paper bag crinkled in the shape of an absent beer bottle. It’s minimalist sculpture that evokes the monumental ruins of a dystopian future America.

Agata Michalowska “Dom” AS220 Project Space, Feb. 5 to 25, 2012. This rumination on home was so personal that many of the references were difficult to catch. But the Providence artist’s installation—including careful placement of cast-glass cups and table runners in a dining room-like installation—revealed a crisp sure vision.

Benjamin Benson Evans in “You Are Here!” at 17 Cox, April 25 to June 23, 2012. In his installation “TV Dinner” (pictured above), the Boston artist created a walk-in story. He transformed the space into a cramped, down-at-the-heels living room right out of 1990 (down to the copy of “People” magazine with “Most Wanted Woman” Paula Abdul on the cover). The clip of “Casablanca” screening on the television, the portraits of a man and woman hung on the wall were clues adding up to a story of love and loss. The attention to detail was astonishing—and signs of Evans’s growing talent.

Read the rest here.

Best of 2012: Seen in Providence

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Our roundup of the best art we saw around greater Providence in 2012:

The fall brought bad news — R.K. Projects closed as founding duo Sam Keller and Tabitha Piseno decamped for new adventures in New York (though they’ve since announced plans to do additional projects here). In an art scene as small as Rhode Island’s, any loss is a big blow, and to lose a venue as intriguing and trailblazing as RK is bruising. But the best art shows of the year exemplify how resilient the local art world is — as projects end, new venues like 186 Carpenter sprout.

• HOMELAND “Dom,” Providence artist Agata Michalowska’s starchy installation (pictured above) at AS220′s Project Space in February, was a meditation on her childhood in Poland and home in general. A miniature house, a pile of folded gray towels, and a table set with glasses and stained saucers created a meditative, sensual, cleansed, wistful mood.

• POWER COUPLE Pawtucket couple Megan and Murray McMillan, whose video installations are among the biggest, most ambitious art being made in the region, got a mini-retrospective at Brown University’s Granoff Center in May. It was one fantastic tableau after another: towers of lamps; a couple folding sheets in a dark, flooded room; a couple riding a boat over a sea of mirror-topped tables; a room flying over a dinner party so the woman on a hammock inside could rappel down a rope to join them.

Read the rest here.

Photo by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Best of 2012: Seen in Boston

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Our roundup of the best art we saw around greater Boston in 2012:

It was a year of bracing histories — ’60s assassinations, ’80s pandemics, and four decades of hubris in Iraq. But 2012′s best art wasn’t all bad news. Brandeis University revived its Rose Art Museum. And a sunny new mural became a beacon in the heart of the city — and a benchmark for what art in Boston can achieve.

OS GÊMEOS :: Was the technicolor giant that the Brazilian street-art twins Os Gêmeos painted at Dewey Square last summer (pictured at top) just your friendly neighborhood graffiti kid or, as Fox friends suggested, a terrorist? A little from column A and a little from column B. The cheekily ambiguous mural flooded the site of the 2011 Occupy encampment with sunny delight. It’s the best large-scale public art in Boston in decades. It has permission to be there for a year and a half. Email the mayor ( and demand it live forever.

“KENNEDY TO KENT STATE”:: This photo show at the Worcester Art Museum (through February 3) is a riveting blow-by-blow account of how utopian 1960s dreams came undone between the assassination of John F. Kennedy and the resignation of Richard Nixon.

Read the rest here.

Photo by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Gregory Gillespie

Friday, December 14th, 2012

From our review of Gregory Gillespie at Gallery Naga in Boston:

The late Massachusetts painter Gregory Gillespie was one of those outliers that the art world never knows what to do with. He took up realism at the height of Abstract Expressionism, but a realism so charged with psychological intensity, personal symbolism and hallucinatory weirdness that to call it realism didn’t fit quite right either.

His 1996-99 oil painting “Lady with Skull Necklace” (pictured above) in the exhibit “Transfixed: Selected Works 1995 – 2000” at Gallery Naga shows what he was up to. It’s a head-on portrait of a woman with her skin precisely rendered via lots of little red brushstrokes against a vivid green background, recalling the backgrounds of the German Renaissance master Hans Holbein the Younger. But this painting vibrates with the feeling that something’s not right—maybe it’s because her shoulders seem too big for her head, or that her skin seems to crawl, or that she appraises us with a cool, reptilian, alien stare.

Read the rest here.

Gregory Gillespie, “Transfixed: Selected Works 1995 – 2000,” Gallery Naga, 67 Newbury St., Boston, Nov. 9 to Dec. 15, 2012.

Pictured at top: Gregory Gillespie, detail of “Lady with Skull Necklace,” 1996-1999.

Gregory Gillespie, “Self Portrait with Yellow Background,” 1998-1999

Gregory Gillespie, “Manger Scene,” 1999.

Abstract-Expressionist New England?

Thursday, December 13th, 2012

“American Vanguards” at the Addison Gallery tells how a tiny group of New York friends — Stuart Davis, John Graham (painting above), Arshile Gorky, Willem de Kooning “and their circle” — inspired by Picasso and Surrealism, exploded the last ties between Modernist painting and realism as they helped invent American Action Painting between the mid 1920s and mid ’40s.

The triumph of New York School Abstract Expressionism helped the Big Apple supplant Paris as the capital of Western art. But a wall in the exhibit of 1930s paintings of Gloucester, Massachusetts, by Davis and Adolph Gottlieb, hints at a little-noted fact. After New York, Massachusetts might be the most important crossroads in the development of American Modernism.

In the crucial years between 1940 and 1947, when Jackson Pollock made his first drip paintings, stars of the new New York abstraction — Pollock, Gottlieb, Mark Rothko, Franz Kline, Barnett Newman, Robert Motherwell, Aaron Siskind, Hans Hofmann, and Elaine de Kooning (with occasional visits from Willem) — summered in Gloucester or Provincetown…

Read the rest here.

“American Vanguards: Graham, Davis, Gorky, de Kooning, and Their Circle, 1927–1942,” Addison Gallery of American Art, 180 Main St., Andover, Massachusetts, Sept. 21 to Dec. 30, 2012.

Pictured at top: John Graham (1887–1961) “Table Top Still Life with Bird,” 1929 Oil on canvas 32 x 39 in. (81.3 x 99.1 cm) Collection of Tommy and Gill LiPuma, New York.

Helen Molesworth and the ICA step up to a new level

Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

When the Institute of Contemporary Art hired chief curator Helen Molesworth in 2010, the museum had put together a string of impressive exhibitions showcasing single artists (Anish Kapoor, Tara Donovan, Shepard Fairey, Charles LeDray), but it didn’t seem to have anyone who could put together a powerful Big Idea show.
Molesworth has begun to fulfill the ICA’s aim — described by director Jill Medvedow — to balance monographic shows with exhibitions of historical sweep that “put more historical context around contemporary art.” She started with last fall’s “Dance/Draw,” which traced the origins of today’s performance art in the intersection between dancing and drawing since the ’60s. Now Molesworth has upped the ante and signaled the ICA’s aspirations with “This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s,” which opened November 15. It re-examines the whole greed-is-good, pastel-preppy conservative decade through the lenses of feminism, AIDS, rapacious business, and queer culture.

The scope and daring of the exhibit, attempting not just to pursue a Big Idea but also to redefine a whole decade, shows Molesworth — and the ICA — stepping up to a new level. It makes her one of the handful of curators in the country redefining the canon of art of the past half century. What we’re witnessing is someone becoming one of the most influential curators in the nation, and thereby, someone who can reshape the way we think about art and art history.

“It’s a very ambitious show,” says Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight, who reviewed it when it opened in Chicago. “It’s the kind of show that very few art museums even attempt…”

Read the rest here.

Peabody Essex hires American art curator

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Austen Barron Bailly, the head of the American art department at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has been named the new curator of American art at the Peabody Essex Museum, the Salem institution has announced. She is expected to begin work here in January.

“Bailly will lead the development of a multi-faceted American art program focusing on exhibitions, new interpretation in the galleries, and expanding the museum’s collection which currently includes paintings, decorative arts, photographs, folk art, and textiles representing over 300 years of New England and American art and culture,” according to the Peabody Essex.

Read the rest here.

Poor Yokelist’s Almanack: Upcoming Events

Monday, December 10th, 2012

Monday, Dec. 10, 7:30 p.m.
Sprout Spaghetti Dinner on the theme of “voyages, vacations and death” at Sprout, 339R Summer St., Somerville, Massachusetts. Presentations include Beth Nixon with a suitcase show contemplating the death of her father and dentist, Sara Peattie performing a toy theater show entitled “Ithaca,” short, 3-slide travelogues by spaghetti dinner attendees, and the The Spaghetti Dinner Funeral Band! Suggested donation $10.

Saturday, Dec. 15, 4:30 to 9:15 p.m.
The Somerville Arts Council presents its annual “Illuminations” trolley tours of spectacular holiday displays around the city. Tours begin and end at City Hall, 93 Highland Ave., Somerville, Massachusetts. $10. (Pictured at top, photo by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.)

Bella Luna/Milky Way celebrate 19th birthday with costume party

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

Bella Luna Restaurant and the Milky Way Lounge in Boston celebrated their 19th birthday with a superhero costume party on Nov. 30. More photos (all courtesy of the restaurant/lounge) here.

Tannenbaum to leave RISD Museum

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

Judith Tannenbaum is leaving her post as the Rhode Island School of Design Museum’s Curator of Contemporary Art, the Providence museum announced today. She’s “moving on to other things,” museum spokesperson Lani Stack says. Let’s call it kinda, sorta, basically, maybe retiring. Tannenbaum is expected to end full time work with the museum in February 2013, but remain affiliated with the museum as an adjunct curator through 2014. Tannenbaum is moving to Philadelphia where she plans to focus on her writing and other projects, Stack says.

Tannenbaum has organized numerous major shows for the museum, including “Wunderground: Providence, 1995 to the Present” (2006); “Beth Lipman: After You’re Gone” (2008); “Styrofoam” (2008); “Lynda Benglis” (2010); and “Painting Air: Spencer Finch” (2012). But she’s also the most prolific curator at the RISD Museum, having organized some 50 shows since joining the institution in 2000.

The museum plans to fill the position: “It is a position that is vital to the museum. We’re definitely having a job search,” Stack says.