Saturday, February 03, 2007

Todd McKie

Here's my brief essay on Cambridge artist Todd McKie’s show of white pencil drawings on black paper at Victoria Munroe gallery.

During a week in which Boston was freaked out by some corporate advertising graffiti masquerading as guerilla art, it’s worth remembering one of the great Boston guerilla art events of the past 50 years, the “Flush With the Walls” exhibit.

McKie was part of a gang of local artists, including Bob Guillemin, Kristin Johnson, Martin Mull, David Raymond and Jo Sandman, who secreted their art into the men's room at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts on June 15, 1971, for the notorious exhibit. Their slogan: "When you gotta show, you gotta show."

The exhibit was part joke, part protest that the MFA ignored contemporary art. Word of mouth brought a large turnout, before the cleaning crew removed everything that night. The MFA responded to the artists with a wonderfully deadpan institutional letter, saying it could not "accept any responsibility for works of art that enter the building in such an irregular way," and future proposals should be submitted to the new curator of contemporary art. (Rachel Rosenfield Lafo’s essay in the 2002 catalogue “Painting in Boston: 1950-2000” is my source for some of this.)

“People say it affected their policies in terms of contemporary art, and maybe it did,” McKie told me recently, “but the one thing that happened is they immediately revamped their security system because they didn’t want this to become a weekly event.”

Todd McKie “Misadventures in the Lace Trade,” Victoria Munroe Fine Art, 179 Newbury St., Boston, Jan. 18 to Feb. 20, 2007.

From top to bottom: “The Great Outdoors,” “What Are You Looking At?” and “Down Along the Border #2” (all 2006).


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