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ICA Boston

Before I start talking about this exhibition, I want to explain the general rules I stick by on how to view contemporary art.  Contemporary art can be hard; it can break most of the rules of what “art” “should” be.  In many cases, it tows the fine line between ridiculous and deeply insightful.  In fact, I would even venture that it doesn’t tow a line but rather carries both simultaneously; it can depend strongly on the viewer and what the viewer wishes to take out of experiencing the work.  So, I always view this type of art with an open mind but a skeptical eye.  Sometimes a piece just doesn’t work for me, I simply find it silly. At other times a piece will resonate with me by allowing a view of the world slightly different, opening up my eyes to newly see.  What works for me, however, does not necessarily work for other people and vice versa; it’s more of a personal experience than other genres.  The pieces in this exhibit that I believe fell flat may provide more to other viewers and what I found to be moving may not elicit the same response in everyone.

As always, I will highlight a couple of pieces that I found interesting enough to discuss, although there are many more which I encourage the reader to see for him or herself.

The exhibit starts on the first floor, with the first piece, a.k.a, on the right just when you walk into the museum. Horn compiled pictures of herself from when she was young up until the present day.  She has arranged them into pairs, in many cases including a more recent photograph and one from her past.  The photographs allow the viewer to see the passage of time on her features, from the length of her hair to the wrinkles on her face.  It starts off the exhibit nicely by setting the tone; the viewer is ready to see other works within the vein of time, temporal flow, and change, and that it would always be linked very closely and very personally to the artist herself.  Her photographs show up frequently within the exhibit; she seems to be stating outright that they are not only an expression but a part of herself.  Although not inherently a novel concept, the image choices are made with a deeply personal touch, there is not the distance usually associated between a photographer and his subject matter.  I should also add that the artist is not a purist and does not limit herself to photography, but also includes sculpture, drawings and writing.  Her work is unencumbered by the perspective of a single medium; she sees things not as a photographer or a sculptor but rather as a holistic artist.

I found the entrance piece to be thought-provoking but not inherently moving.  It allowed for me to muse on the passage of time, the choices the artist has made over the years and the visual effect it has on her face and body.  Obviously, the ten year old girl has both distinct similarities and distinct differences with  the forty or fifty-year old woman, but beyond that being able to see exactly where and when those differences occurred is fascinating.  The pictures allow for you to see the changes as they happen, gradual in real time but stark in these twenty or so photographs.  Finally, having the artist turn the camera on herself legitimizes her to the viewer.  She has already turned her critical eye on herself, offering herself up entirely to the viewer; thus her portrayal of others seems less exploitive.

The first piece that viewer confronts when walking onto the fourth floor of the museum, which is the ICA’s exhibit space, is You are the Weather from 1995, a grouping of 100 photographs of the same woman as she looks directly into the camera with an unchanging visage.  She appears to be wet, her hair is messily tied into a bun, her lips are slightly pursed, and there appears to be water behind her.  The photographs are in groupings of five to eight and each grouping has a certain color scheme.  One group may be black and white, another may have bright blue water in the background, another may be in color but they are more subdued.  I have to admit that this piece did not really touch me; I found it neither moving nor provoking.  Although I spent the time to see each photograph and experience the work as a whole, it just didn’t seem to do anything.  As I read more about the piece in the accompanying brochure, I learned that the model was bobbing up and down in different hot springs in Iceland.  The intended result was the interaction between the model and the viewer combining the sensuality of the beautiful woman’s face, the water, and the confrontation between the woman and the viewer.  I don’t know, it just didn’t happen for me, I probably can’t explain it any better than that.

As a side note, the museum offers a number different brochures which each describe one or two pieces, along with a packet to carry the eight different brochures.  It’s a nice touch, because the more a museum can offer to make contemporary art more accessible the better.

Horn also includes words in her work, which I want to say emphasizes their visual quality, but again, I don’t really know if I’m sold.  Her work, White Dickenson, ALWAYS BEGIN BY DEGREES, from 2006-7 also failed to move or interest me. It involves the words, “Always begin by degrees” written out in white capital letters on a piece of a rectangular rod of glass that is then leaned up against the museum walls.  I just couldn’t figure out what the point of it was.  Why this particular phrase?  How did it fit into the rest of the exhibition?  For that matter, what was the narrative of this exhibition? Did it even have one?  These were the questions that seemed to erupt from viewing this piece.  Maybe that was the piece captivating me, but I failed to glean the point.  It’s the question I frequently ask myself when viewing contemporary art, or any art for that matter, why did the artist even bother? What are they trying to tell me, or make me do?  I also look for the narrative of the exhibition, what story is the curator trying to tell me?  What am I supposed to get out of this experience?  Sometimes, with works like White Dickenson, I feel as though my already tenuous grasp on the exhibition’s narrative slips.

Despite these complaints, I do not want the reader to believe that I managed to see the entire exhibit without being moved at all.  Sure there was a hokey piece called Ant Farm that, indeed, involved a very large ant farm, but there were others, and one in particular, that resonated with me in a way that I could not have foreseen.

It is called Still Water (The River Thames, for Example) from 1999, and my initial response was, frankly, boredom.  Again it involves a group of photographs, this time close-ups of the Thames in London in which she sprinkled numbers across the picture.  Each number corresponds to a foot note in which she offers her insight into that specific portion of the picture.  These insights range from “water is sexy” and “black water is not sexy” to describing the gelatinous quality of that dot of water or musing on how water never looks like water up close.  I found that I could not stand there and read each footnote in every piece, only managing to skim a couple here and there.  I would maybe find a number on the picture and then find its footnote or catch myself reading the footnotes first and then start searching for their numbers.  In either case, I spent a while amongst these photographs not really feeling anything apart from mild interest.  I thought that it was a novel concept at best.

Fortuitously, the ICA is, if nothing else, spectacular in its location.  It is situated on the south side of Boston Harbor, overlooking the chilly water.  The fourth floor in particular juts out over harbor and is fitted with huge floor to ceiling windows.  It was also a glorious day with bright blue sky and a couple of clouds.  Directly after viewing the pictures of I walked into the front hallway that looks directly over the water.  After spending so much time looking at close up stills of the Thames I found myself transfixed by the waves stretching out in front of me.  The next fifteen minutes or so were spent meditating on the lively bright blue water in front of me, evoking so much character, so many thoughts and musings, in such a small space.  In some ways the pictures were the greatest success a piece of art can be, it altered my thinking and my means of viewing the world, if only for a moment, and allowed me to notice something I would not have otherwise.  In that sense, the work is less about the object itself and more about what it can do for the viewer. By allowing me to take time out of my busy schedule to simply watch the waves roll by, it did wonders for me.

Link:

ICA Boston: www.icaboston.org

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This weekend I joined the throngs of people who decided to make the most of the beautiful and rather abnormal Boston weather. I ended up walking down Newbury Street, where I came upon a new gallery I’d heard about devoted entirely to photography.  It is located in the old Chase Gallery space between Arlington and Berkeley. It’s actually their second storefront, the first being in Great Barrington in the Berkshires.

 

From the get-go, I was happy to know that there would finally be a gallery entirely devoted to photography on Newbury Street.  As much as I love the South End, Newbury Street is just much more accessible via public transportation and, depending on my mood, more fun to meander down.  Thus, it was with great excitement and expectation that I found myself on the second floor of your generic but still classy Newbury Street brownstone.  

Upon entry, the first thing that strikes you is that the gallery is very much a commercial enterprise, devoted to the business of selling art.  This is not a criticism per se, opening and running a business is an entirely legitimate venture, and I’ve never been one to fault people for trying to make money; it is just something to keep in mind, as it comes with costs.

 

The work that they are trying hardest to push is prominently displayed in both the front near the windows and in the wallspace that confronts you when you enter. It’s the work of Nick Brandt, whose Elephant with Tattered Ears shows up in multiple reincarnations, generally in grand, almost tapestry-level, proportions.  Now, this is not a bad photograph, the details in the expressive wrinkles of the elephant’s skin are clearly defined, and the sway of the massive ears is caught mid-motion, so it would probably hold up to some close exploration. That said, it just felt too self-knowingly epic, something that an interior designer would find and place in a spacious and modern living room of a wealthy client.  The picture would become a part of the décor, the person who was living there would forget sometimes that they owned the work, and life would continue accordingly.  The work is nice enough, but its depth and quality is out of proportion with how it’s touted; it is clearly there to make money.

 

Beyond this, however, the gallery holds some real gems, albeit tucked away in back corners, nooks, and occasionally on the floor. The work of Jeff Zaruba, for example, whose softly focused photographs document little vignettes of Paris that seem to tell a whole story, cozily lives in a crowded back space.  My favorite photograph, one that I think would hold up to years of viewing, is called Paris – Alone at the Louvre.  The small, dark blur of a person on the left is a nicely unexpected counterpoint to the large, circular fountain on the right; it offsets the balance of the composition in an interesting way.  The background is succinctly cut off by the rising building of the Louvre, making the image appear small, intimate, and manageable.  The water in the fountain, the softly focused lighting, the aloneness in what is typically remembered as a bustling plaza, all work together to give a sense of cozy peacefulness. Despite this, it is not a boring image, it doesn’t reveal itself all at once; there are a great many details in the laying of the bricks, the façade of the building, the variances in tone across the picture so that the viewer can always see and learn more.  It is not a particularly large photograph, which is key; it is an intimate picture for private viewing and contemplation.

 

On the floor of the gallery in the front, close to the large windows looking out over the street, are the works of Brigitte Carnochan.  Her works are gelatin silver prints (as opposed to ink jet prints like the two photographs above) which she then lightly and sparingly hand colored.  The effect is interesting and adds a nice allusion to the history of photography when Victorians used to have their black and white photographs painted.  The most interesting of the bunch was called Dancer I and shows the relaxed but oddly comported torso and a few limbs of a mostly nude dancer. A theme that might emerge from this blog is that when it comes to nudity in art, I want to be shown more with less. Just like the Amber Ray photograph from the Henry Hornstein show it’s striking. Thus, amidst a bounty of nude women sprawled out over black couches I found this photograph the most fascinating.  At first what caught my eye was the interesting compositional choices: she’s missing a head, most of her left leg is out of the picture, she’s hiding her left hand and her right foot and hand are doing something weird, oh and she’s sort of shuttled off to the side.  It’s really quite nervy.  On further examination I noticed that her only article of clothing is a tutu that she is using to cover most of herself which was colored a light pink, barely hiding the underlying grey. In the end, however, it was the odd tilt of her right foot, off on its own in the left corner of the photograph, which struck me most.  It further led me to notice the odd crunch of her right hand, reminiscent of the claw-like hand in Olympia placed suggestively over her pelvis. Ultimately though, I would have liked to have seen it without the colors, which were a bit too pastel for my taste and softened the blow of this really interesting photograph. 

There were also other pieces that I really liked, like the photograph Arches by Betsy Cullen or the Black and White landscapes of Keith Taylor and Beth Dow, that I don’t have the time to discuss yet. Unfortunately, they were mostly in the back, cloistered around Zaruba’s photographs. To sum, Iris has some really beautiful photographs, but it takes a bit of time and scrounging around to find them. Maybe that’s the right commercial decision, which allows the gallery to run in pricey space while still supporting artists with less broad appeal. All this said, the gallery only opened a month ago, so it will be fascinating to see where it decides to go.

Links:

www.irisgallery.net

Just a couple of quick posts this week. I thought I would make a quick mention of a little discovery I made the other day. I was wandering around Newbury Street trying to figure out what my next blog post would be on, when I happened to notice an enormous sign hanging on the Boston Public Library. It was a standing exhibition of Jules Aarons photographs titled “Into the Street” featuring images of Boston’s neighborhoods from the 50s and 60s.

Thus began an arduous expedition to find the Wiggins Gallery on the third floor of the McKim building, which apparently is the older structure, not the ugly new one.  I’m the first to admit that I lack any sense of direction, so maybe the more orientationally-inclined among you would have no problem, but I would forewarn those with similar failings that while it technically is just up on the third floor following the main staircase on the right, some adventuring may be required.  In either case, due to its location in a library, its quiet and unfrequented, and having the photographs all to myself felt luxurious.

There aren’t many good examples of his work online, so I’ve posted the ones I could find but they weren’t my favorites, which means that I won’t be doing much of an analysis of any pieces.  It’s too bad though, because Jules Aarons does an incredible job of taking the medium of black and white documentary street photography and really making it his own.  He’s not trying to push or question the medium, he simply photographs what he sees around him and creates interesting and thought provoking compositions in the process.

The result is an exhibit that gives the viewer a glimpse into Boston’s past.  Aarons focuses much of his energy on the North End which reflects a much more “hoody” sense of Boston than feel on today’s streets.  He depicts distinct neighborhoods, with distinct social and ethnic groups, who generally stayed within the boundaries of where they lived.  This feel is most prevalent in the images of small mom and pop shops with the proud owner boldly posing out front.  Whether it is a Jewish kosher meat market or an Italian bakery, their open pride grants the nostalgic atmosphere of a forgotten time

In short, there’s value and beauty in the everyday of the past, and I would highly recommend a short visit to the quiet of the Wiggins Gallery to experience some of these photographs for yourself.

Links: http://www.bpl.org/research/print/aarons/index.htm

Today I’d like to discuss a piece I visited a few weeks ago at Axelle Fine Arts. I thought they organized a uniquely beautiful exhibition, reminding me that curating a show can be as much of a work of art as the artwork itself.  Albert Hadjiganev and Jivkov occupy the first floor.  Hadjiganev’s coolly soft landscapes seem to melt into the white walls of the gallery.  While these works are beautiful, they are non-threatening. They’d easily live in someone’s home, but don’t really challenge the viewer.  This may be a small critique, although I would be worried about getting bored of the image if I were to have one in my home.  Nevertheless, the color palate of the painter works well with the impressive bronze sculptures of Jivkov.  His works in large and small form are filled with details that converse with the Cezanne-like brushstrokes of Hadjiganev. From the gallery attendant, I learned that Jivkov is largely drawn to myths and legends, which he likes to represent in his works.  The small, delicate pieces are mysterious at first sight, but through the lens of the relevant legend they begin to open up. In context, the viewer understands she’s looking at.

The piece that struck me the most, however, doesn’t fall into this category.  It is a sculpture of a man about to fall off of a stool, which unfortunately they do not have a picture of online.  The piece is quite large, and raised up on a platform, which makes it probably about six feet tall.  From the front, you see the stool on two legs, which seems to be gently sloping forward, and a man with his feet on the stool standing perpendicular to the floor.  Although you can see the slope of the stool, the man seems stable enough.  However, as you walk around the piece to the side you see that the third, back leg of the stool is about six inches off of the floor and the slope is much steeper than it first appeared. You are witnessing the man sliding down this stool.  It becomes a moment of motion captured into stillness, a snapshot.  Several aspects give the sculpture strength and power.  First, it takes full advantage of the medium; it is a three dimensional image and therefore it rewards the viewer who takes the time to walk the full circle.  The second is that it manages to capture the blink of a moment before everything tumbles down. The receptionist explained to me that it actually makes her feel a little anxious every time she sees it; she’s always worried that this time it will actually fall.  The third is that it becomes the study of a dichotomy, movement and stillness combined.  The piece itself denotes movement, the inevitable fall of gravity.  At the same time, it is a bronze sculpture, stable, strong, and still. Not a piece I would necessarily want in my home, but a stunning piece nonetheless.

Links:

Axelle Fine Arts Galerie:  www.axelle.com

A couple of weeks ago I wandered into Newbury Fine Arts gallery. I was re-acquainting myself with the Boston art scene soon after returning from a two-month long sojourn out of the country/ state.  Entering, I was greeted by a particularly friendly gallery attendant, who spoke about the works a bit and invited me to the opening of The Annual Figurative Exhibition.  It’s a well-done and accessible show, usually including the same six loyal artists, that the gallery puts on every year (hence ‘annual’).  The work was far more solid than the hit-or-miss of First Friday artist studios, and would make an excellent addition into anyone’s home. If nothing else, the artist’s technical mastery was where it should be for fine art, even if some of final products were a little kitschy. What’s more, I was happily surprised to see that much of the work is well under $10,000, which is actually very affordable for one-of-a-kind paintings.  As the attendant elaborated, this show is really designed for people who love art but don’t have the means to collect in great quantities.  Instead, much like the artists, they return to this show year after year to help grow their modest, if beautiful, collections.  After looking at much of the art, their prices, and the fact that the theme of the exhibition is figural paintings, I think that it would allow fledgling art buyers to create meaningful and cohesive collections without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. This kind of art at this price is good to see. I believe in the democratization of art, that everyone should have not only pleasing, but also interesting and thought-provoking art in their daily lives.  The best part of the show for me was to see both of these concepts come to fruition.

Once again, in regards to my own sanity and yours, I’ll limit my commentary to the three pieces that most caught my eye.  Charles Dwyer was probably my favorite artist of the bunch, whom I was sad to learn had a delayed flight and couldn’t attend.  Another notable aspect of the annual opening is that the artists try and come to this exhibition so that they can meet the buyers who have been purchasing their work year in and year out.  Although still figural, Dwyer’s work delves deeply into abstraction; his work mostly focuses on the top half of women who subtly emerge from a background of colorful, fanciful, brushstrokes.

Of the Dwyer works on display, the one I was drawn to the most was Mistral from 2009.  It shows the back a young girl, whose torso has twisted enough to give a glimpse of the side of her head as her left arm swings back.  Like much of his work, the period clothing is ambiguous, there is something almost Victorian about her bodice. The lack of concrete detailing makes it mysterious, I wanted to look longer to find out more, new details, previously hidden, wouldn’t cease jumping out.  Surrounding her is a panoply of colors and brushstrokes that both add visual interest and help her more solid figural form come out.  However, like in most works of art, it’s still the little things that make a piece not just interesting but moving.  In this case, it’s the red on her checks, which reminded me of a Degas pastel where the artist gave his young dancers these wonderful ruddy cheeks.  It somehow humanizes the whole work for me; displaying a girl with the bright red cheeks of youth.

Another piece that caught my eye was Joseph Lorusso’s End of the Night from 2009.  It definitely struck a cord, or as NAC tiredly put it, “I know what that feels like.”  The sketchy, almost cottony-soft brushstrokes produce an image of a man and woman, scattered wine glasses and coffee cups with the man slumped over the table, too tired to pull his face from his folded arms.  It does a good job of transferring the feeling after a long night of going out, where you’re happy and content with yourself but so, so tired.   The work accomplished its goal of transmitting a sensation effectively to the viewer.

The last artist that I wish to discuss is Peregrine Heathcote, whose work refers back to the provincial art of the 1930s in America and the movie-star culture that was emerging at that time.  Although at first it seems deeply engrained in Americana, I was surprised to learn that the artist is actually British, which brought an interesting level of irony to the work.  In fact, as demonstrated by the piece Air Ways from 2009, it appears to be mocking the Hollywood dream life by presenting, in sepia tones, fully formed and delineated figures in absurdly emotional poses.  In Air Ways, the backs of what is probably a very beautiful couple is shown in front of an old-fashioned airplane.  The woman’s hip is cocked just so, complementing the ramrod straight back of the man on her arm.  Upon further inspection I realized that while the man is holding one small suitcase, next to the woman there is a nice pile of boxes and suitcases piled on top of each other.  She, of course, is only holding an umbrella.  The whole piece is nicely tongue-in-check.

All told, I enjoyed the exhibition and appreciated the fact that the gallery was working towards a very particular, and often neglected, audience.

Links

Newbury Fine Arts: www.newburyfinearts.com

February First Friday

Newbury street is the traditional bastion of art sales in Boston, with high end galleries selling to high end clients, peddling everything from Chagall to the latest darlings of the art community. The SoWa district (short for South of Washington Street) in the South End has an entirely different feel.  It’s hipper, newer, grittier, and a bit more pleased with itself.  This means that art in SoWa can be more raw and interesting, or just plain bad.  Also, the crowd is different, again much hipper and cooler; everyone is drinking PBR and wearing skinny jeans, if you catch my drift.  I’m not a hipster, probably because I can’t drink PBR, even ironically. Thus, people watching is guaranteed to be fantastic.

First Fridays is an event throughout Boston when galleries stay open later on the first Friday of every month to showcase their new exhibitions.  Having done First Fridays on both Newbury Street and here at 450 Harrison a.k.a. the SoWa District, I find it more exciting in the South End.  The galleries stay open later, until about 9 or 10 or so, and since there are about fifteen galleries and fifty artist studios shoved into three adjacent warehouses, there’s more to see while staying blissfully warm (a key point for a native Californian during Boston’s winters).  As a side note, being free, it’s also a great activity for those of us that can’t actually buy the art.  Plus, most of the galleries and almost all of the artist studios serve food and wine which makes it a nice (and cheap) alternative to going out to a bar on a Friday night.

Despite the huge number of offerings, I’m afraid that in a single post I can only cover so many galleries and studios, so while there’s plenty more out there to see, only a few of the highlights are discussed here.

Before proceeding further, I should probably mention that my concentration in Art History was photography, so if there seems to be a particular slant in that direction, well, that’s why.  In either case, my first stop of the night was Gallery Kayafas.  The opening exhibition was Pelle Cass whose digital photographs are the result of multiple exposures over a period of time of a single spot which are then photoshopped together to create colorful, busy images. As stated by my non-arty companion, “It’s like the story of a particular spot; it documents everything that a spot might see over a period of time.”  Since the photographs document the same space over a short period of time, it’s normal for someone to appear on multiple occasions.  The result of which is evident in what was probably my favorite photograph in the exhibition, Esplanade.  I have to admit, I really hope that this photograph wasn’t staged, that he just happened to catch the action of people walking down a ramp in shirts and dresses which just so happened to create a rainbow.  It works because as people walk up and down this ramp they are repeated, extending the rainbow from red to blue.  There is a continual sense of motion, not unlike the photographs of people and animals by Muybridge.  It becomes not only a study of a particular spot but of human motion.

Gallery Kayafas is also presenting work of Rania Matar, whose series of photographs, “Ordinary Lives,” continues to move me even after multiple viewings.  I have seen her work at the Tufts Art Gallery and at the ICA where she received the 2008 James and Audrey Foster Prize given to artists who demonstrate exceptional promise.  The power of her work is that she presents Palestinians living amidst destruction and poverty with the same eye as one would present a glamorous fashion model.  The people, at once a part of their surroundings, are also removed from it, always staring directly into the camera, eerily oblivious to the world around them.  The black and white images are mostly of children in grungy streetwear striking runway poses. The most haunting image is of a young, skinny girl up against a chipping wall, she is looking directly out at the viewer with eyes that neither ask nor plead, but with some sort of sadness, surprising in the face of someone so young.  Next to her is a mirror, which reflects a boy who must be standing in the opposite corner of the room.  The actual distance between the two is probably not large but the sense of pervasive loneliness is almost overwhelming.  The two seem incapable of connecting; instead of actually standing next to her, he is only a reflection.

to see both images go to www.gallerykayafas.com

Next, I stopped by Walker Contemporary downstairs.  They were showing a raunchy group of photographs by Henry Hornstein, called “Show,” which documents the world of the neo-burlesque movement from its starting point in 2001 in New Orleans up until recently.  I found the show to be powerful, it presents a type of aggressive sexuality which while I may not always agree with or be comfortable with, it makes me happy to know that there are men and women like that out there.  That said, the pictures themselves are gorgeous, the backgrounds are inky black while the subject pops out in tonal whites and grays. In some images, there is this grainy quality, which the artist discusses a bit on the Walker Contemporary website.  According to him, he was experimenting with different cameras to use in the low lighting, and in one instance the photographs became grainy.  Although it does stand in stark contrast to the sharper images, they remind me of the carnivals and freak-shows of the Victorian era, disturbing figures emerging from shadowy darkness. They remind me of something that is sexy, on the fringe, perverse, provocative, and makes those in mainstream society both excited and uncomfortable.  Horstein states that he was originally planning on becoming a historian, and that he is seeing this neo-burlesque movement through those eyes. I like how he seems to be placing this movement into a very particular context.

Although there are more provocative images, featuring topless (and bottomless) women, my favorite was called Amber Ray, Los Angeles, CA from 2005.  The photograph is a close up of a woman biting her bottom lip.  Her full dark lips take up almost the entire image, with some skin shown on top and bottom, just for good measure.  The act of biting the lip like that makes me think about someone who has been caught doing something naughty.  The owner of the lip knows she is doing something not quite right, but isn’t ashamed for her actions either.  You imagine that her eyes are dancing gleefully.  This gritty naughtiness pervades the entire image; the glitter on her lips has rubbed off and is sprinkled in the area around her mouth, even making its way onto her teeth; it’s messy and sexy and in a good way.  However, what really made this photograph work for me are the tiny strands of hair above her upper lip.  It reminded me of a point a professor made while discussing Manet’s Olympia that the shading underneath her raised arm was not shadowing but hair, and that hair symbolized to 19th century French a kind of earthy and forbidden sexuality. In photographs, it’s always the details that you nearly miss that make them so moving, and it’s the tiny hairs that bring to mind some filthy eroticism without actually showing me a naked woman.

The last gallery I’ll briefly mention is the Boston Sculptors Gallery, specifically the piece Bardo State, 2009, from Kim Bernard’s Motion Matter’s exhibition.  According to the YouTube piece[link], which describes the work, it is forty-nine cement spheres attached to forty-nine springs and hung from the ceiling.  In Buddhist teaching, Bardo State is the transition state between death and rebirth which lasts forty-nine days.  The viewer is allowed to help the balls move by lightly tugging on them, the result is group of forty-nine cement balls springing up and down.

Coming into this exhibition with no prior knowledge of the Buddhist teaching or what the artist had in mind, I have to admit that my first response to seeing the piece was glee.  There appeared to be something so joyful in watching these heavy balls bounce up and down, appearing light despite being heavy.  It made my non-arty companion, whom I will henceforth dub NAC, smile as well, we didn’t know what it meant but, for once, it really didn’t matter; simply watching the spheres was fun.

Finally, there’s the SoWa Artist Guild, which is located on the upper floors of 450 Harrison, above the commercial galleries.  In SoWa, many artists open up their studio showing off their new work as people file through the old warehouse space.  There are over fifty artist studios in all, although maybe only half are open on a given First Friday.  This means that there is a lot of art, some good, some heinous, and most somewhere in between.  However, whenever I go, I usually stop by a few good standbys that I always enjoy.  The scene is also very much a scene; most people there are young and cool, so for those that are not quite hipster enough or cynical enough or feel uncomfortable in those types of crowds, you are forewarned. Wearing the normally standard uniform of young Bostonians, a button-down and jeans, NAC considered himself out of place via painfully generic.

The first studio I’ll mention is probably the most popular. It is the work by Brian Murphy, who creates these very well-executed wire sculptures with witty titles like, Back Bay Garden Club Dancing Naked through the Flowers. Again, as stated by NAC, “I don’t want to like it, it’s just so kitschy, but it’s also just so well done I can’t help myself” and generally, everything he’s said is true.  It is kitschy but it’s also well done and, crucially, it makes me smile.

The second artist I always like is Beth Darcy whose painting’s inspiration stems from vintage photographs.  The style is thick, meaty brushstrokes with swathes of color that delineate, without too much detail, the composition.  The paintings almost remind me of Diebenkorn’s figural paintings from the later 1950s, with their simultaneous flatness and “painterliness” mixed in with a certain solidity of form.  Since the photographs probably date from the same time, that comparison might make sense.  Also, I like that she doesn’t replicate the photographs perfectly.  For example, there is a painting of a man with his hand on a car door.  In that work, the man’s head is out of frame, however in another painting in her studio she includes his head and face.  I think that lacking the face and focusing on the torso and hand makes the composition more compelling.

Links:

Gallery Kayafas: www.gallerykayafas.com

Walker Contemporary: www.walkercontemporary.com

Boston Sculptors Gallery: www.bostonsculptures.com

SoWa Artist Guild: www.sowaartistsguild.com

Introduction

Hi, I’m an underemployed art historian.  I love studying art and I love writing about art, so here I am, analyzing art on my own terms.  The benefit of the blog medium is that I don’t have to worry about approval, what an editor might think about my choice of topic or writing style, which is both liberating and terrifying.  The purpose of these posts is to review galleries and museums that I visit, art books I’ve read, and really anything that involves the ‘art world’ in Boston.  As someone who has not yet truly broken into this scene, mostly due to poverty and underemployment (*being a recent proud recipient of an Art History degree), I’d like to think that I’ll offer a unique perspective on this city’s vibrant, shifting, and sometimes challenging art scene.

I’m not entirely sure yet where this blog is going to go, but my first posts are going to center around some galleries that I’ve visited.  I hope to comment on the art, its presentation, and those presenting it;  I love nothing more than a lively discussion about art. It always richens the experience when the gallery attendant is excited to share her views on the work she gets so intimate with. I always end up learning more about the artists and their artwork.

Also, as a little post script I should probably mention something about the name ‘Aoide’.  I spent about a week and a half or so stressing about what to call this blog that would effectively transmit this idea of someone discussing the Boston art scene.  However, after thinking up one bad name after another I threw my hands up and decided to pick the name of one of the Greek Muses because it was related to art and sounded pretty.