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Last weekend I indulged with NAC in a pleasant stroll throughout the DeCordova’s museum and grounds, which overlook an idyllic lake and forest vista.

At the moment, there are two major exhibitions, the 2010 Biennial and Out of the Box. For now I’ll speak of the latter, but the eclectic biennial collection, some I found to be fantastic while others moved me less, I plan to touch on them  later.

Out of the Box is quite literally titled, it features photographs from different portfolios in their permanent collection, an interesting meta concept.  Photography portfolios are like books in that they are more of a personal experience than a public one.  The photographs are matted and boxed and meant to be sifted through by a single individual or a small group.  They usually contain a colophon with a table of contents, and sometimes have essays by the photographer, the printer, or someone otherwise tangentially related to the content.  Thus, they have become closer to study materials than exhibition collections, meant more for personal reflection than public perusal. In this exhibition, a few portfolios were represented through selected works.

One of the pieces that I liked (and could find a picture of, there are painfully few on the DeCordova website), is a Larry Fink called Girls on Porch, Martins PA from 1977 from the portfolio “Making Out, 1957-1980” printed in 1980.  Fink captures the actions of teenage girls from rural Pennsylvania and débutantes from New York in two photographs featured in the exhibit. As one would expect, both the dichotomies and similarities are fascinating.  Essentially, both photographs are of girls acting like girls, whether pretending to be grown up and sophisticated or goofing around.

Unfortunately, only the plebian of the pair is featured online, but even on its own it’s a beautiful photograph.  The viewer’s gut reaction is an ineffable feeling of life that seems to be emanating out of the velvety inky blackness that permeates the majority of the image.  In the center is a teenage girl falling towards the camera, filled with light.  Her mouth is wide open and her eyes are closed and her entire face is filled with joy.  It is the kind of ecstatic abandon that can only be reached by a group of teenage girls hanging out on a porch on a hot summer night; there is a lack of care or worry and a pervasive feeling of freedom.  As the eye travels down her outfit, from the zipped-up cropped-top to the shorts, the profusion of skin and flesh down to the belly roll seems to attest to this same joie de vivre.  A skinny girl wouldn’t have worked, it would have had connotations of restraint; this woman takes pleasure in life, and her blind happiness emancipates her from shame.  Hidden in the darkness are two other girls, one is hidden behind the protagonist and another slowly emerges out of the fading black, she is younger than the two in front, probably about ten or so.  There is a smile playing on her lips, but more than anything she’s interested in watching, not completely engaged in the activities of the older girls but proud to be included all the same.

This piece made me curious, and did nothing but make me want to see more.  The photographs chosen were gorgeous on their own, but I would have loved to sit down and looked through the whole portfolio.  It would have offered an interesting experience to compare and contrast the different images and think about their relationships to each other, and the reasons they were included in the collection.  Still, the opportunity to see even just this much is an opportunity to be cherished.

Link:

DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park: http://www.decordova.org

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