Cirque Du Soleil: Flowers in the Desert

Monday, June 4, 2012
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Figuring Color at the ICA

By Jared Bowen   |   Thursday, February 23, 2012
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Kathy Butterly, Under Cover, 2002. Clay and glaze. Collection of Barrie Schwartz and Patrick Hayne.

Feb. 23, 2012

BOSTON — With one striking exception, the Institute of Contemporary Art is awash in lush color at the moment. At the outset, it would appear to be the output of bubbly artists.

“I’m really flaunting color,” said Kathy Butterly

 “Orange is orange and it just gets to be orange,” added Roy McMakin. Sue Williams elaborated.  “I think of them as attractive colors. I don’t use browns. I don’t use neutrals," she said.
Look closer, though, and the ICA’s new show Figuring Color is about the meaning of color—how it relates to the body, to emotion, to comprehension. A red curtain references the height of the AIDS crisis. A skin-toned chair is a seat, but also looks like your own. Cheerfully rendered paintings, viewed up close, belie their subject matter.

Three of the four featured artists talked with WGBH about their use of color. Sue Williams said, “I like contrast a lot, opposite colors contrast. Bright. I want them to because paintings can’t make light so I want them to have brightness.”
In her more recent pieces however, like Record Profits or American Enterprise, the subject matter is anything but bright. They’re the manifestations of her activist side she says, her frustrations about US Military intervention rendered on the canvas.

“It is one place where people see what I do so that’s why they used to be more abstract and became more figurative because I wanted it to be connected to what I was interested in. And being abstract, it wasn’t compelling to me anymore,” she said.
Since he was a child, Roy McMakin says he’s been rather obsessed with furniture. This work of 19 independent sculptures was conjured from memory. It’s what he remembers of furniture in the homes of his parents and maternal grandparents.
“The idea to unify them all with the same color of gray was partly to unify them. At one point, because it’s a memory-based piece, I was thinking I could go with my memory of those colors, but I felt like I wanted them to be significant in some other way, kind of pulled out of normal objects a little further,” he said.
“I feel as I get older I understand the psychology of color more. And I’m using some really intense color,” said Butterly.
Kathy Butterly’s ceramic sculptures toy with the notion of bodies. Their colors compel, and embarrass.
“Some of the earlier pieces, which are very provocative, seductive in a way, naughty, they happen because that’s what was happening in my life. I was falling in love and I was thinking about my body and just…that was my world,” she said.
Butterly says her works are largely psychological self-portraits, but her environment also influences her color choices. “A lot of the time I’ll be listening to public radio. I’ll be listening to what’s going on in the world and the wars and whatnot, and maybe it’s not so clear in the works that that’s what I’m thinking about, but it does get infused. So there might be like a camouflage color on the body,” she said.
The sum of In Figuring Color, at the ICA, is wonderfully complex.

Jared Bowen's Arts Ahead: New, Bold and Beautiful

By Jared Bowen   |   Thursday, February 23, 2012
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Feb. 23, 2012
Chris Loftus, Bill Nolte, Ryan Landry in Little Pricks. Photo by: Michael von Redlich

BOSTON — Premiere performances, bold comedy and daring exhibitions prove Boston's art scene is to be taken seriously.

Wild Swans
American Repertory Theater
Now through March 11th
The set is georgeous, and Jung Chang consulted a great deal on getting the details just right in this first ever production of her best-selling book. See Jared's full report for Greater Boston and participate in the Wild Swans community memoir project, created in collaboration with Harvard's metaLab and Zeega.

The Little Pricks
Presented by Ryan Landry and The Gold Dust Orphans
Machine in the Fenway
Now through March 11
Landry is at it again, this time interpreting Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes," mocking the one percent with characters conniving to get rich quick by means of a slavery scheme. With outrageous costumes and great wit, you can't help but let out a laugh.

Figuring Color: Kathy Butterly, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Roy McMakin, Sue Williams
Institute of Contemporary Art
Now through May 20th
A major exhibition exploring the use of color and form to convey ideas about the body. McMakin’s fleshy chairs mimic the human form, Butterly’s intricate ceramics are rich with bodily humor and desire, Gonzalez-Torres’s installations of candy and plastic beads abstractly evoke physical absence and presence, and Williams’s electrifying canvases convey the viscera of war and politics.

Jared Bowen's Arts Ahead: Something for Everyone

By Jared Bowen   |   Wednesday, February 15, 2012
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Feb. 16, 2012BERRIGAN
Caitlin Berrigan, Cultural Mobility / Spectrum of Inevitable Violence, at the deCordova Biennial. Image courtesy of the artist.

BOSTON — Contemporary Art fans can't go wrong: witness knitting bombers in action or eye some acupuncture photography at the deCordova. Theatergoers can choose from ballet, musicals, revivals and premiere performances. This Sunday afternoon, take in some Broadway love songs and keep that Valentine's Day mood around a little longer!

The deCordova Biennial
deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
through April 22nd
Highlighting 23 artists from across New England, the exhibition showcases art in a variety of media — sculpture, painting, video, performance and striking photography — with no intended theme, but certainly a thread of artists addressing the economy.

"Simply Sublime"
Boston Ballet
at The Boston Opera House through February 19th
Florence Clerc’s world premiere staging of Michel Fokine’s Les Sylphides, Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, and George Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements.
The third of these performances alone is worth the effort. The company's James Whiteside is definitely coming into his own.

New Repertory Theatre announces its 2012-2013 season under new Artistic Director, Jim Petosa
Charles Mosesian Theater
Master Class March 31, - April 21
Amadeus April 28 - May 19
Sondheim's Marry Me a Little Jan. 6 - 27
Race, a Boston Premiere Oct. 14 - Nov. 4
The Kite Runner Sept. 9 - 30

Isn't It Romantic?
Reagle Music Theater of Greater Boston
February19th at 1 PM
Broadway darlings Rachel York and Brent Barrett rekindle their electric spark and bring their gorgeous voices to some of the greatest love songs ever written for the stage and screen.  

The Best of Contemporary Art: The deCordova Biennial

By Jared Bowen   |   Thursday, February 9, 2012
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Feb. 9, 2012

Art can scarcely get any more contemporary than what you’ll find at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum right now. It’s second biennial survey of all that’s hot in New England art is on view now. Add your comments to the discussion on "Greater Boston."

BOSTON — Chandeliers that fail and fall. Photography that winks…and winces. Vegas sparkle and old school charm. This, according to the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, is the best of New England contemporary art—all selected for its 2012 Biennial.

“It’s a hunt. I mean I have to say it’s not shopping, it’s a hunt," says Dina Deitsch, Contemporary Art curator.

Abigail Ross Goodman, a guest curator for the show, adds, "“We’re sort of cracking open the region. We’re trying to show people a range of what’s out there. Think of pomegranate popping open and all the seeds.”

For a year and a half, Biennial curators Dina Deitsch and Abigail Ross Goodman scoured New England galleries and artist studios searching for the best of the new.

“There are artists really at all different stages of their career. All different, working in all different medium. But we were looking for that moment when an artist's voice comes through crystal clear," says Goodman. “There’s no theme that will lead you around. But it’s all for the viewer to decide and that’s sort of the fun of this exhibition.”

From film to sculpture to painting, the Biennial fills the DeCordova’s expansive spaces. While there are no themes per se, there are trends. This is recent work influenced by recent events like the economic downturn.

“At the entrance to the museum is probably our most overt, spectacular, in the classic sense of the word," Deitch says. "It’s a giant 9 by 20 foot sign in lights. And sort of retro stylized, as you would see in a carnival. It's by Steve Lambert and it really takes that questions and asks you 'Capitalism Works for Me, True or False?' As an interactive sign, you are asked to vote.”

In their survey of galleries, the curators also discovered a resurgence of Trompe l’oeil, or trick of the eye work, like the chandelier really made out of wax or the architectural refuse actually crafted from plaster. Goodman says, "Trompe l'oeil also speaks to the counterpoint of skepticism. I think at this particular moment, lots of artists in different ways are asking us those questions, to think about what we’re really seeing, asking us to look more closely with our eyes wide open.”

Eye-opening for completely different reasons is Lauren Kalman’s photography,  titled “Blooms, Efflorescence and Other Dermatological Embellishments”.  In a word, ouch.

“She’s been interested in the medical records of skin disease, for instance and also the ornament of the body," says Goodman, "so she looked at photographs of skin diseases that had been captured and then copied that in jewelry that she then put on acupuncture needles, performed and then applied to her own body, then re-staged the photographs.”

From the pierced to the stitched, there is work bound in precedent here as well as in Anna von Merten’s quilts. “It’s about tradition," says Deitch. "Traditions have been what happens when you take that technique and make an image of the night sky that tells a history of art and science. And so there’s a really sort of beautiful melding of what art can be and has been.”

Definitively though, the DeCordova Biennial shows comprehensively where it’s going.

In China, Looking For Mr. Right (Or Right Enough)

By Rob Gifford   |   Tuesday, October 26, 2010
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About the Authors
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen
Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts. 


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