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By Jared Bowen | Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Oct. 26, 2011
BOSTON — It was 75 years ago this month that the Boston Museum of Modern Art opened in Boston. It billed itself as the "renegade offspring" of the Museum Of Modern Art. You know it better today as the Institute of Contemporary Art, or the ICA. I spent some time there last week looking at its history and its brand new show, Dance/Draw.
Advancing The Avant-Garde
"It was an important place on the art scene because of the whole idea of contemporary art and really showing the work that was coming out of Europe where the avant-garde was so alive," said Jill Medvedow, Director at the ICA.
The museum opened with a splash, presenting the first Boston area survey of Paul Gauguin. It lured Salvador Dali to its first gala. From there the museum just plowed forward, showing art emerging near and far. Swiss architect and designer Le Corbusier presented his first US show here in 1948.
"One of the things I love in looking at the ICA's history, and the word that keeps coming up for me is rupture; of trying to see what existed in the past and making a break with that in favor of a bold statement that's always facing forward," Medvedow said.
Like in 1966 when a forward-thinking ICA recognized the significance of Andy Warhol and was the first museum to show his films.
Casting The Net Wider
"Sometimes the most important contemporary art might not be seen in a gallery. Might be seen outside of a museum's walls, or in a theater, so we brought the Ballet Russes when we did our Picasso Matisse exhibition. When we showed Andy Warhol so early in Warhol's career, we brought iconic performances by the Velvet Underground," Medvedow said.
Just as it has brought the work of choreographer Trisha Brown for its newest show, "Dance/Draw."
In a regular series of performances on Thursdays and weekends, dancers perform "Floor of the Forest" within the exhibition.
Helen Molesworth, chief curator at the ICA described it this way.
"It speaks to the kind of blurring of boundaries between different disciplines. So on the one hand it's a sculpture; it's constructed out of steel pipe and there's a very heavy steel pipe webbing, woven into that webbing is pieces of clothing. And then what happens is the two dancers mount this apparatus and they wind and weave their way through the clothing. They both look like they're at the floor of the forest, they look like monkeys or lemurs but they also have this dolphin quality of breaking the water and then going back under," Molesworth said.
In the very smart, very engaging "Dance/Draw," ICA Chief Curator Helen Molesworth explores the literal line in art whether it's in dance, sculpture or drawing.
'A Lodestar For Artistic Expression'
"Language remains fundamental to human communication and I think line remains fundamental to human visual communication. We can't escape it. The line remains whether it's the line of the body in dance or the kinds of lines that drawing give us. It's just a lodestar for artistic expression," Molesworth said.
"Dance/Draw" investigates drawing dating back to the 1960s, a time when Molesworth says art and dance broke away from tradition. The first gallery shows drawings made by batting heavily mascaraed eyelashes, by bouncing basketballs and by swirling hair. It's artists using the body, not just the hand.
"They started to democratize the art process. They wanted to make art with things that everybody had around the house with gestures that anyone could do," Molesworth explained. "Because they didn't want art to be only in the province of the wealthy or the highly trained, it was part of a massive cultural revolution that happened in the 60s and 70s."
Could Your Kid Really Do That?
But it begs the age-old question, could I bounce a basketball and get these results?
"What I always say to people is yes, your kid could do that. But after they started, could they finish? Would they have stuck with it? Would they have the endurance? The patience? And if they had gotten to the end and realized it didn't look quite right, would they have thrown it away and started again? That's really where the art part of it comes in," said Molesworth.
And out. The show also follows the line as it moves off the canvas.
"String and wire are a 3-dimensional line. So instead of looking at those objects as sculpture I started looking at them as drawings. And actually seeing the line having literally moved off the page and into space," Molesworth said.
And forward. Which has been the ICA's charge for 75 years — it will follow the line wherever it reinvents art.
By Jared Bowen | Tuesday, October 25, 2011
Oct. 25, 2011
PEABODY, Mass. — On view at the Peabody Essex Museum right now are scenes from an affair both torrid and tempestuous. When artist Man Ray met model Lee Miller, they fell madly in love and produced some of the twentieth century's most celebrated works.
"She appeared on the cover of Vogue, she became Edward Steichen's favorite model. And then a curious thing happened. Her image was licensed to the Kotex company for feminine hygiene products. And as a result, all of her modeling work dried up and she had to find other things to do," said Phillip Prodger, curator at the Peabody Essex Museum.
Man Ray was a surrealist artist — a legend already in the making and 17 years her senior. Looking to be an artist in her own right, Miller tracked Man Ray down in Paris — finding him at a bar near his studio.
Prodger describes the moment Man Ray and Miller met. "Man Ray says there are two problems. 'The first problem is I don't take assistants. And the second problem is I'm going on vacation and I won't be back for two weeks.' She says, 'I'm going with you.'"
And she did. It was 1929 and as documented in "Man Ray | Lee Miller, Partners in Surrealism" now on view at the Peabody Essex Museum, the two spent the next three years together. She was his apprentice then a peer and always his lover. They pushed each other personally and professionally, establishing singular styles.
"Man Ray was primarily interested in photographing in the studio and he was a very theatrical artist in a way," Prodger said. "He liked to set things up... you see Man Ray making surrealist compositions in the studio, you see Lee Miller going out on the street and photographing things that she sees. And in fact she was one of the first photographers to do that."
In this exhibit, you will find their disparate take on nudes as well. He finds a softness and rapture in her.
Prodger described Man Ray's rendering of Miller: "It's very warm, very inviting, she looks sensual, beautiful and erotic."
Prodger said that Miller found nothing erotic in herself. "She looks strong, you can see muscle definition, her back is held upright, she really looks like a feminist hero."
Aside from perspective, their personalities collided too. Theirs was an aggressive relationship fraught with jealousy and conflict. Like the time Miller fished one of Ray's photographs out of the trash and claimed it as her own. Man Ray exploded.
"He took that photograph that she had printed which showed her neck, took a razor blade and sliced the photograph across the neck and then took scarlet paint and painted where the so-called wound would be in that photograph and it was dripping down as if he had slit her throat," Prodger said.
Among the most famous of Man Ray's manifestations of rage — his metronome.
"He attached her eye to the pendulum of a metronome and gave instructions that it should be set in motion going back and forth, back and forth, until the viewer couldn't stand it any more and then smashed with a hammer," Prodger said.
And when she left him, Man Ray got over her in part by creating his painting of levitating lips. They are Miller's and he tended to it every day for two years. Lovers for just a spell, Man Ray and Lee Miller remained intertwined for their lifetimes. Their work though, evokes for eternity.
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