Visual Art

Paul Klee: Philosophical Vision: From Nature to Art

By Kris Wilton   |   Friday, September 14, 2012
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Paul Klee (1879–1940), Wall Plant (Mauerpflanze), 1922.

September 15, 2012

Paul Klee is the kind of artist who seems to show up in every museum, most memorably in the form of petite, almost childlike paintings featuring richly hued backgrounds, cryptic symbols and oddball figures.

But as a new exhibition at Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art shows, those works make up just a sliver of Klee’s output. In reality, the Swiss-German artist explored a range of styles, techniques and subject matters throughout his prolific career, from primitivism to cubism to color field; drawing to etching to painting to writing.

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Bryan McFarlane: My Dragon's Silk Road

By Mary Tinti   |   Tuesday, September 11, 2012
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Bryan McFarlane, House of Pyramids, 2011, oil on linen, 47x39.

September 11, 2012

From September 4th - 29th, Gallery Naga will feature recent paintings by Boston-based artist Bryan McFarlane in an exhibition titled, My Dragon’s Silk Road. Though new to McFarlane’s work, I am incredibly intrigued by his artistic, cultural and critical interests, not to mention his striking oil on linen compositions.

In his paintings I see bold, layered and unusual color juxtapositions. I see hearts, rainbows, dice, pyramids, wishbones, eggs, G-clefs and jesters. I see stream of conscious symbols dancing towards abstraction on fields of liquid-looking hues. And I see an artist brimming with ideas and connections that seem as though they could spill right off the stretcher. 

The paintings that comprise My Dragon’s Silk Road are selections from the past two years, a period in which McFarlane explored a deep fascination with China and its expanding role in the contemporary art world. McFarlane melds that curiosity with influences from his native Jamaica and formative travels to Brazil, Columbia, West Africa and East Asia, allowing these intermixed experiences and resulting lines of inquiry to shape a pivotal moment in his own painting practice.

Bryan McFarlane, Chocolate, 2011, oil on linen, 47x39.

While McFarlane hints at particular iconographies (literal, universal and spiritual) in these largely abstract paintings, he is happy to have viewers discover, associate, or internalize his multivalent symbols for themselves. Sure, McFarlane can share with viewers the stories behind each specific sign, for as he puts it, his “paintings are based on a highly personal ‘positive psychology’” that derives from his desire to examine both “history and ‘things’” in whatever environment he finds himself. But in no way is an affinity for his work predicated on an exact understanding of the many rich referents found in his paintings. The mystery is most definitely part of the allure.  

My Dragon’s Silk Road furthers McFarlane’s journey away from the figurative works of his early years and towards a new and ever more globally engaged contemporary art. These are cross-cultural and multi-national paintings, with traces of surrealism and expressionism all rolled into one. They are surrogates for McFarlane’s travels and creative identity, beckoning viewers to seek out the same for themselves.   


Bryan McFarlane
My Dragon's Silk Road
September 4 - September 29
Gallery NAGA
67 Newbury Street
Boston MA 02116
617.267.9060



Back To School With Original Art

By Mary Tinti   |   Thursday, September 6, 2012
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Photo credit LVAC website.


September 6, 2012

Those of you who went to college in the late 1990s like me may remember certain ubiquitous staples of dorm room décor. International flags, hippie tapestries and concert posters were the cement wall camouflage of choice. It was common to see these trophies hung side by side with a reproduction of Salvador Dalí’s “Persistence of Memory,” Vincent Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” a drawing by M.C. Escher, or clever magazine adverts for Absolut Vodka.

My own room was a bit nerdier. I seem to recall hanging a poster that featured various windows of Florence and another that detailed the historic monuments of Ireland. I also may or may not have had an Alanis Morissette poster dressing up my closet door.

Oh, what my eighteen year old self wouldn’t give for a chance to hang an original piece of artwork beside my bed, just as my undergraduate mind was awakening to the joys of fine art!

For students at MIT, it’s not such a wild dream. Thanks to a beloved, decades-strong Student Loan Art Program, MIT co-eds are eligible for a lottery whose sole purpose is to match over 500 students with a work of art from the Institute’s special trove culled from the Catherine N. Stratton Collection of Graphic Arts, the List Student Loan Collection, and the Ronald A. Kurtz Student Loan Collection. The lucky students get to jazz up their dorm rooms with framed photographs, prints and other works on paper by the likes of Alexander Calder, Harold "Doc" Edgerton, Roy Lichtenstein, Cindy Sherman, Andy Warhol, and many, many more. The number of available artworks grows by several pieces annually, thus increasing a student’s chances of scoring an art loan and ensuring an influx of contemporary art for future borrowers to enjoy.

But you don’t have to be a student at MIT to peruse this cool collection or dream about which of these artworks you would select to keep you company all year long. For two weeks every fall, the entire inventory goes on public display in advance of the lottery; all are invited to channel their inner undergrad and imagine the perfect artwork in front of which to study, sleep, and successfully complete another two semesters of college life. Much more than mere decorations, these artworks symbolize the importance of creativity, the symbiosis of art and science, the relevance of art history, and the countless benefits of a well-rounded life.

This year’s MIT List Visual Arts Center’s Student Loan Art Program exhibition will take place from September 4th -16th. Don’t miss this fun way to honor the back-to-school season!

Which work of art would you choose?

Student Art Loan Program Exhibition
September 4-16, 2012
MIT List Visual Arts Center
20 Ames Street, Bldg. E15
Atrium level
Cambridge, Massachusetts 02139
617-253-4680

LVAC Gallery Hours
12 pm - 6pm DAILY during this two week period

Fallen Cave Paintings at the Fort Point Arts Community Gallery

By Mary Tinti   |   Monday, August 20, 2012
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August 23, 2012

Fallen Cave paintings on textile (photo credit: Mary Tinti.)

I never realized how much I would be affected by my brother’s decision to join the Peace Corps. His stint in Mali, West Africa a few years back introduced my family to a part of the world and a people with which we had little prior familiarity, and gave me an entirely new lens through which to view so many things–not the least of which was the interconnectivity of art (be it musical or visual) and life. Knowing all I do of his experiences and how they absolutely continue to shape his personal and professional pursuits, I find myself drawn to the stories of other former PCV’s and the ways they weave together their disparate worlds long after their time in the Corps has concluded.

Former Peace Corps Morocco volunteer Terra Fuller (a.k.a. Touria), a self-dubbed adventure artist, takes the concept of interweaving to new extremes. Merging her fine arts background with traditional rug-weaving techniques acquired through her relationships with the women of The Valley of the Roses, Fuller now creates gorgeous Amazigh-inspired textiles with a contemporary twist. (As explained in the Fort Point Arts Community Gallery press release, Amazigh is “the indigenous culture of North Africa and Morocco”).

On view at the FPAC Gallery through August 30th, Fallen Cave Paintings: Mouhou, Touria, and Zahra presents a sampling of recently hand looped and loomed rugs by Fuller and two of her mentors (Zahra Ait Eshu, a cave dwelling nomad and Mouhou Boussine, a subsistence farmer). These beautiful, painstakingly woven rugs are made for practical purposes; they travel easily, provide warmth, are sat and slept upon, and become the backdrop of a family’s daily existence. Fabricated from a magnificent motley of dyed yarn and camel hair, strips of old fabric, rags, ribbon, and even sequins, these utilitarian rugs are fascinating textiles in their own right. But in the context of the gallery, surrounded by photographs, drawings, and a documentary video by Fuller, they prompt viewers to reconsider the distinction between fine art and craft. The poetic title of this show, “Fallen Cave Paintings” similarly stakes a claim for these rugs within the history of art, not just by connecting them to some of the earliest evidence of pictorial representation, but also by playing off the provocative, Day-Glo “Fallen Paintings" of Lynda Benglis from the late 1960s (mounds of colorful latex poured directly on the gallery floor).

Mary Tinti stands on Fallen Cave painting (photo credit: Mary Tinti.)

I’m a sucker for a shag rug, and this exhibit is full of them! Combine that feature with clusters of jumbled colors and textures and I couldn’t wait to take off my shoes and feel their softness beneath my feet. I love the way the abstract patterns in these carpets appear averse to symmetry or rigid repetition and are far more free-form, expressionistic, gestural, lyrical, and open to improvisation than one might assume. And I couldn’t help but conjure photographs of Jackson Pollock in his studio…with a canvas spread across the floor, Pollock literally would dance and spill and drip his Abstract Expressionist paintings into being—the results of which seem to be a not so distant cousin of these sensual Moroccan carpets.

All in all, Fallen Cave Paintings: Mouhou, Touria, and Zahra provides a welcome window into the cultural traditions of the Amazigh, the interesting artistic path of a former PCV, and the continued interweaving of ancient and modern influences in art making the world over.

Note: Thanks to FPAC Gallery Committee member Courtney Rae Peterson for speaking with me about this exhibition and getting me jazzed about it from the get-go!

Fallen Cave Paintings: Mouhou, Touria, and Zahra
Thru September 21st

FPAC Gallery
300 Summer Street, Boston MA 02210
New summer hours:
Monday-Friday 8am-4pm, Thursdays until 6pm

An Os Gemeos Painted Giant Comes To Boston

By Valerie Linson   |   Thursday, August 9, 2012
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An Os Gêmeos Painted Giant Comes to Boston

Over the past two weeks, Boston has seen a giant grow in its midst. He arrived not in the form of a sports legend, or a political heavyweight, but as a vision in the minds of imaginative Brazilian artists Os Gêmeos (Gustavo and Otavio Pandolfo), identical twin brothers known for painting yellow, cartoonish, colorfully clad figures on urban canvases across the globe. With the help of countless cans of spray paint and a whole lot of time on a lift, “The Giant of Boston” slowly emerged from the artists’ dreams to reality, right on the Rose F. Kennedy Greenway–a site well suited to a public mural of this kind.

Sporting loud, bright blue and brown checkered pajama bottoms with a clashing green and gold patterned top, Boston’s giant does anything but sleep. He is awake, observing (perhaps with a little childlike, mischievous delight) the activity going on beneath him in Dewey Square. He slouches quite perfectly; his bent knees slide up to the right hand corner of the air intake structure on which he is painted, while his head (wrapped in a tangerine tango mask of sorts, fashioned from a long-sleeved shirt) fills the rounded portion on the left.

There is so much to love about this new giant in our midst. His presence brings a sense of culture and vibrancy to this area of downtown Boston whose architecture can seem so corporate, so dark, so cold. It extends the artistic reach of the ICA (currently home to the twins’ first American museum solo exhibition) well beyond the waterfront. It reinforces the beauty of the Greenway as a place to gather, to picnic, to play, to walk, and perhaps even to enjoy internationally relevant, world class public art.

While most citizens greeted our newest neighbor with warmth, fascination, enthusiasm, and hospitality, there were a handful of those who felt a bit threatened by his arrival. They chose to go to a much darker place, one where racism and discomfort (ignited by fear and an aversion to the unfamiliar) prevented them from taking some time to get to know the giant behind the mask (and the motives of the artists behind that giant).

Os Gêmeos and their painted giant bring with them to Boston a new point of view; I, for one, am thrilled to have an opportunity to spend the next 18 months befriending this invited stranger and learning about his roots. I’m curious to follow the public’s evolving reactions to his presence over several seasons and remain hopeful that the overall dialogue he has inspired will be far more constructive, illuminating, and respectful than controversial.

As is the case with exceptional works of public art, “The Giant of Boston” represents an opportunity. It’s a chance for the people of Boston to articulate how we feel about and pay homage to creativity, out of the box ideas, pluralities of opinions, and the efforts of artists within our society. And it’s another vehicle through which to explore the social and cultural issues that bubble just below the surface of our everyday banter. That pursuit is a healthy one, and with a little luck, the conversations sparked by our new giant will lead to an ever-growing presence of excellent, large-scale, temporary public art in our city in the months and years to come.

(I’d like to say a special thank you to a few people with whom I conversed on-site in Dewey Square on August 8, 2012 and whose comments helped inform aspects of this post: Sasha Pace, Jeff and Jenn Stienbach, Cher Krause Knight, and ICA Teen Arts Council members Izzy Ramirez and Xan Pemsler.)

Note: A quick google search of “Os Gêmeos Boston” will yield a number of key news articles that can round out the background information to which I alluded in this post.



Dorothy and Herb Go to RISD

By Kris Wilton   |   Monday, August 13, 2012
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August 13, 2012

Joel Shapiro, Model for Two Houses, 2000.  The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel
Collection: Fifty Works for Fifty States. © Joel Shapiro. Museum of Art Rhode
Island School of Design, Providence.

A couple of weeks ago I headed down to RISD’s Museum of Art to see “The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Rhode Island.” While writing this piece up, I learned Herb passed away on July 22, at the age of 89, after falling ill some months ago.

Which makes the exhibition that much more prescient. A postal clerk and librarian, the Vogels spent five decades befriending and collecting the work of dozens of artists, ultimately building one of the most significant troves of contemporary art in the world. (See the fantastic documentary about their life, Herb and Dorothy at the museum 8/16 or on Netflix.)

Dorothy and Herbert Vogel at The Clocktower with a drawing by Philip Pearlstein
behind them, 1975.  Photo credit: Nathaniel Tileston. Courtesy Dorothy and
Herbert Vogel, New York, and the National Gallery of Art,
Washington, DC.
 
The Vogels’ intention was to live with the works, and they kept them all in their tiny Manhattan one-bedroom – on the walls, under the bed – until eventually, strained by increased attention on the collection, they decided to give some a new home. Rather than sell off the works, by then worth millions, they donated 1,100 to the National Gallery of Art, which helped devise a plan for much of the rest: “Fifty Works for Fifty States.” Together the Vogels and the museum, along with the NEA and the Institute for Museum and Library Services, selected one institution in each state – usually an educational one – and 50 works for it to receive. In Rhode Island, it was RISD.

Cozily installed in two smallish galleries, this exhibition of RISD’s 50 works, including knockouts by Edda Renouf, Lynda Benglis, Charles Clough, Nam June Paik, and Lucio Pozzi, is loosely organized into pleasing vignettes. In one corner an angular enamel on paper by Judy Rifka communes with a hanging corrugated plastic sculpture by Steve Keister and Joel Shapiro’s small-scale Model for Two Houses. Framed here, the Rifka was once taped to the back of the front door in the Vogels’ apartment. The Shapiro, standing just 11 inches high (and RISD’s first), was a sculpture scaled just right for their tiny space.

Edda Renouf, Indian Lily, 2001.  The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection:
Fifty Works for Fifty States. © Edda Renouf. Museum of Art Rhode Island
School of Design, Providence.
 
Works by Richard Tuttle, who the Vogels collected in depth (all 50 states got some), occupy an entire wall, and here we see the influence of Herb, who hand-picked these works from among much larger series, creating his own.

The Vogels worked very closely with the artists, “almost to the point of artistic collaboration,” says Alison Chang, a curatoral fellow in Prints, Drawings and Photographs. And the support they gave them – not just by buying their work but also by engaging with them, giving feedback, reassuring them – was crucial. “Artists said they supported them when they themselves weren’t sure their careers were going anywhere,” says Chang.

Herb and Dorothy were visionaries, appreciating and fostering conceptual and minimalist art before it took hold on the market. Which is partly why they were able to collect as much as they did.

Overall, the show is a celebration of one couple’s love of art – and an instruction manual for how to follow in their footsteps: befriend undiscovered artists, engage them, buy what speaks to you, tape it up, live with it, love it.

--
“The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection: Fifty Works for Rhode Island.”
On view through December 2.
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design.


About the Authors
Kris Wilton Kris Wilton
Kris is a freelance arts journalist who has contributed reported pieces and reviews to outlets including the Huffington Post, Slate.com, Artinfo.com, Modern Painters, Art+Auction, Art New England, New England Home, Entertainment Weekly, the Village Voice, Bostonist.com, ARTnews, Philadelphia Weekly, Emerging Photographer, Photo District News, and RL Magazine.
Mary Tinti Mary Tinti
Mary is a Koch Curatorial Fellow at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. On her blog, Dress For Sports, she says, "I love innovative public art, creative design, and unique intersections of architecture, sculpture, and installation.  And I love stumbling upon cool collisions of art and everyday life." Mary has a Ph.D. in art history from Rutgers University.

Valerie Linson Valerie Linson
Valerie Linson is the Managing Producer for WGBHArts.  She is also the Series Producer for Basic Black and the Executive Editor for its accompanying website at WGBH.org. Basic Black is New England's longest-running television program devoted to explorations of the black experience.

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