Visual Art

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.


An Os Gêmeos Painted Giant Comes to Boston

By Mary Tinti   |   Thursday, August 9, 2012
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August 9, 2012

The Giant of Boston, Os Gêmeos (photo by Geoff Hargadon.)

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.)



TEST

By Valerie Linson   |   Thursday, February 16, 2012
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Balancing the Arts in the Fort Point Channel

By Mary Tinti   |   Wednesday, July 18, 2012
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July 18, 2012

Arts Imbalance, 2012 (photo credit: Mary Tinti).


I love making chance, serendipitous arts discoveries over the course of my daily routine. Those unexpected encounters and the fascinating, little-known stories behind them are what inspired me to start my own visual culture themed blog and they energize and excite me still. Take the following example:

Late in the afternoon on Sunday, my husband Dave and I were driving home to South Boston via Summer Street. Just as we were about to cross the Channel, Dave noticed a new work of art suspended over the water and I promptly pulled the car over so that we could take a closer look. As luck would have it, the artist, Peter Agoos, was still on site and I spoke with him briefly as he was preparing to place the artist statement panels that will accompany and identify this sculpture.

Arts Imbalance is an intricate tightrope that hangs between the Summer and Congress Street bridges. Atop this cable, an aluminum figure (with an almost identical companion attached just below the rope) moves back and forth according to the whims of the wind. But fear not, this intrepid wire walker is also a whirligig, and if the top figure starts to fall, the bottom figure will rise up and take its place (and on and on it goes).

On view over the Channel for the next few months, Arts Imbalance serves as a buoyant and poignant reminder that in our society, the arts simply are not as valued, funded, or protected as they should be – and that issue is a national one. In spite of this persistent problem, artists – who are ridiculously resilient folk – always seem to figure out ways to bounce back. These larger points come further into focus when we consider the perhaps not-so-coincidental location of this public sculpture.

Hanging above the water that separates the Financial District of Downtown Boston from the Fort Point Arts Community, Arts Imbalance invites viewers to be stimulated by the clever ways in which artists like Peter Agoos take it upon themselves to create meaningful gestures often in the face of limited funding and all manner of red tape.

For me, Arts Imbalance is a temporary monument to all the plucky, innovative artists in our midst and a call to action for their community to provide the kind of support that will allow them to walk on a few less wires in the future.


For more information about Peter Agoos, please visit his website: http://www.agoos.com/

Kindness is Contagious at FIGMENT Boston

By Mary Tinti   |   Tuesday, July 17, 2012
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July 18, 2012

Boston Hoop Troop, 2010 (photo credit: Dan Rajter).

FIGMENT, that “free, annual celebration of participatory art and culture where everything is possible,” is returning to the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston this July 28th and 29th, offering some alternative artistic stimuli to the live music performances happening in Copley Square for Boston’s first Summer Arts Weekend. Clearly, it’s going to be a very entertaining few days in the city.

The spirit of FIGMENT is fantastic, and its aim is as pure as they come: the entire interactive arts/performance event is planned and executed by volunteers, without any assistance from corporate sponsorships. It’s free and very family-friendly, inclusive and welcoming of all, super eco-conscious and self-reliant, designed to foster civic/communal participation, and remind everyone that imaginative, creative play is not just for kids. These are ideas for which we should all be cheering! That said - I feel compelled to confess that the overall aesthetics of the event can be pretty hit or miss. As long as attendees manage their own expectations, and come seeking messy creativity at work rather than polished participatory public art projects, a good time will be had by all.

Mary Tinti at FIGMENT, 2011 (photo credit: Mary Tinti).

My favorite FIGMENT moment last year consisted of fashioning my very own tutu from a box of colorful, feather-light tulle. There was something incredibly joyful and freeing about seeing men, women and children alike skipping about the park with their custom tutus cinched around their waists. While I don’t believe Tess Aquarium’s tutu booth will be present at this year’s celebration, I do want to highlight a few projects that would be well worth seeking out…

I suggest beginning your FIGMENT experience with artist Neil Horsky, who will be happy to draw you a personalized event map based upon your preferences, mood, and sense of adventure. Make sure to have Horsky include Heather Mulloy’s Salon Hairtastic Sculpture on your map where pipe cleaners, glitter and more will enable you to transform your coiffure into a whimsical artistic statement (think this year’s tutus). I’d also be on the lookout for both the Boston Hoop Troop, so you can join in a giant hula-hooping extravaganza, and the happiness-spreading artist Jessica Gath, who will be roaming the event while giving out free postcards for attnedees to mail to someone they love, and reminding everyone that, just as her stickers say, “Kindness is Contagious.”

FIGMENT Boston 2012 will take place on July 28 and 29 at the Rose Kennedy Greenway.
For maps, tips and other helpful details, visit the Figment Website: http://boston.figmentproject.org/


The Paintings of Paul Goodnight

By Bridgit Brown   |   Friday, July 13, 2012
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July 14, 2012

Cousins by the Dozens, Paul Goodnight.

If you have a thing for original art and you live and work in the city of Boston, you’ll really want to add a visit to Color Circle to your list of summer art stops. It’s a fully stocked distributor of museum-quality paintings and prints by the artist Paul Goodnight and his circle of friends.

Goodnight might be there when you stop in to this nifty two-room operation located in the historic Piano Factory. If you get to meet the artist featured in the newly published 100 Boston Painters, you’ll understand why he is being recognized as one of the 100 painters making the city of Boston a major contributor to international art.

The Smithsonian Institution owns a Paul Goodnight painting. Hollywood knows him very well. His works have appeared on The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Arli$$, ER, and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Samuel L. Jackson, Wesley Snipes, and even Bishop Desmond Tutu have his paintings in their homes.

Getting his work into the living rooms of rich and famous people was not difficult for Goodnight, though he is humble about it. “I just needed to agree to the print release of my paintings. I was a purist at first, and I wasn’t into making prints of my work,” he told me on my visit.

Goodnight didn’t think that people would see his paintings on television either. But a good representative convinced him to allow one of his paintings to appear on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. “After that, the orders started coming in by the gallons,” he explained.

Goodnight’s work spills out of every corner of Color Circle, in bursts of color fine-tuned to the human body and motion. Color Circle is a haven for art lovers seeking African Americana images.

Trained in classical art, Goodnight attributes his distinct style to his use of unusual techniques and tools like volcanic ash, which he learned from an artist in Brazil.

“I’ve also been using a very fine faucet, which is another technique that I picked up from someone. My work is a combination of many styles.”

His urban scenes are highlighted with the golden trim of a tropical sun. His figures dance and shake off the radiance of the spectrum. His people are every shade of brown, some with red and golden tones. “I like the pastels of the Caribbean, and I use those colors in a lot of my work,” Goodnight said.

There is a story behind every painting. Ham and Egg Sandwich, for example, was inspired by a conversation that he had with his mentor, the American artist John Thomas Biggers.

Ham and Egg Sandwich, Paul Goodnight.

“He had asked me if I was committed,” said Paul, standing in front of this dreamy portrait of a woman sitting in a chair with a chicken and an egg at her head and a pig at her feet.

“I couldn’t believe that he was asking me that. I told him that I believed that I was. Then he said to me, ‘the difference between involvement and commitment is like a ham and egg sandwich.’ I pretended to know what he was talking about, even though I had no idea what he was saying. He often spoke in statements like that. But think about a ham and egg sandwich,” Goodnight proposed.

All I could conjure up was an image of a few slices of ham and an egg fried hard in between two slices of wheat bread. Of course, I didn’t tell Goodnight this. “I see,” I said. (In reality, I was lost.)

“The chicken was involved; she laid the egg,” said Goodnight, “but the pig was committed; gave his life.”

Color Circle is owned and operated by Paul, his wife, Bernice Robinson, and their daughter, Aziza Robinson-Goodnight. Located at 791 Tremont Street in, Color Circle is open Monday through Fridays, from 9am to 5pm and by appointment.


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.
Bridgit Brown Bridgit Brown
Bridgit Brown is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing at Emerson College ('98). She was a Fulbright Lecturing and Research Scholar in Cote d'Ivoire, West Africa, and her writing has appeared in the Boston Globe, Boston Herald, Bay State Banner, Color Magazine, BasicBlack.org: Black Perspectives Now, Colorlines of Architecture, Exhale Magazine, Ibbetson Street Magazine, and Somerville Review.

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