By Jared Bowen | Thursday, February 23, 2012
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.
By Jared Bowen | Thursday, February 23, 2012
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.
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.
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.
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 Theatreannounces 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 LittleJan. 6 - 27 Race, a Boston Premiere Oct. 14 - Nov. 4 The Kite RunnerSept. 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.
By Ibby Caputo | Sunday, February 12, 2012
Feb. 13, 2012
The Western Avenue studios have been so successful that the developer is creating 50 units next door where artists can live as well as work. (Ibby Caputo/WGBH)
LOWELL, Mass. — Tucked between train tracks and the Pawtucket canal, is an old mill – a place that made Lowell a cradle of the industrial revolution. Today, manufacturing is gone and this mill is the cradle of an artists’ revolution.
But getting here took some time and a major obstacle: trust.
A "dirty, smelly" start
Karl Frey purchased the mill ina 2004 as an investment. However, his tenants quickly went bankrupt, moved out and left the mill empty. With few options, Frey turned to the city for advice and learned about a group of artists who were courted in the 1990s to revitalize Lowell but got burned by developers who had promised them affordable housing — and then built luxury condos instead.
Frey invited the skeptical artists to visit, but he overestimated the romantic draw of his old mill.
“It was dirty, smelly, poorly lit, broken-down cardboard boxes all over the place, but I figured they could visualize the space,” said Frey. “Boy, was I dead wrong on that one.”
Frey said he wasn’t taking no for an answer, so he emptied out a floor and painted it white, then invited the artists to the mill again, this time for a party.
“We stopped at Walmart on the way and picked up some plastic tubs and stopped at the liquor store and got ice and beer,” Frey said. “We set up a card table and a cheese platter, and I had an architect draw up some floor plans.”
Frey even mapped out the studios on the floor using yellow traffic paint. This time, the artists loved the clean, open space.
“It started a land rush, and we leased that whole floor that night,” Frey said.
Building up Western Avenue
Maxine Farkas has a studio at Western Avenue, but she can't sleep there. (Ibby Caputo/WGBH)
That was the beginning of a very successful symbiotic relationship. Artist Maxine Farkas runs the mill, which became known as the Western Avenue Studios. She said Frey has never broken a promise to the artists.
“I think that is what makes this relationship with a developer so successful,” Farkas said. “Because he keeps his word.”
Frey’s word led to 200 artists moving into studio space in the converted mill. But that’s not all. Frey and the artists started working on a new idea: converting another building in the mill into 50 affordable work-living spaces for artists. Learn about the new building.
“This used to be a freight elevator shaft, but we’re going to turn it into my husband’s recording and mixing studio,” said jeweler Heather Wang, who recently shared her vision of the renewed space with some artist soon-to-be-neighbors.
“Heather has a space that is carved into the old uses of the space,” said Rebecca Mattson, the local developer working on the project. “Some of them are wide open, some have exposed brick, some have exposed wood — there’s all the variants of the original building based on how it was built and what it was used for,” she said.
The new housing units are between 800 and 1600 square feet, the size of an apartment or a small house.
“Literally it's wide-open space so you can do whatever you want,” Mattson said.
Farkas at the spot she envisions for her bed. (Ibby Caputo/WGBH)
Farkas, whose apartment is being built on the second floor, said she is most excited about her neighbors.
“I’m going to have a community. And that’s the most important thing for me,” Farkas said.
Mattson relished the artists’ enthusiasm.
“It’s freedom. It’s community. It’s open spaces,” Mattson said. “You just can’t go into any apartment building and paint your walls and build a loft.”
It’s also remarkably affordable: one dollar per square foot.
Making the new space happen
A tour of the apartments-to-be. (Ibby Caputo/WGBH)
Mattson said that was possible because the developers and artists worked closely together.
“We don’t have an elevator in the building,” Mattson said. “They were willing to go without air conditioning. They’re willing to go without dishwashers. There willing to go without any flooring. They just want primed walls. They just want space that they can afford.”
Mattson said that this is the first time a space for artists is being traditionally financed.
“Usually it's highly subsidized,” Mattson said. “This is different because it’s coming from the real estate perspective. It was hard for bankers to get their mind around what an artist rental live-work space could be.”
Fortunately, the artists had Karl Frey on their side. And in the words of Farkas, Frey is wicked persistent.
“TD Bank, a very, very well-run financial institution, has made us the loan to do the 50 live-work units,” Frey said.
Frey said it's not a loan a bank would normally make, but he was able to show them five years of success at the Western Avenue studios.
“One day I will turn the building over to the artists and their principal interests, taxes, insurance, reserves for replacements — everything that cost them to run the building will be exactly the same as it was the day before when they were paying rent,” Frey said.
Frey said that seven years ago no one would have believed that 250 artists would be living and working in his mill. But he courted the artists, he convinced the bankers and he even surprised himself.
The next open studios at Western Avenue are on Mar. 3. The live-work space is anticipated to open in May.
By Jared Bowen | Thursday, February 9, 2012
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.
By WGBH News | Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Ron Rosenstock is a Worcester native and has traveled the world taking photographs. The Art museum in his hometown has mounted an exhibit of several of his evocative prints. WGBH's Bob Seay went to the Worcester Art Museum to talk with Rosenstock about his life's work. See more Rosenstock photographs, including shots in infared, or take a photo tour through Ireland, Peru, Iceland and more at the artist's website.
About the Authors
Jared Bowen Jared Bowen is WGBH’s Emmy Award-winning Executive Editor and Host for Arts.
WGBH News The WGBH News team comprises the WGBH radio newsroom, The Callie Crossley Show, The Emily Rooney Show and WGBH Channel 2 reporters and producers from Greater Boston and Basic Black.