This week, Jared Bowen gets an update from the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston and reviews the film “Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint.” Plus, a sneak peak at Jared’s discussion with Alex Beam about his new book “Broken Glass: Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece.”

The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston Director Jill Medvedow gives us an update on the museum

ICA Watershed food distribution
Staff from the East Boston Neighborhood Health Center pack up food supplies at the ICA Watershed
Courtesy of the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston

The Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston Jill Medvedow spoke with Jared to discuss the impact of the coronavirus on the ICA and how they’re responding to the pandemic. On April 10, the ICA joined the Museum of Fine Arts, the New England Aquarium and other institutions to release a joint letter to the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation requesting an additional $6 billion in grants and financial aid for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

In response to the coronavirus quarantine, the ICA has also been working to address food insecurity in East Boston, site of the Watershed — its summer exhibition space, by collaborating with partner organizations. Medvedow also discussed the art that emerges in times of global crisis, and what she hopes to see after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided.

“I do find that there is some optimism in imagining that, when this is all in the rearview mirror, and we are recalibrating our work, our psyches, our, our lives, that great artists ... will kind of show us a more personalized history. Will let us walk in their shoes.”

“Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint,” available to stream via Coolidge Corner Theater’s website

Beyond the Visible
A woman studies two abstract paintings by Hilma af Klint
Courtesy of Zeitgesit films and Coolidge Corner Theater

The story of 20th century art history must now be re-written. That’s the argument made in “Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint,” a documentary presented online by Coolidge Corner Theatre. The film examines the life and career of Hilma af Klint, a Swedish artist whose pioneering abstract paintings begun in 1906 predated the work of Kandinsky, who was long considered the first abstract painter.

“This film, this story, this artist grabbed hold of my senses with a relentless grip,” says Jared. “The work done by Hilma af Klint completely upends the art world order. You simply cannot look at 20th century art the same way again. Ever. That is an extremely bold and hyperbolic-sounding sentiment on my part, but I’m not even sure it’s bold enough. That is how powerful this strikingly well-told story is.”

“Broken Glass: Mies Van Der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece,” a new book by Alex Beam, available now

Broken Glass - Farnsworth House
Angled exterior view of the entry of Farnsworth House, December 20, 1951. Farnsworth House was built in 1950 at 14520 River Road in Plano, Illinois, designed by Mies van der Rohe. Edith Farnsworth was the client.
Courtesy of Alex Beam and the Chicago History Museum

Author Alex Beam dives into the personal drama and cultural significance of the Farnsworth House in his new book “Broken Glass: Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth, and the Fight Over a Modernist Masterpiece.” Farnsworth House, designed by renowned architect Mies van der Rohe, is considered by many to be an architectural masterpiece. But, its creation was fraught with complications.

Commissioned in 1945 by Dr. Edith Farnsworth after a chance dinner party meeting, the home was envisioned as a marvel of minimalism and was constructed almost entirely of glass and steel. Yet the reality of the design — one fraught with leaks, heating problems, frequent flooding and almost zero privacy — made the home an undesirable place to live for Farnsworth. That, coupled with massive cost overruns, resulted in chilled relations between van der Rohe and Farnsworth that eventually led to a protracted court battle over the home.

“He created a beautiful work, a transcendent work of residential sculpture, and felt that because of his warm, excellent relations with the client, that he could do that and that she was enough of an art aficionado to be comfortable with that,” says Beam. “The reality was… it's very difficult to live in a glass house!”

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