Tuesday, March 04, 2008

“Evolution/Revolution” at RISD

From my review of “Evolution/Revolution” at the RISD Museum:
In the second half of the 19th century, William Morris and other British designers sought a new way of working because of their disgust with the Industrial Revolution. They saw dehumanizing factory work, environmental destruction, and crass mass-produced commercial crap. So they founded communal workshops, revived traditional handcrafts, and made beautiful, often functional, objects as part of what became known as the Arts and Crafts movement.

“Have nothing in your houses,” Morris said, “that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”

In “Evolution/Revolution,” the sharp new exhibit at the RISD Museum, curator Joanne Dolan Ingersoll draws parallels between responses by fashion and textile designers then and now to new technologies, mass production, and consumerism. She pairs a handful of Arts and Crafts blockprinted textiles and floral needlework with contemporary dresses and fabric samples by 22 international high-end designers who mix handcrafts, recycling, eco-friendly methods, new materials, and of-the-moment technology. It’s a smart pairing that illuminates how the old stuff and the new responds to the march of progress. And it doesn’t hurt that many of the designs are ravishing.
Read the rest here.

“Evolution/Revolution,” RISD Museum, 224 Benefit St., Providence, Feb. 22 to June 15, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: Alabama Chanin, Natalie Chanin with embroiderers Catherine Rutherford and Caroline Givens, “Dress,” fall 2007; Cat Chow, “Red Zipper Dress” from “ Zipper” series, 1999; Tess Giberson, “Cardinal dress” from “A Glance Can Launch a Memory” collection, spring 2003; all courtesy of the designers and photographed by Erik Gould.

Monday, March 03, 2008

BCA president leaving

Libbie Shufro, the Boston Center for the Arts’ president and CEO, is leaving. The news was first reported by Big Red & Shiny. Here’s what the BCA says this morning:
The Boston Center for the Arts (BCA) and President and CEO Libbie Shufro today jointly announced that she intends to leave the BCA to pursue new opportunities. Chairman of the Board, David Hacin said "Libbie Shufro has helped the organization make great strides during her six year tenure as President and CEO, building a strong senior management team to implement the organization's new strategic vision.”

Hacin added, “The recent opening of the Beehive Café, securing substantial grants for programs as well as for major capital repairs to the BCA’s facilities, the launch of the Environmental Design Competition to rejuvenate the BCA’s outdoor public spaces, and a significant increase in earned income through Cyclorama rentals—the proceeds from which help subsidize affordable studio and theatre space for our resident artists and theater companies—have all been hallmarks of her time at the helm.”

Hacin noted that under Ms Shufro’s tenure “The BCA has revitalized all its programs to engage diverse artists and audiences and recently hired a new curator of visual arts, with a strong educational background, to deepen public engagement.”

Ms Shufro leaves the BCA to pursue new opportunities after the successful completion of a five-year strategic plan that positions the BCA with a strong vision and a stable foundation.

Philip Lovejoy, the incoming Chairman of the Board, announced that a Search Committee is being formed to find a successor. He stated, "Our Board will be working very closely with Lisa Giuffre, the Chief Operating Officer of the BCA, and the senior management to keep the BCA’s programmatic and fundraising activities moving forward.”

Mr. Lovejoy added “Under Libbie Shufro’s direction, we have made significant progress in attracting new funders, audiences and advocates for the BCA and its mission."

Planning the “2009 New England Art Awards”?

With the announcement that this year’s awards by the New England chapter of the International Association of Art Critics (AICA) will be the group’s last, I’ve been thinking about future options. And I wonder what you, dear readers, might suggest.

I keep imagining a “New England Art Awards Ball” at some place like P.A.’s Lounge in Somerville. Open to anyone who wanted to come. In January 2009. With formal attire. And a band.

Who should choose the winners? The New England AICA awards are ostensibly chosen by critics, but about half of the 12 people who chose the 2008 winners are primarily curators or art historians. I don’t know every one of them, but it looks like none of them are affiliated with newspapers. I think maybe two of them are involved in online writing or blogging. They all seem to be based in Massachusetts.

It seems to me that the primary critics of New England art are newspapers in Boston, Providence, Portland and Hartford; Big Red & Shiny; Art New England; Berkshire Fine Arts; and a few bloggers. Oh, and The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research. Awards could be based on surveys of these writers and editors. Should artists have input? Curators? Which ones?

To answer these questions, it’s helpful to ask: What are such awards for? And it’s worth asking the same of the various local round-up shows like the Boston Center for the Arts’ annual Drawing Show, the DeCordova Annual, the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art’s biennial Foster Prize, the Portland Museum of Art’s Biennial, the Fitchburg Art Museum’s “New England/New Talent” show.

On one hand, they’re about celebrating good art and/or exhibitions here. It’s very worthwhile to have events in which we get together and honor what we’re doing right. They’re also about signaling what we’d like to see more of, signaling the direction in which we’d like to see the art scene go. That’s the part I keep wondering about.

What would make the local art scene better, sharper, more intriguing, more exciting? For the art community, as well as for the community as a whole? How might awards help nudge us in that direction?


“War Stories” at MassArt

From my review of “War Stories” at Mass Art, which features work by Jenny Holzer, Nina Berman, David Thorne, Katya Sander, Ashley Hunt, Sharon Hayes, and Andrea Geyer:
The theme of MassArt’s “War Stories” is what we talk about when we talk about war — the Iraq War in particular. Tall tales got us into this war, beginning five years ago next month. And as MassArt’s Lisa Tung, who organized “War Stories,” notes in the exhibit’s wall text, we still struggle to locate the war’s facts amid all the confusing data, all the debate, all the spin. The show is deeply depressing because the subjects are so depressing: unheeded warnings, our war-wounded veterans, the black hole of indefinite imprisonment and torture that we’ve created for our war prisoners.
Read the rest here.

“War Stories,” MassArt’s Bakalar Gallery, 621 Huntington Ave., Boston, Feb. 11 to March 12, 2008.

Pictured top to bottom: Nina Berman, “Sgt. Joseph Mosner, 35 wounded in Khalidya when a bomb blew off his scalp and face”; Jenny Holzer, “We’re at War (Red),” 2006, oil on linen diptych, courtesy of Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston.

Leslie Hall

My thoughts on Leslie Hall’s work in the “SMFA Traveling Scholars” show at the MFA are here. I thought her 2006 graduation exhibit was one of the best in town that year.

“SMFA Traveling Scholars,” Museum of Fine Arts, Feb. 2 to March 2, 2008.

Pictured: Leslie Hall’s “The Great Battle for Des Moines and My Love” (detail), 2007, acrylic on canvas.

Hans Neleman

In 1998, Dutch-born, New York–based photographer Hans Neleman traveled to New Zealand to document a revival of facial tattooing, or “moko,” among the nation’s Maori after decades of government repression of indigenous traditions. My review of his 30 large-format photos on view in “Body Politics: Maori Tattoo Today" at the Peabody Essex Museum is here.

“Body Politics: Maori Tattoo Today,” Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square, Salem, Feb. 23, 2008, to Feb. 1, 2009.

Pictured from top to bottom: Hans Neleman’s photos of “Laurent (Piata) Heenan” and “Tame Wairere Iti,” both 1998, and copyright Neleman and the subjects.