Saturday, July 12, 2008

Stanley leaves MFA for Whitney

John S. Stanley is leaving Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts to become deputy director of New York’s Whitney Museum, the Whitney announced June 26 (via Geoff Edgers). He will begin the new job in August.

The announcement from the Whitney, which is run by former Addison Gallery director Adam Weinberg, said that Stanley served ...
“since 1995 as [the MFA’s] Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Director for Programs and Services. Among his many achievements at the MFA, he helped to realize twelve consecutive years of operating surpluses for the museum and school (after five years of deficits prior to his arrival), completed multiple capital projects on time and within budget, created new ties to state and city government and community groups, increased membership, directed strategic planning initiatives and led efforts to improve education and visitor services through in-gallery interpretation and programs.”

It artist of the moment: Clint Baclawski

Every few months, it seems, an artist pops out as the It artist of the moment among local curators. And Clint Baclawski, who graduated from MassArt this spring, is that artist right now, with simultaneous shows in June at the Photographic Resource Center, Axiom and Alpha Gallery in Boston. (The Alpha show remains on view through next week.)

Other artists who recently enjoyed such local curatorial consensus are Boston photographer Claire Beckett, the Boston art collaborative The Institute for Infinitely Small Things, and Chicago photographer Brian Ulrich. Three out of the four are photographers working in a deadpan style.

Baclawski builds freestanding photo lightboxes that feature indoor shots of trade shows and outdoor shots of public events – a dog show, a boat show, a car show, a crowed gathered in a Salem park for some Halloween event. "Exodus" (below) is a panoramic photo of a crowd milling about a South Boston street for the St. Patrick’s Day parade.

Baclawski’s interiors feel to me competent but dull, too indebted to Jeff Wall (both in his photographic eye and in the light box devices), and indistinguishable from all the other deadpan photography being done today. And his formal devices feel extraneous – the same photo appears on each side of the lightbox, but reversed, with signs always reading right way around; the lightboxes cycle light and dim.

But the outdoor shots, the public events and cityscapes, draw me in with alluring detail. My eyes wander the crowd at the St. Pat’s parade, following the people down the street deep into the picture, and up across the Boston skyline in the distance.

Pictured from top to bottom: Clint Baclawski, “Consolation,” “Exodus,” “The Titanic,” and “Exhibition Hall A,” all 2008, all constructed lightbox with backlight pigment prints, courtesy of the artist, Alpha Gallery and the Photographic Resource Center.

Friday, July 11, 2008

MFA in-house memo on Brutvan

Here is the memo that was e-mailed to Boston Museum of Fine Arts staff yesterday morning announcing contemporary art curator Cheryl Brutvan’s departure:
From: Katie Getchell
Sent: Thursday, July 10, 2008 9:41 AM
To: Everyone - All Locations
Subject: Staff Announcement - Cheryl Brutvan

I am sorry to report our esteemed colleague Cheryl Brutvan, Robert L. Beal., Enid L., and Bruce A. Beal Curator of Contemporary Art and Head of the Department plans to leave the Museum. Please join me in wishing Cheryl well after ten years of accomplishment and commitment to our institution.

Cheryl joined the MFA in 1998 and presided over a transformational decade for contemporary art at the Museum. She has organized and presented numerous exhibitions including “Takashi Murakami: Made in Japan,” before the superstar was well known and the first solo exhibition in an American museum of Damien Hirst's work. Cheryl secured the gift of the Blake Purnell collection which manifested itself in “A Singular Vision: The Melvin Blake and Frank Purnell Legacy.” She initiated the thought-provoking and timely exhibition “War and Discontent” which engaged the Teen Arts Council by way of including personal statements from them next to object labels and gave us a taste of what the Gund gallery will be when filled with contemporary art with the exhibition “Jasper Johns to Jeff Koons: Selections from the Broad Collections.” Using acquisitions as her inspiration, Cheryl also presented “Sophie Ristelhueber: Details of the World,” “Susan Rothenberg: Paintings from the Nineties,” “Cecily Brown” and, most recently, the retrospective exhibition “Antonio López García” which has brought much acclaim. Cheryl has also authored the MFA Publications “Details of the World” and “A Singular Vision: The Melvin Blake and Frank Purnell Legacy” and “Antonio Lopez Garcia.” She co-authored “John Currin” with William Stover.

Cheryl initiated the RSVPmfa project series bringing the work of Jon Borofsky and Sarah Sze – both Boston natives – to the MFA for the first time (and to stay, as we acquired both works). With the generosity of supporters and museum funds, she made dozens of other acquisitions including paintings by Joan Mitchell, Takashi Murakami, Susan Rothenberg, Robert Mangold, Chuck Close, and Cecily Brown; sculptures by Joel Shapiro, Mona Hatoum, George Segal, and Josiah McElheney; a blackboard by Joseph Beuys and video projection by Bruce Nauman.

We are especially appreciative of Cheryl’s recent effort to secure (with the financial support of Trustee Ernst Von Metzsch and his wife Gail) the acquisition of Antonio López García’s “Day and Night” sculpture that now graces the State Street Corporation Fenway Entrance façade providing a contemporary touch to this majestic entry. With this and so many other acquisitions, Cheryl leaves a great legacy as she moves on to new endeavors.

Please join me in thanking Cheryl for her dedication to the Department of Contemporary Art over the last ten years and wishing her the best for the future. Cheryl will be working full time through July 31; I am delighted that she will stay on as the Guest Curator for the “Rachel Whiteread” exhibition in the Foster Gallery opening on October 15, 2008, and in that capacity will be working part time through the end of the calendar year.

Brutvan leaving MFA

Cheryl Brutvan, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts' contemporary art curator, will leave the museum by the end of the year, a museum spokeswoman said today.

Brutvan will work full-time at the museum through July 31, the spokeswoman said, and then move to part-time until the end of December as she finishes assembling, now as guest curator, the Rachel Whiteread exhibit that the MFA has scheduled to open Oct. 15.

A memo emailed to MFA staffers yesterday announcing her departure notably did not address why Brutvan was leaving, where she was going, or what might happen with her position. When I asked these questions to MFA spokeswoman Mary Keith today, her answer was “I don’t know.” The answer was the same when I asked if this could lead to a promotion for MFA assistant contemporary art curator William Stover.

The immediate speculation around town is that Brutvan’s departure is connected to coming changes in the MFA’s contemporary programming – and the ascendancy of Edward Saywell. He was appointed director of the MFA’s West Wing last fall, and thus chief of contemporary art as the wing is expected to become devoted to contemporary stuff during the museum’s renovation and expansion, which is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

“They’re not related,” Keith said. “His role is completely different from what hers is.”

Brutvan earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from the State University of New York at Buffalo, her hometown, before pursuing graduate studies at Williams College. She worked for 15 years at Buffalo’s Albright-Knox Art Gallery, where she put together "The Paintings of Sylvia Plimack Mangold," which came to the MFA in 1995.

Brutvan joined the MFA in the fall of 1998. The contemporary curator position had been open for two years following the departure of Trevor Fairbrother for the Seattle Art Museum.

It was a moment of transition in the institutional leadership of the area’s contemporary art scene – Jill Medvedow had recently been appointed director of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Carl Belz had just stepped down as director of Brandeis’ Rose Art Museum to be replaced by Joseph Ketner, Adam Weinberg became director of Phillips Academy’s Addison Gallery, MIT List Visual Art Center director Katy Kline left to be replaced by Jane Farver, Linda Nordan became contemporary art curator at the Harvard Art Museums, and Jessica Morgan became the Worcester Art Museum’s contemporary curator, only to quickly jump to the ICA.

"I think she has a strong personality and has made remarkable acquisitions at Albright-Knox," MFA Director Malcolm Rogers told the Globe when Brutvan was hired. "She has the personality to fit into the team here, and to be a leader in the contemporary art community."

But the MFA maintained institutional, financial and philosophical hurdles to a vigorous contemporary art program. A decade later, Brutvan and the MFA still don’t feel like leaders in the contemporary art community.

The first show Brutvan organized as a MFA curator featured Joel Shapiro. She went on to assemble exhibits of Antonio Lopez Garcia, Damien Hirst, Cecily Brown, Joel Shapiro, works from the Broad Collections, Adam Fuss, Christian Boltanski, Susan Rothenberg, Takashi Murakami, Tim Noble and Sue Webster, Sarah Sze, Michael Mazur, Robert Rauschenberg, Charlotte Salomon, the Melvin Blake and Frank Purnell collections, Sophie Ristelhueber, and the group show “War and Discontent.” Brutvan has been planning an Ellsworth Kelley show for the West Wing’s Foster Gallery after the MFA’s renovation and expansion is completed in 2010.

A Globe feature on Brutvan, “Try this job: museum curator,” which seems to be from fall 2006.

Diamond-Newman Fine Arts moves

Diamond-Newman Fine Arts has moved into the former Allston Skirt Gallery space at 450 Harrison Ave., confirming my June 2 report. A handwritten sign was in the door this week and art was on the walls. Gallery director David Diamond said the gallery will be open by appointment only, but declined to discuss other details.

“Meat After Meat Joy” to remain on view, despite PETA complaint

Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge does not plan to cut short the run of its current exhibit “Meat After Meat Joy” after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called on the gallery Wednesday to shut down the show, gallery director Nathan Censullo tells me. The group was upset by the use of actual meat in several works in the exhibition.

“There’s no work here that’s antagonistic,” Censullo says. “If anything the majority of the work is very respectful to meat in our culture.”

Censullo is sympathetic to PETA’s concerns about cruelty to animals, and argues that “Meat After Meat Joy” does not engage in that, but rather much of the artwork considers meat in our society in ways that he believes reflects the group’s views.

Walker not moving to Newbury Street

Stephanie Walker will not be able to open her Walker Contemporary gallery on Boston’s Newbury Street in September, she said this morning, because investors recently pulled out due to “personal and health crises.” So for now she won’t be going forward with plans to take over part of Alpha Gallery’s space on the seventh floor at 38 Newbury St.

“It was devastating news for me,” Walker writes. “There is nothing I love more than creating a welcoming environment for the public to experience outstanding contemporary art and facilitating meaningful connections between artists and collectors. While I may be temporarily down, I am certainly not out! The great news is, I will continue as a private dealer and continue to work toward opening the gallery in the near future.”

Walker, a former director of Chase Gallery on Boston’s Newbury Street, was pursuing the project after moving back to Boston a couple weeks ago after a year in Los Angeles, where she had worked as a private dealer. She plans to continue operating this way, showing artists by appointment at the loft she lives in on Boston’s Washington Street.

Alpha Gallery president Alan Fink told me today that because Walker’s plans have fallen through things will stay status quo at the gallery – in other words, Alpha will continue to operate all of its current space.

Chaz Maviyane-Davies

Here are a couple of recent broadsides about the turmoil in Zimbabwe by Chaz Maviyane-Davies, a Zimbabwe-raised, Boston-based graphic artist. His work is featured in “Reflections in Exile: Five Contemporary African Artists Respond to Social Injustice” at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Roxbury.

I’ve included his commentary below:
The African Union's total failure to collectively condemn Mugabe's farce in the face of a world gutted by his vindictive arrogance, yet again defies belief.

I ask them this in layman's terms: What if your boss killed your wife and children so that he could keep his job, would you be talking about a merger then?

In a related article:

“The Human Stain”
In an attempt to cow and intimidate people into voting, Zimbabwe's state security agents had launched “Operation Red Finger” to identify if people had voted by checking if they had indelible ink-stains on their finger. Those who had not voted could be beaten and forced to do so.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

“Carnival of the Arts” at Axiom on Saturday

Axiom gallery presents its “Carnival of the Arts” this Saturday, July 12, from 11 a.m. to dusk in the plaza outside the gallery at 141 Green St. in Jamaica Plain. The event, which was curated by Julie Madden and Autumn Ahn, is free – except for the $7 donation requested for a sound and video performance by Zebbler Encanti Experience (better known as the guy behind the 2007 Mooninite scare) inside the gallery at 8 p.m.

The Axiom folks explain:
"Influenced by the welcoming nature of old time fairs, festivals, and circuses Axiom Gallery is hosting a festival of its own to promote community awareness and participation in art events happening in Jamaica Plain and the greater Boston area. The event will be comprised of activities and performances by community participants and locally based artists as well as a silent auction located inside the gallery with proceeds funding future educational program series."

"Reflections in Exile" at NCAAA

From my review of “Reflections in Exile: Five Contemporary African Artists Respond to Social Injustice” at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists:
In recent weeks, Chaz Maviyane-Davies has been e-mailing out broadsides again. His “graphic commentaries,” as the Zimbabwe native calls them, are vivid digital posters indicting Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, as a craven thug and the international response as feckless.

Zimbabwe has been riven by violence since opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of a presidential election in March. Tsvangirai dropped out of the June 27 runoff vote because of violent physical attacks on his supporters. On July 1, the African Union called for a government of national unity in Zimbabwe to heal the nation’s political wounds. Maviyane-Davies’s response: flies crawling over a cut in a slab of red meat shaped like Africa, with, across the top, “Another slice of African unity.”

Eight earlier posters are the highlight of “Reflections in Exile: Five Contemporary African Artists Respond to Social Injustice” at the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Roxbury. The show collects work by five immigrants, four of them now living in Greater Boston, the fifth a former MassArt student.

Maviyane-Davies left his homeland in 2001. “It was because I was doing those commentaries that I had to leave for my own safety,” he tells me.
Read the rest here.

“Reflections in Exile: Five Contemporary African Artists Respond to Social Injustice,” The Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, Boston, June 1 to July 27, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: Chaz Maviyane-Davies of Boston, “Flag,” 2000; “Rights-Article 15,” 1996; “Beware of Some Masks,” 2000; “Medals of Dishonor,” 2000; “Remember,” 2000.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

PETA to Pierre Menard: Take down “Meat After Meat Joy”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is calling on Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge “to take down the ‘Meat After Meat Joy’ exhibit and commit to displaying only exhibits that don't support gratuitous animal suffering.”

The gallery has said the show (as seen above) “investigates the paradoxical relationship meat has to the body.”

"Unless you're Hannibal Lecter, there's nothing 'artistic' or 'joyful' about meat," PETA Senior Vice President Tracy Reiman said in a press release today. "If it's unacceptable to kill humans for an art exhibit, then it should be unacceptable to kill animals too."

PETA faxed its complaint to the gallery today, spokesperson Ashley Byrne said. Asked whether anyone from the group had visited the exhibit, she told me, “I don’t know whether anyone actually has seen the show.”

July 11 update:
Pierre Menard Gallery does not plan to cut short the run of its current exhibit “Meat After Meat Joy” after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals called on the gallery Wednesday to shut down the show, gallery director Nathan Censullo tells me. More here.

The entire PETA press release and letter follows:
July 9, 2008

PETA Calls On Pierre Menard Gallery to Take Down 'Meat After Meat Joy' Exhibit

This morning, PETA fired off a letter to Nathan Censullo, director of the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, urging him to remove an exhibit called "Meat After Meat Joy" from his gallery. PETA's letter was prompted by news reports about a group of 10 artists who used various types of meat as a medium for their exhibition. The "artwork" includes a flag, a book, and a representation of a baby girl, all composed of animal flesh. In its letter, PETA explains that there is nothing joyful about meat and that animals killed for food are made of flesh, blood, and bone—just as humans are. Animals also have the same senses and emotions that humans have. PETA suggests that Censullo instead create an exhibit that depicts the suffering of the billions of animals who are abused and killed by the meat industry every year.

"Unless you're Hannibal Lecter, there's nothing 'artistic' or 'joyful' about meat," says PETA Senior Vice President Tracy Reiman. "If it's unacceptable to kill humans for an art exhibit, then it should be unacceptable to kill animals too."

For more information, please visit

PETA's letter to Director Nathan Censullo follows.

Nathan Censullo, Director
Pierre Menard Gallery

Dear Mr. Censullo,

On behalf of PETA and our more than 2 million members and supporters—including many thousands in and around Boston—I am writing to urge you to take down the "Meat After Meat Joy" exhibit and commit to displaying only exhibits that don't support gratuitous animal suffering.

Unless you're Hannibal Lecter, there's nothing "artistic" or "joyful" about meat. If it's unacceptable to kill humans for an art exhibit, then it should be unacceptable to kill animals too. Quite simply, meat isn't joy: It's misery. Your Web site refers to meat as a "medium," as if it were no different from paper or canvas. But meat is not a medium. It's the flesh of an animal who valued his or her life, just as you do, until that life was violently cut short. Like human beings, animals are made of flesh, blood, and bone. Animals have the same five senses that we do, and they have the same capacity to experience love, joy, suffering, and fear. Animals desire to live their lives free of pain and fear—not to be exploited for "art."

Why not do something truly meaningful, enlightening, and life-changing for your patrons, such as creating an exhibit that shows the horrors that the meat industry inflicts on animals? You could create replicas of mother pigs crammed in metal-and-cement cages that are too narrow even to turn around. We'd be happy to lend you video footage showing that chickens and turkeys' throats are cut while they're still conscious and that fish slowly suffocate on the decks of fishing boats. Depicting the violent truth behind the meat industry would cause your patrons to question long-held beliefs and ponder what the relationship between humans and animals should be.

Please let me know what your decision is and whether you would like me to send you copies of the video footage that I mentioned. Thank you for your consideration.


Tracy Reiman
Senior Vice President

Griffin Museum at Stoneham Theater

Winchester’s Griffin Museum of Photography announced today that it is expanding its reach by starting to present shows at its new “Atelier Gallery” at the Stoneham Theater, beginning with an exhibit of Fran Forman photos from July 23 to Aug. 30.

Gloucester High pregnancy boom art (?)

Over the weekend the Beverly Farms Horribles Parade mocked the Gloucester High School pregnancy boom – and it was a nasty, mean-spirited affair.

Which is not how I was feeling last week when I posted photos of Gloucester guys at Gloucester’s St. Peter’s Fiesta dressed up as pregnant Gloucester girls – as well as the news crews that chase them. Maybe because I was at the Gloucester event, I took it generously. It struck me as a wicked joke, but also filled with a weird sort of pride. Goofing on but also standing up for the girls and the community, particularly by mocking the media for blowing the thing out of proportion. Maybe I was being too generous.

I wasn’t at the Beverly Farms Horribles Parade, but, as video of the event by the Beverly Citizen shows, it included a giant penis on the front of a pickup truck spraying water on the crowd (see above), a giant sculpture of a woman with her legs spread to give birth, and teen dancing girls dressed up to look pregnant (see below). Signs on the floats read “GHS girls went to band camps, came back pregnant tramps”: “She smelled like tuna, I should have pulled out soona”; “Knock ‘em up High, where expectations are Low, Gloucester, MA”; “Want to go on a whale watch? We hump for free.”

Maybe it’s the difference between insiders criticizing their own and outsiders criticizing them? Maybe it’s because the number of people involved in these parade floats outnumber the pregnant girls? Maybe it’s because it’s just about mocking the girls? Maybe it’s their tone of gender-focused derision (“tramps”)?

I adore true horribles parades for poking the powerful. And certainly Gloucester’s teen pregnancy boom offers stuff to joke about – and worry about. I’m not bothered by the giant spewing penis (art school 101, dude), but by the mean tone of the thing, the posters in particular.

Maybe it’s getting to me because it strikes me as a lot like the corrosive talk about the Gloucester pregnancies on local right wing talk radio, 96.9 WTKK. Instead of being concerned for the girls and their babies, the radio hosts have called the Gloucester girls sluts, and predicted they will end up on welfare and their babies will turn out to be criminals. And then argued that what the girls need is a public shaming, because they believe this will head off future teen pregnancies. For real.

This isn’t teasing the powerful. This is powerful people picking on a handful of high school girls.

  • Coverage of the Horribles Parade in the Beverly Citizen, Herald, and Globe.
  • Michael Graham of WTKK was offended by the parade’s sexiness: “I am an advocate of the power of shame … [but] If I’d been there with my 8 and 5 year olds, I would have been looking for someone to have a word with.”
  • Margery Eagan of the Herald: “Given the choice between hurting teen mothers’ feelings and making sure fewer teens become mothers at all, I’d take the ridicule any time.”

“Keepers of Tradition” at National Heritage Museum

From my review of “Keepers of Tradition: Art and Folk Heritage in Massachusetts” at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington:
There is always a tension between the old ways and the new. And maybe never more so than in a culture like ours, an immigrant society based on getting up and leaving the old behind, but still homesick. We’re a nation that’s by turns a melting pot in which the old ways dissolve into the new and a crazy quilt of one tradition bluntly stitched to the next.

Here in Massachusetts, our old ways tend to reside in ethnic islands and pockets. They may be famous on their street or in their neighborhood or town, but they’re often unheard of outside it. So part of the thrill of “Keepers of Tradition: Art and Folk Heritage in Massachusetts” at Lexington’s National Heritage Museum is the news it brings of magic that’s close at hand but under the radar.
Read the rest here.

This is the first exhibition to come out of the Massachusetts Cultural Council’s Folk Arts & Heritage Program, which began in 1999 with financial help from the National Endowment for the Arts and the goal of ferreting out and documenting folk artists and their work across the state. (The whole show is archived here.) The program picks up the pieces of a state project that was begun in the late 1980s and then fell apart in the early ’90s, a casualty of one of our budget crises. It has since gone on to give grants to folk artists as well as pay them to train apprentices. It’s the sort of project that makes you proud of your government.

“Keepers of Tradition: Art and Folk Heritage in Massachusetts,” National Heritage Museum, 33 Marret Road, Lexington, May 18, 2008, to Feb. 8, 2009.

Pictured from top to bottom: Errol Phillip of Jamaica Plain, “Fruit Cocktail,” Caribbean carnival costume, 2007; Bob Brophy of Essex, “Black Duck Preening,” decorative decoy, 1985; Sally Palmer Field of Chelmsford, “Sampler of Miniatures,” pieced quilt, mid 20th century; Thomas Matsuda of Conway, “Kannon Bosatsu,” Japanese Buddhist sculpture, 1985; Carlos Santiago Arroyo of Amherst, “La Mano Poderosa, Santo (The Most Powerful Hand),” Puerto Rican woodcarving, 2003.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Alexis Rockman

From my review of “Alexis Rockman: The Weight of Air” at Brandeis’ Rose Art Museum:
Rockman is known for an illustrationy style, but in the 39 works in “The Weight of Air” at Brandeis’s Rose Art Museum, a show organized by Rose director Michael Rush, he adopts an expressionist action-painting style while holding to the disasters-of-global-climate-change theme. These paintings from 2005 to ’07 are a catalogue of The Day After Tomorrow–style weather calamities: a truck chugging through a blizzard; a fire throwing a big black cloud up at the horizon; the edges of neighborhoods collapsing into mudslides; rusting ships marooned in a desert that was once the Aral Sea; a car on a muddy road with its brake lights glowing as a great big brown beast of a tornado blenders the landscape.
Read the rest here.

My June 2007 overview of global warming art, including Alexis Rockman’s “Manifest Destiny” (2004), a 24-foot-long mural that depicts a freaky future New York flooded by global climate change.

“Alexis Rockman: The Weight of Air,” Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, 415 South St., Waltham, May 8 to July 27, 2008.

Luisa Rabbia

From my review of “Luisa Rabbia: Travels with Isabella, Travel Scrapbooks 1883/2008,” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum:
In the fall of 1883, Isabella Stewart Gardner — more than a decade before she would develop her museum on Boston’s Fenway — traveled to China. As she toured Shanghai and Beijing, Hong Kong, Canton, and Macao, she purchased photographs from local photographers of sights she’d seen as well as of people and things she hadn’t. She pasted all these sepia-toned pictures into a scrapbook, and that became a spark of inspiration when Luisa Rabbia was an artist-in-residence at the Gardner Museum last summer. The result is “Travels with Isabella, Travel Scrapbooks 1883/2008,” in which the Italian-raised, Brooklyn-based 37-year-old transforms Gardner’s old travel photos into a dream journey.
Read the rest here.

“Luisa Rabbia: Travels with Isabella, Travel Scrapbooks 1883/2008,” Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 280 The Fenway, Boston, June 26 to Sept. 28, 2008.

Pictured: Luisa Rabbia, details of her video “Travels with Isabella, Travel Scrapbooks 1883/2008.”

Monday, July 07, 2008

Frank Gohlke

From my review of “Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke” at the Addison Gallery:
Gohlke won national recognition when he — along with Bernd and Hilla Becher, Stephen Shore, Nicholas Nixon, and others — was included in the George Eastman House’s 1975 exhibition “New Topographics: Photographs of a Man-Altered Landscape.” Their work was seen as a break from the romantic photos of apparently untouched landscapes by folks like Ansel Adams.

Gohlke’s early photos, from the 1970s, apply a crisp Modernist classicism to observations of scrappy American plains architecture and ruins. Majestic, practical grain elevators stand stoutly along railroad tracks or shimmer at the edge of a wet, black, flat Texas road as lightning crackles in the distance.

His look comes straight out of the flinty photos John Vachon, Jack Delano, and (especially) Walker Evans shot for the Farm Security Administration’s famed Depression-era documentary project. His focus is the vast windswept horizontal vistas of the middle of the country, where the horizon is low, you can see forever, and the sky dominates. People are notably absent; the scenes feel silent except for maybe wind.
Read the rest here.

Gohlke lived in Massachusetts from 1987 until 2007, when he moved to Arizona. He taught at MassArt on and off between 1988 and 2006.

“Accommodating Nature: The Photographs of Frank Gohlke,” Addison Gallery, Phillips Academy, 180 Main St., Andover, April 12 to July 13, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: “Grain Elevator and Lightning Flash, Lamesa, Texas,” 1975; “Aftermath: The Wichita Falls Tornado, 4503 McNeil Street, Looking North,” April 14, 1979, and June 1980; “Aerial View: Looking Southeast Over Windy Ridge nad Visitors Parking Lot, Four and One-Half Miles Northeast of Mount St. Helens, Washington,” 1983; “Village of Boxboro Stateion, Boxboro, Massachusetts,” June 2002.

LeRoy Henderson

Here are a couple of the best photos in New York artist LeRoy Henderson’s exhibit “Protest” at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery. [These are actually black and white photos, but they turned sepia in my lousy reproduction. Sorry.] The show combines his documentary shots of anti-war protests during the Vietnam and Iraq wars. I briefly addressed the show at the end of this review.

LeRoy Henderson, “Protest” Bannister Gallery, Rhode Island College, 600 Mt. Pleasant Ave., Providence, May 29 to July 11, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: LeRoy Henderson, “First Anti-Vietnam War march, New York,” April 15, 1967; “Anti-Vietnam War Series, New York,” 1968.