Friday, October 24, 2008

Keene Pumpkin Festival is Saturday

The 18th annual Keene Pumpkin Festival will fill downtown Keene, New Hampshire, with an astonishing display of thousands of jack-o-lanterns from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. this Saturday. It’s one of those classic-type small town New England autumn events that has grown gloriously out of hand. (Above is our photo of last year’s pumpkin tower.)

The event was begun by the Keene Downtown Association to drum up business in 1991 with some 600 jack-o’-lanterns. It has gone on to establish a number of world records for its quantity, reaching 28,952 in 2003. (Boston topped Keene with 30,128 lit pumpkins in 2006.)

A rambling illustrated rumination on visiting last year’s festival.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Museum of Small Finds, Talbot, Cromwell

From my review of “The Museum of Small Finds" at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket, plus paintings by Dan Talbot of Providence and Lawrence Cromwell of Baltimore at the Chazan Gallery at the Wheeler School in Providence:
The apparent inspiration for “The Museum of Small Finds” at Machines with Magnets is a Renaissance cabinet of wonders — odd collections of art, artifacts, and natural history specimens that were precursors to today’s museums — and freak shows. In recent decades, as museums have grown ever more like children’s activity centers and less dusty and strange, artists and curators craving the old halls of mystery have started creating their own.
Read the rest here.

“Lo! A Collection of Secreted Tales and Objects of Wonder” at “The Museum of Small Finds,” Machines with Magnets, 400 Main St., Pawtucket, Rhode Island, Oct. 3 to 31, 2008.
“New Work: Dan Talbot and Lawrence Cromwell,” Chazan Gallery at the Wheeler School, 228 Angell St., Providence, Oct. 16 to Nov. 5, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: Kendra Plumley’s skulls at “The Museum of Small Finds”; Dan Talbot, “R + S's house (Carriage house, Airstream and Yellow Mercedes)”; and Lawrence Cromwell, “Huff-n-Puffitus.”

Rachel Whiteread

From my review of Rachel Whiteread’s show at Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts:
The gallery is dark for Rachel Whiteread’s “Place (Village)” installation at the Museum of Fine Arts, except for lights glowing within the neighborhoods of little houses stacked up around the edges of the room, as if on three hillsides. They turn out to be more than 200 second-hand dollhouses that the 45-year-old London sculptor has stacked on the wooden shipping crates they were sent to the museum in. It feels like bedtime in the village of girlhood dreams.
Read the rest here.

Coming soon:
An interview with Whiteread.

Rachel Whiteread, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, Oct. 15, 2008, to Jan. 25, 2009.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Yezerski Gallery plans Nov. 7 reopening

After construction delays, Howard Yezerski Gallery hopes to finally reopen at 460 Harrison Ave. on Nov. 7 with a show of photographic banners by Lalla Essaydi of New York.

“I decided I wanted to be open for this first Friday because this is it for the season,” Yezerski tells me. Though he may open without everything being finished. “It don’t know if I’ll be completely in.”

Yezerski moved out of 38 Newbury St. at the end of June and hoped to be in the new space by the start of September, but the owner’s – GTI Properties – development of the building apparently fell behind schedule.

Yezerski says he got the keys to the new space “a couple weeks ago.” But he couldn’t begin to build it out for a week because his own contractor was out of town for the Jewish holidays. Now studs are up and electric lines are being put in. The walls and floor are yet to be finished.

“I’m excited,” Yezerski says. “And truth be told, I don’t feel like I lost that much this month given what’s been going on” – namely the economic crash.

Aug. 7, 2008: Yezerski move probably delayed.
March 25, 2008: Yezerski “is working out a lease to move.”

Walker Contemporary to open Nov. 7

Stephanie Walker plans to open her new Walker Contemporary gallery at 450 Harrison Ave. in Boston on Nov. 7 with a group show. Last week she took over the cellar storefront, which was occupied Gallery Kayafas until Oct. 15, and is busy renovating. Walker, a former director of Chase Gallery on Boston’s Newbury Street, says her gallery will begin by primarily featuring sculpture and installations by West Coast artists.

“I feel really lucky because the energy down here is awesome,” Walker tells me.

Walker returned to Boston this summer after spending a year in Los Angeles, where she had worked as a private dealer. She had planned to open her gallery in part of Alpha Gallery’s space at 38 Newbury St., but that plan fell through when, she said, investors pulled out in July.

Walker says, “I have a financial advisor … who kept saying, ‘Think of the alternatives.’” She hadn’t much considered the South End, but she says she kept running into people at parties who pointed her in that direction. She liked that her rent at 450 Harrison is less than half of what she would have paid for Newbury Street, and that the space was already built out as a gallery.

“There was just no cost to entry,” Walker says.

June 19, 2008: Walker Gallery to be at 38 Newbury St.
July 11, 2008: Walker not moving to Newbury Street.

Gallery Kayafas has moved

Gallery Kayafas moved into its new space at 450 Harrison Ave. in Boston on Oct. 15. It was a short move – upstairs to one of the “bridge” storefronts from its old storefront downstairs in the same building.

Owner Arlette Kayafas told me she moved because “I got excited about having more space and the flexibility it would give me.” And it doesn’t hurt that “the light up here is amazing. I no longer feel like a mole.”

Kayafas said she got the keys to the 2,220-square-foot space, which had housed Gallery XIV until this summer, on Sept. 1. She put on a September show in her old 11,000 square-foot gallery downstairs as the upstairs was being renovated. The new space now showcases photos by Bostonians Robert Knight and Bruce Myren (who splits his time between here and the University of Connecticut, where he’s a grad student).

Maya Allison joins 5 Traverse

Maya Allison will become full time co-director of the Providence commercial gallery 5 Traverse on Nov. 1, owner Jesse Smith tells me.

The move is notable because of its timing (see: economic crash) and Allison’s background. She just organized this month’s Pixilerations [v.5] new media festival in Providence. In January, she finished three years as a contemporary art curatorial assistant (and for a time interim department head) at the RISD Museum, culminating in her exhibit "Music Video/Silent Film: Innovations in the Moving Image" last fall. She also helped RISD Museum contemporary art curator Judith Tannenbaum organize the 2006 show "Wunderground: Providence, 1995 to the Present.” Allison studied art history at Reed College and film at Columbia University.

Smith, who started 5 Traverse in April 2007, tells me, “In blunt contrast to the economic times and the gloom and doom in the next 10 years, 5 Traverse is going to push to be a responsible conduit and curatorial force in the area.”

How can the gallery expand its staff at this (economic) time? Smith denies that he’s independently wealthy. Instead, he says, he plans to pursue more business through art consulting. He points to significant commissions that resulted from helping Meditech build its regional art collection when it was furnishing a new facility in Fall River, which opened in May.

“That was just an amazing boon,” Smith says. “And that’s what the gallery is running on.”

Barbara O’Brien to leave Simmons

Barbara O’Brien, director of Simmons College’s Trustman Art Gallery and an assistant professor of art who heads the school’s arts administration program, will be leaving when the fall semester concludes at the end of this year.

She plans to move to Denver, where her husband Bo Smith, who has lead the Boston Museum of Fine Arts’ film, video and concerts program for two decades, recently became director of the Denver Film Society. (And where she should not be confused with Colorado Lieutenant Governor Barbara O’Brien.)

“I do not have a plan. I am looking into opportunities,” O’Brien tells me. “Denver is a really exciting city for contemporary art.”

O’Brien grew up outside Kansas City, but has been in New England for years. She earned an MFA through RISD’s photography department in 1990, directed Montserrat College of Art’s gallery and visiting artist program from 1990 to 2001, was editor in chief of Art New England from 2002 to 2006, then joined Simmons.

State Auditor questions MCC spending

Massachusetts State Auditor Joe DeNucci (left) alleged Monday that the Massachusetts Cultural Council “improperly kept $826,103 in state funds” when a project to fund cultural facilities projects sputtered. The state cultural council responded Monday with its own press release saying, “There is no evidence in the audit to indicate that MCC has done anything other than responsibly and in good faith make prudent use of taxpayer dollars.”

The state auditor’s press release said in part:
DeNucci said the funds in question were part of a $1.5 million fund originally earmarked by the Legislature to provide loans and grants to non-profit cultural organizations for facilities projects across Massachusetts. MCC had entered into an agreement with two non-profit organizations to administer the fund. However, citing budget cuts, the Cultural Council discontinued that agreement five years ago, at which time DeNucci said the original $1.5 million should have been returned to the state.

Instead, MCC entered into an agreement with one of the non-profits – the New England Foundation for the Arts, Inc. (NEFA) – to act as its fiscal agent and retain and invest the loan funds that had either been repaid or were in the process of being repaid by the cultural groups. DeNucci said the Cultural Council used nearly $500,000 of these funds to pay for discretionary expenses that included software improvements, creation of an on-line cultural “marketplace,” documentary film, exhibitions and equipment purchases.

“This was a clear example of a legislative earmark being used for purposes unrelated to the original appropriation,” said DeNucci. “Especially in these very difficult fiscal times, state agencies must make sure that every dollar is spent legally, wisely and only for the purposes intended.”
You can read DeNucci’s entire press release here. The entire 32-page audit, “Independent State Auditor's Report on Certain Activities of the Massachusetts Cultural Council, July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006,” which provides a dry, but fascinating window into the workings of the MCC, is here. (Both are pdfs.)

Below is the MCC’s response:

(Boston, MA) - The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) issued the following statement in response to a press release distributed today by the state's auditor's office.

* The funds at issue in the auditor's report were appropriated by the Legislature to provide technical assistance, grants, planning services, and loans, to nonprofit cultural organizations for facilities projects in Massachusetts.
* The funds were granted for just this purpose starting in 1995 by the MCC to the Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Project, a legal partnership between the New England Foundation for the Arts (NEFA) and the Nonprofit Finance Fund.
* The Massachusetts Cultural Facilities Project ran for eight years.
* When the Project ceased to operate, the MCC sought to have the remaining funds returned and put to public use.
* The MCC sought and received legal counsel regarding appropriate administration of the funds.
* The MCC was advised that the funds should return to the original grantee, NEFA, but could only be expended by formal approval by the MCC board to assure that the disposition of the funds were prudent, legal, and transparent.
* The funds were subsequently spent in accordance with this process.
* The MCC has responded to all issues raised by the Auditor.
* The MCC concurs with the auditor that it is advisable to seek additional counsel on the administration of the funds from the State Comptroller and will do so.
* There is no evidence in the audit to indicate that MCC has done anything other than responsibly and in good faith make prudent use of taxpayer dollars.

MCC's full, detailed response is included in the audit report that accompanies the press release issued by the auditor.

Harvard Museum gets its largest single $ gift ever

Harvard Art Museum announced Friday that it had received “one of the most significant donations” of art and “the single largest [financial] donation” in the institution’s history – 31 works of modern and contemporary art plus $45 million from Harvard alumna Emily Rauh Pulitzer, a former Harvard Art Museum curator, and wife of the late Joseph Pulitzer Jr.

The gift includes [pictured here from top to bottom] Joan Miró’s 1945 painting “Woman in the Night,” Constantin Brancusi’s 1926 bronze “Sleeping Muse II,” Roy Lichtenstein’s 1983 bronze “Sleeping Muse,” and Pablo Picasso’s 1918 painting “Harlequin,” as well as paintings and sculptures by Derain, Giacometti, Lipchitz, Modigliani, Rosso, Vuillard, di Suvero, Heizer, Judd, Nauman, Newman, Oldenburg, Serra, Shapiro, and Tuttle.

MFA acquires African-American art

Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts announced Friday that it recently acquired three paintings by 20th century African-American artists: “Untitled” (about 1960–64) by Norman Lewis [pictured here], “The Juggler #1” (about 1964) by Hughie Lee-Smith, and “715 Washington Street” (1947) by Walter Simon.

All three were purchased at the African-American Fine Art Sale at Swann Auctions in New York. The MFA reported that it “purchased the Lewis for $312,000—the highest price ever realized at auction for an abstract work by an African American artist, and an auction record for any work by the artist. The Simon, which also set an auction record for the artist, was purchased with museum funds raised by the MFA’s Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection—an art acquisition fund established in 2005 for the purpose of diversifying the Museum’s collection of American art.”

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Esteban Pastorino Díaz

From my review of “Shifting Perspectives: Estaban Pastorino Díaz” which closed the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston on Oct. 13:
Argentine photographer Esteban Pastorino Díaz rigs cameras to kites and model planes and helicopters to create DIY bird’s-eye views that make the world look like boys’ plastic-model-train sets. His show at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ Grossman Gallery includes shots of houses along a Boston street [see below], shacks and boats along a muddy river, two orange propeller planes parked on a grass runway, and a series documenting a bloody bullfight. There’s something riveting about stepping back to see the grand patterns of people and communities.
Read the rest here.

“Shifting Perspectives: Estaban Pastorino Diaz,” School of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 230 The Fenway, Boston, Aug. 29 to Oct. 13, 2008.

Pictured from top to bottom: Esteban Pastorino Díaz, “Aeroclub Veronica,” 2003, and Esteban Pastorino Díaz in collaboration with Deniz Hotamisligil, “Untitled,” 2008.

Dave Cole

From my review of “Dave Cole: All American,” which closed at Judi Rotenberg Gallery on Oct. 12:
America and war have been the subjects of Providence sculptor Dave Cole’s work for several years now. And you have to say he’s had good timing — curators and art writers are finding it more and more irresistible.

His show “All American” at Judi Rotenberg Gallery presents American flags made of bullets, finely crafted baby clothes made from recycled Kevlar military flak vests, and an M60 machine gun mounted on a child’s wagon towed by a tricycle (all painted desert tan). There seems to be a critique here about raising our kids in a war culture, but it’s a one-liner. Cole doesn’t much go in for complexity or subtlety. He leaves you little room to ponder after you get his joke/statement.
Read the rest here.

“Dave Cole: All American,” Judi Rotenberg Gallery, 130 Newbury St., Boston, Sept. 4 to Oct. 12, 2008.

Our review of Cole’s last show at Rotenberg Gallery.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shepard Fairey in Cambridge

Street artist Shepard Fairey of Los Angeles (and formerly of Providence) – of “Obey Giant” and Obama “Hope” poster fame – is in Boston this week in advance of his February show at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art. This afternoon he and his crew postered two walls in Harvard Square, including this one on the former Greenhouse at 3 Brattle St. They also plan to poster a wall in Cambridge’s Central Square and some spots around Boston.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.