Friday, November 21, 2008

DeCordova doubles down on sculpture, switches Annual

The DeCordova Museum and Sculpture Park in Lincoln today announced staffing and programming changes aimed at making it a major player in sculpture. The institution also said it will switch its trademark Annual Exhibition to a biennial format. Director Dennis Kois signaled these programming moves when I interviewed him shortly after he began work at DeCordova in June.

Nick Capasso, who has worked at DeCordova for 18 years, has been “promoted to the newly created position” of senior curator. “Capasso will lead DeCordova’s efforts to assume a position of national leadership in the exhibition of contemporary sculpture, both indoors and out, within a decade,” the announcement says.

To assist in that goal the institution also announced “the formation of DeCordova’s first-ever Sculpture Park Committee, which will include outside advisers and experts, also a first for a DeCordova committee. Along with Board members and Museum Overseers, the committee will include a notable roster of curators, gallerists, scholars, and leading figures in the world of sculpture drawn from both the United States and abroad.”

Dina Deitsch, who has served as interim assistant curator at DeCordova for the past nine months, was named full-time assistant curator of contemporary art. She will “work primarily with the curatorial program within the museum’s walls,” including the organizing the first DeCordova Biennial for January 2010.

“Moving to a Biennial format will allow a single curatorial vision for each show, be that of our curator or an invited guest curator, and give that curator the room to take risks,” Kois said in the announcement. “I think you’ll see more site-specific work, more projects and new art relevant to DeCordova and our increasingly art-savvy and curious audience.”

The museum’s 35-acre sculpture park has been a neglected resource. But the moves announced today give the museum well-needed focus and direction. Kois has smartly identified sculpture as niche the museum could fill both locally and nationally. In part, because there are still few major institutional players devoted to sculpture across the country. A potential hurdle is that sculpture – making it, shipping it – is often pricey. I hope Kois and his team will be able to line up funding to make it happen.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

O’Malley, Blatman, Hairston-Medice

“Overflow,” featuring Somerville artists Resa Blatman, Mary O’Malley and Sara Hairston-Medice at Boston’s Laconia Gallery, is a show so sexy sweet (and yet refined) that it might give you the vapors.

The showstopper in terms of panache and scale is Blatman’s 10-foot-wide painting “Beauty and the Beasties” (pictured below), a fantasia of realistically rendered wild critters and flowers cavorting among flat paisley flourishes. Bats, beetles, an ostrich, flamingos and hummingbirds float out of a dark background. A mushroom at the bottom sprays designs in an exceedingly lascivious manner. The edge of the painting is cut out in a curlicue interlace pattern of vines and leaves. Seeing Blatman’s paintings in shows over the past couple years, I’ve felt that her combo of realist wildlife imagery and flat pattern merged awkwardly. But here they’re united by shared lusty sensuous over-the-top exuberant abundance. And I’m won over.

O’Malley (pictured immediately below) also combines natural elements with seductive decoration in drawings of Art Nouveau dream towers, gleaming stalagmites, jellyfish-chandeliers, and bouquets of flowers and butterflies. They’re rendered in dazzlingly elaborate filigrees and lush veils of ink dots and dashes – silver on black or regal red, green and gold on white.

Hairston-Medice knits and stitches together curious colorful yarn and lace blobs that suggest growing things. “Crochet Constellation” (pictured second below) resembles patches of shelf mushrooms or fungi sprouting from the gallery wall. Other soft sculptures look a bit like boggy plants, hanging moss, sea anemones or, if you’re so inclined, lady parts. I don’t think Hairston-Medice has quite found her forms yet; these tend toward a generalness rather than being assertively specifically themselves. And I wish she was more sensitive to color. But she seems to be on the right path.

“Overflow” featuring Resa Blatman, Sara Hairston-Medice and Mary O’Malley, Laconia Gallery, 433 Harrison Ave., Boston, Oct. 3 to Nov. 22, 2008.

Some thoughts on beauty in recent art.

Pictured from top to bottom: Resa Blatman’s “Coitus” (left) and Sara Hairston-Medice’s “Heiosis II”; Blatman’s “Beauty and the Beasties”; Mary O’Malley’s “Hybrid Specimen #1”; Hairston-Medice’s “Crochet Constellation”’; and installation view of Blatman paintings and Hairston-Medice sculptures.

'Harry Callahan: Eleanor' at RISD

From my review of “Harry Callahan: Eleanor” at the RISD Museum:
"I think I've photographed the same things all my life," Harry Callahan said in 1991. "Buildings and grasses and people walking." And, for a stretch running from about 1941 to 1963, that included his wife, Eleanor.

From these modest subjects, Callahan (1912-1999) became one of the legendary American photographers who moved the field from the close observation and documentary photography of the ‘30s into post-World War II surrealism, abstraction and process-oriented experimentation. And he’s one of Providence’s own legends because he founded the Rhode Island School of Design’s photography department in 1961 and taught there until he retired in 1977.

“He just liked to take the pictures of me,” Mrs. Callahan told me when she came up from her home in Atlanta last week to see "Harry Callahan: Eleanor," which is on view at the RISD Museum through Feb. 15. “In every pose. Rain or shine. And whatever I was doing. If I was doing the dishes or if I was half asleep. And he knew that I never, never said no. I was always there for him. Because I knew that Harry would only do the right thing. I never had any fear. Harry could do whatever he wanted with me and my body.”
Read the rest here.

“Harry Callahan: Eleanor,” RISD Museum, 224 Benefit St., Providence, Nov. 7, 2008, to Feb. 15, 2009.

Pictured from top to bottom: Harry Callahan, “Eleanor, “1948; “Eleanor, Chicago,” 1948; “Chicago,” 1954; and “Chicago,” 1954. All are copyright the Harry Callahan Estate.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sally Moore

Sally Moore, who resides in Jamaica Plain and was featured in the 2005 DeCordova Annual, builds fragile miniature model worlds of wood and wire and papier-mâché that hang in the air or cling to shelves reaching out from gallery walls. They are precarious, precious islands, linked by ropes and bridges and ladders. Often they have a tentative jury-rigged feel, as if cobbled together by people trying to survive amid ruins.

In the past these “people” have often been absent. But in her exhibition “Edge,” which closed at Barbara Krakow Gallery in Boston Tuesday, little figures appear, naked and gray or hidden under cloaks. Which seems a signal that we’ve entered the land of fables.

In “Dropped/Caught," 2008 (pictured at top), a bald gray naked (clay) lady holds up another bald naked gray lady who dangles dangerously through a hole in their shelf to a bottomless void. In “Approaching Eye Level,” 2007 (pictured at left), a naked bald gray clay lady shimmies up twine hanging from a mobile, and balances out a little bear in a cage and a flying bird on the other side. There’s something fussy and forced about these scenes. The angsty symbolism – especially of the woman holding up her companion – feels too narrowly literal.

“Where It Lives,” 2008 (below), a free-standing tower of wood, wire, cement and mesh, has no figures and is better for it. Because it leaves Moore free to play to her strength: inventing architecture. This work features platforms perched here and there up its nearly 8-foot height, but little shelter. It seems to be a rickety penthouse tower, maybe the lair of “It.” Or perhaps it’s a lookout tower where you watch out for some unmentionable “It.”

There’s a danger in Moore’s sort of dollhouse dreaming of a cloying whimsy – that she doesn’t quite navigate around. For example, I wish I hadn’t noticed that Moore wrote: “I am thinking of the ‘it’ as imagination, itself. Ideas are often born in dark places.” But it’s satisfying to see her move off the wall and wire, and into the middle of the gallery with “Where It Lives.” Its scale resonates with the scale of our bodies, and animates Moore's tension between big and little. It might be cool to see a mini metropolis of these sorts of structures. In the meantime, working off the floor helps ground her sculptural visions.

Sally B. Moore “Edge,” Barbara Krakow Gallery, 10 Newbury St., Boston, Oct. 11 to Nov. 18, 2008.

Art folks in their own words

And other new stuff in the sidebars

You may have noticed that we’ve been doing a bit of remodeling around here. In the process we’ve added a list of grant and competition deadlines to the (new) left sidebar. If you’re an agency that provides art grants, we’d like to list them. Please send us your deadline info.

Also the (trusty old) right sidebar now offers an index of some of our favorite interviews with and talks by art folks from The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research’s ever growing archives. Including these exciting characters listed below:

Lynda Barry, Oct. 2, 2008.
Nick Cave, Oct. 8, 2007.
Brian Chippendale, May 16, 2008, part one and two.
Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Sept. 23, 2008.
Chuck Close, Nov. 1, 2007.
Gregory Crewdson, Oct. 29, 2008.
Lynda Hartigan of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, July 16, 2008.
Anish Kapoor, May 27, 2008.
Dennis Kois, director of DeCordova Museum, June 9, 2008.
Ernest Morin, July 21, 2008.
Gary Panter, April 11, 2008, and Sept. 20, 2006.
Martha Rosler, Nov. 21, 2008.
Stefan Sagmeister, April 25, 2008.
Neil Salley of the Musée Patamécanique in Bristol, Rhode Island, Aug. 16, 2007.
Jon Sarkin, July 31, 2008.
Peter Schumann of Bread and Puppet Theater, Aug. 12, 2008, part one, two and three; Jan 23, 2008, part one and two.
Richard Serra, June 1, 2008.
Rachel Whiteread, Oct. 14, 2008.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Chris Forgues

From my review of Providence artist Christopher Forgues’s “Hell” at Stairwell in Providence:
Forgues's neat pencil drawings (some augmented with watercolor and gouache), paintings, collages, and screenprints show strange mutant monsters, fights, and bizarre sexual visions, like a lady perched atop an erect penis emerging from a woman's leg. A green figure with orange hair lurks atop a tower. The images seem like cryptic reports from strange wandering journeys through distant esoteric lands.
Read the rest here.

Christopher Forgues “Hell,” Stairwell, 504 Broadway, Providence, Oct. 26 to Nov. 23, 2008.

Boston Contemporary Group names director, advisors

The Boston Contemporary Group, a gallery coalition formed over the summer to generate interest in and build the city’s collector base for contemporary art, has hired Drew Katz as its part-time executive director. (This 2003 article mentions his – now defunct – Gallery Katz on Harrison Avenue.) Among his first tasks will be to help the member galleries organize some sort of art panel discussion or party in the next few months.

The group has also announced the members of its advisory board: independent curator Marjory Jacobson, ICA curator Jen Mergel, MFA contemporary art curator William Stover, and Bernard Toale, who is transitioning from being a gallerist to being an art consultant as president of Bernard Toale Projects.

Boston Contemporary Group’s charter members are LaMontagne Gallery, Proof Gallery, Samson Projects, and Steven Zevitas/OSP Gallery, all based in Boston. Since July when the group launched its website, it has expanded to include Howard Yezerski Gallery, which just moved from Newbury Street to Harrison Avenue.

July 23: Boston Contemporary Group forms.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Entang Wiharso

From my review of North Kingstown (RI) artist Entang Wiharso’s “Black Goat Is My Last Defense” at 5 Traverse in Providence:
Wiharo's tour de force is “Unspeakable Victim: The Story Behind Superhero and Black Goat, Part 3,” a mural filling three walls of the gallery's garage that he spent three days drawing and painting. He has a quick, ragged, urgent style well suited to his subjects. Most of the figures are tar black — as if burned, but also recalling traditional shadow puppets. A Batman has a long snaking neck. His penis is a wire or root or vein that plugs into a meaty red decapitated head. Wiharso says his surreal sexual symbolism addresses the pleasure people find in violence.
Read the rest here.

Entang Wiharso’s “Black Goat Is My Last Defense” at 5 Traverse, 5 Traverse St., Providence, Nov. 1 to 22, 2008. Wiharso will also be performing at the gallery – get in touch with them for more info.

Pictured: Details of Entang Wiharso’s “Unspeakable Victim: The Story Behind Superhero and Black Goat, Part 3.”