Friday, August 14, 2009

Public art: “Tree” in Charlton

Cell tower/tree near Charlton rest stop off Route 90 westbound in Massachusetts.

Photo by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Viera Levitt's "Mobile Art Project"

From my preview of Viera Levitt's "Mobile Art Project," which tours Rhode Island this weekend:
After the University of Rhode Island shut down its Fine Arts Center Galleries in Kingston last summer and development pushed Hera Gallery out (at least for a couple years) of the building it had long occupied on Main Street in Wakefield to Peace Dale last fall, artist and curator Viera Levitt of Wakefield started thinking of ways to bring art back to the heart of South County. She hit upon the idea of the “Mobile Art Project” and this week it’s hitting the road with stops in West Kingston, Peace Dale and Providence.

“It just seemed exciting to do something moving and dynamic,” Levitt says.
With funding from the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts and New Jersey’s Puffin Foundation, she is renting a 16-foot-long box truck, hanging a project banner on the side, and in the back temporarily installing benches, covering the translucent roof with blue foil, and presenting a sound piece by China Blue called Aqua Alta.
Read the rest here.

The "Mobile Art Project"'s stops include the Courthouse Center for the Arts in West Kingston beginning at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 14; at AS220’s Foo Fest on Empire Street in Providence from 1 to 5:30 p.m. on Aug. 15; and the Peace Dale Village Green starting at 5 p.m. Aug. 16. Levitt plans to announce additional stops – like the beach – here.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Rodney McMillian

My review of "Momentum 14: Rodney McMillian" at Boston's ICA:
At first, "Momentum 14: Rodney McMillian," which has been organized by curator Nicholas Baume, struck me as your usual nihilist non sequitur masturbation. McMillian's installation "Sentimental Disappointment" fills one wall with a sketchy black painting of his Los Angeles house. Furniture from his home sits around the gallery: a chair with an eight-foot-tall black column driven through its seat, a refrigerator with a hole punched through the door, a dinged-up kitchen table and chairs with a television on top.

It seems random, except that the television plays a 25-minute video of the artist stabbing a mattress repeatedly with a large kitchen knife — like something out of Psycho— and then ripping it apart with his hands. It's performance art, so McMillian performs it like a chore, but his act makes all the art here feel like domestic violence. A video playing outside the gallery of McMillian dancing desultorily to Porgy and Bess could point to frustrations of race (the artist is African-American) and poverty. Or not. I feel myself straining to find meaning in these forlorn objects. How much should we give artists the benefit of the doubt?
“Momentum 14: Rodney McMillian,” Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Blvd., Boston, July 29 to Nov. 1, 2009.

Pictured from top to bottom: Rodney McMillian, "Sentimental Disappointment," 2009. View of "Untitled (futon)," 2009, video, with "Untitled (kitchen table and chairs)," 2009, wood, plastic and metal, and "Untitled (4443 Prospect Ave.)," 2009, acrylic and latex on canvas. View of "Untitled," 2009, chair, cardboard tube and latex paint, and "Untitled (4443 Prospect Ave.)," 2009. View of "Untitled (refrigerator)" (detail), 2009. All courtesy of the artist and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. Photos by John Kennard.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

“The Golden Age of Dutch Seascapes” at Peabody Essex Museum

From my review of “The Golden Age of Dutch Seascapes” at Salem's Peabody Essex Museum:
The Dutch emerged at the dawn of the 17th century as a pre-eminent military and commercial power on the sea. They were in the midst of throwing off Spanish rule and developing a shipping empire that would reach from the Americas to South Africa to Asia. Wealth from fishing and whaling and trade in lumber, sugar, porcelain, silk, spices, and slaves poured into the fledgling republic, financing a "Golden Age" of art, science, and commerce.

It was the era of Rembrandt, Frans Hals, and Jan Vermeer. The maps of the Netherlands and Europe lurking in the background of several of Vermeer's paintings suggest the political turmoil, the redrawing of boundaries, that was the backdrop for the calm oases of his domestic interiors. In the Peabody Essex Museum's "The Golden Age of Dutch Seascapes" — which was organized by the National Maritime Museum in England and draws almost exclusively from its collection — seaborne warfare and commerce become the foreground.

Some 70 paintings tell a story of fighting for independence, exploring the world, setting up trading settlements, opening up markets, and shipping home natural resources. It is a composite portrait of the birth of a nation and wealth in the making.
Read the rest here.

“The Golden Age of Dutch Seascapes,” Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square, Salem, June 13 to Sept. 7, 2009.

Pictured from top to bottom: "A Dutch Ferry Boat before a Breeze," Late 1640s, Simon De Vlieger; "Ships at Anchor off a Mediterranean Harbour," c.1680s, Pieter van den Velde; "Seascape with Sailors Sheltering from a Rainstorm," c. 1640, Bonaventura Peeters the Elder; "The Merchant Shipping Anchorage off Texel Island with Oude Schild in the Distance," 1665, Ludolf Backhuysen; "Mediterranean Harbour Scene with the Saint Jean Cathedral at Lyons," 1660, Jan Abrahamsz Beerstraten; "Italianate Harbour View with a Fantasy Building and Man-of-War," 1697, Abraham Storck; "Italianate Harbour Scene with the Monument of Ferdinand I de’ Medici at Leghorn," 1670, Hendrik van Minderhout; "The Port of Genoa," c.1660, Adriaen Van Der Cabel; "Dutch Ships in a Gale," c.1620, Jan Porcellis; "Fishermen on Shore Hauling in their Nets," c.1640, Julius Porcellis; "The Wreck of the Amsterdam," c.1630, Anonymous; "The Darsna delle Galere and Castello Nuovo at Naples," 1703, Caspar van Wittel; and "A Spanish Three-Decker at Anchor off Naples," 1669, Abraham Willaerts. All © National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, UK.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Colin Williams

"I am endlessly interested in figuring out what it means to be American," says Colin Williams, a grad student in the digital media department at Rhode Island School of Design in Providence.

His recent project "The Empire" began with drawing an ordinary American house from memory - that he also animated. "Making a scene that seems so familiar and banal feels ever so slightly surreal," he writes. "My original illustration was then sent to a manufacturer in China where I asked them to create a bounce house and asked them specifically to make it how it made sense to them. Through this collaboration, the bounce house is perhaps the most dull and boring bounce house while its function is still completely intact. The everyday becomes spectacular, and the spectacular becomes everyday."

It is scheduled to be on view at the Wassaic Project Summer Festival in New York state from Aug. 13 to 16, 2009.

RI awards stimulu$ to 18 arts groups

Rhode Island announced on July 27 that it would distribute $291,500 in federal stimulus money to 18 local arts groups. The money comes from the state's share of the $50 million for the National Endowment for the Arts included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that was passed by the U.S. Congress in February. The program aims to preserve jobs in the arts - in this case some 77 positions. The Rhode Island Foundation chipped in an additional $100,000 "in recognition of [the program's] potential to strengthen and stabilize the state's arts community."

The grant recipients include:
Blackstone River Theatre, Cumberland, $25,000 to protect the position of the Executive Director.
Tomaquag Indian Memorial Museum, Exeter, $25,000 to protect the Executive Director's position.
Flickers, the Newport Film and Video Society (Rhode Island International Film Festival), $12,500 to protect three positions, the Executive Director, Managing Director and Producing Director.
Newport Art Museum, $25,000 to protect the position of an Education Department staff member.
Redwood Library, Newport, $12,500 to protect the position of the Assistant Director, Special Collections Librarian.
Island Moving Company, Newport, $25,000 to protect two positions, the Booking Manager and the Education Director.
Fantasy Works Youth Theatre, North Kingstown, $14,825 to protect the Director of Education position.
Old Slater Mill, Pawtucket, $25,000 to protect two positions - the Curator and Community Guild staffer positions.
Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre, Pawtucket, $25,000 to protect two positions, the General Manager position and the Marketing and Sales Manager position.
VSA Arts of Rhode Island, Pawtucket, $12,500 to protect the Program Coordinator position.
Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art, Providence, $25,000 to protect the Manager of School, Youth and Family Programs position.
Providence CITYARTS for Youth, $25,000 to protect two positions - the Arts Program Coordinator and a Teaching Artist.
Waterfire Providence, $25,000 to protect three positions - The Waterfire Production Team.
Project New Urban Arts, Providence, $25,000 to protect the position of Studio Manager.
2nd Story Theatre Company, Warren, $25,000 to protect the Box Office Manager position.
Gateways to Change, Warwick, $25,000 to protect an Art Teacher position.
Courthouse Center for the Arts, West Kingston, $12,500 to protect the Education Outreach Coordinator position.
The Colonial Theatre, Westerly, $25,000 to protect 52 positions in the organization, including Producing Artistic Director, General Manager, artists and technicians.

Note: Rhode Island seems to have gotten more federal arts stimulus money than neighboring Massachusetts.