Friday, February 12, 2010

Mass General plans museum

Massachusetts General Hospital is planning to create its own museum on Cambridge Street, facing Beacon Hill in downtown Boston, according to a museum director job listing the institution posted yesterday.

"The intent of the Museum is to serve the hospital of which it is a part, the medical profession and researchers, and a wider audience that includes patients, visitors and the general public," the listing explains. "The museum will also be a 'venue of distinction' for receptions, functions, and dinners. Included is the Mass General archives, which is the repository of documents and records closely associated with the history of the Mass General. Safe and secure access to the full archives and providing reading room accommodation for researchers on site is an important function of the history program."

The hospital aims to have an interim museum director on board by the start of April. Architectural planning and exhibition design are expected to get going over the next year.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Joan Braderman’s “The Heretics” at ICA

In 1975, a group of women artists and writers got together in New York to forge a response to the commonplace discrimination against women. The painter May Stevens recalled showing her work to a New York art dealer, who told her, “Why does a girl as pretty as you want to paint anyway.” Lucy Lippard (pictured above) recalled painter Mark Rothko telling her, “you’re too cute to be an art critic.”

Many had been active in the civil rights movement, and were energized by feminism. Something needed to be done, they believed, and they had to do it themselves. So they founded the feminist art and politics journal “Heresies,” and produced 27 issues between 1977 and 1992.

Their story is recounted in “The Heretics,” a stirring new hour and a half documentary by Joan Braderman, who now lives in Northampton, Massachusetts, and is a professor at Hampshire College in Amherst. It screens tonight and Sunday at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art.

Braderman was part of Heresies’s “mother collective” that came to include critic Lucy Lippard and artists Joan Snyder, Pat Steir, Miriam Schapiro (pictured above) and May Stevens, and many others. “For the first time I really believed you could have a rich, productive and unlonely life without a kitchen and a man at the center of it,” Braderman says in the documentary.

They formed consciousness raising groups in which they discussed how they felt about their fathers and mothers and siblings, how they felt about their own bodies. They debated the use of the pronouns “his” and “her.” Lippard: “How do you expect to get a cultural change if you can’t even change a goddamn pronoun?”

“The Heretics” is a sturdy primer on a major subject, filled with acute observations and remembrances by a large cast of talking heads. But I wish Braderman went into more depth. At the end of the film, one doesn’t have much of a sense of what the magazine was like beyond the overall subject of each issue (lesbian art, sex, “the great goddess,” violence against women, etc.), or its effect. (However Braderman has posted an amazing pdf archive of all the issues at the documentary's webite.) And her own comments – particularly at the very start of the film – are offputtingly cheesy.

But the film is filled with energy, and inspiration. Feminist art of the 1970s was at the cutting edge of performance, video and body art, and remains highly influential. “I think we pumped the blood back in,” painter Joan Snyder (pictured above) says. “Color field art was so boring. I wanted to be a maximalist not a Minimalist.”

“Everyone is always saying the ‘70s were the non years for art,” sculptor Mary Miss says, “because it wasn’t Pop Art or Abstract Expressionism or Minimalism. And I really think that the women’s movement, that women had a tremendous amount to do with taking everything apart during that decade. And after all that I was a little surprised, I didn’t understand the kind of conservativism that came after the ‘70s. I didn’t really get it. Why are people not exploring all these territories? Knowing these other women who were also taking things apart, doing what you weren’t supposed to do, was an affirmation that you’re not crazy.”

The documentary ends with a sad acknowledgement that, as artist Ida Applebroog puts it, “being a feminist is such a dirty word today.” The film mulls feminism’s legacy. Braderman doesn’t note it, but here in New England, the great majority of curators are women, but men still get more institutional exhibitions.

What’s happened, as Mary Miss begins to touch on, is that many people (including much of the press) became convinced that Lefty protest movements are ineffectual (see Iraq War protests), while Righty protests are highly effective (see Tea Parties). One can’t help wondering how much of this thinking is the result of the Right’s push back after the achievements of the civil rights, feminist, gay rights and anti-Vietnam War movements. Part of the problem today is that many people are simply ignorant of how protest movements function, how much time they take, and their results. For example, many people seem to think that anti-war protests in 1968 immediately halted the Vietnam War – when in fact the war continued for another presidential term and a half. And so people feel that if they go to one protest and the press mainly ignores it and the Iraq War doesn’t end that there’s no point in bothering with such things. Their ignorance of how movements work leaves them feeling hopeless.

We need more histories that fully tell these sorts of stories, that show people both what can be achieved and the long hard work it requires, that show people that their efforts can actually improve things.

Joan Braderman “The Heretics,” Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, 7 p.m. Feb. 11 with Q&A with the filmmaker and 3:30 p.m. Feb. 14, 2010. Tickets are $10.

Pictured from top to bottom: Stills from “The Heretics,” Lucy Lippard in her studio with the first issue of “Heresies”; Miriam Shapio; and Joan Snyder at work in her studio.

Yokelism at the 2009 New England Art Awards

Below is my Yokelist speech from Monday night's 2009 New England Art Awards:
Over the past year, some of you may have heard of this movement which I’ve kinda sorta started. It’s called Yokelism. Here in New England, so close to the light and gravity of New York, we often slip into envy and low self-esteem. It’s a kind of second city syndrome, and really the worst kind of provincialism, the type in which we often seem to operate under the belief that if art was made here it can’t be much good, by definition.

Yokelism is about being proudly provincial. Please don’t get confused and think it means being blind cheerleaders. That’s not Yokelism. Yokelism is about tough love, because we Yokelists have ambitions for our creative community. But Yokelism is also about recognizing when we produce amazing stuff and championing it like we’re doing here tonight.

And I’d like to invite you to join me in this movement. Say it: Yokelism! Doesn’t that make you feel good? Let’s do it one more time: Yokelism!

The New England Art Awards are a Yokelist project. At this point, we’re getting to the final categories – the sort of grand prize winners – and in particular a category dear to my Yokelist heart: “Local curator of locally-made art,” the category in which our local artists and local curators meet in that perfect Yokelist Venn diagram. The New England Art Awards are focused on exhibits organized here – and especially on art made here in New England. They are an argument about what we value here. They look back to where we’ve been, but also point to where we’d like to go. They identify the sort of ideas, the spirit, the sort of crazy amazing stuff we’d like to see more of around here.

Do all of you know AS220? It’s a great community art center in Providence. And in 2004, their StinkTank – even that name is a sign of their brilliance – put out a paper titled “Compost and the Arts.” It's probably the most concise and astute thinking on how to foster creative communities that I've ever read. Its key idea is to create creative crossroads — meaning places where people cross paths to show art, perform, hang out, display announcements, make art. The idea is that places where people share work, ideas, and techniques — places, not coincidentally, like AS220 — inspire people to keep making art, encourage artists to learn from each other, challenge them to make better art, and to keep making it here.

And I hope tonight’s event, the New England Art Awards Ball serves as one of those crossroads places too. A place, a moment where we meet and share ideas and inspiration.

The New England Art Awards are meant to be the beginning of a discussion. A discussion I hope all of you will join me in on The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research and in various forums over the coming months. A discussion about why art made here matters. And how can we better support the cool stuff that we do. And incubate more amazing stuff. And so produce more terrific stuff to make our art scene more exciting. And in turn make our New England community more thrilling and more nourishing for everyone who lives here.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 1: Boston lacks alternative spaces?
Yokelism at the 2008 Boston Art Awards.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 2: Montreal case study.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 3: Hire locally.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 4: We need coverage of our living artists.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 5: We need local retrospectives.
Yokelism update: Coverage of our living artists: Sebastian Smee responds.
Yokelism update: Dangers of Provincialism.
Yokelism update: Re: Dangers of Provincialism.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 6: Could the CIA help?

Monday, February 08, 2010

New England Art Awards Winners

We announced the winners of the 2009 New England Art Awards at the Burren in Somerville, Massachusetts, tonight. They are:
People's choice: Michael Russem of Kat Ran Press in Cambridge and Florence, Mass., publisher of 'The Certainty of Numbers,' written by Bruce Snider and illustrated by Michael Russem.
Critics' pick: Brian Vanden Brink of Camden, Maine, "Ruin."
Critics' pick: Steve Locke of Boston at Samson.
People's choice: Mary O'Malley of Somerville, Mass., in "Economies of Scale,” Miller Block.
Critics' pick and people's choice: Maria Magdalena Campos Pons and the students of her School of the Museum of Fine Arts Installation Art class, "War-room" installation and special projects for "Sleep No More" in Brookline, Mass.
New Media
Critics' pick: Brian Knep of Cambridge at Tufts.
People's choice: Krzysztof Wodiczko of Cambridge, New York and Warsaw, Poland, at ICA.
Critics' pick and people's choice: Mark Wethli of Brunswick, Maine, at Icon Contemporary Art.
People's choice: Isa Leshko of Salem, Mass., (now Houston) in "The Boston Drawing Project 10 Years On and Going Strong” at Carroll and Sons, “New England Photograpy Biennial” at Danforth, and Susan Maasch Fine Art in Portland.
Critics' pick: John O'Reilly of Worcester at Yezerski.
Critics' pick: Darren Foote of Providence at Rotenberg.
People's choice: Christy Georg of Boston at Simmons College’s Trustman Art Gallery.
Performance or spectacle
Critics' pick: Bread and Puppet Theater of Glover, Vt., performances in Vermont, at BCA and Spontaneous Celebrations in Boston.
People's choice: Honk Parade in Somerville and Cambridge.
Career survey
People's choice: Gerry Bergstein of Cambridge, at Danforth Museum.
Critics' pick: Robert Indiana of Vinalhaven Island, Maine, at Farnsworth Museum.
Standout work by a local artist in a group show
People's choice (tie):
Alexi Antoniadis of Newtonville and Nico Stone of Chelsea in "Salt of the Earth," Montserrat.
Sand T of Malden, Mass., SHOW #54 at SNO in Sydney, Australia.
Critics' pick:
Georgie Friedman of Boston "Geyser" at BC as part of Cyberarts Fest and "Spiraling Water" in "H20: Film on Water" in Newport, NH.
Solo show by local artist (or collaborative)
Critics' pick (tie):
Anna Hepler of Portland at Montserrat.
The Miracle 5 of Somerville at Space 242.
People's choice:
Anna Hepler of Portland at Montserrat.
Public Exposure (public performance, sculpture, street art, scandalous arrest, etc.):
People's choice and critics' pick: Protests at Rose Art Museum, Brandeis.

Solo show of an artist from Away
Critics' pick and people's choice: "Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand" Emily Moore Brouillet and Pedro Alonzo at ICA.
Concept/theme show
Critics' pick and people's choice: "Twilight" Lauren Fensterstock at Maine College of Art’s Institute of Contemporary Art.
Group show featuring local artists
People's choice: “Megapolis Audio Festival” Justin Grotelueschen and Nick van der Kolk.
Critics' pick: “Portland Museum of Art Biennial” Jurors Elizabeth Burke, Dan Graham, and Denise Markonish.
Historical show
Critics' pick and people's choice: "Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: Rivals in Renaissance Venice" Frederick Ilchman at MFA.
Local curator of locally-made art
People's choice: Maya Allison for "Pixilerations [V.6]: The Great Disruption", "Book as Post Modern Medium" (with Jesse Smith), “Collective Access” at 5 Traverse.
Critics' pick: Katherine French Boston Expressionism (David Aronson, Henry Schwartz, Gerry Bergstein) at Danforth.


More than 1,880 people have voted in the 2009 New England Art Awards. Now the winners will be announced at the New England Art Awards Ball at 7 p.m. Monday, Feb. 8, 2010, in the back room of the Burren, 247 Elm St., Davis Square, Somerville, Massachusetts. As if that weren’t enticing enough, the terrific Second Line Social Aid and Pleasure Society Brass Band of Cambridge, Massachusetts, will open the ceremony. And you are invited!

Admission is free and all are welcome. More details here.

Poster by Kari Percival.