Friday, March 19, 2010

Boston Expressionism to Lowbrow

Greg Cook speaks at Danforth Sunday

Greg Cook, the editor of The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research, gives at talk entitled "Alternate Reality: From Boston Expressionism to Lowbrow" at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 21, at the Danforth Museum of Art, 123 Union Ave., Framingham, Massachusetts. And you are invited. NOTE: You must pay museum admission ($10, students and seniors $8) to get into the talk. More details (and pictures) here.

Pictured: Hyman Bloom, "Skeleton in Red Dress," c. 1942-45, Promised gift of Drs. Francene and G. Timothy Orrok to the Danforth Museum.

Saya Woolfalk performs at Tufts on April 2

Saya Woolfalk performs at Tufts University Art Gallery in Medford, Massachusetts, at noon on April 2, 2010. Below is our review of the New York artist's "The Institute for the Analysis of Empathy" installation at Tufts:
Saya Woolfalk first grabbed people's attention around 2005, with playful-serious installations and videos in which performers masked in bright, patchwork fabric costumes of cartoon leaves and long swinging dreadlocks jumped around small rooms decorated like cartoon paradises.

Woolfalk had studied art and economics at Brown University in Providence, graduating in 2001, the year the Providence art collective Fort Thunder broke apart when a developer tore down the old mill that had housed it to build a shopping plaza. The pop psychedelic posters, comics, installations, and masked performances by that gang and affiliated collectives like Hive Archive and Dirt Palace were everywhere in Providence then, and busting out nationally. (Fort Thunder offshoot Forcefield presented a giant monster mannequin installation at the 2002 Whitney Biennial.) And you can feel this influence in Woolfalk's costumes, imagined narratives, and Rainbow Brite colors.

But her art also sprang from her background as a black-white Japanese-American who grew up in predominantly white Westchester, New York. "I've always been . . . someone in between," the 30-year-old New Yorker tells me. She merged Providence's bright, childlike æsthetic with inspiration she drew from Carnival in Brazil, African-diaspora faiths, and Japanese butoh dance. Her pieces were presented with little explanation, but the results felt like re-enactments of the uncomfortable history of relations between the Western avant-garde and traditional African art . . . turned into an amazing private dance party by Yo Gabba Gabba!
Read the rest here.

Saya Woolfalk "The Institute for the Analysis of Empathy," Tufts University Art Gallery, 40R Talbot Ave., Medford, Jan. 21 to April 4, 2010. She performs at the gallery at noon on April 2.

Pictured: Saya Woolfak installation at Tufts including, from left, "Fruit," 2010; "Skeleton," 2010; and "Empathic Flower Expression."

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Tuski named president of Maine College of Art

Donald Tuski has been named the new president of the Maine College of Art, the Portland school announced yesterday. He is scheduled to begin work July 1, replacing James Baker, who is scheduled to leave the college at the end of the school year in May after leading the institution for four years.

Tuski arrives from Olivet College in Michigan, where he earned his undergraduate degree. He earned both his master's degree and a doctorate in anthropology from Michigan State University. Then in 1990, he joined the faculty at Olivet, then became assistant vice-president for academic affairs, then vice-president of academic affairs before he became president of the school in 2001.

Oct. 7, 2009: Maine College of Art president to depart.

Keyworth retiring from Fuller Craft Museum

Gretchen Keyworth, founding director and chief curator of the Fuller Craft Museum, will retire on March 26, the Brockton, Massachusetts, museum has announced.

Keyworth joined the museum in 2003 and lead the museum through its 2004 transformation from the Fuller Museum of Art, which had organized significant exhibitions of Boston-area artists such as its 1991 Henry Schwartz retrospective and 1996 Hyman Bloom retrospective, to the Fuller Craft Museum, with a more narrow focus on craft but an international focus on artists in this field. During Keyworth’s tenure, the Fuller staged nearly 100 exhibitions, organized four nationally-touring shows, and added to its collection. Since 2003, membership has doubled, and visitation has nearly doubled, the museum reports.

Keyworth previously founded and helped lead a glass gallery and chain of craft stores, and organized major annual craft shows. From 2001 to 2003, she was director of cultural promotions for the city of Boston.

Keyworth stepped down from her role as the Fuller's executive director in May 2009 (Wyona Lynch-McWhite became director last July), but continued to organize exhibitions there as chief curator.

“I am very proud of what we have accomplished at Fuller Craft,” Keyworth said in a prepared statement, “and feel the museum is in good hands moving forward. I am looking forward to getting back into the studio myself, and returning to consulting in this field, which I have done off and on for 40 years now. I will continue to look after Fuller Craft as I move forward."

Keyworth will retain the honorary title of director emeritus, the museum reports.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Charles Moore has died

“The civil rights movement spurred many, many emotions in me. I was a Southern boy. I’d grown up going to the movie theaters and sitting downstairs when the little black kids had to sit up in the balcony. I knew about the white water fountains and all. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do about it. But I still didn’t think it was right. Had no idea that one day I would be showing photographs and speaking about that. But it’s given me an opportunity to say, hey, I was taught a different thing. I was taught that I was to treat all people the same way. But when I got out into the world and I began to see these events, I’m glad that I was strong enough to stand up to the people who tried to push me away, the people who threatened me, the people who gave me terrible phone calls that ‘you’re going to die.’ You know, you don’t stop when there’s something you believe in.” – Charles Moore speaking at the University of Alabama in 2004.
Charles Moore – the great, brave photographer who captured many landmark images of the American civil rights struggle in the 1950s and ‘60s, from police siccing dogs on peaceful demonstrators to an arrest of Martin Luther King Jr. to firefighters blasting demonstrators with high-pressure hoses – died in Florida on March 11 at age 79.

He grew up in Alabama, but also lived in California and, late in life, in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts. He initially photographed for The Montgomery Advertiser and The Montgomery Journal, then did major work for Life magazine, where his photos are credited with helping push lawmakers to pass the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act.

Video of a 2004 talk by Moore at the University of Alabama.
A substantial selection of Moore’s civil rights photos, based on his 1991 book “Powerful Days.”

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Greg Cook speaks at Danforth Sunday

"Alternate Reality: From Boston Expressionism to Lowbrow"

Greg Cook, the editor of The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research, gives at talk entitled "Alternate Reality: From Boston Expressionism to Lowbrow" at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 21, at the Danforth Museum of Art in Framingham. And you are invited. Mr. Cook says the talk will address the following matters:
In the 1930s and '40s, Boston painters developed a moody, mythic realism. They mixed social satire with depictions of street scenes, Biblical scenes, and mystical symbolic narratives, all of it darkened by the shadow of the Great Depression and World War II. It became known as Boston Expressionism, and it was "for a time the center of this line of [expressionist] development" in America, as Brooklyn Museum of Art curator John Baur wrote in 1951.

But the Bostonians have come to be left out of today's art histories and dismissed as backward provincials because their expressionist realism did not fit into the triumphant narrative of abstract art — particularly as it was made in New York. Despite being ignored and even discouraged by New York–centered officialdom, the expressionist-realist strain kept sprouting up across the country, like a genetic mutation in isolated archipelagos, willing itself into existence.

Boston art critic Greg Cook presents new research connecting the dots among related developments in Boston, Chicago, and California, as the expressionist realist style incorporated the look of pop culture in the 1950s and '60s and evolved into the Lowbrow art of today. In the process, he traces links from Boston back to German Expressionism and forward to Philip Guston, Peter Saul, Chicago’s Monster Roster (Leon Golub, H.C. Westermann, Nancy Spero) and Hairy Who (Jim Nutt, Gladys Nilsson, Roger Brown, Karl Wirsum, Ed Paschke), Bay Area funk (Robert Arneson), and Haight-Ashbury psychedelia (Robert Crumb, Victor Moscoso), Bread and Puppet Theater in New York and then Vermont, California Lowbrow (Robert Williams, Gary Panter, Shepard Fairey, Gary Baseman, Tim Biskup, Camille Rose Garcia, Mark Ryden, Barry "Twist" McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, Claire Rojas), Providence’s Fort Thunder and Hive Archive (Mat Brinkman, Brian Chippendale, Jim Drain, Xander Marrow, Jungil Hong, Jo Dery, Paper Rad); cartoony artists like Ron Rege Jr. who clustered around Tom Devlin's late 1990s publishing house Highwater Books in Cambridge, and the visionary eccentric-realist art of locals today like Raul Gonzalez, Mary O'Malley, Elaine Bay, Resa Blatman, Laylah Ali, Derek Aylward, Caleb Neelon, Ria Brodell, and Hannah Barrett.

Cook describes an alternative history of art of the past century that reestablishes Boston Expressionism as an early example of a remarkably resilient and ever more prominent movement.
Greg Cook, "Alternate Reality: From Boston Expressionism to Lowbrow" Danforth Museum of Art, 123 Union Ave., Framingham, Massachusetts, at 3 p.m. Sunday, March 21. NOTE: You must pay museum admission ($10, students and seniors $8) to get into the talk.

Pictured at top: Karl Wirsum's 1986 drawing "Bow Wow Leggins." Below in roughly chronological order: Hyman Bloom (compare with Laurel Sparks's recent chandelier painting at bottom); Jack Levine; David Aronson; Peter Saul; Peter Schumann's Bread and Puppet Theater; Philip Guston; Gary Panter; Shepard Fairey; Ron Rege Jr.; Brian Chippendale; Mary O'Malley; and Laurel Sparks.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Illtop Ek House

One of the great public sculptures of Massachusetts is the 68-foot-tall neon cactus that advertises the Hilltop Steak House on Route 1 in Saugus. So what's the deal with letting its lights blink out? Isn't there some sort of landmarks commission that should be policing the stewardship of this masterpiece?

Photos by The New England Journal of Steakhouse Research.