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Events 09/22/2019

09/22/2019 (Sunday)

Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective

After nearly six months of intensive drafting and painting by a team of some sixty-five artists and art students, Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective is fully installed. The historic exhibition opens to the public at MASS MoCA (Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art), in North Adams, Massachusetts, on November 16, 2008, and will remain on view for twenty-five years. Conceived by the Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, in collaboration with the artist before his death in April 2007, the project has been undertaken by the Gallery, MASS MoCA, and the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts.

Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective comprises 105 of LeWitt’s large-scale wall drawings, spanning the artist’s career from 1969 to 2007. These occupy nearly an acre of specially built interior walls that have been installed—per LeWitt’s own specifications—over three stories of a historic mill building situated at the heart of MASS MoCA’s campus. The 27,000-square-foot structure, known as Building #7, has been fully restored for the exhibition by Bruner/Cott & Associates architects, which has closely integrated the building into the museum’s main circulation plan through a series of elevated walkways, a dramatic new vertical lightwell, and new stairways.

The works in the exhibition are on loan from numerous private and public collections worldwide, including the Yale University Art Gallery, to which LeWitt designated the gift of a major representation of his wall drawings, as well as his wall-drawing archive.

Jock Reynolds, the Henry J. Heinz II Director of the Yale University Art Gallery, states, “Watching this grand installation of Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings progress over the past six months has been nothing short of thrilling. In addition to providing an enduring exhibition of great beauty, this retrospective will enable visitors to behold for the first time the full trajectory of a major aspect of Sol’s artistic career. Until today, the only way to view multiple LeWitt wall drawings has been to travel far and wide, pursuing them individually in situ or in temporary museum exhibitions. Now, visitors will be able to return to MASS MoCA again and again to experience this visual feast of Sol’s wall drawings in a single location, doing so at their leisure over the next twenty-five years.”

LeWitt—who stressed the idea behind his work over its execution—is widely regarded as one of the leading exponents of Minimalism and Conceptual art, and is known primarily for his deceptively simple geometric structures and architecturally scaled wall drawings. His experiments with the latter commenced in 1968 and were considered radical, in part because this new form of drawing was purposely temporal and often executed not just by LeWitt but also by other artists and students whom he invited to assist him in the installation of his artworks.

Each wall drawing begins as a set of instructions or simple diagram to be followed in executing the work. As the exhibition makes clear, these straightforward instructions yield an astonishing—and stunningly beautiful—variety of work that is at once simple and highly complex, rigorous and sensual. The drawings in the exhibition range from layers of straight lines meticulously drawn in black graphite pencil lead, to rows of delicately rendered wavy lines in colored pencil; from bold black-and-white geometric forms, to bright planes in acrylic paint arranged like the panels of a folding screen; from sensuous drawings created by dozens of layers of transparent washes, to a tangle of vibratory orange lines on a green wall, and much more. Forms may appear to be flat, to recede in space, or to project into the viewer’s space, while others meld to the structure of the wall itself.

MASS MoCA Director Joseph C. Thompson comments, “With this exhibition, Sol LeWitt has left an amazing gift for us all. Great art draws upon previous artists, but also contradicts and contravenes. And the most essential art argues for new ways of seeing, even as it is almost immediately absorbed into the work that surrounds and supersedes it. As I believe will be evident in this landmark exhibition, LeWitt’s wall drawings rise to those highest of standards. We look forward to having this amazing collection of works on long-term view as a sort of proton at the center of our museum around which our program of changing exhibitions and performances will orbit with even more energy.”

Project History

The impetus for Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective was a 2004 conversation between Reynolds and LeWitt. This evolved and resulted in a commitment by the artist to give a substantial number of his wall drawings and his entire wall-drawing archive to the Yale University Art Gallery, which already owned an extensive array of LeWitt’s art in multiple mediums. Realizing that the Gallery did not have enough space to install and maintain a large number of the artist’s wall drawings at any one time, Reynolds suggested to LeWitt that MASS MoCA, with its historic mill complex, growing audience, and history of realizing ambitious new works of art, might be able to accommodate an extended retrospective of the works.

Reynolds and LeWitt then met with Thompson, who introduced the artist to Building #7. The structure, situated at the center of MASS MoCA’s multi-building complex and featuring large banks of windows that open onto two flanking courtyards, appealed to LeWitt as an ideal site for a multi-floor installation of his work. In addition to the new interior walls, which he designed in consultation with Bruner/Cott & Associates, his specifications for the space included a plan that would leave nearly all of the existing exterior masonry walls and large windows intact, providing direct side lighting and offering beautiful views to surrounding courtyards and the Berkshire Hills beyond. Bruner/Cott integrated the galleries with MASS MoCA’s existing plan by re-activating existing elevated connector-bridges and adding new ones, and by creating a new three-story lightwell. The design thus links the building to MASS MoCA’s signature Building #5 and provides vertical circulation and handicapped access.

Retrospective Installation and Education Opportunities

“Detailed,” “painstaking,” and “strangely liberating” are terms that have been used to describe the experience of creating Sol LeWitt’s monumental wall drawings. The drawings at MASS MoCA were executed over a six-month period by a team comprising twenty-two of the senior and experienced assistants who worked with the artist over many years; thirty-three student interns from Yale University, Williams College, the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and fourteen other colleges and universities; and thirteen local artists and recent graduates and post-graduates from many of the nation’s leading studio-art programs. MASS MoCA’s North Adams location, just five miles from Williams College, offers a unique educational opportunity for Williams’s undergraduates and those enrolled in its graduate art-history program at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute to participate in this special exhibition. Like Yale, Williams is among the primary training grounds for professionals in the field of art history, and the LeWitt collaboration, to be accompanied by a variety of educational programs, will offer students many opportunities to study the work of this important artist.

In conjunction with the project, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) is creating a series of programs and shorter-term companion “teaching exhibitions” in a space at the entrance of Building #7 and at the WCMA. The first of these, The ABCDs of Sol LeWitt, opens at WCMA on November 14, 2008. It includes important works from LeWitt’s private collection that help elucidate the underlying grammar of the artist’s work and ideas.

WCMA Director Lisa Corrin says, “Our goal is to have Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective serve as an extension of the Williams campus—a classroom of sorts for our students and those from other colleges and universities. LeWitt’s art offers challenging teaching opportunities for faculty from across academic disciplines. The WCMA staff will help professors craft curricula related to the exhibition. All three of the museums partnering in the retrospective play a major role in the training and support of many of the artworld’s future leaders, and this adventurous collaboration will offer a new generation of students unprecedented firsthand exposure to the work of a major artist of our time.”

Exhibition Publication

On the occasion of Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective, MASS MoCA and Yale University Press are producing Sol LeWitt: 100 Views, a hardcover book with 100 new essays. Contributors are drawn from a wide array of expertise and fields of specialization. Authors include critics and scholars Lynne Cooke, Chrissie Iles, Lucy Lippard, Saul Ostrow, Ingrid Sischy, and Robert Storr, and visual and performing artists John Baldessari, Mel Bochner, Lucinda Childs, Chuck Close, Steve Reich, Matthew Ritchie, and Dorothea Rockburne, among many others. The publication, which includes 150 color plates, may be ordered through Hardware: The MASS MoCA Store.

Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings: A Catalogue Raisonné

In 2010, the Yale University Art Gallery and Yale University Press will co-publish Sol LeWitt Wall Drawings: A Catalogue Raisonné. The basic design for this three-volume scholarly resource, a project of the Gallery, was created by the artist during his lifetime. The book will contain descriptive texts, diagrams, installation photographs, and more for all of the 1,261 wall drawings that LeWitt realized from 1968 to 2007. A DVD illustrating both the proper uses of materials and drawing techniques to be employed in realizing LeWitt’s basic “families” of wall drawings will also be included, providing a helpful guide to their proper future installation, as well as to the drawings’ long-term care and conservation.

Conserving the Legacy of Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawings

To additionally preserve the artistic legacy of Sol LeWitt’s wall drawings in perpetuity, the Yale University Art Gallery has endowed a position for a drawing conservator through the generosity of Yale alumnus Theodore P. Shen, b.a. 1966, and his wife, Mary Jo Shen. In time, this conservator will oversee the LeWitt wall-drawing archive and other works on paper at Yale and will train new assistants to install the artist’s wall-drawing collection at Yale as well as those owned by individuals and public institutions worldwide.

Jarvis Rockwell Us

Artist Jarvis Rockwell’s massive 2002 installation Maya introduced MASS MoCA visitors to Rockwell, whose detailed wall-drawing continues to delight museum-goers and concert audiences just outside of the museum’s Club B-10. Rockwell returns to MASS MoCA with a new large-scale installation,  In Us, figures from Rockwell’s massive collection of toys and figurines interact and organize themselves on glass panels, soaring over visitors’ heads in the historic light well of the newly renovated B6: Robert W. Wilson Building.

Rockwell began assembling his ever-expanding collection of toys and figurines in 1979. Numbering in the hundreds of thousands, his toys run the gamut from classic action figures to Japanese monsters, bobble-head dolls of politicians and artists, Yodas, Betty Boops, Troll dolls, Pez dispensers, Tin Tins, toy soldiers, and endless amounts of plastic furniture (“for the occasional elderly toy to sit on”). In his thoughtful arrangements, groups of figures gather as though in conversation with one another, approaching and drifting apart in a bewildering array of organic interactions. In his 1985 exhibition Toys at the New Museum, NY, eight identical figures wearing suits and panama hats anxiously adjusted their ties in unison, a coiffed doll with bright blue eyeshadow enthusiastically greeted an approaching Viking, and James Brown relaxed, feet up, on a blue ottoman.

As the exhibition’s title suggests, for Rockwell these figures stand in as avatars for ourselves — “alternatives to us whom we can interact with” — which act out the fantasies, beliefs, and values that shape our understanding of the world. In his own words, “We build what we are, what we think, and what we live.” Rockwell uses the term Maya, adopted from Hindu Sanskrit, to understand the way we attach illusions to the visible world. On a notecard that he carries in his wallet, Rockwell defines the term in relation to his practice as:

“The power of a god or demon to transform a concept into an element of the sensible world; the transitory manifold appearance of the sensible world, which obscures the undifferentiated spiritual reality from which it originates; the illusory appearance of the sensible world.”

The stepped structure of Us also points to Rockwell’s fascination with the spiritual realm. Spanning the length of the light well, ten glass planks hang from the ceiling in an ascending, curving line. The upward motion of the floating glass shelves conjures a feeling of ascension, and perhaps even reincarnation. As Rockwell sees it, “[The toys] are going on to glory.” Imbued with a physical and spiritual depth, Rockwell’s figures evoke a multiplicity of narratives that are at once whimsical and distressing, capturing the complexities and outlandishness of our own existence.

Rockwell approaches each installation of toys organically, responding to both the site and the needs of the various toys. Though most of the figures “socialize” in groups, the artist explains, “There’s always the lonely person that doesn’t talk well with other people, and he’ll be walking by himself.” By listening seriously to the stories that toys have to tell, Rockwell is able to create worlds that feel at once monumental and microscopic in scope, playing out both the quotidian and epic dramas of our lives.

Spencer Finch Cosmic Latte

Spencer Finch, the subject of a major mid-career survey at MASS MoCA in 2007 titled What Time is it on the Sun?, returns to the museum in May 2017 with a long-term installation commissioned and designed in conjunction with MASS MoCA’s Phase III expansion. Bringing the starry night inside the museum, Finch’s light-based work, Cosmic Latte features over 150 specially fabricated LED fixtures that will be suspended from the ceiling over an expanse of the 80-foot long gallery. The constellation of LEDs will be arranged in the gently arching shape of the Milky Way as it is observed in the Northern Hemisphere in March. The work’s title, Cosmic Latte, refers to the name for the average color of the universe, which in 2009 was determined to be more beige than what has been traditionally thought of as blue. Two American astrophysicists studied the color of the light emitted by 200,000 galaxies and created a cosmic spectrum, which they then blended according to the light spectrum visible to human eyes. Finch represents that specific warm, yellowish-white shade of light with LED lights (designed to look like incandescent bulbs), which are then arranged in the shape of the molecular models of the pigments needed to create this “cosmic latte” color: titanium white, Mars yellow, chrome yellow, and a touch of cadmium red.

Sol Lewitt Structures

A new adjunct to MASS MoCA’s long-running Sol LeWitt exhibition A Wall Drawing Retrospective , a concise selection of the artists’ three-dimensional sculptures is on view in B6: The Robert W. Wilson Building. The works illustrate the generative potential for LeWitt’s serial approach.

Robert Rauschenberg Lurid Attack of the Monsters

Robert Rauschenberg’s approach to art making was expansive and generous and his works reveal his sharp-eyed observations. Harvesting imagery and ideas from the daily news, politics, popular culture, and from his vast circle of friends and fellow artists, he created works which were a prescient harbinger of today’s culture of sampling and remix. Rauschenberg was also deeply interested in dance, film and the history of art, and was known for his fusion of the performing and visual arts as well as his life-long collaborations with dancers, choreographers, and theater artists. If expansive in content and form, he was just as endlessly inventive in his use of an exceptionally wide range of materials – from traditional media like paint and silkscreen, to plastics, foils, neon and found objects salvaged from scrap yards and back alleys; his freewheeling approach to art merged his life and the world around him with a seamless, exuberant energy that continues to influence artists today.

The Lurid Attack of the Monsters from the Postal News Aug. 1875 (Kabal American Zephyr) (1981) is part of a sculpture series inspired by the illustrations of the 19th century Japanese printmaker Tsukioka Yoshitoshi. In 1875 Yoshitoshi made prints for the Yūbin hōchi shinbun newspaper to illustrate crime, politics, and public interest stories. Rauschenberg’ cannon-like work features a collage of images ranging from nature scenes to boats at sea, John Lennon playing piano, skydivers, and soldiers wearing gas masks. Lurid Attack is rather foreboding, confronting viewers with its low-slung, precarious length and menacing maw-like row of toothy saws bent under tension..

 

Bruce Odland & Sam Auinger: Harmonic Bridge

Plays constantly from 8am to 10pm at the Route 2 underpass on Marshall Street in the southeast corner of MASS MoCA's main parking lot.

In the MASS MoCA portion of this multi-part project, Harmonic Bridge, low sounds roll and drone under the Route 2 overpass half a block from MASS MoCA. Entering the space under the bridge, one becomes aware of a turning eddy of sound in the midst of intersecting streams of traffic. Cars pass by heading north or south on Marshall Street and east or west on the Route 2 bridge, but this linear motion is counterpoised by a rolling, humming C as calming as the rhythm of ocean waves. Although cars stream by, pedestrians lose the impetus to move forward, derailed by this cool pool of sound with its mysterious, chant-like hum. Harmonic Bridge presents an aural cross-section of North Adams, a slice of the city in the key of C, comprised of the fundamental note and its overtone series.

To produce these rolling tones, artists Bruce Odland and Sam Auinger affixed two 16-foot tuning tubes to the guardrail on the north side of the bridge on either side of the overpass. The length of the tubes determines the fundamental tone: a sound wave at such a low pitch is 16 feet long and must be generated (whether for sound art or a pipe organ) with a 16 foot tube. Inside each tube, a microphone is placed at a certain harmonic interval (the 5th in one tube, the 4th in the other). These locations emphasize the harmonic and give a slightly different timbre to the two Cs. (The difference in timbre between the two tuning tubes is analogous to the difference in timbre between a cello and a violin playing the same note: though the pitch is the same, the sound is slightly different).

As traffic passes by, its noise generates a sympathetic resonance in the columns of air inside the tubes. High-pitched sirens and even voices generate higher harmonics, while the low rumble of trucks creates low ones. The sound is carried from the microphones in the tubes to a control room, where the sound signal is then amplified and transmitted to the concrete cube speakers under the bridge. There are no electronic effects added. The sounds have been simply extracted from the traffic noise above, as one might extract precious metal from a baser substance. The pedestrian hears one tuned layer of city sounds, and strains to separate the harmony from the traffic on Marshall Street. The work requires that we focus our ears on it, and we walk away from the experience as the composer John Cage would have us: hearing music everywhere. The bridge becomes an instrument played by the city revealing hidden harmonies within the built environment.

Mary Lum Assembly (Lorem Ipsum)

Artist Mary Lum, who lives in North Adams, works in a range of media, including wall drawing, painting, collage, photography, and artist books. Language plays an important role in her practice, with the artist drawing on texts from a diversity of sources, including literature, psychoanalysis, and the news. Lum has been included in three previous exhibitions at MASS MoCA in the past fifteen years; for the opening of Building 6 she was commissioned to create a large-scale wall work for the bike tunnel that transverses the ground floor of Building 6, piercing one of MASS MoCA’s biggest buildings to connect Adams-North Adams-Williamstown bike trails. Lum’s monumental painting, covering four walls, is inspired by Lorem ipsum, the meaningless text that graphic designers and typesetters use as mock filler content as placeholders for actual texts, and which was originally drawn from Cicero’s writings on ethics. The intricate work vibrates between writing, image, and pattern, and speaks to the fragmented way in which we acquire information and see language in today’s world. Mirrored interludes provide a vibrant backdrop to passing cyclists.

 

Laurie Anderson

Laurie Anderson is one of today’s premier multimedia artists, known for her achievements as a visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, vocalist, and instrumentalist, and her innate ability to meld her dynamic practices into new and vibrant forms. Her seemingly boundless oeuvre includes the creation of books, albums, and performances that incorporate film, slides, recorded audio, live music, and spoken word. Anderson has long been recognized as a groundbreaking leader in the use of technology in the arts and has developed new musical instruments, including the tape bow violin, in which the bow has been replaced with magnetic audiotape and the bridge with a reader. She was one of MASS MoCA’s first artists-in-residence and has returned to the museum many times to develop and discuss works-in-progress. In MASS MoCA’s Building 6, Anderson will create a multi-functional environment that will serve as a working studio, audio archive, and exhibition venue, highlighting both her creative process and some of her most unforgettable works.

Jenny Holzer

Jenny Holzer’s concise, often enigmatic, writings infiltrate public life and consciousness through everyday objects such as LED panels and stone benches, as well as her paintings and sculpture. She is best known for her light projections, begun when she illuminated the banks of the Arno River with her writings in 1996. In these projections, which have now appeared in over 40 cities in 20 countries, stark block lettering is thrown onto landscapes and architecture, creating ephemeral graffiti that links her early street-based practice to her long-standing engagement with media, and tactics common to news and advertising. Following her monumental installation in MASS MoCA’s Building 5 in 2007, which marked her first indoor projection in the U.S., Holzer returns with a campus-wide program, timed to the opening of Building 6 in May 2017. The program will include a large-scale outdoor projection on the side of Building 6, a series of her celebrated carved stone benches located throughout MASS MoCA’s sprawling campus, an exhibition of her early posters, and additional rotating exhibitions of her work in Building 6, spanning the breadth of her career.

Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois described her artistic practice as an attempt to work through whatever tumult plagued her — psychologically, personally, artistically — to find perfect harmony. Her work often references human anatomy and sexuality, in some instances overtly and in others more subtlely through organic and ambiguous forms. Her oeuvre encompassed drawings, paintings, textiles, embroidered works, sculpture, and installations ranging in scale from a few inches to fully immersive environments. Bourgeois began working with marble in the early 1960s while living in Avenza, Italy, and the medium proved particularly compelling for the artist — its resilience and difficulty pushing her creative boundaries. For Building 6, MASS MoCA, in partnership with the Louise Bourgeois Trust, will present a group of the artist’s marble sculptures, some of which have never been seen previously. The works fluctuate between the whimsical and the grotesque, the threatening and the nurturing, highlighting Bourgeois’ investigations of dualities and the pursuit of identity, individual and communal. The installation also speaks to the artist’s interest in monumental scale, with one sculpture weighing in at more than 10 tons. The design of the gallery that will house these works in Building 6 was constructed specifically to hold the weight of such works.

Gunnar Schonbeck No Experience Required

Over a period of fifty years, Gunnar Schonbeck crafted an arsenal of more than 1,000 instruments, handmade from a diverse and unexpected range of materials. His unmistakable works include a 9-ft banjo, 8-ft tall marimba, drums made from aircraft fuselages, welded steel harps and countless steel drums, zithers, pan pipes, tubular chimes, and triangular cellos. His practice draws on a core philosophy: anyone can be a musician, and music can be made from the most ordinary of objects. Over the last five years, visiting musicians to MASS MoCA, including Bang on a Can’s Mark Stewart and Wilco’s Glenn Kotche, have drawn on Schonbeck’s instruments in their performances and projects. With the restoration and renovation of Building 6, MASS MoCA will bring Schonbeck’s distinct approach to music-making to a wide audience, encouraging visitors and artists to play and experiment. A gallery devoted to the musicologist will feel like a high school music room — outfitted with a selection of Schonbeck’s instruments available to visiting artists, MASS MoCA visitors, and local school groups.

James Turrell

In James Turrell’s hands, light is more than simply a source of illumination: it is a discrete, physical object. His sculptures and architectural interventions elevate our experience and perception of light and space. Squares of sky seem to float, suspended, in ceilings or walls; architecture disintegrates; and brilliant geometric shapes levitate in midair. Turrell began using light as a sculptural medium in 1966, painting the windows of his studio in Santa Monica to seal off the natural light and experimenting with projections. His practice has been shaped by the ongoing manipulation of architecture, framing and altering the way viewers engage with the environment. A pioneer in the Southern California Light and Space movement, MASS MoCA will present a multi-decade retrospective of Turrell’s work in Building 6 — with galleries designed and constructed specially to best accentuate his installations. This exhibition will feature a major work from each decade of the artist’s career.

Barbara Prey

Renowned watercolor artist Barbara Ernst Prey paints a monumental watercolor for MASS MoCA’s expansion. Prey’s work will be 8 feet tall by 15 feet wide and depicts the interior of Building 6 just prior to the start of construction.

Best known for her plein air paintings, Prey’s commission sets a new benchmark for the size and scale of watercolor works on paper, among the most unforgiving combination of any painterly media. Her piece will tackle the vast horizontal spread of Building 6’s second floor, which comprises a full acre of floor area, with some 400 columns, hundreds of windows, and layers and layers of paint. “This commission is a painter’s dream, an engaging subject combined with a breathtaking scale for this media,” says Prey. “I have long admired MASS MoCA’s commitment to breaking boundaries in commissioning and presenting new works, and am thrilled to have been asked to create a piece that celebrates the organization’s ongoing growth and success. The architecture, the light, the colors, and the different textures of the space in Building 6 are all compelling subjects, and this piece has pushed my boundaries as an artist, opening up new perspectives on watercolor painting.”

Prey’s paintings are included in some of the most important public and private collections around the world, including The White House (one of two living female artists), the National Endowment for the Arts, the Brooklyn Museum, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Kennedy Space Center, the Farnsworth Art Museum, Williams College Museum of Art, Hood Museum of Art Dartmouth College, the Taiwan Museum of Art, the New-York Historical Society, the Henry Luce Foundation, and the Bush Presidential Library and Center.

She has also been commissioned by NASA to document space history. Prey graduated from Williams College where she studied with Lane Faison as part of the Williams College Art History program and holds a master’s degree from Harvard University where she was able to continue her art history studies. She was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship and a Henry Luce Foundation grant that enabled her to travel, study, and exhibit extensively in Europe and Asia. She is an art blogger for The Huffington Post, a frequent lecturer, and an arts advocate, as well as an adjunct faculty member at Williams College. In 2008, she was appointed by the President of the United States to the National Council on the Arts, which is the advisory board of the National Endowment for the Arts. Members are chosen for their established record of distinguished service and achievement in the arts.

Richard Nonas Cut Back Through (for Bjorn)

Richard Nonas Cut Back Through (for Bjorn)

“There is a language of place, and it is the most direct human language there is; the most basic way to impose human order and meaning on an outside, non-human world.” — Richard Nonas

Following his ambitious exhibition in Building 5, The Man in the Empty Space, Richard Nonas has created a long-term, outdoor installation in granite for the museum grounds. For five decades, he has made works that alter our sense of landscape and architecture — of place — using the simplest of means. His vocabulary includes pared-down forms and earthy and industrial materials that have a timeless, even totemic quality. Nonas has now reimagined the southeast corner of MASS MoCA’s campus with Cut Back Through (for Bjorn), a new arrangement of the three large granite chairs and five granite stools first seen in MASS MoCA’s galleries.

Nonas often changes already-existing works into new combinations, and thus new works. And like Cut Back Through (for Bjorn), many of his works are often arranged in pairs, series, or grids which create a dialogue and tension between the individual elements while creating a new whole from these parts. The grouping of granite sculptures functions as a cut into the landscape, but they also offer museum-goers a place to rest both their bodies and minds, allowing for — and indeed provoking — intuitive, visceral responses.

The granite used to make the chairs and stools was sourced in Sweden from a quarry owned by a long-time friend of the artist (the Bjorn of the title). Nonas used the materials with great efficiency; the stools are the remnants — or offcuts — left after the chair has been excised and split from the granite block. Confusing usual distinctions between art and function, the chairs confirm that for Nonas a compelling object is a compelling object, without distinction. And while Nonas’ works are familiar, they emanate powerfully and remain open and shifting — both visually as viewers walk around and through them and in meaning and association — balancing on the edge of one thing becoming another.

Sarah Crowner Wall (Hot Blue Terra Cotta)

Building #6

Sarah Crowner’s gorgeous 10 × 20 foot tile mural Wall (Hot Blue Terra Cotta) — fabricated for her recent MASS MoCA exhibition — now guides visitors in and out of the museum’s new gallery spaces. Known for her bold and graphic work in a variety of mediums spanning the fine and applied arts, Crowner finds the forms and patterns of abstraction in the everyday. Her monumental structure transforms painting into architecture (and vice versa), with the imperfections and eccentricities of the hand-glazed tiles functioning like a painter’s gestures.

 

Joe Wardwell Hello America: 40 Hits from the 50 States

Building #6

Boston-based artist Joe Wardwell’s Hello America: 40 Hits from the 50 States, a new wall drawing for MASS MoCA, takes inspiration from J.G. Ballard’s 1981 novel Hello America. The book begins after an energy crisis in the late 20th century that leaves America all but abandoned. A century later a group of European explorers finds a radically changed country, a desert landscape parched by the damming of the Bering Strait. The expedition starts in Manhattan and ends in Las Vegas where a tyrannical leader has named himself both Charles Manson and President of the United States. The moment that inspired Wardwell, and seemed like an all-too-eerie nod to our current political climate, comes when “President Manson” grabs the primary protagonist, who is filled with longing for a far-too-distant “American dream” and declares “together, Wayne, we will make America great again!”

 

The Metabolic Studio/Optics Division Hoosic: The Beyond Place

Building #6

In October 2016, artists Lauren Bon, Richard Nielsen, and Tristan Duke of the Optics Division of the Metabolic Studio spent a week at MASS MoCA using their Liminal Camera — a moveable, monumental camera built from a repurposed shipping container — to create a series of portraits of B6: The Robert W. Wilson Building. The team examined the adjacency of this repurposed industrial building to the industrialized Hoosic River. To make the prints on display, the Optics Division collected Hoosic water and poured it over the paper during printing, imbuing the image with ripples of river water.

Janice Kerbel - Slip

Building #6

At once poetic and darkly comedic, Janice Kerbel’s Slip uses graphic musical notation to imagine the trajectory of a body in mortal peril as it slips on a banana peel. Moving from very small to very large print along an upward curve before suddenly crashing downward, Slip unfolds across more than 100 running feet of wallspace in MASS MoCA’s newly renovated B6: The Robert W. Wilson Building. The work calls on the history of graphic notation, physical comedy, and concrete poetry to create a visual representation of a brief moment across both space and time. Situated just outside of the new galleries devoted to the musical instruments of Gunnar Schonbeck and works by experimental musician and artist Laurie Anderson, Slip conflates visual art and musical performance — cornerstones of MASS MoCA’s program — at a grand architectural scale.

 

Natasha Bowdoin Maneater

Houston, TX-based artist Natasha Bowdoin builds wall-works with words. In her largest-ever cut paper and collage installation, she investigates the intersections of the visual, the experiential, and the literary, treating language and nature as kindred phenomena. Referencing such sources as Golden Age children’s book illustrations, 19th-century botanical drawings, floral textile patterns, lunar maps, and prints of underwater sea life, Bowdoin’s fragile, lush installations shift and change as viewers explore their surfaces.

Bowdoin’s affinity for the wilderness began at a young age, as she wandered the woods and waters of Maine. This wasn’t solely a physical act; she also used books to understand the landscape around her and to escape to unavailable landscapes. Primed with an empirical and a fictional experience of nature, filled with wonder and terror, Bowdoin’s work flickers between unsentimental Darwinism and embroidered reverie. Her journeys into the dark woods hark to a time when fairy tales and scientific illustrations were equally plausible explanations of nature’s mysteries: where Ernst Haeckel, Lewis Carroll, or the Brothers Grimm might all make suitable traveling companions.

For MASS MoCA’s first-floor Hunter Hallway, Bowdoin’s ambitious Maneater grows to consume the space like a fruiting vine or an invasive species. As in all her work, the installation draws from many references, here ranging from pop culture ideas of nature and femininity to arcane literary traditions. The title of the installation conjures the Hall & Oates’ Maneater (1982), a cautionary tale about a wild woman who will seduce you, then “chew you up.” Equally applicable is Neko Case’s People Got a Lotta Nerve (2009), which chides humans for underestimating nature — cuddly until the moment it, too, bites you back. Bowdoin is also interested in the 19th-century literary genre called “the language of flowers,” which used botanical arrangements as encrypted messages, a specific meaning assigned to each flower. These threads evoke a world in which language and nature are intertwined and potentially out to get us if we aren’t careful.

In the lush paper thicket coiling its way down the Hunter Hallway, we see larger-than-life floral forms whose tranquility is undercut by carnivorous plants creeping and crawling across the gallery wall and floor. Subverting the traditional meanings ascribed to flowers — beauty, sentiment, delicacy, and femininity — Bowdoin gives the flowers back their thorns, reintroducing wildness and an unstoppable proliferation; her garden is overgrown, possibly toxic, but still seductive in its danger. Bowdoin gives nature its teeth back, and the flower — beautiful but a little too abundant — becomes a feminist gesture of fight and resistance. In her interlaced references and layered forms, Bowdoin leads us into the dense, more savage precincts of the natural world, where our place in the food chain is less secure: a terrain of tooth and claw, thorn and root.

Come To Your Senses Art to See, Smell, Hear, Taste, and Touch

Sally Taylor, daughter of James Taylor and Carly Simon, curates Come to Your Senses in MASS MoCA’s lively Kidspace gallery and art-making studio, which will include new music by both of her parents. A program of Taylor’s long-running Consenses project, Come to Your Senses asks visual artists, poets, dancers, musicians, perfumers, chefs, and sculptors to use one another’s art as a catalyst to create their own work. “It’s like a game of telephone that unfolds through all the senses,” notes Sally Taylor, “and inspires us to see the world through others’ eyes.” At Kidspace, the initial works of art, through which all other works were inspired, were created by 5th grade students in North Adams and Northern Berkshire schools. Come to Your Senses is the capstone of Kidspace’s “Art 4 Change” project that has encouraged visitors and students in its school partnership program to develop positive habits of mind (empathy, optimism, and courage) with which to approach complex problem-solving through art experiences.

An Opening Reception will be held on Saturday, June 23, at 11am-1pm in Kidspace.

Join us that night for An Evening with Sally Taylor & Friends: Come to Your Senses on Stage, Saturday, June 23, at 7pm.

Admission to Kidspace is always free; the ArtBar is open on weekends and during school breaks.

Principal support for Come to Your Senses at MASS MoCA is provided by Chrystina (Xtina) Geagan Parks and James R. Parks, an anonymous donor, the Arthur I. and Susan Maier Fund, Guido’s Fresh Marketplace, and Samantha and Daniel Becker.

Support for Sally Taylor’s Consenses project is provided by Ellen Poss, Leslie Williams and James Attwood, Vickie Zoellner, Gordon and Rehanna Uehling, Esmeralda Swartz, Simone and David Levinson, Jim and Susan Swartz, Jane and Scott Maxwell, Geralyn Dreyfous, Laurie David, Monika Mclennan, Kay Kendall and Jack Davies, Gogo Inc., and James Lapine.

Julianne Swartz In Harmonicity, The Tonal Walkway

Julianne Swartz’s work is rooted in emotion, vulnerability, and the provocation to recognize and connect to one another as feeling human beings. Over the years Swartz has returned again and again to using the human voice, recording singers both professional and amateur to create moving works that embrace visitors with sound and emotion.

For In Harmonicity, The Tonal Walkway, Julianne Swartz started with a chart she found in a 19th-century music pedagogy system called the “Tonic Sol-Fa” School, developed by John Curwen. The chart assigned “mental effects” to the seven tones of the diatonic scale. Swartz was interested in this idea of certain tones activating specific emotional or mental states. She then took this “Curwen Method” and applied it to a new sound work for MASS MoCA, on long-term exhibition in the walkway between the lobby and the Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective. “Inharmonicity” is a word used to describe a departure from the ideal harmonic series (being out of tune), but it has also been attributed to bringing a “quality of warmth” to the sound of a stringed instrument.

To build this work, Swartz started by recording 24 people individually — eight professional singers, including Roomful of Teeth, and 16 amateur singers. The singers ranged in age from 7 to 75. During the recording process, she asked participants to listen to specific tones and read the “mental effect” associated with that tone, as assigned by Curwen. Then she asked them to listen to the tone again and come up with their own mental or emotional association. Lastly, she instructed them to sing individual notes of both the diatonic and chromatic scales, using any syllabic/consonant-vowel combination that they wished. The single-note sounds took on specifics of the individual singers’ choices and voices.

Swartz then took these recording and made a composition of the single note sounds using a chord structure of thirds and fifths. The soundtrack is made entirely of singing, spoken word, and sustained microtones of voice. The microtones are made by isolating a tiny kernel (such as a quarter second) of voice or breath, and repeating it until it becomes a sustained tone. These sustained tones, especially the low frequencies, vibrate the space and can sound like mechanical or industrial sounds. Swartz created a composition of voice utilizing the 150+ foot length of the space to “throw” sound back and forth along the stretch of the bridge and make aural illusions with distant and proximate spatial harmonies. The sounds constantly move through the space, and listeners’ perception of it changes as they walk or stand still, creating effects of harmony and disharmony, concord and dissonance — the emotional states created by listening to voices join together.

Featuring the voices of Estelí Gomez, Cameron Beauchamp, Eric Dudley, Martha Cluver, Thann Scoggin, Elisa Sutherland, Eliza Bagg, Stella Prince, José Chardiet, Nicolas S. Eugst Mathews, Isabel Vázquez, Lulu Hart, Maria Sonevytsky, Edwina Unrath, David Moss, Sue LaRocca, Jennifer Odlum, Molly Odlum, Frida Balloghi-Smith, Marshall McConville, Jenny Monick, Junah Sibony, and Elodie Sibony. Special thanks to Brad Wells, director, Roomful of Teeth, and Ben Senterfit, director, Community Music Space, Red Hook, New York.

Zarouhie Abdalian Chanson du ricochet

A voice, reverberating from the brick walls of small outbuildings that define a grassy courtyard, reads a list of tools as though reciting an incantation. Through the transformative process of rhythm and articulation, Zarouhie Abdalian’s sound installation Chanson du ricochet (2016) allows us to hear each term anew—whether familiar (trowel, reamer, ruler, mop) or highly specialized (jeweler’s rouge, blocking pin, snap link, hammerstone.)

Abdalian is interested in memory and boundaries and the way that they are articulated through both the built environment and our perceptions of it. She created an earlier iteration of Chanson du riochet for Prospect.3, New Orleans, for which she used shaped mirrors to highlight original building materials, accompanied by a recording of a voice reading a list of tools.

At MASS MoCA, she created a new iteration of the work for the 2016 exhibition The Space Between, responding to the history of the museum’s site as a factory for the production of printed textiles and electrical equipment. Abdalian placed transducers on the interior surface of windows in an oft-overlooked portion of the museum’s campus, transforming the museum’s industrial buildings into speakers that give voice to the labor too often erased from view. Names of tools ricochet along the road taken by trucks carrying materials for new works being made at the museum, inviting visitors to consider the processes by which art—and by extension, other goods—are made.

Conjuring links between the site’s historical and current uses, Chanson du ricochet summons the buildings’ industrial origins, and points towards its continuing re-inhabitation as a site of artistic production, suspending us between past, present, and future.

 

Rafa Esparza staring at the sun

Rafa Esparza first used the labor-intensive process of hand-making adobe bricks in 2014. Extending the skill he learned from his father — who made adobe bricks in Mexico to sell and to build his first home — Los Angeles-based Esparza hand-made approximately 1,400 adobe bricks to cover the surface of Michael Parker’s sculpture, The Unfinished. Through this project the artist examined his relationship to land, the Los Angeles River, and his family with whom he collaborated. staring at the sun is a solo exhibition in which Esparza will continue this investigation by creating a new space out of adobe, while also returning to his practice as a painter. The exhibition confronts the architecture of the museum, “browning” its typical white walls.

Traditionally made by hand with dirt and other organic material such as clay, horse dung, hay, and water, adobe is among the earliest of human building materials. Due to their remarkable strength, sundried structures were extremely durable and functioned as some of the earliest architectural foundations for indigenous communities across the Americas. Adobe construction is still prevalent across the Southwest, a source of both strong and readily available building materials and income for the skilled laborers who use it.

Esparza explores adobe as both material and politics, creating what he has termed “brown architecture:” “My interest in browning the white cube — by building with adobe bricks, making brown bodies present — is a response to entering traditional art spaces and not seeing myself reflected. This has been the case not just physically, in terms of the whiteness of those spaces, but also in terms of the histories of art they uphold” (“Rafa Esparza,” ArtForum, November 21, 2017).

Within art institutions, Esparza creates adobe spaces that also function as platforms for collaboration for many constituencies and communities, including queer brown artists.

Best known as a performance artist, Esparza began his career in visual arts as a painter, yet was unable to relate to the “old master” paintings and drawings that he studied as an undergraduate. He turned instead to performance, making art with his body among the landscapes of Los Angeles. staring at the sun allows Esparza to design a brown space and to simultaneously engage, create images, and build narratives intrinsic to his use of land — brown matter — as context, surface, and content. This exhibition will include a series of new paintings on the surface of adobe, which will include portraiture, landscape, and abstraction. Adobe will cover the pristine white walls of one of MASS MoCA’s few “white cube” gallery spaces, serving as a threshold into an earthly dwelling. Entering the gallery, visitors will be immersed in dirt. Notes Esparza, “I want to overwhelm you with earth.”

About the Artist
Rafa Esparza is a multidisciplinary artist who was born, raised, and currently lives in Los Angeles. Woven into Esparza’s bodies of work are his interests in history, personal narratives, and kinship. He is inspired by his own relationship to colonization and the disrupted genealogies that it produces. Using live performance as his main form of inquiry, Esparza employs site-specificity, materiality, memory, and what he calls (non)documentation as primary tools to investigate and expose ideologies, power structures, and binary forms of identity that establish narratives, history, and social environments. Esparza’s recent projects have evolved through experimental collaborative projects grounded in laboring with land vis-à-vis adobe brick-making, a skill learned from his father, Ramón Esparza. In so doing, the artist intends to divert institutional resources to invited Brown and Queer cultural producers to realize large-scale collective projects. In the process, he gathers people together to build networks of support outside of traditional art spaces. He is especially committed to working in the local geographies that are the Southwest, including Mexico and Latin America.

Esparza is a recipient of an Emerging Artist 2014 California Community Foundation Fellowship for Visual Arts, a 2014 Art Matters grantee, and a 2015 recipient of a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant. He has performed in a variety of spaces, both public and private, throughout Los Angeles, including Elysian Park, the Los Angeles River, AIDS Project Los Angeles, Highways Performance Space, REDCAT, Human Resources, Vincent Price Art Museum, LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions), and the J. Paul Getty Museum. Esparza has also shown throughout the United States in art institutions such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art, and Ballroom Marfa, and internationally at Oficina de Procesos, Mexicali, and El Museo del Chopo in CDMX. Esparza was part of the 2018 spring cohort at the renowned Artpace artist-in-residence program in San Antonio, Texas, and recently led a guerrilla processional performance with over 25 artists through the historic fashion thoroughfare market The Santee Alley as part of his project, de la Calle (of the Street), in collaboration with the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

Marko Remec Would That I Wish For (Tall Totem)

Artist Marko Remec often creates visual puns that conflate conventional art forms with current events, often involving tricks of the eye, forced perspective, and other formal sleights of hand. In the series of work that includes Would That I Wish For, the artist adheres ready-made objects such as mops, brooms, safety mirrors, and rear-view mirrors to utility poles to create tall, totemic-like shapes that can be at once delightfully whimsical, and deeply questioning of today’s morays and social practices. In Would That I Wish For, the convex mirrors’ usual use for safety, surveillance and security is abandoned, the structure becoming a dizzying, world-absorbing spectacle that also reference the complex social functions of indigenous totem poles of the Pacific Northwest in commemorating important individuals and groups, and in communicating important events.

In using “Totem” as part of his works’ titles, Remec is deferential to the original use of the word (which comes from an Ojibwe term meaning clan) in describing tall carved wooden objects made by the indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest, and is aware of those works’ primary function as communicative devices for telling stories, or imparting other important tribal or familial information.

Remec’s work does not mimic or copy any tribal style. Rather, as recorders and reflectors of the present moment, the works “speak to the abject fear and paranoia that are a common component of today’s urban and suburban condition,” Remec has said, addressing surveillance, narcissism and indifference, and the complex relationship between the built and natural worlds.

Joe Manning: Looking at North Adams

Author and historian Joe Manning speaks to life in and around this city — referencing the trains, hills, rivers, and buildings that shape life in North Adams. Manning’s short texts, describing and illuminating the views through mill building windows throughout the museum, are excerpted from his publications about North Adams history and drawn from oral histories of city residents. Manning’s “city labels” speak to life in North Adams, including the retail scene on Main Street and what it was like to grow up in North Adams in the mid-1900s.

Trenton Doyle Hancock: Mind of the Mound: Critical Mass

About 50,000 years ago an ape man named Homerbuctas masturbated in a field of prehistoric flowers giving birth to a legend, no, “The” Legend. For years, there have been reports of large, furry, smelly heaps residing in wooded areas around the world. These reports are supposed sightings of the cryptid (creature not yet verified by science), simply known to cryptozoologists as Mounds.

I am, for reasons that I can’t quite explain, connected to these mysterious Mound creatures. I share a psychic bond with each Mound. I am ground control, and they are my satellites. I remember things that they have done, and I recall things that they have seen even after they are dead. I am able to inhabit the reality of the Mounds. Therefore, it has become my duty to document the goings-on in their realm, an alternate space that exists in hidden Earthly pockets. I have come to know these spatial accumulations as The Moundverse. The first Mound I learned of was in 1997, at which time I began chronicling his life. This Mound was called Mound #1, The Legend. In the year 2000, I began telling the tale of this Mound’s demise at the hands of Vegan rebels.” – Trenton Doyle Hancock

Trenton Doyle Hancock grew up in Paris, Texas, to a family of evangelical Baptist ministers and missionaries. Supplementing his religious upbringing with comic books and Greek mythology, at the age of 10 he invented Torpedo Boy — an alter ego/superhero he still uses today. At this young age, Hancock already began to develop a singular mythology, which has evolved over the years. Ultimately birthing his own creation myth — as played out through paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, and installation — Hancock tells the story of the Mounds (gentle hybrid plant-like creatures) protected by Torpedo Boy, and their enemies, the Vegans (mutants who consume tofu and spill Mound blood every chance they get). These narratives explore good and evil, authority, race, moral relativism, and religion, all while creating a truly unique body of visual art referencing artists such as Philip Guston and Henry Darger, as well as making unapologetic nods to comic books, illustrations, animations, horror films, and toys.

In March 2019, Hancock will bring his richly detailed belief system, what he calls the “Mind of the Mound,” to MASS MoCA, fully integrating narrative, installation, and performance in his largest solo project to date — achieving “critical mass” of his vision. For Hancock, the Mound is more than just a character; it is a way of life. “Mounds are not only natural depositories for memories and other bits of discarded humanity, but they are a way for us to build a collective psycho-emotional hierarchy, as well as a way to describe an individual’s intuitive profile,” notes Hancock. In his work, the Mound is a site where the accumulation and classification of artworks exist alongside his toy collecting, comic books, superheroes, Garbage Pail Kids, and childhood drawings. Mounds proliferate through culture, functioning as a rhizomatic network — living structures connected via an underground root system — turning them into one being. The Mounds are the Tower of Babel, a beehive, and even the mashed potato tower from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), but are all interconnected. Hancock seamlessly blends culture and memory, not just for himself, but in order to release his mythology into the world where it gains yet additional layers and complexity. 

Leaving no surface untouched, Hancock will invite visitors to step inside giant Mound sculptures, whose interiors will be kaleidoscopic installations: part toy fair, part museum, and part theme park, all run to wild proliferation. For example, one vignette will be designed to display Hancock’s recently created Halloween costumes, while another will function as a museum containing toys designed by the artist alongside a sampling from his own vast collection (an homage to artist Claes Oldenburg’s 1965-77 Mouse Museum, a Mickey Mouse-shaped structure full of the artist’s renditions of iconic pop culture objects). Also on view will be a large mound covered in handmade carpet, as well as an animatronic realization of a scene from the artist’s 2015 video What the Bringback Brought. These immersive environments will share space with wall drawings, paintings, and pages from the new 300-page graphic novel that Hancock is in the midst of creating. 

Inspired by MASS MoCA’s programming in visual and performing arts, Hancock will work with the museum to activate the space, collaborating with musicians, singers, dancers, and preachers to bring his complex story to life. Performance has often served as a key element in Hancock’s work. In Devotion (2013) he dressed as a Mound and sang devotional songs after being fed Jell-O. And in 2013 he took things one step further, collaborating with Ballet Austin on a full-scale production called Cult of Color: Call to Color, which involved characters Sesom (Moses spelled backwards), a Vegan minister offering salvation; the benevolent Painter; and antagonistic Betto Watchow. Of his performances, Hancock states: “Perhaps the most important function was to give me faith in the characters I was painting. I gained belief in the transformative power of these characters by being the first to undergo transformation. With that belief as part of my muscle memory, I could then paint, draw, write, or sculpt without hesitation.”

With this ambitious new environment, Hancock comes full circle, merging his own backstory with his created mythology in a carnival-esque space where viewers can revel in spectacle, get lost in childlike wonder, and learn to believe — while simultaneously contemplating how we build and share faith, mythology, information, and community. In the end, Hancock reminds us that Mounds are museums; they are our basements, our living rooms, our memories, our minds, and, most importantly, our collective understanding.

About the Artist
Trenton Doyle Hancock (b. 1974 in Oklahoma City, OK) earned his BFA from Texas A&M University, Commerce, and his MFA from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, Philadelphia. He was featured in the 2000 and 2002 Whitney Biennial exhibitions. In 2014, his exhibition, Skin & Bones: 20 Years of Drawing at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, traveled to Akron Art Museum, OH; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; and Virginia Museum of Contemporary Art. Solo exhibitions include: The Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah and Atlanta; the Weatherspoon art Museum, Greensboro, NC; the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, TX; The Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami, FL; Olympic Sculpture Park at the Seattle Art Museum, WA; and Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Hancock’s work is in the permanent collections of the Dallas Museum of Art, TX; the Menil Collection, Houston, TX; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY; Brooklyn Museum, NY; and San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. In 2017, Hancock was named Arts League Houston’s Texas artist of the year. He is represented by James Cohan Gallery, NY; Hales Gallery, London; and Shulamit Nazarian, LA. He lives and works in Houston, TX.

 

Nicholas Whitman

Photographer Nicholas Whitman began photographing North Adams’ abandoned Sprague Electric Company factory in 1988 “because it would surely be razed.” Documenting the then-deteriorating 19th-century mill buildings, Whitman captured scenes ranging from vast postindustrial landscapes to minute traces of the plant’s former workers. Whitman’s meticulously composed photographs, windows onto the historic nature of MASS MoCA’s celebrated renovated factory campus, are now on view in the museum.

Preserving the “seemingly random collection of mill buildings” was a deeply personal mission. Whitman’s father came to work at Sprague as an engineer in 1959. Growing up, Whitman remembers that the site’s security was so tight, he was unable to visit his father at work until he was hired for a summer job etching aluminum foil in 1974. The company’s etching operations moved to the South not long after, marking the early phases of cost-cutting and outsourcing that ultimately led Sprague to close its operations on Marshall Street in 1985.

By the time Whitman began to photograph the site’s century-old buildings in 1988, they had begun to decline: floors buckled, paint peeled, and pigeons and spiders had made the quiet buildings their home. Whitman says, “I worked with a 4″× 5″ field camera and carried everything in order to be self-contained and mobile. The buildings are mostly interconnected, so once you were inside you could go anywhere. Many areas were quite dark, which made photography difficult because I only worked with the available light. The light is part of the place, and the place was what I was documenting.”

More personal hints of the factory’s industrial past — thousands of workers over more than a hundred years — remained. “Most compelling was evidence of the individuals who had spent so much of their lives within these walls,” Whitman notes. “It manifested itself in different and sometimes unexpected ways. There were discarded identification badges and personal effects, like coffee cups and well-worn chairs. There were scrawls on walls, numbers near the phone, and handwritten conversions from minutes to tenths of an hour on the wall near the punch clocks. The humanity of these industrial spaces is revealed in such details.”

About the artist
Nicholas Whitman is a photographer based in Berkshire County. He studied at the Rochester Institute of Technology, and is the former Curator of Photography at the New Bedford Whaling Museum. He has been commissioned to create photographs by institutions including the New Bedford Whaling Museum, Bennington Museum, Berkshire Museum, The Colonial Theatre, Chesterwood, Olana, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williams College Museum of Art, and Williams College, where he taught a landscape photography course each winter for two decades. Whitman’s photography is the subject of books including “The Colonial Theatre: A Pittsfield Resurrection” (2008); “After SPRAGUE ELECTRIC / Before MASS MoCA” (2013); “Sea, Shore, Sky & Ice” (2013); and “Wheels of Progress: The New Bedford Waterfront, circa 1980” (2015). His photographs can also be found in “MASS MoCA: From Mill to Museum,” a revised edition of which is forthcoming.

Tom Slaughter Icon Alphabet

Covering an interior wall visible to visitors approaching MASS MoCA’s postindustrial museum lobby (as well as to those in its galleries), Tom Slaughter’s joyful imagery unfurls across a 140 ft. stretch in the first-ever exhibition designed by his daughters Hannah and Nell Jocelyn and son-in-law Jim Mezei. The expansive Icon Alphabet celebrates Slaughter’s lifetime creating bright, playful imagery drawn from his paintings, prints, wallpaper, and billboards. This is the first exhibition focusing on Slaughter’s bold personal visual vocabulary since his death in 2014.

Tom Slaughter’s drawings, paintings, and cut-paper illustrations present objects and scenes from the artist’s life in New York and coastal Long Island. For Slaughter, the very familiarity of these images made them ideal subjects: “Icons…. these are my alphabet. I draw them over and over until they are part of my language. Sunglasses, bikes, hats, boats, buildings…they are all just part of an excuse to make images.” Icon Alphabet will combine Slaughter’s work as an artist and illustrator across media — “I paint, draw, cut paper, use a computer, and even an iPhone — it’s all the same hand.”

Slaughter’s images are quintessentially modern, their subjects rendered with deft vividness and graphic punch. The simplicity of Slaughter’s forms and the artist’s use of primary colors suggest ties to Henri Matisse’s cut-outs, or Alexander Calder’s mobiles. He once quipped: “I use primary colors, mostly because I never did take a painting class. The colors worked well enough for Calder and Lichtenstein.” Calder saw his abstract mobiles as “sketches” for “a system of the Universe, or part thereof,” and believed that “Secondary colors and intermediate shades serve only to confuse and muddle the distinctness and clarity.” This clarity likewise characterizes a modernist approach to architecture and design, which rejected excessive ornamentation in favor of a unified, streamlined whole. Slaughter’s own work pares down each “icon” to its most essential characteristics, making the visual language of modernist design accessible to young people and adults alike through his prints, posters, children’s book illustrations, and even wallpaper designs.

The artist’s exhibition at MASS MoCA runs concurrently with an installation of Tom Slaughter’s works at The Artist Book Foundation (also located on the downtown North Adams, Massachusetts museum campus). The Artist Book Foundation will publish the first-ever monograph of the artist’s work in spring 2019.

About the artist
Acclaimed for his playful prints, paintings, and designs, Tom Slaughter (1955 – 2014) illustrated 11 children’s books including Boat Works and Do You Know Which Ones will Grow? which was named a 2011 Notable American Library Association book of the year. He worked as a printmaker in collaboration with Durham Press for 25 years. His editions are included in the collections of MoMA and the Whitney Museum of American Art. His work has been the subject of over 30 solo exhibitions in New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Vancouver, Germany, and Japan.

Titus Kaphar Language of the Forgotten

The artist Titus Kaphar is first and foremost interested in history – and in particular whose stories get told, and which ones get left out. Through cutting, bending, sculpting, and remixing historic paintings and sculptures, Kaphar often shifts the focus of the narratives to create new works that exist between fiction and quotation.

In 2017, Kaphar was commissioned by Princeton University to create a new sculpture, Impressions of Liberty, which discusses the University’s own history of enslaved people. On July 31, 1766, six enslaved African Americans were sold on the site where the sculpture now sits. They were part of the estate of Samuel Finley (1715–1766), the fifth president of Princeton (then the College of New Jersey). Kaphar’s work begins as a monumental bust of Finley carved as an inversion into wood. Framed against this are portraits of an African-American man, woman, and child “etched” into glass. The Princeton website states that, “Whereas the form for Finley’s bust is drawn from his official University portraits, contemporary actors in eighteenth-century costume stand in for the enslaved individuals, for whom no images remain.”

Using this same technique, Kaphar has created Language of the Forgotten. Just as in Impressions of Liberty, he starts with a Caucasian historical figure — here Thomas Jefferson. His profile is immediately recognizable, whereas the figures “etched” on the glass stand in for the hundreds of thousands of untold narratives about usurped liberty — most famously brought to light in Jefferson’s case through the story of Sally Hemings, an enslaved woman on Jefferson’s plantation believed to be the mother of his children. In both works, Kaphar delicately alters the narrative, placing forgotten figures who are in plain line of sight.

This sculpture relates to additional works by Kaphar that will be on view in the group exhibition Suffering from Realness, opening April 2019.

For Language of the Forgotten, Kaphar commissioned poet Reginald Dwayne Betts to write the new poem below:

Benevolence
by Reginald Dwayne Betts

A woman disappears behind the face
of a man. Negro child, girl child, Black child,

what is the language for forgotten? Hidden

behind a veil of declared independence.
Not a single signature would have confessed

her name in public. The lesson of owning
begins with erasure. Who confuses a woman

for property. (Many men, many many many many men.)
Not someone else. Mister & Master. Not mistress —
but eclipse. Blacker

than cotton falling into the shade of a sack longer
than her frail body. How do you say child

in the language of a whip post?
Behind him, the sound of a woman effaced.
The office of expunction:

man & ownership & the collateral of it all, a body
sprawled against its own vanquishing.

Always half the tale. What wasn’t lost
in the chronicle? Hosannas. All men created
with a backdrop of a woman forced

into an awkward submission? Lascivious becomes
something mutual. Negro girl slave girl slave girl

as lover black girl as lover black woman as lover
permission as lost continent.

The conundrum is unmasked by a knife
against the canvas. Behind the man

a woman shackled to what the ghost rib?
Only men believe in women as asterisk.

Imagine being remembered this way. Imagine resurrection
as being unmasked,
imagine benevolence as being seen.

About the artist
Titus Kaphar’s works interact with art history by appropriating its styles and mediums. He cuts, bends, sculpts, and mixes historic painting, creating new works between fiction and historic sampling. His work has been included in exhibitions at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, NY; the Studio Museum in Harlem, NY; and the Seattle Art Museum, WA. His art is also in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY. In 2014, Time magazine commissioned Kaphar to create an artwork in response to the protests in Ferguson, MO. He lives and works in New Haven, CT.

Anish Kapoor

Anish Kapoor is known for creating sculptures with extraordinary surfaces that pull viewers in, encouraging close looking. Varying widely in scale and incorporating materials from stone and earth to silicone and PVC, his work combines formal precision with innovative engineering and a precise use of optics and reflectivity.

In Untitled (2012), part of a larger group of mirrored works by the artist, Kapoor uses highly polished stainless steel on an enormous scale, distorting and transforming reflections of the work’s surroundings. Kapoor has characterized his mirrored surfaces as dynamic objects, observing that “they seem to be active, to be in various states of becoming.”

The reflective, concave surface of Untitled seems to absorb us into its space. From some vantage points, the work confronts us with a displaced, splintered vision of ourselves, while other focal points eliminate the viewer’s reflection entirely. The round, concave shape also creates peculiar sonic effects, amplifying and altering the observer’s perception of the sounds in the gallery space, similar to the way that a curved mirror inside a telescope focuses rays of light.

Kapoor’s interest in the relationship between light and the viewer’s perception is shared by James Turrell, whose long-term installations are also on view in the museum’s Robert W. Wilson Building 6. While Turrell tightly controls the light in his installations, however — as well as the mode by which it enters – the mirrored surface of Kapoor’s Untitled engages the building’s existing architecture and abundance of natural light. Intervening in our perception of the space, Untitled turns it unfamiliar and strange.

Franz West: Les Pommes d’Adam

Hall Art Foundation at MASS MoCA

Franz West’s Les Pommes d’Adam – a monumental outdoor sculptural ensemble on extended loan from the Hall Art Foundation – opens on the MASS MoCA campus, in its first presentation in the United States and its second-ever showing. The sculpture was previously exhibited in 2007, when it was installed at the Place Vendôme in Paris next to Napoléon Bonaparte’s Vendôme Column. Les Pommes d’Adam will be exhibited adjacent to the Hall Art Foundation’s 10,000 square-foot building dedicated to the work of Anselm Kiefer, whose spring reopening –

When Franz West’s Les Pommes d’Adam was first displayed in Paris’ Place Vendôme in 2007, the exhibition curators noted that the sculpture took its name and inspiration from the Adam’s apple, pointing to the distinctive anatomical profile of a man’s throat. The public, however, interpreted the gathering of bubblegum-pink sculptures in a slightly more provocative way, locating the reference lower on the male torso.

West would have reveled in the confusion, having once said, “It doesn’t matter what art looks like, but how it is used.” The use of art, and its interpretation by individuals, was always of interest to West. Among his earliest works are the Paßstücke, or Adaptives, a series of small, portable plaster objects, a selection of which was exhibited at MASS MoCA in 2002. Adaptives were made to be picked up and manipulated by the viewer, their meaning changing with use. Some might be utilized as bookends or flower vases, while others may be displayed on sculptural plinths.

Les Pommes d’Adam, like much of West’s work, is infused with humor and a particular delight in visual and linguistic puns. It pokes, provokes, and makes us reconsider our physical and psychological relationship to art. The sculpture’s evocation of the human body recalls the work of the Actionists, a group of artists prominent in Vienna while he was a student at the Academy of Applied Arts. Like the American Fluxus group, the Actionists sought to create art outside the usual gallery and market structure, often as free-form events or happenings that yielded abstract works of art and ritualistic, body-oriented performances.

Les Pommes d’Adam is rough-hewn and made of basic materials: metal, epoxy, paint, and concrete. The 4 pink biomorphic totems, each standing at approximately 25 feet, are at once crude in shape, yet highly finished. In its Paris showing, Les Pommes d’Adam was installed in close proximity to the Vendôme Column, on top of which stands a statue of Napoléon Bonaparte in Roman garb. West’s presentation of Les Pommes d’Adam at the Place Vendôme engaged and perhaps parodied the Napoleonic Column, prompting viewers to reinvestigate it and its role in the history of Paris and France. The idiomatic expression, “Napoleon complex,” for example, takes on new meaning in light of the apocryphal tale of the etymology of the term “Adam’s apple.” According to the biblical passage, the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden was an apple tree. When Eve gave Adam a piece of the tree’s forbidden fruit and he ate it, a fragment became lodged in his throat. The Adam’s apple thus serves as a permanent reminder of the folly of desiring that which one should not have, or know. Likewise, with its monumental, if not pretentious, scale, Les Pommes d’Adam may offer a playful warning about the perils of unbridled ambition.

Suffering From Realness

It will gradually become apparent that at particular moments when there is within a society a crisis of belief…the sheer material factualness of the human body will be borrowed to lend that cultural construct the aura of ‘realness’ and ‘certainty.’ – Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: The Making and Unmaking of the World (1985)

Suffering From Realness explores the politics of representation — and the ways in which artists use the body to grasp at and re-center the “aura of realness” in an age of uncertainty. The title for the exhibition is borrowed from the song “Ni**as in Paris” by Jay-Z and Kanye West in which West raps: “Doctors say I’m the illest / ‘Cause I’m suffering from realness.” This prophetic lyric ended up signaling the musician’s spiraling ego, over-the-top public behavior, and mental health issues. But the phrase also begs the question, “What exactly is realness?” In her most political group exhibition to date, curator Denise Markonish explores the fluidity of identity and the media rituals performed to tell the narrative of “realness.”

Suffering From Realness artists Vincent Valdez and Adriana Corral mark the opening of this new exhibition, on Saturday, April 13 at 4pm, with a procession of their sculpture Requiem, a larger-than life cast of an American eagle, accompanied by parading musicians — recalling a New Orleans-style jazz funeral. The artists will discuss their work following the event.

Realness in the 21st century is an increasingly complicated concept. In 2016, British filmmaker Adam Curtis directed HyperNormalisation, which is accompanied by the following tagline: “Our world is strange and often fake and corrupt. But we think it’s normal because we can’t see anything else.” In the film, Curtis traces society’s descent into — to borrow Stephen Colbert’s term — ‘truthiness’ and the systematic confusion it has created, from the Reagan to Trump administrations. The film outlines how, since the 1970s, corporations and politicians have increasingly gained power over the “real world” by creating a “fake world” that they can easily stabilize and control. Examples range from various financial crises to the use of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as a public relations pawn by the United States. In the last two years, absurdity has been amplified further as xenophobic behavior has reached a new extreme. Artists are increasingly probing the notion of realness, using art to create moments of political resistance while also trying, difficult as it may be, to forge paths towards reconciliation.

The artists whose work comprise Suffering From Realness examine the human condition from all sides, creating works in various media that are both personal and universal, addressing racism, violence, gender equality, the politicized body of wartime, the anxious body, the complexity of responsibility, and the future. Ultimately, the exhibition endeavors to provide a sliver of optimism, to show how tenderness and collective action can lead to a new form of realness, one tied less to uncertainty and more to liberation. No longer bound, we can “resist or move on, be mad, be rash, smoke, and explode” (Morrissey, Hold On to Your Friends), and ultimately, find hope in something lasting and real.

Featuring: Aziz+Cucher, Cassils, Adriana Corral, Joey Fauerso, Jeffrey Gibson, Hayv Kahraman, Jennifer Karady, Titus Kaphar, Robert Longo, Christopher Mir, MPA, Wangechi Mutu, Allison Schulnik, Keith Sklar, Robert Taplin, and Vincent Valdez

Renoir: The Body, The Senses

Over the course of his long career, Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841–1919) continually turned to the human figure for artistic inspiration. The body—particularly the nude—was the defining subject of Renoir’s artistic practice, from his early days as a student copying the old masters in the Louvre to the early twentieth century, when his revolutionary style of painting inspired the masters of modernism. In recognition of the centenary of Renoir’s death, the Clark Art Institute and the Kimbell Art Museum present Renoir: The Body, The Senses. This daring exhibition is the first major exploration of Renoir’s unceasing interest in the human form, and it reconsiders Renoir as a constantly evolving artist whose style moved from Realism into luminous Impressionism, culminating in the modern classicism of his last decades. 

Renoir: The Body, The Senses includes more than seventy paintings, drawings, pastels, and sculptures by the artist as well as works by his predecessors, contemporaries, and followers. An international roster of exceptional loans including Boy with a Cat (1868, Musée d’Orsay); Study: Torso, Effect of Sun (c. 1876, Musée d’Orsay); Seated Bather (c. 1883–1884, Fogg Museum, Harvard Art Museums); and The Bathers (1918–19, Musée d’Orsay), as well as major contributions from the Clark’s renowned collection of the artist’s work, survey the breadth of Renoir’s career. 

Renoir: The Body, The Senses is organized by the Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, Massachusetts, and the Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas. This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

Read the full press release here.

The Clark’s summer 2019 exhibitions and programs are made possible in part by generous support from Denise Littlefield Sobel. Presentation of Renoir: The Body, The Senses at the Clark is generously supported by Robert and Martha Berman Lipp, Acquavella Galleries, and the Robert Lehman Foundation, with additional support from Joan Benjamin and Laurence Cherkis.

Ida O'Keeffe - Escaping Georgia's Shadow

Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe (1889–1961) was a talented American modernist, whose paintings and prints of the 1920s, ’30s, and ’40s explore realism and abstraction in the service of a distinctive artistic style. Yet the fact that her older sister was the renowned Georgia O’Keeffe begins to explain why most people have not heard of her. Drawing on extensive new research, Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow assesses Ida’s work and life, including her training, technique, and travels—as well as the sisters’ sibling rivalry, prompted by Georgia’s interest in being the only painter in the family. A fully illustrated catalogue, the first dedicated to the artist, accompanies the exhibition.
Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow is organized by the Dallas Museum of Art. Generous support for the exhibition and catalogue is provided by The Kaleta A. Doolin Foundation. The Kaleta A. Doolin Foundation is dedicated to being a resource and strategic partner for social change, focusing on advancing equity for women and girls, and encouraging cultural diversity and representation in the arts.

Read the full press release here.

The Clark’s summer 2019 exhibitions and programs are made possible in part by generous support from Denise Littlefield Sobel. Presentation of Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow at the Clark is supported by James and Barbara Moltz, Karen and Robert Scott, and Richard and Carol Seltzer.

Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A

Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. maps the intersections among a network of queer Chicanx artists and their artistic collaborators from the late 1960s to the early 1990s. This was an era of tumultuous and inspiring political activism, from the emergence of the Chicano civil rights, women’s, and gay liberation movements to the political activism around the AIDS epidemic. These struggles galvanized many of these artists, whose work often explored sexuality, community, and social identity. 

Artists in Axis Mundo experimented across a wide variety of media, including painting, performance, photography, video, fashion, music, and mail art. Collaboration was central to these artists, who came together to form collectives, establish arts venues, and experiment with new social and aesthetic possibilities. While many were close collaborators, not all of these artists worked together. Both direct and indirect connections led to shared content and affiliated aesthetic strategies. Although this network was centered in Los Angeles, many of the artists participated in other artistic scenes, both nationally and internationally. Collectively, these practices constituted a form of queer worldmaking.

Axis Mundo takes its title in deference to the artist Edmundo “Mundo” Meza, who was renowned among his peers and died from AIDS in 1985. Like many of the artists in this exhibition, his work has been rarely seen. Axis Mundo marks the first historical examination of artwork by queer Chicanx artists.

Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A. is organized by C. Ondine Chavoya, Professor of Art and Latina/o Studies at Williams College, and David Evans Frantz, Associate Curator at the Palm Springs Art Museum.

 

 

FreshGrass Festival 2019

An opportunity for enthusiasts to both appreciate and participate, FreshGrass is a family-friendly festival, brimming with bright talent on four stages, and also in our galleries, brick-lined courtyards, and grassy field, produced in partnership by MASS MoCA, the FreshGrass Foundation, and No Depression.

Music starts early in the museum courtyards, moves to our spacious (and grassy!) urban concert meadow, and then continues until past your bedtime with wild and woolly late-night barn dances in the Hunter Center on Friday and Saturday nights. The lineup is jam-packed with guitar gods and banjo gurus, traditionalists, and trailblazers — artists you already know and love interspersed with FreshGrass discoveries. Taken together, it’s an expansive group of performers who both draw on the past and look to the future. We like to think of it as “great music uprooted.”

The FreshGrass Award celebrates new talent, with cash prizes to the contest winners. Finalists in the band, banjo, fiddle, and the No Depression singer-songwriter categories perform for a panel of industry professionals on Saturday and Sunday of the festival, with winners announced on Sunday afternoon. Open to all festival-goers, the contest showcases the future of bluegrass and roots music when the bands play original and traditional tunes. With prizes totaling $25,000, grand prize winners receive a performance spot at next year’s festival, recording sessions at Compass Records, and handcrafted instruments from festival sponsors. Submissions are now open.

FreshGround is a tent-camping field within easy walking distance (.7 miles; 12 minutes) of the festival, convenient to downtown merchants, bars, and restaurants. A shuttle bus runs continuously to the festival from the campsite.

Camp Aggie for RV and tent camping is located 4 miles down the road from the festival. Shuttle buses run to the festival every 20-30 minutes.

Stay tuned to freshgrass.com for the latest news—the music never stops at FreshGrass

 

 

Inspired Design: Asian Decorative Arts and Their Adaptations

By the 17th century, English and European merchants purchased and traded quantities of luxury goods such as lacquerwares, porcelains, and textiles from cultures centered in Southeast Asia. Emerging New England elites also acquired these tangible examples of global sophistication and economic success to decorate their homes and adorn their bodies. These imports proved so popular that they could hardly satisfy the growing desire for new textiles, clothing forms, furniture, ceramics, and other decorative arts. To meet this increasing demand, enterprising English, European, and American manufacturers competed with these global imports by producing more affordable versions of Asian design and decorative elements. 

Inspired Design: Asian Decorative Arts and Their Adaptations highlights 18th- and 19th-century Asian decorative arts and their imitations, drawn from the museum’s rich collection. The exhibition explores how Western craftsmen adapted Asian decorative arts into a design vocabulary more familiar to them and their customers, and highlights New Englanders’ own quest for these imported goods.

Celebrating the Fiber Arts: The Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery

Flynt Center of Early New England Life - Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery

The Helen Geier Flynt Textile Gallery showcases Historic Deerfield's important collection of fashion, needlework, and domestic textiles. The core of the collection was assembled through the efforts of one of the museum's founders, Helen Geier Flynt (1895-1986). Considered one of the finest collections in America, the collection contains items dating from the late 17th century through the mid-20th century.

Rotations and thematic displays every season are set against the backdrop of four main fibers that created most textiles before the 20th century; silk, wool, cotton, and linen. Together with the museum’s historic houses, the gallery displays a portion of the roughly 8,000 items in the fashion, needlework, and domestic textile collection. The gallery helps visitors consider the aesthetic and practical choices made and used by people in Deerfield, the Connecticut River Valley, New England, England, and Europe.

 

Into the Woods: Crafting Early American Furniture

Flynt Center of Early New England Life - Friary Gallery

Explore a dazzling array of masterworks by famous American cabinetmakers including Duncan Phyfe and Honoré Lannuier, Samuel McIntire, John and Thomas Seymour, and John Townsend.Learn about antique furniture from the inside out, and gain a new understanding of the materials and craftsmanship that went into the creation of these spectacular objects through graphics, before-and-after views of conservation treatments, and innovative “exploded view” display techniques.Into the Woods also features a special changing section, which will feature the study of different elements. Included with general admission.

 

Engraved Powder Horns from the French and Indian War and the American Revolution: The William H. Guthman Collection

Flynt Center of Early New England Life

One of the finest assemblages of this indigenous and unique American art form ever presented, these 75 powder horns offer a wealth of documentary information about the original owners and carvers who created them.

 

Furniture Masterworks: Tradition and Innovation in Western Massachusetts

Wright House (hours vary; please inquire as to open days and times)

Seating and case furniture made in Massachusetts before the 1840s is as varied as the craftsmen and consumers who created it. From Beacon Hill to the Berkshires, the extremes test the richness of the whole region. Yet, the great variety in the Bay State’s furniture making traditions begs the question: Why is the furniture so different statewide in each period from the 17th into the 19th centuries when so many cultural, social, economic, and political traditions appear unified? There are at least two answers to that question, as we test why things look as they do. The first rests with the tribal power of family networks with its control of mores and standards, capitalization of tools and labor, and accepted beauty and functionality. The second lies in the natural power of the landscape in its ability to feed, sustain, transport, and protect.

The furniture-making traditions in Western Massachusetts are the perfect laboratory for exploring the impact of family and landscape on the appearance of manmade goods. While numerous mercantile ties were built by ambitious Connecticut Valley families in Boston, Newport, New York City, and later the China Trade, their extensive cousinage created a kind of corporate whole that improved business and forged identity. At the same time, the north-south flow of the Connecticut River—New England’s “great river”—was a far more powerful current than any east-west political or cultural ties to Boston.

Historic Deerfield’s exhibition opened on September 28, 2013 in the Wright House as a semi-permanent installation, explores the impact of family and landscape on craftsmanship and consumerism through 1) the famous “Hadley” chests of the late 17th century and the other early regional shop traditions that they obscured; 2) the emergence of the consumer revolution, through both local craftsmen and urban imports, on the shoulders of the Valley’s elite “river god” families who funded themselves through agricultural exports and munitions for the colonial wars; 3) the post-American Revolution rise of classicism that largely eclipsed the “river gods” with new consumers and craftsmen who manifest different standards of taste, education, and trading partners enhanced by the Connecticut River’s new canal system; and 4) the 19th-century rise in wealth from burgeoning industry and technology, largely through the metalworking trades, that created yet another wave of consumers and craftsmen anxious to express their newfound wealth in modern ways. These four chapters are deeply rooted in sense of place and together show the importance of reading cultural history through documented objects.

Furniture Masterworks: Tradition and Innovation in Western Massachusetts explores Western Massachusetts’ first 150 years of furniture-making with 58 objects drawn from Historic Deerfield’s collections that best exemplify the region’s signature contribution to American design history and emergence of national identity. The exhibition is a part of Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture. Four Centuries of Massachusetts Furniture is a collaborative project of Historic Deerfield and ten other institutions that features exhibitions, lectures, demonstrations and publications to celebrate the Bay State’s legacy of furniture-making. Visit fourcenturies.org

Dawn Siebel: the Endangered

Salmon Falls Gallery has been offering a series of works by Easthampton painter Dawn Siebel entitled Story Paintings for a few years now. These works are whimsical and profound, but not the most current art that Siebel is painting. Her passion has now been captured by the rapid extinction of multitudes of species here on earth. Most specifically for Siebel, the animals. In her own words:

“It’s possible no more than 15 mature bull elephants are alive today in all of Africa. In Kenya they’re called “tuskers.” Their tusks, which continue to grow as long as they live, nearly scrape the ground. When my grandmother was born, five million elephants roamed Africa. Less than one-tenth that number remains, and they are being decimated. The sixth great extinction is underway. This time it’s our fault.

“I paint portraits of endangered species because I want the viewer to recognize the equal Being looking back. I am an advocate for their value and survival. My intent is to bring to life another Being that is present, self-possessed and meeting the viewer eye-to-eye.

“In 2015, I began to meet all the animals I paint. To find them, I travel to zoos. Where possible, I spend days visiting and revisiting the same animals, sitting with them, watching, taking pictures, speaking with their keepers, speaking with them. Most of them regard me in return. Back in the studio, my sense of the animal is present as I work. These are distinct and specific beings, not generic representatives of their kind.

“The painterliness of the surface is of great interest to me. As a self-taught artist, my most important tools have always been experimentation and observation. I want to pull together the spiritual and the earthly in my work, to get to the essence of my subjects. I am not a photo-realist. My interests lie more in fur-ness than fur and I experiment continually to achieve the textural details of their hide or skin or fur or feather without specifically painting it, relying on translucent layers, textures, and cheap frayed brushes.

“Some of this complexity is rendered invisible in representation, making the paintings seem more photographic than they actually are. Surface texture and subtle variations of color can disappear before the camera. In reality, all my blacks are all built from colors that appear and melt away in changing light and movement. Details in the shadows can come and go.”

These works are all 11” x 14”, intimate portraits of beings that are living in zoos. One can’t help but see what we share with them in each painting.

Carson Converse: Modern Art Quilts

At first look, Charlemont artist Carson Converse’ quilts seem quite simple; basic geometric forms and colors. But on closer inspection you see intricate stitching with threads of contrasting colors, and that green fabric you thought was just green, has a multitude of colors within it. Sometimes a design is covered by plain muslin, making one strain to see the pattern, or possibly wait until the light is just right to bring it out. This is intentionally layered complicated art, totally worth the time it will take you to explore it. Salmon Falls Gallery is pleased to be showing some of Carson’s most recent works.

Both an artist and designer, Carson completed a master’s degree in interior design, after studying sculpture. She practiced Interior Design in New York City, a livelihood that combined two strong interests: architecture and the decorative arts. She continues to work in a range of disciplines, often blurring the line between craft, fine art and design. Fueled by curiosity and a passion for the creative process, Carson draws from diverse inspirations when developing her hand-crafted art, interiors, and products. From designing hotel interiors to creating award-winning modern art quilts, her work has a consistent focus on strength of form, materiality and attention to detail. Forward-thinking yet grounded in tradition, Carson’s work embodies a dynamic, modern sensibility. Carson has been quilting for 20 years. She began her professional quilting career with a successful line of children’s quilts, before moving towards a fine art approach to quilting. Her award winning work has been shown at venues around the world. In her own words:

“My work is a way for me to sort through seemingly paradoxical aspects of my personality. I’m drawn towards minimalism, but love intricate detail and have a natural tendency towards chaos. I strive to strip away noise until I find the essence of a piece. My goal is to create pieces that are simple, yet contain enough interest to invite the viewer to slow down and look closer. My hope is that the work unfolds as a viewer interacts with it. I am drawn to the rich history and tradition of making quilts. Working in this medium is my way of acknowledging and paying tribute to the work of women that have influenced me, and whose work has historically been undervalued.”

 

Karen Iglehart: Entering Color Through Abstraction

Exhibit: September 6 - October 27


This series of oil paintings marks a departure for Leverett painter Karen Iglehart. An artist since the mid-1970s, Iglehart is both painter and photographer, with an eye for the simplicity in the images she finds around her. Her Cottage Street studio in Easthampton has been full of landscapes, all very close to abstraction, but still one knew they were looking at land, sky and/or water. This exhibit shows only paintings in which color and shape relate to each other, and to the space within which they are found, the canvas. In the artist’s words:

"Part of my impulse to paint comes from my connection to Buddhism and a desire to create and share a space that is not filled with commentary, story lines, or thoughts to fill one's mind. Actually, I am trying to create space that allows the mind to stop, or at least pause. I would like the viewer to feel an ‘out breath,’ a space to move into.

“A few years ago I renewed my interest in photography after a visit to Venice, Italy. I was taken with the possibilities of color, shapes, and movement in the water there. These photographs led me to more abstraction in my painting, and the painting related back to more abstraction in the photography. Both media speak to me, and I am enjoying the conversation between the two.
“I have worked with abstraction of landscape for quite a while and recently moved into total abstraction, using layers of color to create space. I have been working in layers in all my previous landscape paintings, but now the color and layer takes primary presence. In terms of my actual process, color is important in my work, and therefore I spend a lot of time mixing paints. To contrast the openness of color areas, I use pencil as a type of calligraphic mark, meant to cut through the space and express an energy that is very personal and immediate. A mark ‘without thought’.”

Old Deerfield -Fall Arts and Crafts Festival 2019

Old Deerfield - Fall Arts and Crafts Festival

Saturday September 21st – 10am-5pm

Sunday September 22nd - 10am-4pm

Admission Charge

Held on the lush and beautiful grounds surroundingMemorial Hall Museum

8 Memorial Street

Deerfield, MA 01342

Featuring over 150 artisan crafters!

Pottery, Woodworking, Jewelry, Glass, Apparel, Fine art, Mixed media, Specialty foods, Live music. Craft demonstrations and more

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rebecca Clark: Fine Art Soft Pastel Workshop

​$30 covers your class fee. We ask that participants bring $5 in cash or check form to cover materials the day of the workshop.
Sign up Here: https://salmonfallsgallery.myshopify.com/collections/workshops/products/rebecca-clark-fine-art-soft-pastels-workshop-9-22-19

If you're fascinated with vibrant color and line work, and want to carve out a few hours to work with a new medium, Becky will introduce you to the immediate gratification of pastel. These classes allow you to experiment while building skill and confidence in your handling of the medium. For beginners and those with drawing experience, each session will include drawing exercises and opportunities to create finished artworks and offers an open environment of sharing knowledge and posing questions with individual attention. In a very short time span we touch on some of the most important aspects of mastering pastels. You may sign up for one, or both. If you sign up for both, the second session will hone in on already acquired skills from the first session. All materials are provided. $30 + $5 materials fee for each class.

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