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Photos: Shelter in Place Gallery
Shelter In Place is a miniature, coronavirus-inspired gallery. It was launched by artist Eben Haines, who built the maquette and invited artists to submit works to scale.

If I didn’t believe that for most of us the lockdown would last a lot longer than the current “opening up” stuff, I’d write a post about happy I am to read books to grandchildren again and how sorry I am to see artists abandon their wildly inventive pandemic pursuits.

But I’m pretty sure most of us will still be self-distancing for many moons and enjoying the output from creative people that might never have happened but for coronavirus. I love following @covidartmuseum on Instagram, for example. Some of the submissions are a little too weird for me, but most of them make me laugh out loud. Another great source is the arts website Hyperallergic, where I recently learned about a miniature gallery called Shelter in Place.

Valentina Di Liscia wrote, “In the past month, a Boston gallery has managed to mount 15 exhibitions of brand-new works, with a rigorous program still to come. With the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, arts institutions around the globe shuttered one after the other; meanwhile, Shelter in Place Gallery [@shelterinplacegallery on Instagram] was not only founded during the crisis but continues to thrive.

“Of course, there’s a catch. Shelter In Place is a miniature gallery, measuring 20 by 30 inches and exhibiting scaled-down works in a model structure created using foam core, mat board, balsa wood, and plexiglass. Artists can submit works at a 1:12 or one inch to the foot scale, allowing them to create and show even ambitious, seemingly large-scale pieces — a romantic, suspended latex installation by Mary Pedicini; wall-to-wall canvases by B. Chehayeb — while traditional exhibition spaces remain closed. With high ceilings and skylights that flood the space with sunshine, the condensed gallery is impressively lifelike, giving artists room to get particularly creative. …

“The brilliant concept was devised by Eben Haines, a painter and graphic designer for exhibitions at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston.

‘With the ongoing shutdowns and lockdowns across the globe, artists are having to stay home … So I’ve built SIP gallery as a new platform for Boston Artists (and eventually from all over) to allow for large scale artworks to be made at a desk or dining room table.’ …

“The idea first came to him back in 2018, long before the pandemic, when Haines was asked to participate in a group show at the Porch Gallery in Minneapolis titled Art Fair. The concept was simple: each artist received a 10-by-10-inch, white-painted MDF box that would serve as an ersatz fair booth where they could show scaled work. …

“Months later, as a rainy day project, he decided to create his own 1:12 scale model to house maquettes for large-scale works that he could not produce in his studio due to space or financial constraints. ‘But then the weather got better, and the more or less abandoned model stayed tucked away in my studio,’ he said.

“Enter the current crisis. Haines was one of more than 300 workers furloughed from the MFA Boston, which closed its doors in March … Haines dusted off the gallery model from years back and began making miniature paintings, initially as a strategy to continue working in his reduced studio space, which had shrunk from 400 square feet to a mere 10. But it dawned on him that other artists might be in a similar predicament, confined to less-than-ideal work conditions and aching to share their creations in a meaningful way. …

“All of the works on view are original, and it prioritizes new pieces as opposed to small copies of existing ones. Digital copies are all but prohibited. … So far, all works have arrived ready to be hung, which has made installations easier. …

“Haines emphasizes the project is not commercial; instead, any sales inquiries received are rerouted to the artists themselves, or to their galleries. Nicole Duennebier’s exhibition, for instance, nearly sold out before they could deliver the mini-paintings back to her gallery, 13FOREST. …

“Said Haines. ‘One of my ambitions for this project, besides urging people to step outside of their crisis mode for a little bit, is for artists to be able to use their submission proposals and photographs of their installed work to send to galleries, residencies, or grant programs, and have some momentum when the country opens back up. …

” ‘We’re honestly so busy with the local response we’ve had that it seems daunting to open it up, but once going to the post office gets a little safer and easier, I’d love to be able to show work from outside Boston,’ said Haines.”

Read the whole article at Hyperallergic, here. The pictures are amazing.

Wilhelm Neusser, “Untitled Bog Painting” (2020), oil on linen, a miniature.

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Photo: CBC News
Canadian grocery stores and art galleries are starting to include indigenous languages on their labels. North West Company, which has grocery stores in more than 120 communities across northern Canada, embraced the idea after it was piloted by a 2015 school project. Snapping QR codes lets you hear word pronunciation, too.

Yesterday, for the first time, Native American women were elected to Congress: in Kansas, a Ho-Chunk, and in New Mexico, a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe. Of course, it’s about time, but it also seems to be part of a trend bringing more visibility to indigenous people. Very belated, but good.

Canada is actually farther along in trying to address and rectify transgressions against First Nations. The following story covers one aspect of that effort.

Judith H. Dobrzynski writes at the Art Newspaper, “Canada Day, 1 July, [ushered] in a new era for the presentation of Modern and contemporary Canadian art at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto. The 13,000 sq ft J.S. McLean Centre for Indigenous and Canadian Art — which added the ‘Indigenous’ to its name last year when the museum established a Department of Canadian and Indigenous Art — [has] reimagined galleries that give primacy to First Nations and Inuit art for the first time.

“In each McLean gallery, ‘contemporary indigenous art starts the conversation with Canadian art.’ says Wanda Nanibush, who became the AGO’s first curator of indigenous art in 2016. Nanibush and Georgiana Uhlyarik, the AGO’s curator of Canadian art, have designed the centre’s display of 75 works around six themes: origins, self, land, water, transformations and ‘indigenous2indigenous.’ …

“Works by Canadian artists such as Emily Carr and Florence Carlyle are hung in dialogue with works by indigenous artists including Carl Beam and Rebecca Belmore … For instance, in the ‘self’ gallery, Belmore’s ‘Rising to the Occasion’ (1987-91), a dress that the Anishinaabe-kwe artist wore in a performance responding to a royal visit to Ontario, is paired with Joanne Tod’s painting ‘Chapeau Entaillé’ (1989) of a woman in a similar dress. … Labels in the McLean Centre are now written in indigenous languages (either the local Anishinaabemowin language or Inuktitut), as well as English and French.”

More at the Art Newspaper, here.

Art: Rebecca Belmore
Belmore’s “Rising to the Occasion” (1987-91) is a dress that the Anishinaabe-kwe artist wore in a performance responding to a royal visit to Ontario. It was recently displayed at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto.

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Photo: Canwood Gallery
An art lover in Herefordshire, England, has turned a cow shed and an old tractor barn into an elegant gallery and event locale.

I love reading about something old getting a new lease on life and serving a completely different purpose. On this farm, workaday buildings were creatively adapted for an art gallery.

Vanessa Thrope writes at the Guardian, “A cow shed and an old tractor barn in rural Herefordshire are not where most people would go in search of the avant garde or the latest in abstract painting. But retired farmer Stephen Dale is challenging the assumption that modern art is best appreciated by city dwellers.

“A run of exhibitions staged by the 74-year-old at the free public art gallery he set up two years ago in Checkley, near Hereford, have now drawn big names from the art world and proved the scale of an appetite for the unexpected in the countryside.

“Canwood Gallery and Sculpture Park, built by Dale on arable land he once farmed, is opening a show of previously unseen paintings by the veteran Royal Academician Anthony Whishaw. The exhibition, Experiences of Nature, also features the work of Whishaw’s late wife, the artist Jean Gibson, as well as a sculpture by her famous former pupil, Nicole Farhi.

“Dale’s unusual, charitable plan to create a gallery in an area of outstanding natural beauty was financed by the sale of much of his land. The farmer’s strong feeling for unconventional art emerged more than 40 years ago, while he was undergoing a difficult and long round of experimental treatments for leukaemia in the 1970s.

“Travelling down to London to take part in a series of drug trials at St Bartholomew’s hospital, Dale entertained himself in his free time with visits to art galleries. An early trip to see Carl Andre’s notorious arrangement of bricks, Equivalent VIII, at the Tate changed his life. A passion for modern art was born. ‘It may sound strange, but the hairs on the back of my neck stood up. I guess I fell in love with the bricks,’ Dale said. …

“In Canwood’s first major exhibition last summer, Bricks in the Sticks – A Farmer’s Inspiration, Dale featured a piece made by Carl Andre himself. The American artist’s Isoclast 07 graphite bricks installation, bought by Dale at auction, stood alongside the work of other international artists. A show of Matisse prints followed, and visitors rolled in.

“ ‘Running a farm and running a gallery turn out to be equally stressful,’ said Dale. ‘I did not expect the numbers of people we have coming, nor the standard of artists.’

“While Dale aims at the sort of regional significance enjoyed by the Yorkshire Sculpture Park near Wakefield, he also likes the idea of the example set by former farmer and Glastonbury Festival host Michael Eavis at Worthy Farm in Somerset: ‘A festival like that for visual arts would be something.’ ” Dale gives profits from the gallery to the hospital that saved him.

Read more about the artists here.

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I liked this story about a 91-year-old artist having his first solo show. John sent it to me. I hope the Arlington Advocate leaves it up for a while. (I know that all the profiles I wrote for the newspaper chain of which the Advocate is a part — and all my theater reviews — are long gone.)

A solo exhibition called ‘Umberto Centofante: A Life’s Work” was featured at the Arlington Center for the Arts (ACA) until last week and highlighted 40 years of still lifes, portraits and landscapes.

Heather Beasley Doyle writes, “When Umberto Centofante tells a story about his life or talks about his art, a distinct, almost palpable energy underscores his words. His eyes light up, his body springs lightly and a hearty laugh punctuates his paragraphs. …

“Centofante’s life began in Pontecorvo, Italy, where he grew up on his family’s farm. When he was eight years old, he says, his teacher gave him a sketchbook to take home with him.

“ ‘All of a sudden some ideas came into my head,’ Centofante recalled, and he filled the book with drawings of farm life. …

“The drawings earned him a prize and the opportunity to receive professional art instruction — a chance he had to pass up so he could help work the farm. Eventually, Centofante became a police officer and worked in Rome. After World War Two ended, he emigrated from Italy, bound for the Boston area and a job as a truck mechanic at Garwood Industries in Brighton he secured with help from an uncle who lived in Milton. Centofante had never been a mechanic, but he learned with the same intuition that had enabled him to fill the sketchbook.

“Centofante is ‘self-taught in everything,’ including painting, according to the oldest of his four children, Elaine Gleason. …

“In the Gibbs Gallery, Centofante’s paintings of boats ferrying passengers through white-capped brilliant blue seas share space with glowing, color-soaked portraits of children and exacting, nearly monochromatic nature scenes such as ‘High Moon.’ …

“Centofante says he never sketches out a project ahead of time — that he spends more time thinking and planning a painting than setting paint to canvas.

“ ‘I don’t design; I just start. I find the resolution very quickly,’ he explained. …

“Asked why he paints, he replied simply: ‘It makes me feel good.’ ”

Read more of the story at the Arlington Advocate.

Photo: Arlington.Wicked.Local.com

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13Forest is an art and craft gallery in Arlington that invites Opera on Tap singers to perform at openings. Our daughter-in-law sent us an e-mail about this today, and we went. It was charming.

From Mark Adamo’s opera Little Women, the young performers sang Amy’s aria, Prof. Bhaer’s aria, and Beth’s, a gentle farewell. There was also a song based on a letter a soldier wrote to his wife before a battle in the Civil War.

A short and sweet event. Made us wonder why more galleries don’t do this.

Opera on Tap taking a bow at 13Forest Art Gallery. Read about the national organization bringing opera to the people here.

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This was a weekend for looking at art. The quilts on the left are by Valerie Maser-Flanagan and are on display at the Concord Library. My favorite was the one with the vertical stripes.

My husband and I also visited Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum, back in action after being threatened with extinction by a president who lost his job over the ensuing uproar. I must say, the Rose presents some pretty inaccessible stuff, but the weird films by Mika Rottenberg were the highlight of the visit for me today. Mesmerizing.

The films carried me back to Kenneth Anger’s and Andy Warhol’s experimental movies in the ’60s. I didn’t understand those films either, but I was fascinated. Rottenberg’s kooky stories also was reminded me (my husband, too) of an offbeat video Asakiyume lent us recently called Cold Fever, which we loved. (Saying it was about a young Japanese businessman getting lost in Iceland in winter — on a quest to honor his dead parents with ceremonies he doesn’t believe in — hardly does it justice.)

Sebastian Smee at the Boston Sunday Globe has more on Rottenberg’s videos, and he covers the other exhibits, too.

Also this weekend, I stopped in at a gallery I like in Lincoln. They were featuring several interesting artists, including the photographer Leonard Freed, below. And they have other great work coming up March 4 — take a taste here.

Photo: Leonard Freed
From “Black and White in America” exhibit at the Clark Gallery in Lincoln. See review by Mark Feeney in the Boston Globe, here.

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Lately, I have been following a very artistic art consultant on twitter called Liz Devlin.

Here is what her website says about her: “Since launching FLUX. in 2008, I have provided an online resource for local artists and Arts enthusiasts in the Boston area, and beyond. Through weekly event coverage, artist interviews, Open Studios recaps, and educational posts, the site enables readers to feel informed, engaged in, and connected to the pulse of Boston Arts.”

Here’s the part that floors me: “My 9-5 is in the corporate world as a Financial Analyst.” Gosh, how can she possibly have time for it all?

She continues, “My downtime, in-between times and restless nights are spent actively pursuing and supporting creative endeavors.”

A reason to follow her on twitter is that she keeps up on everything in the Boston arts scene for you. You can also check out weekly lists of events — with commentary — at her website. For example, here.

I especially like the nostalgic, off-kilter look of this piece in the current  Montserrat exhibit.

Art: Andrew Houle’s “Leaving East Gloucester.”
Montserrat College of Art Galleries, 23 Essex St., Beverly, Mass., through February 14

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Photo: Getty Popperfoto
L.S. Lowry, (pictured in 1957), the artist from Manchester, is the subject of a major new show at the Tate Britain gallery.

Some years ago when my husband was in England on business, he acquired a print of workers coming and going outside a factory. The original was by L.S. Lowry, whose paintings of industrial Britain turn out to be very popular in the UK.

Popularity, however, is not a ticket to being shown at the Tate Britain. Belatedly, Lowry will receive a retrospective in 2014.

Oliver Wainwright at the Daily Mail writes, “Clouds of smoke belch from forests of chimneys, while armies of spidery figures scuttle to and fro between narrow terrace houses and imposing factory gates.

“Crowds of fans shiver on the edge of a football field, a fist-fight breaks out, and barefoot children tease a stray cat on the street corner.

“These are the scenes depicted in the haunting paintings of L.S. Lowry who, more than any other artist, managed to capture the strange, bleak beauty of daily life in northern industrial towns.

“His dream-like images captured the popular imagination, adorning chocolate boxes and biscuit tins, tea towels and jigsaws.

“Yet they are scarcely to be found on the walls of our major national galleries. The Tate owns 23 of his works, but has only ever exhibited one on its walls in the past 20 years — and then only briefly. …

“Why has it taken so long?

” ‘He’s a victim of his own fan base,’ said Chris Stephens, Tate Britain’s Head of Displays. ‘What makes Lowry so popular is the same thing which stops him being the subject of serious critical attention. What attracts so many is a sort of sentimentality about him.’

“This is a strangely inverted piece of art world logic,” Wainwright comments, “where the popularity of an artist is seen as an obstacle to showing their work.”

If you’re an artist, be careful to stay off “chocolate boxes and biscuit tins, tea towels and jigsaws” — or wait to be discovered by art experts of a future generation.

More here and here.

 © The estate of L.S. Lowry
L.S. Lowry, Coming out of School, 1927

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I continue to be a fan of street art and the way it allows informal artists to express themselves while also letting passersby enjoy both homespun and professional achievements as they go about their errands.

In Rhode Island, there’s a painted rock. Everyone paints it, and no painting lasts for long. In the summer, paintings wishing someone happy birthday may last only a few hours, as mine did one Birthday Week when Suzanne turned 16 and John turned 21. (They didn’t wake up in time to see it.)

There has also been some amazing work by experts on that rock, too, but it gets respect for only a couple days. It’s essential to capture it with a camera.

Yesterday I passed along an idea to a gallery owner that she liked. How about painting the painted rock to look like a rock!? Crazy, huh? She may do it, too. She has a painting of rocks in the current show that she could replicate. She knows she’d have to take a photograph, though, or the rock might be painted over before anyone sees it.

Meanwhile, here’s a nice story about street art in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn.

Amy O’Leary writes at the NY Times, “Growing up, Joseph Ficalora would sit on the roof of his family’s steel fabrication business. In Bushwick, Brooklyn, in the 1980s, it was one of the few safe places outdoors. The view was grim. The streets were dirty. Graffiti was endless. …

“Most people want to hold onto their past as it was, but Mr. Ficalora has found greater comfort in obliterating it, bathing the neighborhood in paint.

“Today the rooftop of [his] family business, GCM Steel, offers an eye-popping panorama of street art. More than 50 multicolored murals have transformed a swath of nearby buildings into a vast outdoor gallery called the Bushwick Collective, anchored at the intersection of Troutman Street and St. Nicholas Avenue.” More.

Photo: Victor J. Blue for The New York Times
Gaia, well-known among street artists, paints — legally — on a building in Bushwick, Brooklyn.

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We went downtown to have lunch at the Whitney Museum with friends and to take in the Real/Surreal exhibit.

Favorite artists like Charles Sheeler, Mardsen Hartley, and Grant Wood were featured. I liked the eerie emptiness of Edward Hopper’s “Seventh Avenue” and the anxious denizens of George Tooker’s subway world.

Sounds unnerving, but in surfacing the alienation, I think the artists make one feel the possibility of getting a grip on it.

Afterward, we walked up Madison, stopping at a gallery in the Carlyle Hotel that was showing Magritte works, some for sale.

I have always liked Magritte, with his bowler-hatted men blocked by giant green apples and his nighttime streets overarched by daytime skies. And I especially like him because once in a workshop, I directed a Tom Stoppard one-act play inspired by him, After Magritte. It was the best fun!

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I like to think I know something about the nonwork interests of my colleagues, interests that may be — in spite of their workday professionalism — at least as much a part of who they are as their jobs. There’s the woman employed as a customer service rep who gets her kicks out of Tough Mudder competitions (extreme sports in mud). Or the editor who bakes bread every day. Or the economist who composes choral music and creates arrangements for flute choir.

Everyone has at least one other life.

But I guess if you’re not physically in the same office, if don’t have lunch together or chat in the ladies room or on the subway, you never find out about people’s other lives.

That’s why I was utterly floored this week when a hard-driving, business-oriented colleague in the Washington office sent around an e-mail saying she would be away from her desk for a month at an artist retreat in Korea. Huh?

Says I, “Oh! Are you an artist?”

Says she: “Yes” and sends me her website.

Oh, my gosh. This is who she really is: a sculptor and installation artist with a record of shows and a gorgeous portfolio. How does she even find time to be hard-driving and business-oriented in the day job?

It makes me wonder what else I’m missing, whose real life is right in front of me and I’m not noticing.

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The first art opening of the season at Jessie Edwards Studio is great not only for the art but for catching up with friends after the long winter.

I greeted David and asked why he hadn’t been at the 350th anniversary festivities, given that his family goes back so far on the island. He said he had been putting in lobster pots that day. He has put in 30 this year. Last Saturday he pulled 11 lobsters, which he doesn’t think is much for 30 pots. His extended family eats them all.

Another friend is writing a biography of his parents, which he intends to self-publish. He hopes the cost doesn’t keep him from getting the words that he wants on his tombstone: “I broke even.”

Given the crowds at openings and all the catching up, you have to be pretty determined to see the art. I nudged my way through temporary gaps and checked out everything.

Kathleen Noonan Lang was showing her island monotypes. See them here. I especially liked her “Sailor’s Delight,” with its rosy evening sky reminiscent of the weather rhyme “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight.”

When my cousin Sally had a show of her monotypes in Connecticut, I asked her to describe her approach. She wrote:

“To make a monotype, you basically create an image on a sheet of plexiglass and run it through a press. There are dozens of techniques but my tools of choice are primarily paper towels and Q-tips; very sophisticated. I roll on a layer of ink on the plate and then push it around with the paper towels and Q-tips, run it through a press and then work on the plate again and print another layer. Often I’ll develop several prints at one time, working on the ghost impression left over on the plate, rolling on a transparent base to raise the viscosity of the remaining ink (as my father would have said), and print it again. That’s the short version. Most of my monotypes have 3-4 layers. It is a very exciting process and there is always an element of surprise as when the paper is pulled from the plate.”

I like that sort of surprise.  It’s kind of like writing a blog post and being surprised by where your train of thought leads you. In playwriting class we are encouraged to surprise ourselves that way.

I wanted to include some clay art from Suzanne here, but she says she hasn’t been taking pottery long enough to have anything to display. Her brother said, “How about the shell she painted for my birthday?”

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