Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Visit to Boston's Institute for Contemporary Art

     After visiting with my mentor, Shellburne, on August 18th, I went to Boston’s Institute for Contemporary Art.  They had a Josiah McElheny exhibit, of which I thought his “Three Screens for Looking at Abstraction” were the most intriguing to me.  I was attracted to the way he juxtaposed geometry with reflections, two dimensions with three dimensions, and created a sense of endless space.  He did this by projecting film footage “culled from the history of abstract film” and projected it onto geometric constructions of stretched cloth and mirrors.
     There was also an exhibit by the Brazilians, Os Gemeos (brothers Gustavo & Otavio Pandolfo), who got their start as street graffiti artists.  There were a number of large, colorful, and playfully imaginative paintings that I enjoyed.  But the most interesting piece was “Os Musicos” (The Mucisians).  This was set up in a corner of the gallery, with a painted organ facing the corner.  Hanging on the two opposing corner walls where a large number of old stereo speakers, each painted as a different human face with the speaker representing their open mouths.  A few had video screens with black and white videos clips running instead of speaker-mouths.  One box had a red police light flashing and rotating on top.  The boxes formed quite an assemblage of characters.  I asked a museum employee if the organ could be played, and she said a musician would be playing the organ in 20 minutes.  (It turned out we were lucky – the organ was being played only one Saturday a month, and this was one of the Saturdays.)  Marti Epstein, composition Professor at Berkley and the New England Conservatory, played the organ for us.  And the result was wonderfully curious.  Each key projected its sound from a different speaker, and each speaker had a different ‘voice’.  Some were musical, like salsa or hip-hop.  Some were spoken phrases or single words.  The result was a sense of walking down a very busy city street, and being engulfed by the cacophony of many different people’s voices, cultures, and beings.
     There were a number of sculptures at the ICA that I really liked.  One of my favorites was “Hanging Fire” by English artist Cornelia Parker.  This sculpture was composed of many pieces of significantly charred wood strung on monofilament and suspended from the ceiling.  The burnt wood was from the remains of a building that was set alight by an arsonist.  The way the sculpture was composed suggested a human constructed fire, like a camp-fire, with and sparks flying out and high up into the air.  The other sculpture that attracted my attention still haunts me.  This sculpture was made by the Columbian artist Doris Salcedo and entitled “Atrabiliarios” (from the words ‘atra billis’ meaning ‘melancholy associated with mourning’).  This sculpture was composed with drywall (recessed into the gallery wall), cow-bladder, surgical thread, and actual shoes that belonged to women abducted in Columbia.   The shoes stood on their toes, facing out, in recessed boxes in the wall.  Cow-bladder was stretched over the opening on the boxes, and sutured tightly to the wall with surgical thread.  The effect made my heart break for these lost women, and felt as if they were trapped by physically painful means, encased but still able to see through a dim veil of reality, and lost in a timelessness as though buried or embalmed alive.
     I was pleased that there were a number of photographs.  I was glad to see a photography by Philip-Lorca di Corcia, and Anne Collier’s “Open Book #3”.  But the series that left me pondering was Moyra Davey’s “The Whites of Your Eyes”.   This was a composed by a series of chromogenic prints of images taken at her home (stacks of books, dishes, a dog) set in a grid on the wall without framing.  Each one of these images had been folded into six part, addressed with white labels, stamped, and sent through the mail to gallery or museum curators.  The images being from her everyday mundane life made these seem like a series of visual letters.  And in an age of e-mail, tweets, and Facebook it made these letter-photographs all the more appealingly interesting.

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