As a juvenile film fanatic, I was given copies of "Truffaut/Hitchcock" and "Stanley Kubrick Directs" one Christmas or birthday in the early '70s, back in the days when you could see all their films at the Brattle or the Orson Welles or at your nearest college film series. DVDs and cable have pretty much put an end to those outlets, but "Psycho" and "Dr. Strangelove" remain perhaps disturbingly close to the top of my list of all-time favorites. And now the Museum of Fine Arts is offering a chance to take in Kubrick's complete filmography in order on the big screen in February.
Offerings include: "Fear and Desire," the little-seen 1953 war allegory in a print restored by the Library of Congress (Feb. 1, 2, 3 and 7); Kubrock's first masterpiece, the World War I drama of cowardice and heroism "Paths of Glory" in a print restored by UCLA (Feb. 7 and 9); and of course his 1964 peak, "Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb," a bit of Cold War insanity that's a shortgun wedding of "Fail Safe" and "Duck Soup," that's also one of Peter Sellers' greatest films (Feb. 14 and 16). And of course those great Kubrick couples - Hal & Dave, and Tom & Nicole - are also on the schedule.
Tickets are $11 (less for members, students, seniors, etc.) at www.mfa.org/film, 800-440-6975 or the MFA ticket desks. Click the web site to find out which theater each show is in and other info.
Photo: Kubrick and Sellers on the "Strangelove" set, © Sony/Columbia Pictures Industries Inc. / The Stanley Kubrick Archive
Between the time she sent her press release and when I actually read it, Naomi Slipp's Kickstarter reached its goal, so some of the suspense has gone out of this. But you still have one day to kick in more to support the exhibition she's organizing, Teaching the Body: Artistic Anatomy in the American Academy, from Copley, Eakins and Rimmer to Contemporary Artists, set for Jan. 31-March 31 at the Boston University Art Gallery. Slipp, a BU grad student, says she's trying to create "a unique project that will draw together the Boston arts and medical communities and provoke a rich conversation about what it means to picture the human body." Given how large and important those two communities are here, and how interesting the results can be on the rare occasions when they interact - Remember the giant photos of cancer cells at MIT? - this seems like a worthwhile project. premiums available to backers include a copy of "Teaching the Body" (the illustrated exhibition catalog) and a private exhibition tour with Slipp.
The exhibit is especially challenging behind the scenes as she is arranging to borrow (and prepare and ship) works from all over, While she has secured significant funding, one source dropped out late in the process, leaving her with a $2,500 shortfall. Hence the Kickstarter. And her laptop got ripped off this week, which means a little extra would probably be appreciated.
From her Kickstarter sales pitch: "Over eighty works in the exhibition [many never exhibited before], including drawings, prints, sculptures, paintings, and texts, illustrate the relationship between American art and medicine, a collaboration founded because of their shared interest in the human body and the study of anatomy. Included in the exhibition are: illustrated anatomical lecture tickets; photographic stereoviews; anatomical sketches, studies, and models; pathological anatomy illustrations; and American anatomy books written for women and children. Fine art created by American artists Harriet Hosmer (1830-1908), Kiki Smith (1954- ), Thomas Eakins (1844-1916), William Rimmer (1816-1879), Hyman Bloom (1913-2009), Frank Duveneck (1848-1919), and many others, along with visual works from the 'everyday' including magazines and prints, will illustrate the ways that artists studied artistic anatomy. Perhaps, most important, this exhibition examines both what that study meant for these artists and for the way we, today, think about our own bodies and how they work."
You don't have to put on the funkalicious shades like Berklee College of Music President (and drummer) Roger Brown did to greet honorary degree recipient George Clinton the other day. It's easy to see with the naked eye that Berklee's impact has grown under Brown's tenure, which began in 2004.
The museums have been getting most of the ink lately when it comes to cultural impact around here, as the ICA makes itself felt in its new digs, the Museum of Fine Arts unveils its massive makeover, and the Gardner shows off its sleek addition. But despite its own changing profile and big expansion plans, Berklee hasn't gotten quite the same attention.
When I moved back to Mass. almost 15 years ago, the venerable music campus still had to remind us journos at times that it was a college now, not a school, even though that change had taken place back around 1970, when a relative of mine was taking classes there in big-band arranging. Jazz was still what people thought of when they thought of Berklee - the names most commonly mentioned were Pat Metheny and faculty member Gary Burton - as well as the Berklee Performance Center. Those in the neighborhood also knew it as the source of all those kids with instrument cases clogging the sidewalks around Tower Records.
The kids are still there, though Tower isn't. Berklee's student body seems to grow ever more talented and diverse, like this bluegrass fiddler from Prague. Now, though, folks like Clinton regularly pass through the campus, sometimes performing for the public, but almost always hanging and jamming with students. Students, alums and the occasional passing bigger name drop into the school's Cafe 939 to perform. Student and faculty ensembles pop up all over the city with (usually free) performances, especially in warmer weather and outdoors. And in September the Beantown Jazz Festival draws a hearteningly huge and diverse crowd to Columbus Ave as well as venues around the city. (Wish they'd called it something other than Beantown, but ....)
Berklee has long done well at the Grammys, but often with producer or songwriter credits that don't get much attention. Student-turned-faculty-member-turned-jazz-phenom Esperanza Spalding lives out of town now but did much to raise Berklee's image with that surprising 2011 Grammy win for best new artist. Spalding also appears on alum and percussion professor Terri Lyne Carrington's "The Mosaic Project," which followed her into the Grammy spotlight this year by winning best vocal jazz album.
Trey Parker of "South Park" and "Book of Mormon" fame and the brilliant singer and guitarist Susan Tedeschi are also alums who were among Berklee's eight Grammy winners this year, as is songwriter Jeff Bhasker, who won best rap song for “All of the Lights” by Kanye West, Rihanna, Kid Cudi, and Fergie.
There are plenty of other signs that Berklee is hitting it right, but I'll name just one more: the Rethink Music conference, which Berklee runs with Reed Midem and Harvard's Berkman Center for Society and the Internet. Last year's event drew a full house of music business insiders to yak for two solid days about whatever the hell it is that's happened to the industry and where it goes next. There were endless podium and hallway debates about copyright and digital distribution and bands charting their own course in the increasingly chaotic field.
This year's event, featuring keynotes from the president of Pitchfork Media and the chief content officer for Spotify, is set for April 22-24 again at the Hynes Convention Center. I encourage Brown - no relation, by the way - to break out the shades, and maybe some nice stack heels too.
Photo of Clinton and Brown courtesy Berklee.
Made one of my regular visits to MASSMoCA in North Adams last weekend and found that the current exhibits - at least the ones I could hit in a couple of hours - are as usual a mix of the sublime and the ridiculous. At the sublime end of the spectrum of course is Sol LeWitt: A Wall Drawing Retrospective, which has its own building and its own web site and is expected to stick around through 2033. I've been through it perhaps half a dozen times since it opened in 2008, and the work still feels like genius.
The Workers: Precarity/Invisibility/Mobility, on display through April 14, does something different for a MoCA show, tackling its subject head-on, almost polemically at times. The idea is to show how far labor has fallen from the days of Rosie the Riveter in our era of economic despair, outsourcing, migrancy and exploitation. A series of photos shows workers increasingly buried on a beach, in sight of distant factories, until there's nothing left of them. A nearby installation combines a workers' break room and a gallows, like a New Yorker cartoon that needs no caption.
Most compelling is Adrian Paci's tragicomic "Centro di permanenza temporanea," a large-screen video that shows solemn-faced minority workers lining up to climb one of those wheeled airport staircases - but instead of boarding a plane, they are left standing stoically on the staircase in the middle of the airport, while the shiny jets of commerce taxi and take off all around them. (Image courtesy MASSMoCA.) The video is specifically intended to comment on the plight of undocumented workers, but the sense of abandonment seems to apply to pretty much everyone these days. This five-minute film was a kick in the head.
Upstairs in Building 4 is the exhibit Nari Ward: Sub Mirage Lignum, running through February. This is one of those shows where the scale of the works is designed to take advantage of the huge spaces at MASSMoCA, so that they make an impact even if the curatorial explanations don't always convince. The centerpiece of Ward's show is "Nu Colossus," which features a fishing boat cut in sections and a giant, conical basket-woven fish trap of a kind used in Ward's native Jamaica. One's immediate impression is that the hunter has become the hunted. But of course such obvious interpretation is never correct here at MoCA, and the accompanying text informs us, "This duality of seduction and entrapment is key to Ward's idea of mirage, which as an image both distorts reality and points to a sense of need."
I sometimes feel as though I am insulting the artist when I talk about what's most affecting in these giant installations, as it's often different than the stated intent of the work. Does my sense of wonder at their immediate visceral impact trump the Moebius-strip curator-speak of the cerebral explanations? Disbelieving some of the airy conceptual constructions does not make one a Philistine, does it?
By itself, bringing a boat into the gallery no longer floats mine. But a look into the gaping maw of the fish trap - filled with broken furniture (more on that in a sec) and lit in sinister chiarscuro by the gaps in the basket weave - was a stunner. All I could see was an upsettingly intense still-life of a tornado's unholy inner chaos, looking up into the funnel as it sucked away me, Dorothy and Toto. My crappy cellphone pic can't do it justice, but perhaps it doesn't matter, as this interpretation is apparently an unintended consequence of the artist's craft and vision, and nowhere mentioned in the text. Thanks to eavesdropping, though, I know I'm not the only one who saw it immediately.
The furniture, as well as the foam rubber, resistors and capacitors making up Ward's giant "Mango Tourists" in an adjacent gallery, were sourced around the museum, which occupies the former Sprague Electric factory complex. A large installation in the Workers exhibit re-creates and comments on an "artwork" of disposable cups stuck in a chain link fence at the Sprague plant during a 1970 strike. To use a couple of verbs much favored by curators nowadays, it would be interesting to "unpack" the ways that these works "interrogate" the site's history. There are places in the museum where the workers' passages (in both senses of the word) remain vividly present.
Finally I wandered into the football-field sized Building 5 gallery, the site of MASSMoCA's most mind-blowing triumphs and its most hilarious misfires. The sheer size of the joint brings out artistic ambitions that raise the stakes so high even the misfires are must-sees. That, alas, was not the case with Katharina Grosse's one floor up more highly, an exhibit which ended, fortunately or unfortunately, on New Year's Day.
The main portion of the exhibit consists of truckloads of dirt heaped on the gallery floor, spray-painted in various colors and stuck with large, styrofoam rods that look like the icy wastes of Superman's home planet. It called to mind the el cheapo alien landscapes on the original "Star Trek." The exhibit text says that Grosse's work "opens up a new path for painting while rearranging conventions, hierarchy and our very habits of seeing." Also: "the anarchic work embraces a state of ambiguity that allows for alternative ways of processing what is seen." To which I can only say, uh huh.
NORTH ADAMS - MASSMoCA, the Clark Art Institute and other cultural attractions in the North Adams-Williamstown area are once again accessible to eastern Mass. residents without a long Mass Pike re-route or a detour through dueling banjos country in the Berkshires.
On Dec. 15 the state reopened the stretch of Route 2 that runs through Charlemont, Savoy, Florida and North Adams after $23 million in rapid-fire repairs. The road, a key-east west link in that corner of the state, was washed out in Tropical Storm Irene in late August.
Take it from someone with family in North Adams and an interest in MASSMoCA, the Clark, the Williams College art museum and various other attractions: doing without Route 2 would have made a winter trip here less than appealing. The state-recommended detour added considerably to the travel time. In November we took a shorter route recommended by MASSMoCA, which traversed some beautiful valleys and slopes in the backwoods north of Route 2, but also brought us to a near head-on with a convoy of giant dump trucks carrying fill for the Route 2 project, on a narrow two-lane blacktop with no shoulders. There were Trucks use lower gears signs and hair-raising descents.
I spent a night out on Interstate 93 during the Fast 14 bridge-replacement project for a story, and was flabbergasted by what they could do in the course of a week. I'm even more impressed by the Route 2 project, which we drove this week. We'd heard a bridge was out and some other areas might have seen a little washout, but in fact it looks like several hundreds yards of roadway have been replaced (in different stretches), in one of the most hilly and remote high-traffic stretches in the state, through steep hills, with precipitous dropoffs to the Cold River on the other side. Banks and long cement retaining walls are or will be rebuilt, entire stretches of river seem to have new channels, landslides have been cleared away, etc. We got our $23 million worth, although it looks like the project will continue through the winter.
It's safe to go back to MoCA, in other words, and now through Sunday is your last chance to see Katharina Grosse's "One Floor Up More Highly" (right) in the museum's ginormous Gallery 5. Strangely, it bears a certain resemblance to the piles of fill at the Route 2 constuction sites. A museum official said today that they didn't think the road closure had affected visitor traffic much, but that they've noticed more people coming through since Route 2 reopened on Dec. 15, so maybe it hurt a little bit after all.
One other note. If any of you are fond of stopping in the Mohawk Trail State Forest during the warm weather months to use the unofficial nude beach just downstream from the state campground, I have bad news. The trees that shielded the site from the road are gone.
Boston art lovers might want to pencil in a trip to Maine on their calendars for next fall. Winslow Homer's studio at Prouts Neck will open to the public on Sept. 24, 2012 and should be a major new destination for cultural tourism and scholarship. The Boston-born painter, who is buried in Cambridge's Mt. Auburn Cemetery, lived and painted at the studio from 1883 until his death in 1910. It's already a National Historic Landmark.
The studio was purchased by the Portland Museum of Art in 2006 from Charles Homer Willauer, the great grand-nephew of Homer. The museum has raised $8.5 million toward a $10.5m goal to support the acquisition, preservation, and future of the Studio. It has been restoring the building to the period when Homer lived there.
“The opening of the Winslow Homer Studio will be a pivotal moment in American art history. For the first time, visitors will be able to experience the Studio as it was during Homer’s time and discover the actual location where he created his best-known paintings,” Museum Director Mark H. C. Bessire said in announcing the opening.
OK, "pivotal" might be a little much, but there's no question this is big news for art lovers.
Homer's work includes many iconic images of the New England coast (Gloucester figures prominently after Maine). To celebrate the opening, the museum will present Weatherbeaten: The Late Paintings of Winslow Homer, on view September 22 through December 30, 2012. Comprising more than 30 major oils and watercolors painted at the Studio, Weatherbeaten will feature works from museums including the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown.
The Portland museum rightly boasts of its Homer collection. Homer first exhibited at the Museum in 1893, showing the painting "Signal of Distress." In 1976, philanthropist Charles Shipman Payson gave 17 Homer paintings to the Museum and $8 million to build an addition to house the collection. The museum’s also holds his first oil painting, "Sharpshooter," and a nearly comprehensive collection of 400 illustrations.
Tickets for studio tours won't go on sale until next summer, but if you want to start making plans now, click to www.portlandmuseum.org.
Image credit: Winslow Homer
United States, 1836 - 1910
oil on canvas
28 1/2 x 48 3/8 inches
Portland Museum of Art, Maine. Bequest of Charles Shipman Payson. Photo by Melville D. McLean.
Gloucester native Fitz Henry Lane painted abundantly on Cape Ann in the 1800s, capturing both its natural beauty and its maritime bustle. This Saturday (27th), the Cape Ann Museum is offering a walking tour of "Fitz Henry Lane’s Gloucester," focused on his particular neighborhood.
After establishing himself as an artist in Boston, Lane returned to Gloucester in 1847 and eventually bought land at the crest of Duncan’s Point with a view of the harbor. There he built a seven-gabled granite house and studio. He took advantage of the sweeping views of Gloucester and the harbor, painting with both an attention to detail and command of of the intangibles of shore light. Though greats like Homer and Hopper painted here as well, Lane can be considered the essential Gloucester artist. The Cape Ann Museum’s Lane collection includes 40 paintings, a rare watercolor (his first known work) and 100 drawings, plus all three lithographs that he did of Gloucester.
The uncertainties around his name - he was born Nathaniel Rogers, changed it to Fitz Henry Lane for unclear reasons, and was mistakenly called Fitz Hugh Lane by the art world for a century or so - just add a layer of intrigue.
The walking tour, which includes his neighborhood and the museum's Lane collection, will be led rain or shine by museum docents on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. It's $10 for members; $20 nonmembers. Reservations are required. To make a reservation, call Jeanette Smith at 978-283-0455, x11 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. (As of 10 am today, pre-Irene forecasts haven't derailed the tour.)
Image courtesy Cape Ann Museum: Fitz Henry Lane, “Brace’s Rock, Eastern Point,” 1864, oil on canvas, 10” x 15” (Gift of Harold and Betty Bell, Accession #2007-10)
You've probably already decided if you're going to the Museum of Fine Arts to see "Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass," the big new exhibit of blown glass works from the studios of Dale Chihuly. Odds are either you love his beautiful and bizarre sculptures or you find them annoying in their overabundance, both individual and collective. People have strong feelings about Chihuly, as the reaction to Sebastian Smee's Globe review last month showed. Letter writers and online commenters split between those endorsing and those outraged by Smee's view of the exhibit as resembling "daily deliveries of unwanted flowers after a regretted one-night transgression."
Well, maybe. But I found myself walking back for seconds.
Smee wrote that he has "no quibbles with Chihuly’s factory-style operation, his terrific rate of production, or his immense popularity. None at all." The first two issues do bother me. Unless you're a conceptualist addressing the mass-produced, digitally distributed nature of our society, "factory-style" is not a term you want applied to your creations. Extruding mass quantities of purty things in assembly-line fashion belongs to the realm of craft or even commerce, not art. Chihuly is no longer hands-on with much of the work. He functions as sort of a guiding spirit here and in the myriad other places where Chihuly glass is displayed. Any three masters of fine art students ought to be able to produce reams of artspeak hashing out whether that's enough. I'll just say it troubles me and leave it at that.
People are also divided about the presentation of the exhibit, primarily in the shadowy, subterranean Ann and Graham Gund Gallery beneath the new MFA courtyard. Beautifully subtle lighting and staging flatter completely over-the-top presentation like the overstuffed "Ikebana Boat," above, and the 58-foot-long sea floor tableau (my interpretation) of "Mille Fiori," below.
Yes, it's tasteless at times and overabundant and even a little Disney. The way some people feel about that, you'd expect the next Chihuly exhibit to be in the bargain aisle at the Christmas Tree Shops. (A stroll through the exhibit gift shop says that's unlikely; small pieces of Chihuly glass on sale are in the four-figure price range.) But walking through the exhibit, I found myself seduced by the surfaces and reflections, the Seussian forms on that sea floor and the strange and beautiful qualities of light found in the depths of his "chandeliers," below. If there's deeper meaning to any of Chihuly's works, it's not apparent, but as Smee notes, not really needed. This is beauty for beauty's sake, overripe and sometimes goofy. Turns out, if this is wrong, I don't want to be right.
The one real bump in the presentation was the much-vaunted "Persian Ceiling," a small room where the glass ceiling supports a thick layer of scattered glass pieces - as if the "Ikebana Boat" had a glass bottom and you were looking up at it. Nice idea, perhaps, but badly executed. The room is small and claustrophobic and crowded. The only way to enjoy the ceiling without twisting onself into a pretzel is to lie down on the floor, which is not practical for most. And there are enough little gaps between the glass pieces that, looking up, I was repeatedly blinded by white spotlights that illuminate the work from above. It felt, at the time, like a morning-after reminder of the daylight outside, of the consequences of dallying here.
Top - Dale Chihuly
Palazzo di Loredana Balboni Chandelier (2011)
Blown glass, steel
Courtesy of Chihuly Studio
9 x 7 x 7’
Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
© 2011 Chihuly Studio, all rights reserved
Ikebana Boat (2008)
de Young Museum, San Francisco, California
6 x 16 x 7’
Photo by Teresa Nouri Rishel
© 2011 Chihuly Studio, all rights reserved
Bottom two images by me, all rights reserved.
The Institute of Contemporary Art once again presents the year's Academy Award-nominated short films in separate programs of animated and live action shorts. These are two Oscar categories in which most folks don't get the see the nominees. Each program will include all the nominated short films from their respective category, plus a few short-listed films that didn’t make the final cut.
The animated program - suitable for ages 7 and up - features "Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage," "The Gruffalo" and Bill Plympton's "The Cow That Wanted to Be a Hamburger" (pictured). It runs Feb. 21, 24, 27 and March 3, 5 and 6. The live action program, not for the kiddos, includes "Wish 143," "The Crush" and "God of Love" (pictured below). It runs on the same dates except not on March 5. Tickets, $10, and show times at icaboston.org, the box office or (617) 478-3103.