Sunday, June 29, 2008

A Report from the Phantom Zone: PEM

It seems to me that a lot of Boston area artists are unaware that the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is one of Boston’s great venues that is actively working on displaying contemporary artwork made by local artists. The latest exhibition to open in the Art and Nature Center at the PEM, “Polar Attractions” was curated by Jane Winchell and includes many local contemporary artists like Jane Marshing whose work you may have seen recently at the ICA and Nathalie Miebach whose work was in the Decordova Annual. Lindsay Erben, the Art and Nature Program Specialist at the PEM, has said that the Art and Nature Center has a definite focus on exhibiting living contemporary artists.

So how come more people aren’t going out there to see the great contemporary and historical artwork?

Well, here are the top ten reasons to go to the Peabody Essex:
1. It’s only 30 minutes away (16 miles)!
2. You can get there by the commuter rail. (Go to Salem on the Newbury-Rockport line.)
3. It’s the country’s oldest continuously-operating museum.
4. It has a photographic archive of more than one million rare and vintage prints that you have access to.
5. The museum always has activities (many of which include live animals, like snakes. Which is cool ...)
6. Their collections of artwork from around the world are first class and they have over 2.4 million pieces!
7. The staff is all well informed, friendly and helpful, which makes getting around the huge collection easy and fun.
8. The Moshe Safdie designed atrium is fantastic.
9. Once you get out to Salem there is an incredible amount to do, ranging from historical sites, dining, and shopping.
10. Witches.

The only reason not to go:
1. You’re lazy.

Other current exhibitions at the Peabody Essex include:
“Wedded Bliss” that explores the wedding as a source of inspiration for the creation of art in cultures around the world. On display, they have work ranging from Picasso to Vera Wang to Sandy Skogland.

“Body Politics, Maori Tattoo Today” that features photographs of Maori facial tattoos.

And the many permanent collections like the Native American, Indian, Japanese, and Korean collections, to name a few.

So go.

Also, go to the newly launched "Polar Attractions" blog where you can enter a competition and maybe have your work displayed in the Museum!

Mary Edna Fraser

Antarctic Explorer � Darkness to Lightness,
Nathalie Miebach

Polar Attractions @ Peabody Essex Museum

iPod Version

Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Report from the Phantom Zone: Allston Skirt

This last First Friday in Boston had a different air about it. For me it was like watching a family member move to Beijing or having a last drink with a co-worker before they move on to a new, better job. It’s not like any one has died, but the feeling just sucks.
All anyone can say is a bunch of hollow semi-philosophical things:
“Things have to end.”
“People have to move on.“
“You’ll see each other again.”
You know the lines …

All of this is a little weird. After all, a gallery is a commercial business. Would I care if a different commercial business, like say my favorite Dunkin’ Donuts, closed? Probably not all that much. In fact, why does group of commercial businesses call themselves a “community” at all? Does a McDonald’s across the street from a Wendy’s call itself part of the “local fast food community”?

Well I do care.
And it’s not because some commercial businesses are closing.
It’s because Bernie’s gallery is closing.
And because Collin’s gallery is moving.
It’s because Beth and Randi’s gallery is closing.
And it sucks.

I could write extensively about Bernard Toale or Rhys Gallery ending their time in SoWa, but today, I want to write a tribute to Allston Skirt.

Allston Skirt has given us many great solo and two person exhibitions over the past 9 years. Allston Skirt was the first place I saw a number of my favorite artists. They were the first place I ever saw Danika Phelps, Amy Ross, Joe Wardwell and many other artists, for which I will always be grateful to Allston Skirt.

But the thing I enjoyed most about Allston Skirt was their group shows. Organizing a group show is an art form itself. All of the pieces have to work together, but at the same time, all of the pieces have to stand on their own.
Haven’t we all seen a group show that actually made all of the pieces look worse?
(If you haven’t seen a bad group show recently, just walk down Newbury and look in virtually any “gallery” you find ...)

“Gone Fishin’”
“Beat the Reaper”
“Honey Bunches”
“Don't Abandon the Ship”
“Five Easy Pieces”
“Love Fest 08”
All of these group shows brought together a very specific aesthetic sensibility that made all of the work resonate together.

The ability to find powerful, provoking and playful work and then to be able to display it in a manner that strengthens the work is what I will miss about Allston Skirt.

But as I said, it’s not that bad.
I’m glad Beth and Randi are going on to better things.
But it still sucks.

Thanks for all the exhibitions at your gallery!

Randi and Beth still rock!

Allston Skirt closing, from their website.

Randi Hopkins

Beth Kantrowitz

Jospeh Wardell, installation view of Heavy History, at Allston Skirt