Art Around Boston
29 July 2013 - 12:00am | superuser
by Shirley Moskow (Staff)
Text & Image
Art is cool.
This summer, Boston area museums offer great places to revive body and soul. They’re air-conditioned, and they’re inviting.
You can camp for hours, if you wish.
Special exhibitions cater to interests ranging from inventive rifts on the ancient art of mosaics, to the beautiful excess of Russian jeweler Carl Faberge, to the brash topicality of street artist Barry McGee, to a thoughtful representation of African American art, to the couture of “Hippie Chic.” After you’ve enjoyed the exhibitions, stay for lunch of dinner. Most of the museums maintain cafes or restaurants, too.
Take a short ride south of the city to Brockton and New England’s only museum devoted to contemporary crafts, the Fuller Craft Museum, for “Art of Mosaics: Piecing it Together.” Surrounded by refreshing water views, the museum has mounted an exhibition comprising more than 30 works from artists around the country. Renewed interest in the ancient craft that adorned Greek and Roman temples has inspired contemporary artists to tackle innovative materials and techniques.
“Outside of the Pod,” six panels by Waltham artist Lyn Christiansen, depicts a three-dimensional plant form built up with several thick layers of slate, granite, travertine, green onyx, jasper, paint, and silver leaf, eleven materials in all. It is a bold evocation of nature.
By contrast, the delicate mosaic watch setting designed by Steven Grotell of Poetic Time is composed of more than 7000 threads - called tesserae by practitioners - of colorful glass set on end. Laura Hiserote designed and created the decorative micromosaic fish design on the watch cover titled "No Time to be Koi." Grotell makes a limited number of one-of-a-kind luxury watches that are available only at his Madison Avenue atelier. The Fuller borrowed the watch on display from a privileged owner in Asia.
Head north of Boston for three special exhibitions at the Peabody Essex Museum (PEM), Salem. It wasn’t so long ago that to see African American art, we had to wait until Black History Month in February. Fortunately, that’s changing. “In Conversation, Modern African American Art” presents paintings, sculpture, and photographs that celebrate black life from the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Era to the present. The beautiful catalogue, prepared by the Smithsonian American Art Museum, is a treasure.
“Faberge Revealed,” also at PEM, highlights the work of the royal jeweler to the last of the Romanovs. Carl Faberge designed imaginative ornaments that the House of Faberge, his skilled workshop, produced from 1855-1916. Picture frames and miniature animals carved from semiprecious stones decorated the Russian palaces. Jeweled trinkets, including parasol handles, cigarette holders, and wearable art are among the more than 230 objects on display. The workshop’s legendary jeweled eggs are here, too. The PEM exhibit includes three of the fabulous creations.
The third special exhibition at PEM is Japanese photographer Toshio Shibata’s 28 large-format photographs. He calls them landscapes and, l suppose, they are. But he doesn’t photograph mountains and rivers or pretty scenery. Instead, he seeks man-made constructions like bridges and dams that confront the natural environment. Toshio Shibata: Constructed Landscapes” will be on view through October 6.
On Boston’s waterfront, the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) is showing the work of street artist Barry McGee. When I walked into the gallery for the opening, I thought I’d arrived too early. A man on a stepladder was spray painting the finishing touches on a wall so I moved on to the next gallery and later backtracked. When I returned, however, the painter was still at work. Only then did I recognize the lifelike figure as part of the art.
Unlike many street artists, who are self-taught, McGee is professionally trained. As he tested the limits of formal art, his work stretched, then broke through the boundaries to include cartoon-like figures and political commentary. The exhibition includes a paint spattered leather jacket and spray paint cans, the tools of his trade, as well as a mountain of television sets all showing videos that he has made or collected, a commentary on conspicuous consumption. The San Francisco artist signs his graffiti art “Twist.” “Barry McGee” will be on view through September 2.
The Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) has a delightfully frothy summer treat, “Hippie Chic,” but it’s not the street fashions of the rebellious sixties and early seventies. Rather, the men’s and women’s clothes on view show how street fashion influenced famous designers. It’s a trickle up theory of fashion. Although we’re use to the concept now, it was a revolutionary idea 50 years ago.
Photo: Mary Kanda, Blue Chip Daisy, 1998. Glass beads, sterling silver. Photo by Dean Powell. Courtesy of Fuller Craft Museum.