Sunday, June 21, 2015

Three favourite pieces from the Boston Museum of Art

The Boston Museum of Art is well worth a visit, with a fine collection ranging from antiquities to contemporary art. Though I spent much of my time with the Sargents, Monets, Van Goghs, and Cezannes, I thought I would post a few of my favourites from lesser-known artists.

Louise Nevelson, Mirror-Shadow VII, 1985
painted wood
One of my favourite sculptors is Russian-born American Louise Nevelson (1899-1988). The piece above, about two meters in width, was accompanied by this text:
"Complicated and yet stark, precarious but somehow balanced – Nevelson's works, like those of the Cubist painters who inspired her, push recognizable forms toward abstraction. She collected scrap wood, pieces of furniture, even wheels and then stacked, assembled and bolted them into carefully framed compositions. Often, she painted them entirely in black.... For Nevelson, black had a mystical sense of wholeness: it 'is the total color. It means totality. It means: contains all'."
Theaster Gates, Sweet Land of Liberty, 2013
decommissioned fire hoses
For the fibre aficionado,  above is a provocative commentary by Theaster Gates, American, born in 1973.
"For Gates, these salvaged fire hoses are a symbolic reminder of the struggle for civil rights, encapsulated by the now iconic images of Alabama's police using high-pressure water hoses and dogs to disperse peaceful civil rights demonstrators in May 1963. The title, taken from the lyrics of the patriotic song My Country, 'Tis of Thee...,  is a stark irony in this context, and a reminder that racial equality continues to remain elusive for many." 
El Anatsui, Black River, 2009
aluminum bottle labels, bottle caps, copper wire

Finally, a work that is essentially sculptural, but with references to textile, from one of my favourite contemporary artists, Ghanaian El-Anatsui, born in 1944.

El Anatsui, Black River, 2009 (detail)
aluminum bottle labels, bottle caps, copper wire
"El Anatsui worked with a team of assistants to assemble discarded liquor-bottle caps and wrappers into a metallic tapestry. When pinned to the wall, its rolling hills and valleys recall a topographical map. At center, a black river – is it oil? people? water? alcohol? – seems to seep across a border. Liquor wrappers with names like "Dark Sailor" and "Black Gold" hint at Africa's long history of slavery and colonialism, as well as today's conflicts over natural resources, especially oil. The patterns made by some of the wrappers at lower right resemble traditional Ghanian kente weavings...."
El Anatsui, Black River, 2009 (detail)
aluminum bottle labels, bottle caps, copper wire
an example of kente cloth

These three pieces were all made within the last thirty years.  Who says contemporary art is inaccessible? Sometimes, I admit, I do.

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