The summer art scene in New England presents a special challenge. On the one hand there is almost too much going on, particularly with outdoor events. And yet it’s not the season when we can expect the best films or museum shows, which are typically reserved for the fall. But this doesn’t mean there aren’t standout events to be found.
On Wednesday I had a chance to share a few of my own recommendations for summer arts events in New England on New Hampshire Public Radio’s Word of Mouth. (It’s always a blast to work with the show’s host Virginia Prescott and producer Taylor Quimby.)
If you missed the segment, you can listen online here.
Here’s a look at the New England arts events that I’m most looking forward to this summer, along with a few suggestions I didn’t have time to mention on the show…
Ed Ruscha at the Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts
The Rose had a firestorm of bad press back in 2009 when the former President Jehuda Reinharz announced plans to shut down the Rose and sell the collection in order to shore up Brandeis’ University’s plummeting endowment. The news enraged faculty, alumni and the art world. But the museum has a new president now and the Rose, luckily, has been preserved.
The museum is back with a vengeance showcasing the work of renowned pop artist Ed Ruscha, the first large-scale solo show of the artist’s work in the Boston area.
Ruscha is all about Southern California–cars, billboards, film, and Los Angeles. His best known work may be his artist books 26 Gasoline Stations and Every Building on the Sunset Strip, seminal works that inspired countless imitations.
Ruscha’s 1966 screenprint called Standard Station (shown above) is a pop art masterpiece. The artist is a genius of word play. “Standard” is not only a gas station, but also a mark of quality. Ruscha is also making reference to John D. Rockefeller’s oil company, Standard, which was dissolved by an antitrust ruling in 1911.
The Ed Ruscha show, also called Standard, contains 70 pieces and covers 60 years of the artist’s career. The exhibit ended up at Brandeis thanks to Christopher Bedford, the Rose Museum Director, who used to work at Los Angeles County Museum of Art, where the Ruscha show originated.
You’ll need to act quickly though because Ruscha’s Standard is at Brandeis only through June 9th. Visit the Rose Art Museum website for more details.
Contemporary Chinese Art at the Brattleboro Museum and Mass MoCA
Liu Bolin at the Brattleboro Museum of Art in Vermont
This summer New Englanders have not one but two rare opportunities to see the work of two important Chinese artists, both working out of Beijing.
Photographer and performance artist Liu Bolin is sometimes called “The Invisible Man” because he creates photographs of himself blending into various settings around Beijing. Whether he is standing in front of demolished building, a piece of Chinese propaganda, or grocery store shelves lined with soft drinks, Liu (with the help of his assistant) finds creative ways to disguise his body with paint and other materials in order to make himself “invisible.”
In 2005 the Chinese government destroyed Suo Jia Cun, the artist village where Liu’s studio was located. In response Liu started the Hiding in the City series as a way of protesting artists’ troubled relationship with the government and their physical surroundings. Through his elaborate photographs, he embodies the role of the conflicted citizen in a country torn between tradition and “progress,” communal interests and individual freedom.
Liu is an important Chinese artist and it’s a rare event to have his work at the Brattleboro Museum in Vermont through June 23rd.
Also, on Sunday May 26th at 3 p.m. Taliesin Thomas, director of AW Asia, will discuss the emergence and evolution of Chinese contemporary art from the end of the Cultural Revolution to the present day. More information about the talk is available on the Brattleboro Museum website.