The Boston Phoenix Years, 1988-1991

Frances Hamilton: Pieces of Time

May 22nd, 1988

FRANCES HAMILTON’s art doesn’t come from the head; it comes from the hand and the heart. And that’s why a show of her work is always so rewarding. Her images stay with you, growing richer and deeper, as time goes by. They trigger memories. Major or minor, they touch a chord.

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The Situationists

January 28th, 1989

The Situationists called for an art of excess, delirium, outrage, and social change. They believed that capitalism had turned contemporary life into a society of “spectacle” that its inhabitants could only passively watch and consume. Situationism would bring art out of the museums and into the streets, and sabotage the society of spectacle by creating situations in which people could turn their own lives into a creative experience.

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Courtly Splendor: Twelve Centuries of Treasures from Japan

March 21st, 1989

The silvery glow of the moon and the flow of an underground river are reflected in sinuous calligraphy that swoons down a page from 12th century book of poems, strewn with shimmering silver roses: “True, I say nothing/ but the longing in my heart/ reaches out to you,/ secret as the constant flow of an underground river.”

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Roger Kizik

April 19th, 1989

ROGER KIZIK’s loopy, staccato line describes fishing boats with names like Frolic or Finast Kind, houses on the beach, the book he is reading or the tool he is using for fixing up his house or boat. The things in his drawings press in on him; they cluster around him, rich with hidden correspondences and secret messages, composing his life.

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Earth Day

May 7th, 1989

“It’s all coming from memory,” says ROBERT FERRANDINI. “From fairy tales, from childhood – from imagining. The way I see it, it’s the landscape of the mind. Lots of landscapes came to me from the movies. Fort Apache. Red River. Cheyenne Autumn. The Searchers. The idea of the search – which is what I do as a painter. I go into it. I search.”

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American Photography: 1839-1900

June 2nd, 1989

The people in the portraits present anxious faces to the camera; having your picture taken was a serious business. The camera was enormous, bulky, and expensive; the process was time-consuming and mysterious. Silvery and almost transparent, their delicate faces float on the shimmering silver plates like ghosts.

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Adolph von Menzel

July 11th, 1989

MENZEL’s drawings often show people and things as if they were turning into shadow, turning into smoke, dissolving into a cloud; just about to disappear. He said, “I early cultivated the habit of drawing things as though I were never to see them again.”

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Mary Cassatt

July 14th, 1989

In many of the prints, a woman’s face is partially obscured, either because of the way she has turned her head, or because she is holding something in front of her face ‑‑ a hand, a letter, a child. This conveys a sense of mystery, a feeling that there are secret meanings and moments of tragedy and what Virginia Woolf called “ecstasy” — hidden in the texture of a woman’s daily life.

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American Screenprints

September 26th, 1989

Many of the most memorable images of the sixties were silkscreen prints: Andy Warhol’s soupcans, Marilyns, and Jackies, Roy Lichtensteins’s day-glo brushstrokes on Ben-Day dots, Sister Corita’s Flower Power messages, Robert Indiana’s LOVE, and Ed Ruscha’s dazzling 1966 Standard Station, radiant and gleaming in the California light.

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My Day Without Art

December 4th, 1989

Standing at the center of the spiral, I see the backs of all the chairs facing away from me, and feel a tremendous shock of loneliness and loss. Looking down from the balcony, I see that the chairs are the beginning of a spiral that could go on forever.

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Ruins at the Rose

December 8th, 1989

The 80’s began with big, shiny, self-confident paintings, but they are ending with of shreds and tatters, and anxious premonitions of a ruined world. They reminded me of the ending of William Gibson’s science fiction novel Count Zero, when a brilliant computer distills the few remaining fragments of a ruined civilization into exquisite little constructions. Or these lines from a Shakespeare sonnet; “bare, ruined choirs, where late the sweet bird sang”.

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Minor White

December 18th, 1989

MINOR WHITE’s photographs convey a sense that behind the visible world is another world — a world filled with meaning and magic. He was fascinated by photography’s ability to show what he called “things for what else they are.” He liked to quote the thirteenth-century German mystic Meister Eckhart: “The eye with which I see God is the same eye with which God sees me.”

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Yoko Ono

January 7th, 1990

Every viewer who chooses to participate will have a different experience. For me, it was a moving meditation on loss, change, and getting a second chance. As one of the characters in William Faulkner’s novel The Wild Palms says, “Between grief and nothing, I will take grief.”

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Robert Whitman

January 14th, 1990

The canvas curled back like a white wave. The light turned red. Silhouettes of dancers moved through the white space like brushstrokes moving across a picture plane. The light turned white. The ceiling rippled and billowed. Silence. White light. I was taking notes, and the only sound I could hear was the sound of my own writing. It was over.

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Weston’s Weston: Portraits and Nudes

January 21st, 1990

WESTON’s portraits of friends and lovers are so intense that their souls seem to flicker through their sensitive faces and expressive hands. But Weston’s Nudes are seen in nameless fragments, as cool and smooth as marble. You see their bodies, but their faces are turned away.

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Sophie Calle

January 24th, 1990

SOPHIE CALLE borrows elements from detective novels, philosophical investigations, the film noir, the nouveau roman, documentary photography, love letters, art movies, B-movies, John Cage’s theories of randomness, and Joseph Beuys’s actions. She combines them in startling ways, as meditations on the mysterious spaces between self and other.

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The Cone Collection

January 28th, 1990

The CONE sisters collected art because they loved it and wanted to live with it. Their art collection became an emblem of their secret selves — a vision of the richness of their inner lives. Many of the images here show women the same expression on their face — a look of contentment, completeness, and self-fulfillment.

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The Grand Tour

January 28th, 1990

Light as a whisper, these elegant images, in the delicate style known as ROCOCO, convey the “sweetness of life” before the Revolution. Something of the warmth of the artist’s hand still lingers in all the little jabs and touches of chalk or ink that make up these delicious little 18th century drawings and prints.

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Textile Masterpieces

February 8th, 1990

Rugs and blankets, shrouds and shawls: textiles touched the lives of the people who lived with them. Slumbering in storerooms, rolled up and protected from light, these textile masterpieces have kept their vibrant colors and something of their human warmth. Now, unfurled, they look like magic carpets, poised to rise.

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The Starn Twins

February 18th, 1990

“It can be frightening, but that’s life,” said Doug. “Art is part of life,” said Mike. “It’s a real part – it’s the essence of life,” said Doug. “There’s no reason to make it perfect,” says Doug. “We want to show the physical nature,” said Mike. “The physical nature,” said Doug. “Of everything, but in particular, Art,” said Mike.

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David Salle/Imitation of Life

March 29th, 1990

One of DAVID SALLE’s favorite movies is Douglas Sirk’s IMITATION OF LIFE. In one scene, all the characters are jammed into a taxi, watching a funeral through the windows. In Salle’s paintings, too, many different things are happening at once, everything is crammed together, nothing seems finished, everything is seen in reflection or juxtaposition or through a filter or a pane of glass, and all of the contradictions are left unresolved.

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Gene Kelly

April 24th, 1990

GENE KELLY was a great dancer because his dancing seemed to be an overflow of his superb vitality — a natural extension of his personality. In all his movies, the transitions to dance are incredibly smooth, because even when he’s not dancing he’s thinking about dancing–his athletic body is flexed and limber– and he’s ready to roll, even on an empty set with 500,000 kilowatts of electric light mimicking stardust and a giant fan creating the sensation of a moonlight breeze.

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Monet in the ’90’s: The Series Paintings

April 30th, 1990

In painting after painting, the earth moves and the water swoons and the sky tumbles and all the blues and pinks and purples and reds and oranges dissolve into one. Earth and water come together, again and again, and explode in a symphony of light and color and air.

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Shaker Spirit Drawings

May 1st, 1990

In the nineteenth century, women in Shaker communities recorded their visions of heavenly gardens in “spirit” or “gift” drawings — simple gifts that speak to the heart. The words, written in tiny, spidery handwriting, are faded and almost illegible, but the little birds and hearts and flowers make the feelings clear.

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Robert Rauschenberg

May 22nd, 1990

Great art cheats death of its victory by transforming memory’s fragile fragments into something lasting, precious, and incorruptible. The ghostly white porch is a window to a world beyond flesh and paint – a world without sorrow or substance, color or weight. It is cool, pale, and white as a bone.

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Jean Arthur

May 30th, 1990

On film, JEAN ARTHUR is impulsive, but truthful ‑‑ true to the moment, while the moment lasts. She is chaste, but not prudish; she truly inhabits her small, athletic body, and she moves like a dancer with an easy natural voluptuousness. Her soft, gravelly voice is astonishly expressive. And some of her greatest lines aren’t words at all, but an astonishing repertoire of whimpers, sighs, sobs, giggles, and moans.

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Madame de Pompadour

June 1st, 1990

Madame de Pompadour always managed to look graceful, even in the most constricting clothes — corsets, bustles, and stays. Like Madonna, she created a Look that was supremely artificial — the powdered hair, the heavily applied make-up, the elaborate gowns. Like Madonna in her John-Paul Gaultier bustiers, La Pompadour in her negligée proudly displayed her sexuality as the source of her power.

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Censorship and the Arts

June 9th, 1990

It takes a lot of courage to be an artist. All kinds of things get in the way, but the thing that gets in the way the most is fear. That’s why the threat of censorship is so dangerous to Art. Art helps us to see the beautiful — and also to face the ugliness in life. Artists need to be free to show us the world as they see it — to tell it like it is.

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Judy Kensley McKie and Todd McKie

June 15th, 1990

In 1969, TODD and JUDY MCKIE painted banners with the signs of the Zodiac for Woodstock, which people pulled down to use as tents and blankets in the rain. Judy began making furniture in the early 70s to furnish their apartment. One day she impulsively carved two crouching figures into the arms of a butcherblock couch.

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Louis Cartier

June 22nd, 1990

LOUIS CARTIER used precious metals and jewels in a highly polished, sparkling, and yet almost casual way way — the way Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced. The shimmer of dozens of tiny diamonds on a cool platinum surface is the essence of sophistication –- like a Cole Porter song.

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Matt Mullican

July 6th, 1990

Being inside MATT MULLICAN’s installation is like being inside Matt Mullican’s mind – a dizzying experience. He’s constantly classifying and re-ordering everything. “It’s the first time I’ve arranged my meaning as objects in space depicting my meaning,” he says.

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Martin Puryear

July 9th, 1990

His falcons are elegant objects, yet they are also birds of prey. They are chained to a perch, dreaming of flight; perfectly at rest, yet poised to spread their wings and reach for the sky. His art conveys a sense of scraping away and discarding everything that is not essential – of travelling light, like a nomad, and soaring high, like a bird.

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Pierre Bonnard: Prints

September 1st, 1990

BONNARD’s art is an art of nuance and suggestion. His friend, the Symbolist poet Paul Verlaine, wrote:
“You must have music first of all,
and for that a rhythm uneven is best,
vague in the air and soluble
with nothing heavy and nothing at rest.”

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Barbizon

October 1st, 1990

Barbizon was a place and a style — and also a feeling—a mood—a time of day — dusk, when the forms of things soften and the edges blur, and a kind of hush falls over the world. The earth is solemn, soft, and tender, like a bed—and sometimes like a grave.

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Chuck Holtzman

November 7th, 1990

His sculpture is like a very sophisticated game of musical chairs, where all the pieces come together for a moment of perfect, precarious balance. In his drawings, the charcoal keeps on dancing, long after the music stops.

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Linda Connor

November 7th, 1990

In LINDA CONNOR’s camera’s mystical eye, the world is filled with ancient sacred things. The same images repeat and recur in her body of work — spirals, veils, beams of light shining into a dark place, open doors, closed eyes, hands — but each time you see them, they mean something different. Each time you see them, they mean something more.

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A Tribute to Kojiro Tomita

November 8th, 1990

It is said that CHU TA never spoke — but he laughed, cried, waved his hands, and drank rice wine most expressively while he painted. Every single touch of Chu Ta’s brush means something. Every mark still matters. Hundreds of years later, you can still almost feel the movement of his hand — the bold drunken touch of his brush.

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The Unique Print

December 9th, 1990

In monotype, there is no fixed image on the printing surface. The artist paints or draws on a printing plate, makes changes, and prints again; the final proof is an accumulation of all the changes that have been made. Pale, faded images of past impressions often cling to monotypes like shadows; they are called “ghosts.”

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Love and Death

December 14th, 1990

The prayers were long, thin strips of paper or canvas, newsprint, photographs, or tinsel, embellished with drawings, paint, cut‑outs, dried roses, gold leaf, buttons, beads. Some were abstract; some had words; others had musical notations written on them. One prayer was made from a piece of old, paint‑splattered blue jeans, with a peace symbol and love beads.

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Robert Wilson’s Vision

January 17th, 1991

ROBERT WILSON’S VISION is structured like a journey — a journey that moves from morning to night — from white to black — from the past to the future — from birth to death. A journey that has no beginning and no end, but all takes place in a timeless, endless present.

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The Sound Artist: Hans Peter Kuhn

February 18th, 1991

“Sound art is more open and much closer to life than music. Music is a filtered experience. I’m not a composer. I don’t want the emotional view bound or directed in any one direction. I want to keep it open. I’m always trying things out. I hear something and I can pick it up and react in minutes. I’m interested in everything that makes a noise.”

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When We Dead Awaken

February 21st, 1991

A neon blue river of light crosses the stage on a diagonal. A black mountain looms beyond, pierced by a stark white waterfall. The sculptor sits brooding on a rocky throne; an egg-shaped stone is pierced with a spear. Two Irenes enter, and lie on the ground, like stones. “You have killed my soul,” they cry. “I am an artist!” cries the sculptor. One Irene sits on the rock, like a statue. “I was a human being too.”

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Photography at the Boston Athenaeum

March 28th, 1991

The Boston Athenaeum, a Library with gracious high-ceilinged rooms adorned with columns and all kinds of Graeco-Roman architectural details, and filled with books and pictures, was built by 19th century Bostonians as a modern temple to Athena, Goddess of Wisdom.

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12th Annual Boston Drawing Show

April 13th, 1991

GERRY BERGSTEIN’s drawings show scribbles, scrawls, crossings-out, angry re-workings, markings of struggle and doubt. From this chaos of marks on paper emerge luminous little still lives, marked by the process of decay: visions of a world in flux, where everything is changing, growing, living, dying, and being reborn.

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Rosemarie Trockel

May 25th, 1991

“All these images are obliterated, defaced, lost. It’s about those marginal, mundane experiences that are for some reason significant to her. There are certain things about her work that are mysterious. They remain mysterious. And she treasures that mysteriousness.”

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Fragments of Antiquity

June 21st, 1991

All that we know of Greece has come to us in ruins–armless, headless, faded, fallen, broken, battered, lost in translation. What we have are fragments, fragments that have lost almost everything–except their poetry. But, generation after generation, that poetry has never lost its thrilling, visionary gleam.

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Dream Lovers

July 12th, 1991

When Berthe Morisot met Édouard Manet at the Louvre in 1867, he was 36 years old and married; she was ten years younger and still living with her parents at home. She was lively, intelligent, charming, talented. He was brilliant, difficult, fickle, famous, fascinating. She had long admired him from a distance; he immediately wanted to paint her portrait.

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Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun

July 19th, 1991
Elizabeth Vigee-Lebrun

Madame Vigee-Lebrun revolutionized the portrait. She despised the powder and stiff clothes that women wore; she let their hair down, and draped them in soft, flowing shawls and painted them looking soft, dreamy, natural, alive. Her paintings helped to create a new look, a new style, a new attitude to life in pre-revolutionary Paris.

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John Singer Sargent’s EL JALEO

August 28th, 1991

In a dark, smoky room, a solitary dancer raises up her arm in a tense, ecstatic movement of inspiration; her other hand clutches the skirt of her dress — a flash of white light gleaming in the dark. You can almost hear the rhythmic weeping of the guitars; you can almost feel beating of the dancer’s tumultuous heart.

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Pleasures of Paris

September 6th, 1991

in a moment, the door will swing back shut, and the cafe will disappear, and then the street singer will vanish, into the street, into the night, never to be seen again. Only here, in this painting, where she is forever caught in the golden net of the Paris night at the moment when she stepped out through the swinging door, onto the street, and into our dreams.

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Busch-Reisinger Museum

September 14th, 1991

A crowded stage, and all the players on it. A king, wearing a crown, stabs himself in the heart. A woman looks at her reflection in a mirror, next to a statue of a Greek god. Modern men and women read the newspaper, talk, flirt, and fight with real knives. MAX BECKMANN’s The Actors aims to encompass all of Art and Life in thick, sure slashes of paint.

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Lazlo Moholy-Nagy’s Light-Space Modulator

October 4th, 1991

“When the “light prop” was set in motion for the first time in a small mechanics shop in 1930, I felt like the sorcerer’s apprentice. The mobile was so startling in its coordinated motions and space articulations of light and shadow sequences that I almost believed in magic.”

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El Corazon Sangrante/The Bleeding Heart

November 1st, 1991

FRIDA KAHLO’s Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird shows her in a jungle with butterflies in her hair and a hummingbird dangling from a thorn necklace that pierces her neck, drawing small red drops of blood. “I never painted dreams,” she said. “I painted my own reality.”

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Paper Prayers/In the Spirit

December 19th, 1991

Many of the artists here are of a generation who rejected the conventional comforts of organized religion — and now they find themselves facing the inevitable mystery of death alone. They are re-inventing rituals that feel authentic to them and finding new ways to satisfy their spiritual needs. Paper Prayers has become one such contemporary healing ritual — a small congregation of artists gathered together In the Spirit.

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