Tuesday, April 27, 2010

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Monday, April 26, 2010

“The Armenian Genocide" at URI Feinstein

From our review of “The Armenian Genocide: 95 Years Later, In Remembrance” at the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein Providence Campus:
In April 1915, Turks of the Ottoman Empire began killing the Armenians in their midst. Soldiers rounded up hundreds of Armenian clergy, intellectuals, and members of parliament. Many were shot. Other Armenians were “deported” — forced to march or packed into trains, without food or shelter, across mountains and desert to concentration camps. The empire was crumbling and Turks apparently feared the growing strength and nationalism of the Armenian community.

News reports told of torture; crucifixions; rapes; a thousand men, women and children burned to death inside a locked building; dozens of Armenians tied together and thrown into a lake to drown. To this day Turkey does not acknowledge the extent of the killing, but some 1.5 million Armenians perished.

Berge Ara Zobian, owner of Gallery Z in Providence, has assembled works by more than 40 artists in “The Armenian Genocide: 95 Years Later, In Remembrance,” at the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein Providence Campus (80 Washington Street, through April 30). It’s an important subject, deserving serious attention, but the art is disappointingly amateurish, ranging from overwrought goth to cutesy folk to late Cubism.
Read the rest here.

“The Armenian Genocide: 95 Years Later, In Remembrance,” at the University of Rhode Island’s Feinstein Providence Campus, 80 Washington Street, Providence, April 1 to 30, 2010.

Pictured from top to bottom: Kevork Mourad’s painting from the series "Fireflies Over the Euphrates" and Stephen Koharian's painting "Turkishness 2."

Friday, April 23, 2010

Ben Jones in "Thirty Days NY"

Providence artist Ben Jones, of the collaborative Paper Rad, has created some sort of installation/furniture (photo of it in progress) in his signature eye-popping neon stripes for the pop-up gallery "Thirty Days NY," 70 Franklin St., New York City, from April 7 to May 6, 2010 (or thereabouts).

Pssst: If you're a local museum having trouble finding a local artist to feature, consider this MassArt grad who has shown at Deitch Projects, The Museum of Modern Art, The New Museum, Yerba Buena, and Tate Britain. Do you want to be the last museum to figure out that this hometown guy is worth paying attention to?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hames, Snowden, Lima at AS220

From our review of Seamus Hames, Mary Snowden and LauraBerth Lima at AS220 in Providence:
Mary Snowden and LauraBerth Lima offer chickens and risqué vegetables. Snowden’s photo-realist paintings of chickens bring out the ruddy details — a Spanish chicken, with its black body, white face, and fleshy red comb and cheeks. The birds could feel more alive, but Snowden nails their threatening alien stare.
Read the rest here.

Mary Snowden and LauraBerth Lima at AS220’s Main Gallery, 115 Empire St., Providence. Seamus Hames at AS220’s Project Space, 93 Mathewson St., Providence. All April 4 to 24, 2010.

Pictured from top to bottom two drawings by Seamus Hames, paintings of chickens by Mary Snowden, and two works by LauraBerth Lima.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

New gig for Brandeis pres, PR folks not so lucky

Also no future Rose exhibits have been announced.

Brandeis President Jehuda Reinharz (at left), a key leader in the January 2009 proposal to shut down the Waltham university’s Rose Art Museum and sell off its collection, has landed a new job leading the Mandel Foundation, the university reports. Meanwhile three members of the school’s office of communications have been fired as part of a “restructuring,” according to a report by the Brandeis student newspaper The Justice.

Reinharz announced last September that he would be stepping down, eventually. Last week the school announced that he will become president of the Mandel Foundation, “an internationally recognized philanthropy that provides leadership to non-profits in the United States and Israel.” The foundation has made major donations to Brandeis, including helping fund the Mandel Center for the Humanities, which is scheduled to open this fall. Reinharz has been at trustee of the Mandel Foundation since 2005. Barbara Mandel, wife of the foundation’s current chairman and CEO of the foundation, Morton Mandel, has been a Brandeis trustee since 2005 – which means she was one of the folks approving the plan to kill the Rose.

Brandeis reports that Reinharz will continue working as the university’s president until “a new president arrives on campus” or June 30, 2011, whichever comes first. A search for Reinharz’s replacement at Brandeis is underway, the school reports.

The Justice reports that Brandeis Assistant Vice President of Communications Ken Gornstein, Director of Media Relations Dennis Nealon and Communications Operations Supervisor Sossy Megerdichian have been canned. Senior Vice President of Communications and External Affairs Andrew Gully did not respond to our questions about this – including whether these changes had anything to do with the changes at the Rose. Remember that the crisis management public relations firm Rasky Baerlein Strategic Communications was hired by Brandeis early last year – funded with a 10 percent pay cut from Reinharz and Brandeis Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter French – to help deal with outcry over their handling of the Rose. Gully told the Justice: "The Communications Department has been restructured so we can be better positioned to reach the long-term communications and marketing goals that we're developing for Brandeis. The changes are the result of an assessment I began when I arrived on campus in November."

Also there seems to be no news yet about the search for a new education director for the Rose and a curator/arts coordinator for Brandeis’s Women’s Studies Research Center, which was founded and is run by Reinharz’s wife Shula. The center will be presenting a new exhibit “Science of Art: Recent work by Guhapriya Ranganathan and Nancy Selvage” from April 28 to June 30, which means that the center will present three exhibitions this school year (earlier it offered Roberta Paul and Andi Arnovitz) compared to just one at the Rose. “The Rose Art Museum at Brandeis: Works from the Collection” exhibit, which has been on view since Oct. 28, is scheduled to close on May 23. No future Rose exhibitions or events have been announced.

We asked Gully about all these things. He responded on Friday: “We're almost ready to announce those details, but need a few more days. Hope to share them with you mid- to late next week.” Stay tuned.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rotenberg Gallery to close June 19

Judi Rotenberg Gallery on Newbury Street in Boston plans to close on June 19, executive director and owner Abigail Ross Goodman says in a e-mail sent out tonight.

Judi Rotenberg rented a basement space on Newbury Street and began selling her paintings out on the sidewalk in 1970. The following year, she moved into her storefront at 130 Newbury St. She passed the business on to Ross Goodman in 2001 (several months before Judi's husband and Abigail's father Richard Ross was killed on one of the planes that crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11). Ross Goodman and director Kristen Dodge re-energized the gallery, turning it into one of the sharpest venues in town by presenting a mix of cutting edge work by local younger artists (Ria Brodell, Dave Cole, Sheila Gallagher, Brian Knep, Douglas Weathersby) as well as established local painters (Zygmund Jankowski, Jason Berger) more connected with the gallery's roots.

This is a major loss for Boston and another sign of the decline of the Newbury Street gallery district, which has lost a number of prominent galleries when they closed (Nielsen, Pepper, Goldman) or moved (Yezerski, Chase) in the past few years.

The entire text of Ross Goodman's e-mail is below:
Dear Friends,

It is with bittersweet emotions that I write to tell you that the gallery will be closing on June 19, 2010. The judi rotenberg gallery has been a 40-year partnership with truly great artists and with wonderful friends like you.

The ten years of my stewardship have been incredibly rewarding, and my profound gratitude goes out to every single member of our community for your support. I am so proud of everything that we have accomplished together. You have brought your enthusiasm and energy to our projects and you helped create a space for meaningful encounters with art and within the artistic community.

I will continue my deep engagement with the art world in new ways. I have learned from my artists: you have to keep inventing.

I hope you will join us for our final shows, Man Up which opens on April 29 and All This & More which opens on May 26, and that you will visit us in the next few weeks.

Warmly and deepest gratitude,

Abigail Ross Goodman

Goodbye, Artblog.net

Plus an interview with blogger Franklin Einspruch

Sad news arrived on April 5 when Boston blogger Franklin Einspruch announced with a post titled “So long” that he would be ending his long-running Artblog.net.

Artblog.net has occupied a landmark place in art blogging because it was one of the founding art blogs – begun so early, in fact, that it was able to claim the name Artblog.net. Einspruch started the blog in 2003 while living in Miami, where it won a “Best Local Website” award from the Miami New Times in 2005. That year he had a residency to Taiwan, then moved to Boston in 2006, where he says intended to stay, but in 2007 was offered a yearlong teaching gig in Orange County, California. Afterward in 2008, he had a big cross-country RV adventure while to moving back to Boston.

Artblog.net’s structure – a mix of the broad view with the personal, of clear thoughtful commentary with (occasionally) Einspruch's own art – reflects its nature as a blog formed before the style of blogs become more codified, more narrowly focused, more magazine-like. And it had one of the most sharp and lively comments sections this side of Roger Ebert’s Journal.

Since Einspruch’s “So long” post, members of his audience have launched their own blog [Post] Artblog.net. It begins with the kind of wit that made Artblog.net a delight to read: “The name of this blog draws from that central idea and the art truism that any art related topic with the word 'post' in it seems to garner a lot of critical acclaim and notoriety simply for being so named.” Our online communities are (perhaps) surprisingly sticky. Long may the blog live!

Below Einspruch was kind enough to answer some of our questions via e-mail.

Why are you taking a hiatus from Artblog.net?
I see Artblog.net as a completed project. If you end a party at the right time, everybody feels a little awkward, because they want it to continue but know that if it does, it won't be as good as it has been. I feel that the blog had gotten to that point. Artblog.net was at once an artistic, intellectual, and social phenomenon that harnessed the energies of a small group of dedicated, patently visual art lovers. But I felt that we had hammered out every point that needed making and it was time to release those energies, especially mine, into other projects.
How long have you been doing it?
Artblog.net ended just shy of its seventh birthday. I was involved in the establishment of an online art magazine in Miami 2000, at the behest of the dealer Bernice Steinbaum, who was trying to light a fire under the seat of the local art world's pants at the time. (This was two years before the first Art Basel/Miami Beach, which probably goes to show how much more efficient money is than criticism as an art-world fuel.) I stepped down as the Miami Art Exchange's founding editor in 2001; the site still runs as the personal project of Onajide Shabaka, who lives in Ft. Lauderdale and was closely involved with MAEx at the time. Afterwards I ran a site called The Sunburn for a couple of years, which featured my sporadic arts commentary, and started as static HTML pages. By then blogging was starting to catch on, and to my amazement the domain name Artblog.net hadn't been taken, so that began in 2003 and ended this month. In total I've been doing this in one form or another for ten years.
What have you gotten out of it or learned from it?
I learned an enormous amount about human nature: what people are willing to claim as true given the opportunity to speak freely under a self-selected amount of anonymity. I learned to talk about the fundamentals of the artistic experience, quality and taste, as real phenomena and not some kind of relativist, social construct. I learned to despise and combat the academic attitude towards art, which has covered the art world like a blanket of smog. I learned how to make a case for art as a visual thing, rather than a philosophical one. My ability to write grew by leaps. And I had a conversation, one that grew in sophistication over the course of seven years, with some brilliant minds about the nature of art and the art world. Is was an amazing apprenticeship. I also learned the extent to which this essentially visual approach lies outside the establishment mainstream, which is academic to the core.
What do you see as the power, purpose, potential of these sorts of blogs? What can they accomplish?
At this point, I'm not sure. Five, six, and seven years ago, blogging was an exciting alternative to the mainstream media, a way to make an end run around the official gatekeepers and make your thoughts publicly accessible to a degree never before possible. This was before there were tens of millions of blogs and before the mainstream media started blogging. Also, Artblog.net used to draw spirited disagreement from people who had wholly different takes on art than mine, and that stopped more or less all at once about a year and a half ago coincidentally with the rise of popularity of Facebook and Twitter. In 2004 you could make a big splash by putting up a blog. Now maintaining a credible public presence as a writer requires both self-publishing (a blog, a Facebook page, and/or a Twitter account), and what we might call other-publishing, regular appearances in print or on other peoples' sites. Only having the first makes you look like a crank, and only having the second makes you look like a dinosaur. Microblogging made it too easy to self-publish for anyone to make a name for himself as a writer that way.

We may be in a post-criticism art world, one that will freely allow Dakis Joannou to turn the New Museum into a vanity gallery, or allow the Rubells to use the Brooklyn Museum for entirely private purposes, or nonchalantly appoint Jeffrey Deitch to direct MoCA, and otherwise threaten to turn the whole contemporary art scene into a giant put-up job. I doubt that the blogs, or even the newspapers, have the power to stop this. But certain writers employing the blog-Twitter-Facebook combo have successfully poisoned the PR coming out of these establishments, and certainly your work as a blogger has been important in combating the disinformation campaign emanating from the Rose Museum. So we shouldn't give up just yet.

One of the problems we have to look at as art writers is whether or not what we're doing is ever going to aggregate into literature. The writings of Clement Greenberg or Fairfield Porter, collectively, seem to do this. We have to write at a high level over the course of many years if want to hope to accomplish that. I think we ought to reflect on your question about power, purpose, and potential in that light. Will blogging allow for literature? It could, but frequent posting doesn't lend itself to it. Microblogging makes it impossible. Newspaper writing often has its own constraints, of course, but largely it has been enabling.
Are you still blogging elsewhere – or are you taking a break from blogging all together? What will you be doing instead?
On May 3 I'm going to start journaling again at an updated version of einspruch.com. The format will be entirely different, as will the publishing schedule, and I'm not going to try to produce the full-length criticism that I wrote as a blogger back in Miami. I'm looking at Thoreau and Montaigne for inspiration. I've come to realize that it benefits me personally and professionally if I let other people publish my criticism instead of self-publishing it – the involvement of other people insulates me from some of the side effects of damning somebody's work in public.

In a way, I miss what Artblog.net was before it became thinkable that it might generate revenue, or establish itself as a arts publication in its own right, or serve as a bastion of modernist thought. It was more free, and I was more free. At the journal, I'm hoping to cultivate the informality and sincere disclosure that drew readers in the first place. Art demands alternating commitment and reinvention in order to maintain the vitality of your chosen activity. It's like drilling for oil – you commit to explore the current location and move on when the well dries. Personally, I'm due for a reinvention.

Freedom ain’t free

Watching Concord’s Patriot’s Day Parade yesterday, we kept wondering why the primary way our culture publicly represents American freedom is with marching soldiers.

Patriot’s Day commemorates battles that are considered the start of the American Revolution – and the freedoms that war secured for our nation. So it’s fitting to reenact these skirmishes and to have parades of Revolutionary War re-enactors. But the rest of Concord’s parade featured detachments of Civil War and World War I re-enactors. There were also boy and girl scouts in their adorable paramilitary uniforms. The only non-military elements were a school marching band and a couple horses and buggies.

And this military bent isn’t limited to Patriot’s Day in Concord. Plymouth’s Thanksgiving Parade and the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in South Boston, for example, are also dominated by military, police and paramilitary groups.

We’re not saying get rid of the soldiers. Wars have been one way our nation has secured and defended our freedoms. But how might we commemorate the Revolutionary War as well as represent and celebrate the rights won in the fighting, and enumerated in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights – the right to representative government, to freedom of speech and religion, freedom of the press, protections against unreasonable search and seizure, the right to trial by jury, and so on? (The military stuff seems to have the right to bear arms covered.)

Moreover, our local patriotic parades offer practically no representations of our nation’s struggles to secure the civil rights of ethnic and racial minorities, of women, of gays, of our struggles to secure the rights of workers and keep our air and water and land free of poisons. These are rights generally won through marches and picketing and sit-ins, through legislation and legal challenges. They are as dear to us, and as defining of what makes America great, as those fought for on battlefields.

When our public patriotic pageantry favors military spectacle over our rights, we signal that we take greater pride in our military than our freedoms.

Photos of Concord's Patriot's Day Parade by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Patriot's Day in Lexington, Concord

Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, marked the anniversary of the beginning of the American Revolution with Patriot's Day events this morning. The first group of photos shows the 1775 confrontation between British troops and the Lexington militia on the Lexington Green as reenacted at dawn by the Lexington Minute Man Company and His Majesty's Tenth Regiment of Foot, 1st Foot Guard, 4th Foot Guard and 5th Foot Guard. Below the sign for the Lexington pancake breakfast are photos of Concord's Patriot's Day Parade near the North Bridge.

Photos by The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research except for the third, seventh, eighth, eleventh and last photos, which were taken by special correspondent Caleb Neelon.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fazal Sheikh

From our review of Fazal Sheikh's “Beloved Daughters” at Brown University’s Bell Gallery:
Activist-photographer Fazal Sheikh’s tales of women from the Indian holy city of Vrindavan are devastating. One woman recounts how her husband beat her when she failed to get pregnant. But after he took a second wife, she became pregnant after all, twice, giving the man two sons. When the husband died, the second wife set fire to a bed in which she slept with the younger boy, killing the baby. She survived with burns over half her body.

Another woman tells Sheikh: “I was at home alone one day when a neighbor forced himself on me and raped me. When I told my husband what had happened he said he could no longer accept me as his wife and I would have to leave.”

A third woman tells of choosing never to marry after a friend entered into a rare love-marriage and her husband burned her to death because he was upset because her family declined to provide a dowry.

So, as Sheikh tells in his exhibit “Beloved Daughters” at Brown University’s Bell Gallery, these ostracized women — mainly widows — move to Vrindavan, where they survive by begging, living their lives in devotion to Krishna, and yearning for moksha (heaven) — final transcendence of the cycle of rebirth. “I don’t know why this has happened to me,” a woman says. “I cared for both my sons, but neither of them has done anything to care for me in my old age. I ask myself, why has God given me this great pain?"
Read the rest here.

Fazal Sheikh's “Beloved Daughters” at Brown University’s Bell Gallery, 64 College Street, Providence, March 27 to May 30, 2010.

Pictured from top to bottom: Fazal Sheikh's photos "Manita" from the "Ladli" series; "Pramila Satar" from the "Moksha" series; "Malikh" from the "Ladli" series; "Jamuna Sarkar" from the "Moksha" series; "Simran" from the "Ladli" series; "Suniti Chatterjee," "Sita Dasi" and "Shaila Wala" from the "Moksha" series.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Yaeger named director of New England Museum Association

Dan Yaeger has been named director of the New England Museum Association, the Arlington, Massachusetts, nonprofit announced today. He began work there during the first week of April, filling the shoes of Kate Viens, who is moving on to a part-time job at the Massachusetts Historical Society doing writing, research and editing projects.

Yaeger has been director of the Charles River Museum of Industry & Innovation in Waltham, Massachusetts, which has shut down temporarily after suffering flooding during the recent storms. Some have been concerned that the water damage would close the museum for good. “We’re going to be stronger than ever," Yaeger told the Globe on March 18. “We’re planning on reopening more in a manner of a few months rather than way off in the distance."

Previously Yaeger was a marketing and communications consultant to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Cleveland Museum of Art, Portland Museum of Art, Currier Museum of Art in Manchester, Old Sturbridge Village, John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, and Plimoth Plantation in Plymouth. He was formerly executive director of the Massachusetts Tourism Coalition, a statewide group providing advocacy for the travel and tourism industry, and served as director of administration for the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism.

Oct. 7, 2009: New England Museum Association director stepping down.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Schupbach leaves MA creative economy for NEA

Jason Schupbach, Massachusetts's first creative economy industry director, is leaving that post to become director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts at the end of May, the federal agency announced today.

Schupbach is expected to manage "the NEA's grantmaking for design and the NEA's design initiatives," the agency said.

Schupbach was appointed to Massachusetts creative industry director – billed as the first such position in the nation – in June 2008. The NEA touted his accomplishments here growing "new industry cluster groups, such as the Design Industry Group of Massachusetts (DIGMA), and launching a Design Excellence initiative, an effort to improve procurement processes in Massachusetts in order to build more sustainable and longer-lasting buildings and communities, and increase the number of designers being offered contracts."

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Globe: The revolution begins with Harvard

A Yokelist response

Note: This expands upon a three-paragraph letter we submitted to the Globe on March 23 that the newspaper has not printed.

Harvard should lead a local art revolution.

That’s Dushko Petrovich’s bold proposal to wake up the “sleepy” Boston art scene in his essay “How to start an art revolution: A manifesto for Boston” in the March 14 Boston Globe. He proposes a top-down rebellion lead by our august nonprofits – a new Harvard art degree program, new local satellite venues for the Museum of Fine Arts and Institute of Contemporary art, as well as offering grants, housing and free tuition to local art students to keep them around here after they graduate.

These ideas have promise – including the notion of focusing on a “less market-dependent approach to creating art” with “less commercial and more experimental work that pushes culture forward.” And certainly our institutions could do more. But the ICA just erected a new building in 2006 and the MFA is scheduled to open a new wing this fall. Why would they immediately want to start opening satellite venues? And if they wanted to, could they gather funding to launch them?

More significantly, Petrovich’s focus on major institutions and academia has a major blind spot: What about locally-made art?

To criticize the practical details of Petrovich’s proposals may be missing the point, as his aim seems really to make grand, long-term, pie-in-the-sky proposals to spark discussion. I think.

But how can we become, as Petrovich says, “a real engine for the country’s creative life” if our boldest plans can be summarized as waiting for our august institutions to ride to our rescue? Petrovich’s proposals let us off the hook from doing hard work ourselves. His institutional focus reflects a common – and mistaken – notion that power and possibilities in Boston reside almost exclusively in our institutions. We need more do-it-yourself attitude – and more ambition.

Instead of waiting for Harvard, make our role model “Honk,” the festival of activist marching bands founded by a group of Boston area musicians, puppeteers and activists in 2006. The festival frames a significant trend in the arts, asserts Boston’s place as a leader in this movement, brings together artists from around the world to share their music and ideas … and is an awesome community party. It has inspired imitator festivals in Providence, Seattle, Montreal, and – yes – New York. It’s an example of local creative innovation that is leading the nation.

Other New England role models include AS220 in Providence, the Boston Cyberarts Festival, Bread and Puppet Theater in Vermont, Fort Thunder and Dirt Palace in Providence, the Museum of Bad Art in Dedham and Somerville, Massachusetts, Coleman Burke Gallery in Maine, and, ahem, The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research in greater Boston and our New England Art Awards.

Petovich sees things through a New York lens. So when he talks about the Art World, what he’s really talking about is New York. “Within the art world, a once bullish and even rowdy scene has become decidedly more circumspect, its members nervously hoping — some might say fantasizing — that some good can come of hard times, that the market’s crash might give a new, more humane shape to the art world.” He argues that Boston, “a sleeping giant,” has “a rare chance to develop a new model for American artistic life.”

That new model? “A European model, where universities, museums, and other public institutions — including the government, which can help with health care and rent stabilization — combine to encourage a different, less market-dependent approach to creating art.” “What if one of the universities helped the ICA secure a satellite location in a cheaper neighborhood, the way New York’s Museum of Modern Art runs the dynamic P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in Queens? Imagine ICA Lower Allston.” “An annual art fair that attracted top collectors and media to the Hynes convention center in search of emerging talents.” A new Harvard graduate art degree program that would lure cool teachers – and their cool students – to Boston to “put the school on par with Yale and Columbia universities.” And this could “rouse the city’s other players into action.”

Massachusetts already offers health care. And rent control would be great. But the ICA should be like New York’s MoMA and P.S.1? We should have an annual art fair like Miami or New York? And Harvard should be more like Yale and Columbia?

Isn’t this just New York lite? We don’t become “a real engine for the country’s creative life” by creating our own smaller, lamer knockoffs of New York. We become a leader by inventing new things that other people make smaller, lamer knockoffs of. Like "Honk."

Petrovich’s (that's him above) focus on New York and academia may be a result of his own New York focus (he writes for and edits the New York-based contemporary art journal Paper Monument) and being ensconced in academia (studies at Boston University and Yale, a scholar/artist in residence at London’s Royal Academy, teaching at Boston University).

Which is probably why Petrovich is most perceptive about graduate students. He correctly identifies rent and school loan debt as major difficulties for young artists. His most original idea is “eliminate debt from advanced degrees in the arts.” He also proposes temporary exhibitions by recent grads around the city with prizes of “a year’s workspace and stipend.” But these ideas have limited potential for building a more exciting Boston, because the first idea doesn’t guarantee students will stay here after graduation. And the second idea is a one-year fix, not a sustainable long-term solution.

Better perhaps is his proposal for universities to work “together with the city and local museums to establish a network of post-graduate residencies for their outstanding students.” But how long would former students qualify for these benefits? And why focus so exclusively on students? What about the rest of us?

Petrovich’s central idea seems to be that more museums and more MFA programs produce more exciting art communities. But except for student work, Petrovich’s revolution generally ignores locally-made art. His proposals for the MFA and ICA don’t call for the museums to incubate local artists by showing more locally-made art or organizing traveling exhibitions that showcase our artists’ work elsewhere.

And he never considers how the Globe or Paper Monument might help. Wouldn’t it be dandy if the Globe’s top critics – the Pulitzer winners and finalists – paid more attention to local art? A quick scan of Globe and Paper Monument archives suggest that Petrovich himself may have never written about any art made in New England. (Correction: Turns out this is not quite right, as Petrovich informs us that he wrote a two-paragraph review of the ICA's Foster Prize show in 2008.)

Petrovich’s revolution is a revolution of the museums and universities, not a revolution of art-making. It’s a revolution that could mean expanded local institutions that continue to pay little attention to art made here. How can Boston be “a real engine for the country’s creative life” if we continue to ignore our artists?

Yokelist Manifesto Number 1: Boston lacks alternative spaces?
Yokelism at the 2008 Boston Art Awards.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 2: Montreal case study.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 3: Hire locally.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 4: We need coverage of our living artists.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 5: We need local retrospectives.
Yokelism update: Coverage of our living artists: Sebastian Smee responds.
Yokelism update: Dangers of Provincialism.
Yokelism update: Re: Dangers of Provincialism.
Yokelist Manifesto Number 6: Could the CIA help?
Yokelism at the 2009 New England Art Awards.
Re: “Yokelism with your wallet out."

Monday, April 12, 2010

Boston pressures nonprofits to pay more
after tax breaks for big business

A Nightlight Team “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” Investigation

In December 2008, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino (in the center above) told the Boston Chamber of Commerce that he planned to form a task force to look into “disparities” in what local hospitals, colleges and other tax-exempt nonprofits pay the city as a sort of voluntary tax. “Menino called on the need to create an equitable PILOT (Payments in Lieu of Taxes) system so that these relationships are fairer and generate more value, both in payments and in programs,” the mayor’s office then reported.

Last week, the nine-member PILOT Task Force, which has been meeting since January 2009, called on local tax-exempt nonprofits to increase their voluntary financial contributions to the city to 25 percent (pdf) of what they would owe if they had to pay taxes. Right now most nonprofits voluntarily pay less than 5 percent of what they, uh, don’t owe. (More details at bottom.)

As the city is pushing mid-sized and large nonprofits to pay more than they actually owe in taxes, the city and state continue to approve special million dollar tax breaks for big local businesses, allowing them to pay less than what they owe – like the $38.5 million in city and state tax breaks over two decades recently bestowed upon insurance giant Liberty Mutual to help it build a new office tower in Boston.

Tax revenues have become critical for the city as it – like government at all levels – continues to struggle financially in the lousy economy. For example, on Friday, April 9, the city’s Library Board of Trustees announced belt-tightening plans to close four public libraries and cut 94 jobs across the library system. (The announcement from the mayor’s office accentuates the positive: “Twenty-two BPL Branches to Remain Open with Current Hours.”)

Local nonprofits should pay their fair share of the city’s costs for fire, police and other services – but our laws say their fair share is nearly nothing, because we as a community have decided to subsidize hospitals and schools’ good works. In the “spirit of partnership,” the PILOT Task Force doesn’t push for a law changing the tax exemption for nonprofits. Very kind of them.

But why are we subsidizing big business, while Boston closes libraries and begs nonprofits for cash? Once the mayor’s task force finishes pressuring nonprofits to pay money they don’t owe, perhaps the committee can study the equity of the city and state’s special tax breaks for big business. These handouts have to be made up for somehow. It means some of us (in this case nonprofits) must pay more while all of us receive less of the services we pay for via our taxes (libraries, police, teachers, arts grants, etc.).

How much do Boston nonprofits voluntarily pay the city?
The city of Boston reported that it collected voluntary payments of $15.8 million from tax-exempt nonprofits in fiscal year 2008. A year ago, the city reported that: “In Fiscal Year 2009, the tax-exempt property owned by the educational institutions was valued at $7.0 billion, which, if taxable, would have generated $190.2 million in property taxes for the City of Boston. Tax-exempt property owned by the medical institutions was valued at $5.7 billion, which, if taxable, would have generated $154.8 million in property taxes for the City of Boston. Educational institutions will contribute an estimated $8.7 million in PILOT payments in fiscal year 2009, representing 4.6% of what they would pay if taxable. Medical institutions will contribute an estimated $5.8 million in PILOT payments in fiscal year 2009, which represents 3.8% of what they would pay if taxable.”

Previous Nightlight Investigative Team “Brother, Can You Spare a Dime” Reports:
April 1, 2010: MA, RI subsidize millionaires, cut the arts.

Friday, April 09, 2010

"Abstraction in Providence" at RIC’s Bannister Gallery

From our review of "Abstraction in Providence" at Rhode Island College's Bannister Gallery in Providence:
For decades, abstraction dominated avant-garde discourse, as painters worked to break art down to its basic elements, stripping away more and more of what seemed necessary to a painting, and then stripping away even more. The all-white paintings and giant steel cubes of the height of 1960s Minimalism signaled a turning point, however. Abstraction continues to dominate sculpture — particularly friendlier, warmer iterations of Minimalism — and major abstract painting continues to be produced by artists from Brice Marden to Elizabeth Murray to Gerhard Richter. But the style has become increasingly pushed out of the spotlight by various flavors of eccentric realism. Once painters split the atom, the experiments that helped them get there just didn’t feel so vital any more.

Yet right on the heels of the excellent Pat Steir abstract drawing retrospective opening at the RISD Museum, the exhibit “Abstraction in Providence” arrives at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery (600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Providence, through April 22). Director James Montford rounds up five Providence painters for a strong mini-survey that leans toward the brushy, the romantic, the idiosyncratic personal touch.

Lloyd Martin is the only one of the bunch whose work is based on hard-edged geometry — but even that seems to be rusting away. His paintings are inspired rundown mills, patchwork loading docks, and tired, weathered walls. The star of the show is Martin’s "Currant" (2009), which features three abutting vertical canvases divided by horizontal stripes. The predominant hue is a pale blue painted over a rusty orange ground, the contrast between the color opposites upping the wattage of each other. There are also some narrower orange, black, red, and yellow stripes, as well as white blocks, and drips and splatters and things painted out. They channel the charismatic nostalgia of urban decay.
Read the rest here.

“Abstraction in Providence” arrives at Rhode Island College’s Bannister Gallery (600 Mount Pleasant Avenue, Providence, March 25 to April 22, 2009.

Pictured from top to bottom: Lloyd Martin, "Currant"; installation shot of two Irene Lawrence paintings, at left, and a Donna Brunton painting; and Donna Bruton, "The Healing Source."

Thursday, April 08, 2010

NEJAR redesign suggestions?

Dear Reader(s),

Over the coming weeks we plan to tinker a bit with the design of The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research — and hopefully not screw it up. So are things we should leave alone? Are there things you would like to see added or moved around or improved. For example, you might write: "Update the damn 'News Headlines' more than once every leap year." And that would be a very helpful suggestion. But in particular, we're looking for advice on how the site looks and functions, as well as information or features you would like to see added or just more prominently displayed. Please send along suggestions or post them as comments here. As always, thank you, dear Reader(s), for your help and support.

— The Management