09 June 2012

Canada, Massachusetts

I like Canada. And I like art, so I was prepared to like the Mass MoCA show, Oh, Canada when I went yesterday. And I did like the show, although I found it a bit disjointed. I guess disjointed is what happens when you mount a show that's supposed to exemplify the current state of a whole country's worth of art and artists. But the show is playful, funny, and ironic and with painting, sculpture, installation, performance, video and photography represented, there's something for everyone.

Of the 60+ artists represented, I had previously encountered only two. I knew the awesome work of Ruth Cuthand because someone wrote to me on my blog about her when I did a print about the role of small pox in the early settlement of North America. Cuthand has a series using beadwork to represent pathogens and four of these pieces were included in Oh, Canada. I also knew of Marcel Dzama as an illustrator, although I don't think he does much commercial work at this point. In the late 1990s I had heard about his use of root beer as a pigment, which is how his name became indelible in my mind. His piece in the Oh, Canada show is a video, which I didn't spend enough time with to speak intelligently about.

Anyhow, I'm an artist not a critic, so I'll just show you some photos of pieces that interested me. The show is definitely worth seeing

A large felted flower-covered bear by Janice Wright Cheney greets everyone at the door. I assume the bear is female, because she's called "Widow," and her claws are HUGE.

Cool lighted spinning bottles by Diane Landry. They make a great sound as they spin.

Stitched Japanese paper (washi) by Luanne Martineau is quiet and elegant. And I love washi.

More objects made of felt. This little tent-room was built by Amalie Atkins. You could go inside and watch a movie.

Amalie Atkins's movie, "Three Minute Miracle: Tracking the Wolf," was sweet magical realism with fairly high production values and interesting music. The wife and I liked it.

There were plenty of animals. I liked this fabric and porcelain wild boar by David Harper.

Graeme Patterson's mountain diorama was intriguing. Inside was an artist's studio with a tiny version of the mountain included, plus lots of little videos and furniture and all kinds of stuff.

There were many small alcoves and rooms where you could view videos and other kinds of installations. This video by Charles Stankievech was gorgeous. It had something to do with the U.S. military but I can't remember exactly.

This two-part life-size diorama by Kent Monkman looks at the relationship between Tonto and the Lone Ranger. In this half of the diorama, the lone ranger character wears an apron and appears to have slit his wrists. In the other half, the native American character wears the apron, although the lone ranger character appears dead in that scene as well. A sign above them reads "The love that dare not speak its name" which is Oscar Wilde's phrase for homosexuality. A video in the "window" behind them plays out a kind of "Brokeback Mountain" scene.

There's another similarly themed installation that celebrates young men in wild and natural settings upstairs. It's NSFW, so I won't post a picture, but you can catch a glimpse of it in this review of the show. (Lots more photos of the show on that page.) The review points out something that I noticed at the show, too, which is that there's little if any educational material presented, either about the individual artists or about contemporary art in Canada -- a missed opportunity by Mass MoCA.

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