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Boston Museum of Fine Art: Dynamic Endurance

This Spring Break I went to Boston for the first time. It was a fun trip; visiting friends, eating delicious food, and exploring a ton of interesting places. I would travelling here, particularly if you’re a college student.

One of my favorite experiences was visiting Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts. The museum has impressive collections of work ranging from their large exhibitions of American and ancient art to their assortment of Asian and European works. I was particularly taken by their American art, which prominently featured portraiture by Copley, Sargent (who painted the murals covering the ceiling of the dome and the main hall), and more, as well as by their contemporary collection.

A Boy With a Flying Squirrel (1765)

John Singleton Copley, A Boy With a Flying Squirrel, 1765. One of the museum’s many Copley paintings.

If you get a chance to check it out I would recommend their current film exhibit, Dynamic Endurance which features a collection of three videos with feminist content. It includes “Standing on a Watermelon in the Dead Sea” by Sigalit Landau, “Blood from a Stone” by Kate Gilmore, and my favorite, “Sloss, Kerr, Rosenberg, and Moore” by Ann Carlson and Mary Ellen Strom.

Sigalit Landau, Standing on a Watermelon in the Dead Sea, 2005. Video still. Visit her website to see video clips and stills.

Kate Gilmore, Blood From a Stone, 2009. Video Still. Check out her website here where you can view stills and clips from her performances.

This last piece featured four lawyers (actual lawyers, not just actors) performing a choreographed routine composed by Carlson and Strom after observing the men in action. The dialogue is somewhat absurd, at one point a lawyer points directly towards the viewer and shouts, “You are the biggest baby in this room!” after which he beckons us to approach. The film speaks to masculine performance in the white-collar workplace, gently mocking the rituals of this male-dominated field. It’s hard to take the suit-clad lawyers seriously when they rhythmically clap in a way reminiscent of childhood games, or gently close their eyes and pretend to be planes.

The museum also gives visitors a glimpse into conservation, allowing us to watch restorers working on two Etruscan sarcophagi, as well as the restoration of a room-sized oil painting. Not something that you see very frequently! They also have an interactive display that allows museum-goers to learn more about conservation from the perspective of curators and conservators and explains the process used to restore many pieces.

Gerrit van Honthorst, Allegory of Justice, 17th cent. Read more about its conservation here.

If you’re in the area (or have a lot of time to spare!) I would recommend checking the MFA out. It’s easy to kill an afternoon there looking at some wonderful art.

We were also able to stop by Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art which currently includes the exhibition, Figuring Color, featuring Sue Williams, Kathy Butterly, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Roy McMakin.

Sue Williams, American Enterprise, 2009

Kathy Butterly, Mesmerchandize, 2007

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (Lover Boys), 1991. Ideal weight: 355 pounds.

Roy McMakin, A Chest of Drawers Based Upon a Chest of Drawers From My Side Porch, 2008

The show seemed a little disconnected, perhaps, but the work was individually great (Color isn’t really a focus for most of these artists, it’s something they work with, but not the point of their work). I’m particularly a fan of Sue William’s paintings, and I always love Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s commemorative candy piles. The main complaint I have is the size of the museum, there simply wasn’t enough to do. This was largely because the East Galleries are currently closed for exhibition, so if you want to check it out do so after March 21st!

Other than the art related activities, my friend and I went to the aquarium (he’d never been!), visited friends at colleges around the area, checked out Quincy Market, got lost multiple times a day, and drank ungodly amounts of coffee. Take a look if you get the chance!

2 Comments

  1. Makes me wish I lived in Boston…I love Kate Gilmore…was in a show with her just before her career crested…it was a hilarious piece of her eating salad and spitting it out at the camera like a petulant child…it was so funny I could have watched it all day.

    Reply
    • Visiting made me want to live there too, that city is almost too beautiful.

      Do you have an online portfolio? Or should I just look through your blog? I love the photos of your recent installation, I wish I could see it in person!

      Reply

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