Boca Raton Museum of Art
501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton, FL 33432
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|Thursday, January 28, 2010|
|M.C. Escher at the Boca Raton Museum of Art|
As a self-professed math naïf, the exhibition Marc Bell Presents: The Magical World of M.C. Escher (20 January – 11 April 2010) completely blows my mind. Maurits Cornelis Escher used an intricate graphing system to create his visions of symmetry, unending tessellations and improbable buildings. Perhaps best known for his Drawing Hands, Reptiles, and Self-Portrait in Spherical Mirror, all instructional mainstays for drawing classes, Escher created many more prints and drawings. A major component of his mature career was the diagramed geometric grids that he used to make interlocking designs. These designs utilize complex and varied shapes which fill the plane of the paper without leaving any voids. In the north gallery we have assembled his “Regular Division of the Plane” prints and drawings along with some of his preliminary sketches and equation notations. It is a unique opportunity to see the mind of Escher at work as he develops his elaborate compositions.
Besides the notations found at the edges of some artworks, Escher kept extensive notebooks tracking his various projects. A whimsical fellow, here is his synopsis of the print Reptiles, published in M.C. Escher: The Graphic Work:
The life cycle of a little alligator. Amid all kinds of objects, a drawing book lies open, and the drawing on view is a mosaic of reptilian figures in three contrasting shades. Evidently one of them has tired of lying flat and rigid amongst his fellows, so he puts one plastic-looking leg over the edge of the book, wrenches himself free and launches out into real life. He climbs up the back of a book on zoology and works his laborious way up the slippery slope of a set square to the highest point of his existence. Then after a quick snort, tired but fulfilled, he goes downhill again, via an ashtray, to the level surface, to that flat drawing paper, and meekly rejoins his erstwhile friends, taking up once more his function as an element of surface division.
M.C. ESCHER (Dutch, 1898-1972),
Reptiles, 1943, Bool #327, lithograph,
13 1/8 x 15 1/8 inches.
Courtesy of The Walker Collection.
All M. C. Escher's works and text © The M. C. Escher Company, Baarn, The Netherlands. All rights reserved. M. C. Escher ® is a registered trademark
The three contrasting shades mentioned are part of another primary concern for Escher; color composition. From the very beginning, Escher felt that individual motifs needed to be both recognizable and to have the same value or weight as the other motifs found within the composition. This requires that the motifs should have similar contrast and brightness. In the north gallery, you can see this tendency at work in the two representations of Sun and Moon.
But the fun doesn’t stop there. This exhibition holds almost 400 items created by Escher, the second-largest private collection in the world, courtesy of Rock J. Walker of Walker Fine Arts.
The exhibition traverses his early days spent drawing in Italy, through his interests in mirrored images, impossible buildings, and tessellations. We have cancelled lithographic stones, a chair covered in an Escher print and the work table from his studio.
If you are interested in finding out more about M.C. Escher’s life, you can take a curator highlight tour with Senior Curator Wendy Blazier this Tuesday at 2:30 pm for The Life and Art of M.C. Escher or on March 9th for M.C. Escher’s “Impossible” Objects and Scenes. Free with paid admission to Museum.
|Wednesday, December 23, 2009|
|Social Change Through Art|
Chin, Revival Field, 1990-present, view during early July 1991, landfill, chain link fence, six plant varieties, perennial and annual seeds and
seedlings, 60 square feet, Pig's Eye landfill, St. Paul, Minnesota. © Mel Chin
Hans Ulrich Obrist, named "most powerful figure in the international art world" by ArtReview magazine in their November 2009 issue, recently moderated a
symposium at the Louisiana Museum of
Modern Art, Copenhagen.
This symposium deliberately coincided with the larger United
Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 15). Obrist first made headlines in 1992
when he founded the Museum Herbert Walser, a migratory museum. The idea was to constantly shift the location
of the museum, moving between cities and countries. His innovative vision of a museum that always
questioned itself - parameters and operations changing with each show - helped
to establish him as a progressive director/curator who not only considers the "what"
in an exhibition, but also the "why" and the "how."
Obrist has become known as an art-world powerhouse, having
worked as critic, writer, curator and co-director (Serpentine Gallery, London).
Keeping in line with his tradition of creative catalyst, Obrist recently
facilitated a symposium comprised of eminent art-world personalities like
Shilpa Gupta, Olafur Eliasson and Peter Weibel, among others. The focus of their conversations was
sustainability in the creative sector and challenges that face the
What of us here, in South Florida? If one cannot attend an international meeting
of the minds to contemplate art and the planet, what shall an artist do? Why, make art, of course. Personally, I feel that artists have a moral
imperative to address the mounting issues in our communities, both locally and
globally. Climate change and waste are
not the only issues to address; there are those on a social level, such as the
breakdown of intimate social interactions facilitated by omnipresent technology,
issues of racism and sexism, and so on.
Artists are in a
unique position to reach a public audience who will stop and consider what they
are saying. When someone takes time out
of their day to get in their car, drive to an art gallery or museum and look at
your work rather than doing any number of other things, they are yours for a
time. They have deposited themselves at
your doorstep and now it is up to you how you make use of their time. It is a chance for an artist to point to
issues and resolutions that the visitor may not have otherwise considered. Below are a few examples of artists who I
think have done a superb job of tying art to pressing issues in a way that the
public can understand.
Mel Chin, Revival
Hans Haacke, Shapolsky et al. Manhattan Real Estate
Holdings, A Real Time Social System, as of May 1, 1971
Fred Wilson, Mining the Museum
In the context of an international worldview, if the most
powerful figure is someone that feels social responsibility rather than create
items for conspicuous consumption,
then I encourage all artists to take a page from Obrist's notes.
|Thursday, November 19, 2009|
|Painting with light: A look at Keith Sonnier|
Keith Sonnier, Cross Station, circa 1987, aluminum,
neon tubes, wire, edition of 4, 50 x 48 x 8 inches.
Permanent Collection 2004.111. Gift of the Estate of Edna Sloan Beron
Renowned light artist Keith Sonnier (1941, Mamou, Louisiana) - whose work can be seen at the Boca Raton Museum of Art - has roots in the American Minimalism movement, which took place in the 1960s. His peers are artists like Bruce Nauman, Donald Judd, Richard Serra, Eva Hesse and Robert Morris - artists who rejected pictorial illusionism and put their trust in real space.
Additionally, these artists redefined sculpture through the use of unusual materials (fabric, latex, industrial elements and light) in the 1960s-70s. One minimalist element of Sonnier's work is its relation to the space in which it is exhibited rather than a fictional space found within the confines of a frame.
Instead of pointing to itself, as narrative pictures do, it points outwards, to its surrounding elements. When one looks at a piece of light art, one also looks at wall space, architecture and even the other people that inhabit the gallery space around them. Elements of this phenomenon can be seen in other light artists' work - Dan Flavin and James Turrell, for example.
The defining element of Sonnier's style is his use of neon light. The sharp linear quality of neon as it emits from its tube casing allows Sonnier to essentially "draw" on an architectural element, in addition to creating a diffuse wash of color as it falls on differing planes. The wall, generally considered a structural support, is now a part of his canvas.
Currently, Sonnier resides in New York City, where he continues to create light art sculptures. Some of his recent projects include the Tunnel of Tears which was featured at the reopening of P.S.1 in Long Island in 1997, and gallery shows at the Joseloff Gallery at the University of Hartford, CT, Galerie JGM in Paris, and PaceWildenstein, New York.
For Tunnel of Tears, Sonnier, bathed the interior of a chimney at P.S. 1 in blue and pink light. Sonnier integrated the existing architecture so that when looking at the piece, one can get a whole new feel for an interior that normally would have gone unnoticed.
Alternatively, the work shown at JGM Galerie departs from his standard installation method. USA: War of the Worlds (2004) has a more confined feel to it, with American flags boxing in the color emitting from tubes of light at the center of the piece. Rather than the light painting a wall, the flags create a space with marked borders, making it difficult for the light to emanate beyond.
This motif is repeated with Baghdad Relic (2004), also at JGM, wherein the mounted sea shells (listed as found objects) create a partition between light and wall, effectively absorbing a majority of the color. Once you are familiar with the trajectory of Sonnier's work, this deviation in style becomes all the more poignant.
Almost all of Sonnier's works ask us to see light and color as a medium, blurring our understanding of object and environment.
|Tuesday, November 10, 2009|
|Art-o-Mat is where it's at!|
Visitors to the Museum often inquire about our quirky little machine situated in the lobby. Inevitably, younger visitors cast an eye to its bright colors and promise of a mystery prize.
This reconstituted cigarette vending machine offers 2" x 3" original artworks created by artists from all over the country. Simply insert a token - procured for $5 from the fine volunteers at the front desk - and out comes a miniature artwork. The Art-o-Mat is a great way to get affordable, handmade pieces of art; start your personal art collection on the cheap through this donation to the Artists in Cellophane group.
Clark Whittington, the National Bureau Chief of Artists in Cellophane, has been repackaging art to incorporate into people's daily lives for more than ten years. The success of his project is evidenced by the number of Art-o-Mats installed worldwide - more than 80 of them!
Here, at the Boca Raton Museum of Art, we have featured in our machine a few hometown heroes from around the state of Florida:
If you're a hepcat who is more interested in creating pocket art than in buying it, visit artomat.org and learn about how you can become part of the Artists in Cellophane crew.
The other artists currently featured in our Art-o-Mat:
If you are interested in supporting one of these artists, don't hesitate. These they sell out quickly and we are always incorporating new art into the mix.
And don't forget, with the holidays approaching...
|Thursday, November 5, 2009|
|The disappearing Everglades; explored at Boca Raton Museum of Art|
An art museum typically does not spend a great deal of time disseminating information about environmental issues, such as the plight of delicate ecosystems. But with the BRMA's current - and soon-to-close - exhibition Clyde Butcher: Wilderness Visions, the Museum has recently had cause to explore issues relevant to Florida's beautiful, enigmatic and fragile Everglades.
Mr. Butcher talks to seminar attendees
On Oct. 3, Mr. Butcher - a noted Florida wildlife photographer well-known for his undying passion for Everglades preservation - visited the Museum to lead a two-hour seminar/workshop/lecture about his black-and-white photography techniques and the ways in which his style has adapted to changing technology. Mr. Butcher, who spends a great deal of time "on the ground" in the Everglades, capturing images of the flora and fauna, also shared anecdotes about his time in the field.
The seminar (to which Members received a discounted entry) was open to the public, and enjoyed a sell-out crowd. After the event, attendees had the chance to mingle with Mr. Butcher and participate in a book-signing.
Everglades Lecture at Museum
As a compliment to the Clyde Butcher exhibition - which prominently features several large-scale images of the Everglades - the Museum's Education Department arranged for a free Everglades Lecture with local wetlands expert, Eric Gehring. The open event was held Oct. 28 at the BRMA. Museum Curator of Education Claire Clum emphasized the Museum's commitment to honor Mr. Butcher's mission to preserve "Florida's treasure."
Eric Gehring, the Education Director at the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation, used a PowerPoint presentation and interactive audience exercises to highlight the Everglades size, scope, history and current efforts to restore and preserve the wetlands. Listed below are a few of the stand-out points that I picked up from Mr. Gehring's presentation:
- The Everglades can be found in Palm Beach County (home to the Museum). You don't need to drive south or west to find them.
- There are some plants and animals indigenous to the Everglades that can't be found elsewhere in the world.
- In 1882, humans began making significant changes to the way the water flowed, creating an intricate canal system. The wetlands originally covered 18,000 square miles; today's coverage is significantly lower.
- Florida rests atop limestone, which is essentially composed of fossilized sea creatures.
- A vast majority of Floridians get their drinking water from aquifers located in the limestone.
Mr. Gehring's primary message was the value in recognizing the vital functions of the Everglades and the continued need to protect and maintain this vulnerable asset.
As a final note: Clyde Butcher: Wilderness Visions closes this Sunday, November 8, 2009.
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