Must warn others

"It's Alive!" at Montserrat, "2007 North American Print Biennial" at 808 Gallery
By RANDI HOPKINS  |  February 6, 2007

Brian Burkhardt, Tanit Sakakini, Neighbors (detail)
It’s a cliché of bad novels and late-night movies that scientists and artists represent two extreme — and mutually exclusive — poles of objectivity and subjectivity. But in fact the two groups have a great deal in common. Both are driven by a desire to discover the as-yet-unknown; both deal in imagination and technology. Many artists have an affinity for the abstract, æsthetic nature of scientific research, and current revolutions in biotechnology have inspired artists’ projects that explore subjects from genetic engineering to alternate fuel sources. But because artists’ research is not subject to proof, art can also highlight ambiguities in “objective” methods and findings, offer social commentary, and raise ethical questions. All of this is explored in “It’s Alive! A Laboratory Of Biotech Art,” at Montserrat College of Art Gallery beginning February 16.

The 11 artists’ media include virtual sculpture, personal genetic material, pre-industrial mechanisms, lemons, and rotting tomatoes. Using the Web as his sculpting tool as well as his microscope, cross-disciplinary artist and computer programmer Adam Brandejs has created the Genpet TM, which he describes on his Web site as “a mass-produced, pre-packaged, bio-engineered living pet available in seven different personality types.” Brian Burkhardt, who’s known for fabricating elaborate, exquisite tiny creatures with a socially conscious edge, teams up with photographer Tanit Sakakini to create chilling domestic images in which butterflies act as surveillance devices. And artist and geneticist Hunter O’Reilly creates drawings using living bioluminescent bacteria displayed in a darkened room.

The Boston Printmakers were founded in the fall of 1947 by a small and dedicated group of senior students and faculty at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and Massachusetts College of Art; their first show was held the following spring, on the fourth floor of Paine’s Furniture Store, where contemporary print lovers had to navigate beds and sofas to view the work on display. Still, the show was such a success that the following year the Printmakers expanded to include work from around the US and the rest of the world. This year “The Boston Printmakers 2007 North American Print Biennial,” opening on February 18 at Boston University’s 808 Gallery, presents a national, juried exhibition of contemporary printmaking selected by Judith Hecker, assistant curator in the Department of Prints and Illustrated Books at the Museum of Modern Art.

“It’s Alive! A Laboratory Of Biotech Art” at Montserrat College of Art Gallery, 23 Essex St, Beverly | February 16–April 7 | 978.921.4242 | “The Boston Printmakers 2007 North American Print Biennial” at 808 Gallery, 808 Comm Ave, Boston | February 18–April 1 | 617.358.0922

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