Serious thoughts in a frivolous season

Huddling over the map
By NICHOLAS SCHROEDER  |  November 28, 2012

STILL FROM VIDEO Adam John Manley's Maiden Voyages, in various Maine locations, 2012.
As the citywide art scene becomes tinted with red and green, a trim show of five MECA faculty, bearing conceptually rich gifts and the grandiloquent title "The World Over," stays engaged in the world of ideas.

Let's start with the artist who covers the most uncharted ground. Writing about the New Aesthetic, the this-year-coined art concept whereby the digital reproduction of an image might be considered the essential structure of its visual DNA, The Atlantic writer Ian Bogost responded with the idea of an "object-oriented ontology." His theory is that if we can dedicate an entire aesthetic to observing the world through the perspective of the virtual eye, why not give all nonliving objects the same benefit? A similar principle guides the works of Jeffrey Clancy, an expert metalsmith who designs utilitarian-looking objects for more symbolic value than use. His three series widen the understanding of metalsmithing using the process and language of the craftsman, not the consumer. "Images of Silver Objects" is a digital print catalogue of landmark design in the silversmithing field, their captions enlarged and centered to emphasize the objects' characteristics while obscuring their commercial value. Elsewhere, seven shelves of raised metal bowls suggest a sort of taxonomy of possible forms, while on another shelf, wryly, the artist has arranged six identical Paul Revere-style bowls with near-identical engravings. Some will surely find his work to be lacking explication — perhaps even an in-joke — but Clancy is unapologetically taking the liberal view. If the history of utilitarian design has created this wealth of fine metal works, what possibilities exist if you strip out the utility? In other words, what might the metal want to be?

And while it's natural to bristle at the sight of decorative paintings, Gail Spaien's work only registers as such at first blush. Her radiant and methodical "Open Window 3: Venice" series — large, resplendent meditations of color blooms clustered in nucleic spheres — defies our predispositions about flowers in visual art. To be certain, flowers they are not, but Spaien so meticulously reproduces the atomic structures of her forms that the mind jolts to assign them representations in nature. The very act of grappling with this cognitive dissonance is one of her work's greatest pleasures. These four acrylics clearly contain energy derived from a natural order — an appreciation, yes, but equally the imagination required to resist it.

With witty ingenuity, builder Adam Manley displays four makeshift sea vessels fashioned from scraps. Projected on the wall, a video shows him unceremoniously setting sail with each. His boats differ wildly in material and design — one has him comically suspended in an armchair on a raft of insulation foam; another's basically a saucer floating on unseen physics — and the movie makes a useful bridge between hobbyhorse concepts of wood repurposing and the politicized turf of going off-grid.

1  |  2  |   next >
Related: Odd year ahead for museums and galleries, Live Review: Big Blood + Human Adult Band + Jim Vreeland | Sep 5 at the Apohadion, Are Civil (Liberties) Unions America's Best Hope?, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Colleen Kinsella, The Atlantic, Jeffrey Clancy
| More

Most Popular
Share this entry with Delicious
  •   UNMASKING AFRICAN RELICS  |  February 26, 2014
    An evocative, transportive exhibit of icons, artifacts, and spirit masks from some of the many, many cultures and “kingdoms” of West Africa, what is now Cameroon and Nigeria.
  •   THE TEQUILA ODYSSEY  |  February 20, 2014
    Each of the city’s drinking establishments has its roots in some primordial myth.
  •   TRUE EFFIN' ARTISTRY  |  February 20, 2014
    Mousa is the new recording alias of Vince Nez, a/k/a Aleric Nez, the name by which he released a nimble, unpredictable record in late 2010.
  •   THE STATE OF SEA SALT  |  February 12, 2014
    A surfeit of salt manufacturers have cropped up in the state over the last few years.
  •   NOT YOUR AUNTIE'S DOOM  |  February 06, 2014
    Sure, it may be Latin for “forest of trees,” but Sylvia more readily conjures some wiseacre aunt, not a burly group of veteran musicians trying to carve new notches in well-trod forms of heavy metal.

 See all articles by: NICHOLAS SCHROEDER