Birdland

Henrik Håkansson at the Gardner, ‘Dwelling’ at Forest Hills Cemetery, Marilyn Minter and more at AIB
By RANDI HOPKINS  |  June 20, 2006


SPIX'S MACAW: From Harvard’s Museum of Comparative Zoology
Our fragile and threatened natural environment weighs on the mind of Swedish artist Henrik Håkansson, who takes a biologist’s approach to artmaking, tackling subjects from the musical preferences of Swedish frogs (it seems they go for ambient techno) to the emotional life of the forest (in an early work, he drew smiling or crying faces on plants and tree trunks with felt pens, hoping to help the creatures express themselves). But despite his wry humor, Håkansson’s efforts to set up a dialogue between nature and culture touch a nerve. Writing in Artforum in 1997, Daniel Birnbaum described the artist as animated by “a genuine longing — a melancholic desire — to penetrate the Earth’s mysteries, a time-honored theme of Scandinavian art.” The artist’s new visual and sound installation, “Henrik Håkansson: Artist-in-Residence,” which opens at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on June 30, focuses on Brazil’s Spix’s macaw, one of the most endangered species in the world, as it explores humankind’s contradictory relationship to Nature.

A sure sign of our terror at Nature’s trump card is our use of euphemisms to describe mortality, and Boston’s canny Victorians knew this as well as the next guys. Founded in 1848, the grand Forest Hills Cemetery was quaintly seen as “The Final Resting Place” — a domestic notion that led folks to transplant the architecture and furnishings of their 19th-century homes into the park’s pastoral landscape, filling it with marble staircases, balustrades, and miniature mansions. Now 15 21st-century artists have created site-specific pieces, located throughout the cemetery, on the theme “Dwelling: Memory, Architecture & Place.” Opening June 24, the shows includes Gothic Revival birdhouses by Michael Beatty and Mike Newby, a sculptural diagram of a family lot cast in concrete and quietly floating on the cemetery’s lake by Jay Cummings, and a lush green “living room” created by Robert Gilmore and Sarah Walker that will grow over the course of the summer.

Five art-savvy characters speak on four consecutive evenings this month thanks to the Art Institute of Boston. On June 26, curator Barbara London, founder of the Museum of Modern Art’s video exhibition program, remembers it all, from Nam June Paik’s early experiments with electronic media up through recent work with artists including Sam Taylor-Wood and Tony Oursler. On June 27 artist Marilyn Minter, who’s been making photos and paintings of glamor and its victims since the late 1960s, shares her stuff; on June 28 artist Nayland Blake (sometimes seen in a big bunny costume) takes the podium; and on June 29, sculptors Wendy Jacobs and Tom Patti talk about their work.

“HENRIK HÅKANSSON” at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 280 the Fenway, Boston | June 30–September 17 | 617.566.1401| “DWELLING” at Forest Hills Cemetery, 95 Forest Hills Ave, Jamaica Plain | June 24–October 31 | 617.524.0128 or | ART INSTITUTE OF BOSTON’S VISITING ARTIST LECTURES at Boston University, 565 Comm Ave, Room 101, Boston | June 26-29 | 7:30-9:30 pm | 617.262.1223

On the Web
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: http://www.gardnermuseum.org/
Forest Hills Cemetery: http://www.foresthillstrust.org/

Related: Bookworms, Touch the sky, Facets of brilliance, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Boston University, Visual Arts, Cultural Institutions and Parks,  More more >
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