There are forms recording the loan of the dead bird from Harvard and a map of Brazil with a pin marking the spot of something, perhaps where macaws were found. A 2003 photo shows two caged Spix’s macaws. Printouts of Web pages — fact sheets, scientific reports, news accounts — fill four bulletin boards. I skimmed bits; it was too boring for me to read it all. Now and again a reel-to-reel tape deck plays a recording of the macaw’s irritating screech, which Håkansson found on the Web and turned into a bird conversation.
The installation is like a tearjerker TV movie — the subject matter is so important and sad that you can’t help being moved, even though there’s little artistry, even though you end up feeling manipulated. In the ’60s, Jasper Johns wrote a recipe for art: “Take an object. Do something to it. Do something else to it.” Frequently these days, artists like Håkansson execute the first two steps but fail to get to the third, where things are transformed into something new. He’s hoping to create sparks, it seems, by just throwing things together in a room, but it’s not enough.
“Under Cover: Artists’ Sketchbooks” | Fogg Art Museum, 32 Quincy St, Cambridge | through October 22
“Henrik Håkansson: Cyanopsitta spixii Case Study #001” | Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 280 The Fenway, Boston | June 30–September 17
: Museum And Gallery
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