There has been a great wave of Cute in Japanese contemporary art in recent years — colorful nodding mushrooms and balloons from Takashi Murakami, big-headed kiddies and doggies from Yoshitomo Nara, and Dark Cute in the form of movies like Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. And that’s only the tip of this fascinating iceberg. An elaborate new exhibition opening at Mass College of Art’s Bakalar Gallery on February 8 offers a new twist on this trend in “The Beaver Project: An Exhibition by Shintaro Miyake,” a multimedia project by a rising Japanese art star who offers his take on the wild world of nature mediated by both the cuddly vocabulary of cartoons and the fact-filled voice of the nature documentary.
In “The Beaver Project,” Miyake re-creates an entire beaver pond, complete with lodges and dams, in the gallery, along with an installation of his drawings and sculpture and a souvenir shop. He also debuts what the press release calls his first “documentary” film, in which he himself stars as Beaver. Try not to miss Beaver in person; he performs live on February 7 from 5 to 7 pm and is scheduled to be around all day February 8 and 9.
Real work in the field is the subject of “DOCUMENT: Contemporary Social Documentary Work from Greater Boston” (Photographic Resource Center opening February 2). The field here is our diverse urban environment as captured by nine photographers whose work is at once artistic and documentary, from Claire Beckett’s images of members of the Massachusetts National Guard to Suzi Camarata’s pictures of businesses, and the people who own and run them, in Mission Hill. The show coincides with “A Photographic Portrait of Boston, 1840–1865” (BU Art Gallery opening February 10), which sheds light on the earliest uses of this medium and its impact on individuals and society.
Pinpointing a momentous period in the history of art, “Frank Stella 1958,” (Harvard University’s Sackler Museum opening February 4) brings together more than 20 works from one experimental and productive year, just as the elements of his Black paintings of late 1958 and 1959 were starting to come together. And experimentation and productivity, here and now, are in full evidence in “We Made It,” the inaugural exhibition of Second Gallery, in the Distillery building in South Boston, which opens January 28. The artist collective Paperrad and artists Diane Carr, Brendan Harman, Michael Mahalchick, Frankie Martin, Andy Meerow, and Ezra Rubin contribute to a high-energy exploration of building stuff — from clothing to “a delicately crafted neon garden.”
“The Beaver Project” @ Mass College of Art, Bakalar Gallery, 621 Huntington Ave, Boston | Feb 8–March 18 | 617.879.7333
“DOCUMENT” @ Photographic Resource Center, 832 Comm Ave, Boston | Feb 2–March 26 | 617.975.0600
“A Photographic Portrait of Boston, 1840–1865” @ Boston University Art Gallery, 855 Comm Ave, Boston | Feb 10-April 2 | 617.353.3329
“Frank Stella 1958” @ Arthur M. Sackler Museum, 32 Quincy St, Cambridge | Feb 4–May 7 | 617.495.2397
“We Made It” @ Second Gallery, 516 East 2nd St, Boston | Jan 28–March 10 | 617.413.9395
On the Web:
Mass College of Art: http://www.massart.edu
Photographic Resource Center: http://www.prcboston.org
Boston University Art Gallery: http://www.bu.edu/art
Arthur M. Sackler Museum: http://www.artmuseums.harvard.edu
Second Gallery: http://www.secondgallery.org