There must be a better word than “graffiti” to describe the site-specific, often text-embracing, street-smart art of the intrepid artists who use their environment as their canvas, plastering buildings, street signs, decaying walls, and skinny lamp posts with imagery by way of posters, stickers, markers, and spray paint. In an on-line interview with New York–based Wooster Collective, the savvy band of artists known as Monster Project (founded in Providence in November 2000) speak admiringly of “intelligent, unsanctioned public art.” This seems a better, broader label. Monster Project’s “unsanctioned public art” includes big beastly mouths and claws erected on abandoned structures and rundown buildings in cities including Boston and Rome; they draw attention to urban sites we usually walk right past and offer a meditation on the cannibalistic nature of the city.
Works by Monster Project, along with the notorious, ubiquitous Shepard Fairey (creator of the famous “Obey Giant” posters), Greg “SP.ONE” Lamarche, and Caleb “Sonik” Neelon, are the subject of “SPOTHUNTERS,” which opens at the New Art Center on March 6. The show’s title refers to these artists’ search for locales or “spots” to present their work, a concept that has evolved to include forays into studio work and publishing in addition to seeking physical locations on the street.
The arresting power of graphic design and the psychedelic integration of symbols drawn from pop, hip-hop, and street cultures into room-expanding installations distinguish the work of artist Ryan McGinness, whose first solo exhibit in New England, “Ryan McGinness: Mildly Subversive,” opens at Montserrat College of Art on February 24. A man of many media, McGinness will show a large-scale installation created with the able assistance of Montserrat students and featuring a painted mural augmented by vinyl decals designed for the space, plus new paintings, screen prints, and works on paper.
Phonograph records, turntables, album covers, music as we experience it, and sound as we make it have all been subjects of Christian Marclay’s art; the acclaimed artist and composer, who began his career in Boston in the late 1970s as a sculpture student at Mass College of Art, has collaborated with John Zorn and Sonic Youth and made art by crocheting audiotape of the collected works of the Beatles into a soft pillow. Through March 17, MIT’s List Visual Arts Center presents “Christian Marclay: Mixed Reviews (American Sign Language)” on its Media Test Wall (24/7, in Building 56). This 30-minute DVD shows an American Sign Language interpreter signing a long text Marclay collaged together from reviews of musical performances and records to raise questions about communication and translation of art forms.
“SPOTHUNTERS” @ New Art Center, 61 Washington Park, Newtonville | March 6–April 7 | 617.964.3424 or www.newartcenter.org | “Ryan McGINNESS: Mildly Subversive” @ Montserrat College of Art, 23 Essex Street, Beverly | Feb 24–April 5 | 978.921.4242 or www.montserrat.edu | “Christian Marclay: Mixed Reviews (American Sign Language)” @ MIT’s Media Test Wall, Building 56, 21 Ames Street, Cambridge | through March 17 | 617.253.4400 or http://web.mit.edu/lvac
On the Web:
New Art Center: http://www.newartcenter.org/
Montserrat College of Art: http://www.montserrat.edu/
MIT Media Test Wall: http://web.mit.edu/lvac