Desperately seeking shoulder pads

Amy Arbus and ’80s style at the Schoolhouse, Hung-Chih Peng’s video at MIT, and ‘Drama and Desire’ at the MFA
By RANDI HOPKINS  |  August 14, 2007
Amy Arbus, On the Street 1980–1990 (cover)

Audio: Phoenix Executive Editor Peter Kadzis interviews Amy Arbus
Slideshow: Amy Arbus at Schoolhouse Gallery
In the glorious fall of 1980, young photographer Amy Arbus approached the Village Voice looking for freelance work and was given a monthly street-photography page that the Voice called “On the Street.” With a year’s study at Boston’s Museum School under her belt and perhaps some of her mother Diane’s fine artistic abilities in her genetic make-up, Arbus headed out with her camera to capture the downtown scene. Her images of Astor Place haircuts and full Mudd Club–going regalia recall an era with great attitude and ridiculous hair, and they include now-infamous portraits of ’80s scenesters: a young Madonna, the Clash, Anna Sui, the dandy-artist duo McDermott & McGough. Arbus is one of four artists whose work will be on view in “AMY ARBUS, MARTY DAVIS, PAUL STOPFORTH, VICKY TOMAYKO,” which opens at the Schoolhouse Gallery in Provincetown on August 17, and she’ll be giving a talk at the gallery on August 23 at 3 pm. Black and white prints from her recent book On the Street (with its cover shot of Madonna) will be shown alongside new monotypes and aquatints by Marty Davis, seven diptychs by painter Paul Stopforth, and one-of-a-kind prints by Vicky Tomayko.

Taiwanese artist HUNG-CHIH PENG finds contemporary relevance in the way that man’s best friend sheds light on human behaviors and spiritual aspirations. Through September 7, four of Peng’s contemplative videos will screen continuously on MIT’s Media Test Wall. In “One Black/One White” (2001), Peng invites viewers to consider two dogs who cannot stop coveting each other’s meal. And in three excerpts from his “Canine Monk” series (2004–2007), dogs appear to write Zen Buddhist and Daoist meditations and protective charms on a white wall with their tongues.

Flamboyant actors, alluring courtesans, and gorgeous geishas were the picturesque subject matter of the daring ukiyo-e paintings made in the Japanese city of Edo (modern-day Tokyo) from the late 17th through the mid 19th century, when Hokusai, Utamaro, and Hiroshige created paintings that depicted the “floating world” of the kabuki theaters and high-class brothels of Japan’s urban entertainment districts. “DRAMA AND DESIRE: JAPANESE PAINTINGS FROM THE FLOATING WORLD 1690–1850” opens at the Museum of Fine Arts on August 28 with painted screens, scrolls, banners, and theatrical signboards from the MFA’s extensive ukiyo-e collection.

“Amy Arbus, Marty Davis, Paul Stopforth, Vicky Tomayko” at Schoolhouse Gallery, 494 Commercial St, Provincetown | August 17–September 5 | 508.487.4800 | Video by Hung-Chih Peng at MIT List Visual Arts Center’s Media Test Wall, 21 Ames St, Building 56, Cambridge | Through September 7 | 617.253.4400 | “Drama And Desire: Japanese Paintings from the Floating World 1690–1850” at Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | August 28–December 16 | 617.267.9300

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