Touch the sky

Cliff Evans at the Gardner, Jim Lambie at the Mfa, ‘Ad|Agency’ at the PRC, and more
By RANDI HOPKINS  |  October 30, 2007
Cliff Evans, still from Empyrean (2007)

“Cliff Evans: Empyrean” at Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 280 the Fenway, Boston | November 9–January 20 | 617.566.1401 | “RSVP: Jim Lambie” at Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | November 10–May 25 | 617.267.9300 | “Ad|Agency” at Photographic Resource Center, 832 Comm Avenue, Boston | November 9–January 27 | 617.975.0600 | “It’s a Dog’s Life” and “Children” at Griffin Museum of Photography, 67 Shore Road, Winchester | November 8–January 13 | 781.729.1158
The term “polyptych” usually refers to the multi-panel paintings designed as altarpieces for churches and cathedrals in Gothic and Renaissance Europe, often with views of the Madonna and Child or Christ on the Cross flanked by paintings of individual saints and angels and other supporting cast. Australian-born, Boston Museum School–trained video artist Cliff Evans, perhaps inspired by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s beautiful 14th-century Simone Martini altarpiece during his stint as Artist-in Residence there in 2006, evokes this historical form while giving it a new, secular twist in “CLIFF EVANS: EMPYREAN,” which opens at the Gardner on November 9. Evans’s Empyrean is a five-channel video projection that acts as a kind of digital polyptych, using photo-montage animation in place of painting to build a narrative touching on cultural issues like celebrity, power, politics, and militarism. The imagery itself has been appropriated from the Internet, then manipulated by the artist to create a visual experience with elements of social and political criticism. Evans speaks about his work in a conversation with Gardner Museum contemporary curator Pieranna Cavalchini at the Gardner on November 10 at 1:30 pm.

Sculptor Jim Lambie is perhaps best known for his eye-bending installations of glossy vinyl tape applied to the floor in geometric patterns, and for his use of common objects like speakers, handbags, and mirrors to create sculptures big on personality and attitude. Lambie is the third artist invited by the Museum of Fine Arts to interact with its collection, architecture, and grounds as part of the “RSVPmfa” series; “RSVP: JIM LAMBIE,” opening on November 10, features 80 chairs emerging from a wall of the Museum’s West Wing.

Digital paintings of objects purchased from a SkyMall catalogue, altered magazine ads aimed at African-American audiences, and photographs documenting our “food landscape” are just some of the consumer-oriented, product-focused artwork on view in “AD|AGENCY,” which opens at the Photographic Resource Center on November 9. In their photo-based work, the exhibition’s nine artists take on the language of advertising and product photography to scrutinize the high-gloss, fluorescent-lit interaction between the consumer and the consumed.

William Wegman’s large-scale Polaroids of his Weimaraners seem to be endlessly popular, and “IT’S A DOG’S LIFE: PHOTOGRAPHS BY WILLIAM WEGMAN FROM THE POLAROID COLLECTIONS,” opening at the Griffin Museum of Photography on November 8, offers a chance to enjoy 29 of Wegman’s engaging pictures. Also opening November 8 at the Griffin, “CHILDREN: PHOTOGRAPHS BY WILLIAM ROPP” presents haunting work by the contemporary French photographer.

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