Creature double feature
The charms of the “Cameron Jamie” survey at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center were apparent: videos that showed Jamie wrestling a Michael Jackson impersonator, Halloween spook houses, a hot-dog-eating contest, and Austrian Christmas monsters. Jamie recalibrates your vision with his loving anthropology of the weird, messy rituals that squirm under the middle class’s neat social veneer. And did I mention the monsters?
Back to the future
“Picture Show,” organized by Leslie K. Brown at Boston University’s Photographic Resource Center, went low-tech to mull motion pictures. The best stuff seemed teleported straight from some fabulous 19th-century inventor’s lab. Deb Todd Wheeler offered a magic picture wheel and hand-cranked light-up illusions. Steve Hollinger adapted old-time amusement hall flip-book animation technology to create visions of an atomic apocalypse. And a strange pedestal contraption by Hans Spinnerman of the terrific, hallucinatory Musée Patamécanique in Bristol, Rhode Island, somehow made a giant bumblebee appear to hover inside a bell jar.
Best Hasselhoff homage
James McLeod stole the show at MassArt’s faculty exhibit “Selections ’07” with a shrine to TV, uh, legend David Hasselhoff. Ingredients: red velvet ropes, a carpet printed with photos of Hasselhoff dashing through surf and reclining naked, and plaques inscribed with weighty pronouncements from, it seemed, the man himself. (These included the claim that Baywatch “is responsible for a lot of world peace.”) Certainly the installation plumbed something important about our national psyche. But analysis dims its brilliance. The title: “Don’t Hassle the Hoff.”
“The Unknown Monet,” the summer blockbuster at Williamstown’s Clark Art Institute, challenged Monet’s reputation as a master marksman of plein air painting who didn’t need no stinkin’ preparatory sketches. The ravishing counter-evidence: pastels, preliminary drawings, and sketchbook jottings of seaside cliffs, grainstacks, a train station, waterlilies. “Gods in Color,” at Harvard’s Sackler Museum through January 20, upends what you thought you knew about the classics. Turns out the sober white marbles passed down to us from ancient Greece and Rome were originally painted in garish Technicolor. And “Darwin,” at the Museum of Science, presented a Charles Darwin notebook from the 1830s in which he scribbled “I think” and then an early draft of a revolutionary evolutionary tree. Wow!
Best of the rest
Best urban planning: Pinkcomma Gallery’s smart, timely, cheeky debut exhibition, “Rethinking City Hall,” which countered Mayor Thomas Menino’s proposal to build a new city hall in South Boston with proposals to revitalize the old government monstrosity. Best debate: the “Jackson Pollock” paintings in Boston College’s “Pollock Matters” exhibit — were they for real? Coolest art-geek fest: the Boston Cyberarts Festival in April. Wildest exhibit: the paintings by gorillas at the Franklin Park Zoo. Coolest knockoffs of Mexican street art: “¡Sensacional!”, at MassArt. Best debacle: the Mass MoCA Christoph Büchel “Training Ground for Democracy” meltdown.