Instant messages

Cindy Bernard at the Mills Gallery, Do-Ho Suh at Tufts, ‘Human Nature(S)’ At The Worcester Art Museum  
By EVAN J. GARZA  |  December 9, 2008

HUMAN NATURE(S) at the WAM: Zhang Huan, Foam #1, 1998

“Cindy Bernard: Silent Key” at Mills Gallery at the Boston Center for the Arts, 539 Tremont St, Boston | December 12–February 15 | 617.426.8835

“Artist Talk: Cindy Bernard” at Mills Gallery | December 12 at 6 pm | 617.426.8835

“Do-Ho Suh: Paratrooper II” at Tufts University Art Gallery, 40R Talbot Ave, Medford | Through December 21 | 617.627.3094

“Human Nature(s)” at Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St, Worcester | Through February 15 | 508.799.4406

Thanks to modern technology, communicating one’s identity to others is as easy as completing an “About Me” section in an on-line profile or accepting a Facebook group invitation to join “Polar Bears Against Sarah Palin” (which does exist). But the immediacy of communicating personal information that Internet culture and high bandwidth provide is not part of the new exhibition at the Mills Gallery, which eschews digital technology altogether. Opening December 12, “CINDY BERNARD: SILENT KEY” documents the correspondence between the artist’s grandfather and fellow ham-radio operators across the globe over a period of 70 years. Among the nostalgic works is a slew of old QSL cards, or written confirmations of radio communication, made by ham-radio operators, often as a means to communicate their identity or creativity to others. Several of the cards have origins in entities that no longer exist, like French Indochina, colonial Africa, and the USSR. Although the QSL documents may have taken weeks to reach one another, inquiries for Bernard will be answered much sooner, thanks to an artist talk preceding the opening reception.

“DO-HO SUH: PARATROOPER II” examines more-contemporary relationships — it’s an elegant and enormously scaled installation by one of Asian art’s rising stars, and you can see it in the Remis Sculpture Court at Tufts University. A life-size headless torso of a paratrooper is suspended beneath a 15-foot “parachute” made of 200 red and peach-colored figures. Made entirely of knitted resin-coated nylon monofilament, the body of the paratrooper is removed from the other silken figures floating above it yet still physically connected — which makes for a dramatic and captivating commentary on identity, the transient nature of global culture, and the Korean-born Suh’s experience of “landing in a foreign culture.”

Zhang Huan, another major player from the East, is also on view in New England, as part of “HUMAN NATURE(S),” a group exhibition of recent acquisitions by the Worcester Art Museum. The Chinese performance photographer’s addition to the WAM collection comes in the form of Foam #1, a C-print of the artist covered in suds with a small photo of himself as a baby held within his open mouth, as if it could produce a sound. Serving as both a contemplative portrait of Zhang’s history and a “cleansing” of himself, it was made after his move to New York from Beijing in 1998. “Human Nature(s)” also offers well-established artists like Louise Bourgeois and Kiki Smith and such up-and-comers as Iranian-born Shirin Neshat, Kara Walker, and Boston’s own Suara Welitoff.

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