Blinded by the light

Painting Summer in New England at PEM, Pia Lindman at MIT, Julie Mehretu at Harvard
By RANDI HOPKINS  |  April 14, 2006

Brett Bigbee, Joe (Self Portrait)The pleasures of scenic seacoasts, lakes at dusk, farms in full fruit, and clam shacks by day or night have attracted artists to New England since at least the mid 19th century. (Well, I’m not sure about the clam shacks . . . ) That’s when Gloucester-born luminist Fitz Henry Lane (the artist formerly known as Fitz High Lane) was struck by the inspiring light and schooner-filled harbors of his port city and home-town fave Winslow Homer found inspiration in the general high drama of man and nature — particularly man and sea — that’s abundant in these parts. Curated by Trevor Fairbrother and opening at the Peabody Essex Museum April 22, “Painting Summer in New England” offers more than 100 paintings, from the 1860s to the present, that seek to capture the qualities that make us love New England in the summertime. The lure of the region has never faltered, only changed with the times, as you can see in work by Edward Hopper, who spent summers here from the 1920s through the 1960s, Norman Rockwell, who — painting in the 1940s — was drawn to the sight of American moms, pops, and kids on summer vacations, and Alex Katz and Brett Bigbee, two very different contemporary painters who look at the denizens of New England beaches and farmhouses with innovative takes on “realism.”

MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS) was founded in 1967 by artist György Kepes as one of the first venues where artists and scientists could meet and exchange ideas, a productive laboratory for contemporary artists that is now run as an artists’ fellowship program, commissioning and producing new work and research. The 2005-2006 CAVS fellow, Pia Lindman, is a Finnish-born performance and video artist known for community-oriented projects with a social-science bent. For the presentation of her interactive piece Public Sauna at PS 1 in New York in 2000, the public was invited to undress and sample a steam bath in a wooden sauna. The piece was developed at MIT when Lindman was a graduate student. Her latest project, “Pia Lindman: Embodiments, which opens at the MIT Museum’s Compton Gallery April 19, looks at the interactions between humans and robots based on her experience observing researchers at MIT as they worked with “Domo,” a humanoid robot that can look a person in the eye and catch moving objects. The opening reception on April 18 includes a performance by Lindman.

Space and time seem to expand before your eyes in Ethiopian-born painter Julie Mehretu’s elaborate paintings, which combine personal signs and symbols with architectural and historical imagery in a whirling vortex of information. She offers insight into her complex work in “Julie Mehretu: an evening with the artist” at Harvard’s Carpenter Center April 20.

“Painting Summer in New England” | April 22-Sept 4 | Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square, Salem | 866.745.1876 | “Pia Lindman: Embodiments” | April 19-June 30 | Compton Gallery, MIT Museum, 77 Mass Ave, Building 10, Room 150, Cambridge | 617.253.4415 | Julie Mehretu lecture | April 20, 6 pm | Harvard’s Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, 24 Quincy St, Cambridge | 617.495.3251

On the web
Peabody Essex Museum: www.pem.org
MIT Museum: http://cavs.mit.edu/
Carpenter Center events: www.ves.fas.harvard.edu/events/mehretu.html

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Painting,  More more >
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