Carry on

Mexican shawls and competitive flowers at the Essex Art Center; Rachel Harrison at MIT, Dario Robleto at the MFA
By RANDI HOPKINS  |  February 20, 2007

Julie Bernson, The Four Women Selling Bread, Patzcuaro, Mexico

In Mexico, a woven textile that has long been used by women for carrying children and bundles, as well as for warmth and cover, is the focus of “The Rebozo: A Traditional Mexican Women’s Garment,” which opens in the Main Gallery at the Essex Art Center March 2. Organized by Julie Bernson and Mary Guerrero, the show looks not only at the beauty of individual rebozos but also at the symbolic and practical roles the garment has played in Mexican culture.

Two years ago, Bernson and Guerrero traveled to Patzcuaro and Oaxaca to learn more about the rebozo; they also hoped to get closer to the people and the country they were visiting. As they spoke to women about their rebozos, asking questions, listening to stories and memories, and taking photographs, they came to appreciate the layers of spiritual and cultural meaning embodied in this familiar garment. This exhibition comprises their photographs and audio and video interviews along with a variety of woven rebozos.

Tory Fair is known for drawings and sculpture that examine space and relationships through the vocabulary of sports. Using floor markings familiar from the basketball court or the soccer pitch to delineate the space between pieces of furniture, or between wall and floor, Fair makes manifest the idea that space — especially the space between things — is competitive, often informed by strategy and gamesmanship. In a new series of work, she addresses what she calls “a competitive tension between flowers,” bringing nature squarely into the mix in “Ready, Set, Bloom,” which also opens at the Essex Art Center March 2. The roots of her flowers reach into contested ground, belying their cheerful petals.

Two interesting sculptors are coming to town to shed light on their art. Rachel Harrison, whose winning way with mixing it up — minimalist structures and supermarket displays, IKEA tables and houseplants, bear fur and found photos — has continued to fascinate and provoke comment at least since her 2002 appearance in the Whitney Biennial, will talk about her work with art historian and critic Johanna Burton at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies on March 7 at 7 pm. And Dario Robleto, whose art draws heavily on the shared cultural past that we know (and love) as pop culture, especially pop music, speaks at the Museum of Fine Arts February 27 at 12:30 pm.

“The Rebozo” and “Ready, Set, Bloom” at Essex Art Center, 56 Island St, Lawrence | March 2–April 20 | 978.685.2343 | Rachel Harrison in conversation with Johanna Burton at Center for Advanced Visual Studies, 265 Mass Ave, third floor, Cambridge | March 7 at 7 pm | 617.253.4415 | Dario Robleto lecture at Riley Seminar Room, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave, Boston | February 27 at 12:30 pm | 617.267.9300 

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