Tag Archives: Boston ICA

2Do @ An Art Museum

What do can you do in an art museum/gallery/institution besides look at art?

Some art museums are destination architecture – so you can look at the architecture and take a photo. The Guggenheim Museum in NYC started the trend of museums as destination architecture. The Guggenheim is an interesting experiment in art gallery design by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a real mutant but not one with successful progeny, in that no other galleries have followed this new and curvy design. There is a fountain on the ground floor, a blank white pool with a single jet. There are also planter boxes with green indoor plants on several of the floors. After a few levels it was a relief to walk on a flat floor again but by the 5th level my calves and ankles felt oddly stretched. The Guggenheim in Bilbao is landmark architecture by Frank Gerrey and the photogenic equal of the New York building. However its curvy design does not extend floor to ceiling and the galleries are basically the same as other art museums.

New Museum NYC

New Museum NYC

Buy an entry ticket. The tickets, this is often a necessity for the institution to have some income. Generally you get a ticket and often a little metal tags or sticker that you to put on your clothes.

Put your coat and bag in the cloakroom. The cloakroom is necessary for your comfort and gallery security.

Toilets Boston MFA

Toilets Boston MFA

Go to the toilet. A necessity but galleries have turned this into a design display. In the best art galleries in the world there are baby change facilities in the men’s toilets. I don’t know how many men take their babies to art galleries but the facilities are there for them in many of major museums.

Sit down. The seats are another necessity as people do need to rest their feet and can be in high demand. Seating also allows the viewer to look at the art for longer. This presents a problem for contemporary art installations where a seat in the gallery may be interpreted as part of the art.

Eat at the cafes. This might look like a side earner, but it is another necessity in large art museums that take at least a day to see. The Boston MFA and Louvre have several scattered around the gallery. The Vatican Museum has one of the worst museum café, as it is located directly above their new toilet block. Jeff Lee of Recent Items has a post about the Tate Modern’s café.

Read in a reading rooms or library. The reading rooms in contemporary art galleries reading rooms are likely to be digital, but hopefully in no way resembling MOMA’s “O” (see my post O No). The pod overlooking harbour at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art is cool, relaxing and informative.

Listen to music, musical performances are the most likely entertainment in an art gallery. Listening rooms, well I’ve been in one in a Neue National Galerie Museum in Berlin. The museum had a collection of music and headphones in a seating area, again very relaxing.

Play, mostly only for children, although adults can even play a boardgame in the reading room of the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum. There is a need for a dedicated children’s activities area for the younger visitors in major galleries.

Go to the Cinema. Tate Modern and a few other large galleries have cinemas with programmes co-ordinated with exhibitions.

Sketch. Sketching in US museums is encouraged. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum supplies pencils, paper and boards for sketching. The Frick Collection has regular sketching Sundays. This is in contrast to the NGV’s attitude to sketching (See no sketching).

And, in the words of Banksy, … exit through the gift shop.

Barry McGee – Drawing From The Street

Barry McGee (aka Twist, his street tag) also uses the personas of R. Fong and Lydia Fong. McGee’s art has been described as “Mission School” (after the San Francisco Mission District) and “New Folk” but I’ll just call it street art. McGee’s art brings together graffiti, comics, hobo art, sign painting and surfing.  His art on the street or in the gallery has clean lines and he uses a blocky sans-serif font with drop shadows. His art is based around grouping and clustering materials and images. He is inspired by the eclectic mix that is found in bodegas and on the street.

Barry McGee 1

McGee enjoys working collectively and collaboratively. There are collaborations with his long time collaborator Josh Lazcano, his late wife Margaret Kilgallen, or his collaboration with Boston graffiti artists for this exhibition.

You can enter this retrospective from two directions at the ICA. You can start with McGee collaborating with local Boston street/graffiti artists to create his own exhibition (for more on Boston graffiti see http://www.bostonsgraffitighosts.com). Or you can start where the curators started.

The curators mention that there is a “central contradiction” in McGee’s art between the street versus the museum. I don’t know about that, museums/contemporary art institutes are (or should be) just place to display art, whatever it is rather than the art having to conform to the institution. McGee is not a naïve, outsider artist – he studied art the San Francisco Art Institute in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. And McGee can easily fill whole gallery walls as easily as he can fill walls on the street. In one gallery an animated wooden head repeatedly bangs against a bulging wall of scrap plywood. Maybe the central contradiction that McGee explores is between kitsch versus tasteful, quality versus junk, good versus bad art.

There is along with all the images, sculpture, junk and stuff a lot of sound in the exhibition, the animatronic spray painting figures squeak, there is tower of televisions – it is not a silent tomb of an exhibition.

Barry McGee 2

I took some time out from walking around the exhibition to sit down in the Poss Family Mediatheque to take another look at the art of McGee in videos, photographs and text on an interactive screen while looking out the window to Boston’s bay. This gave more depth to the exhibition and meant that I wasn’t on my feet the whole time.

Barry McGee 3

“I can live with the rats but I can’t live with graffiti” says a local resident quoted in The Boston TAB 7/8/90. You can get diseases from rats, like the plague, but I’ve never heard of anyone dying from exposure to graffiti. In the NYC flat that I was staying in last week the cat was sitting proudly behind the cockroach that it had killed.

The constitution of the USA does not include private property as an inalienable right; the inalienable rights (those that a person cannot be alienated from are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness). Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness seems like surfing and the art of Barry McGee.

This exhibition at the ICA Boston is billed as “the first-ever retrospective of acclaimed artist Barry McGee” expecting that there will be more, I hope there will be.

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