Recent Encounter: “In the Holocene”

This is less full a review, and more quick notes and impressions on an exhibition. One reason not to review fully is that it is an e exhibition that I personally worked on, and so my perspective is skewed. Another is time and energy constraint: you’ve likely noticed the greatly reduced frequency of my posts the last few months. In order to keep this blog sustainable during my busy working life, I need to let go of the idea of fully developed posts.

I was in Boston last weekend, and one of my goals was to see a few exhibitions I’d worked on while I was in grad school there. The first was In the Holocene at the MIT List Visual Arts Center, which I worked on as an intern for over a year. The exhibition tackles the alternative ways that artists have approached scientific principles, including mathematics, different orders of time, biological mimicry, etc.

And after a year of staring at thumbnails in our excel spreadsheet checklist, it was such a pleasure to see the works in the flesh. Since that year was spent so focused on the intellectual and conceptual underpinnings of the show, it was refreshing to see that, in fact, the physical objects included were stunningly beautiful. I was particularly attracted to several sculptures by contemporary female artists, and would have loved to spend a long time just contemplating them:

images are not from the show, and may not be the exact pieces in the show

Carol Bove, Aurora, concrete, bronze, steel and seashells, 2012

Leonor Antunes, Chain of Triangles (from Vernet to Barcelona), 2011, Copper

Thea Djordjadze, Mathèmat, 2006, lacquered steel

Pamela Rosenkranz, Stay True, from the series ‘Firm Being’, 2009

Some works made use of such unique materials that their tactility was quite unlike anything I’d seen before, and these too encouraged prolonged viewing:

Jimmie Durham, Semi-arbitrary patterns, 2004, Stoning, plastic, metal, wood

Laurent Grasso, Studies Into the Past, 2011, oil on oak panel

Rashid Johnson, Electric Universe, black soap, wax, vinyl, wood, book, brass, incense, shea butter, and space rocks

I recall from my work on the show the long struggle over the installation: would all the works we’d chosen even fit? Oh wait, will we actually have enough work to fill the space? Should we choose a dramatic wall color, maybe a dark gray? The installation ended up spare – but by no means sparse – and white, which in fact was the perfect way to let the objects speak, both individually and to each other. I am extremely pleased and proud.

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