In an effort to provide an in-depth look at single works of art on view across the region in permanent collections, temporary exhibitions, and installations, the staff at Big Red & Shiny will be reviving Art for Breakfast, a series of short reflections on individual pieces. The title of this series is an homage to a blog of the same name, artforbreakfast.org, a project developed and managed by Margaret Rew.
Boston has a new addition to its skyline: Janet Echelman's installation, As If It Were Already Here. The large aerial sculpture seems to glow even in daylight, as if it were lit from within; a shimmering haze of loosely knotted threads wherein unpredictable patterns of fluorescent colors create false highlights across the work. As If It Were Already Here always seems on the verge of sipping away— approaching it is like trying to chase a cloud. Hovering as an iridescent mist over the Rose Kennedy Greenway, the piece instills in us the desire to wander around the installation and between the surrounding buildings , each vantage point providing a new perspective on the work. This offers viewers an opportunity to experience Boston anew; it turns us all into tourists, staring in wonder at our confusing palimpsest of a city.
As If It Were Already Here is also a physical manifestation of a change in the winds: a feeling that the creative ground in Boston is shifting on an institutional scale. It represents a significant investment in temporary, site-specific artwork in a city that is perhaps best known for its figurative memorials. While Echelman's newest installation may not be a leap forward for the art world in general, it is certainly a huge step for Boston.
Dependent to a large degree on the faith and cooperation of the local community, public art can be a challenging process. In speaking of their famously large-scale public art projects, Jeanne-Claude and Christo once said, "the process is part of the work, as much as a pregnancy is part of having a baby." This statement finds poetic parallel in Echelman’s comment on her own work prior to its installation: "I have to meet the sculpture before I can name it."  Echelman’s hesitance to name the work before it was installed is a recognition of the fact that the work was not yet complete; all the permits, the memos, the press releases and the conversations were a part of the sculpture in a very real way. The idea that creating public art is akin to a birth reveals the tumult and struggle inherent in any public art process. Perhaps as we stare up at the gently shifting network of threads, we are marveling not only at the beauty of the sculpture itself, but at the collaborative efforts of so many people coming together to make this installation possible, even if only for a few months.
Janet Echelman’s As If It Were Already Here will be on view at the Rose Kennedy Greenway through early October, 2015. On Friday, June 19, Echelman will speak publicly about her work at the BSA Space as part of the Greenway's INTER/SECTIONS series. For more information, visit the Rose Kennedy Greenway’s website here.