The fall is when Boston returns to its routine. The melancholy season marks the beginning of the familiar discomfort we know as New England weather and, for hundreds of thousands of young Bostonians, it’s back to school. However, as the city’s regular state of affairs re-emerges from its summer catnap, a fresh season for galleries and museums commences and there’s suddenly so much to do.
We can’t skip the cultural institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts, however - even though they’re just the tip-of-the-iceberg in terms of the number of exhibits they produce (and towards which they’ve already funneled most of the available audience). The MFA opens two photography exhibits this fall, “Karsh 100: A Biography in Images,” (opening September 23) a retrospective of portraitist Yousuf Karsh’s work and “Photographic Figures,” (opening November 19) the opening of which inaugurates the new, photography-devoted Herb Ritts Gallery. Presented in the Foster Gallery of the MFA, Rachel Whitehead’s assemblage of handmade English dollhouses into a small darkened village for her installation "Place (Village)" (2006-08) (opening October 15) will either reconfigure the visitor’s sense of community or give them nightmares. The most skippable exhibit, “Art and Empire: Treasures from Assyria in the British Museum,” (opening September 21) is, rather fortuitously, the only one requiring tickets. It receives the prize for least sensitive to contemporary international relations, displaying treasures from the ancient empire of Assyria removed under the auspices of the British Empire from the area now known as Mosul, Iraq. The neighboring School of the Museum of Fine Arts’ Grossman Gallery just opened its fall season with “Shifting Perspectives: Esteban Pastorino Díaz.” It is more photography, but the technical virtuosity of Argentinean Pastorino’s images, which are made with hand-crafted cameras, will disappoint only the most austere prigs.
Before crisp and breezy turns to cold and blustery, a trip to Logan Airport to see the newly opened 9/11 Memorial may be due. To the surviving victims of tragedy, memorials rarely provide the closure that their designers and architects intend. Logan’s 9/11 Memorial exists for the 147 passengers and crewmembers who boarded at that airport, but the $4-Million glass cube may only sooth the memories of the employees of Logan. Adjacent to an elevated overpass and set atop a small knoll that will forever be saturated by the heavy drone of both cars and jet engines, one visit may be more than enough for the individuals who were most affected on 9/11.
Anyone still disappointed about missing Devil Music Ensemble’s live score of the early Chinese martial arts film Red Heroine in Chinatown last week still has the opportunity for a similar experience with two upcoming film screenings. Balagan, an ongoing series at the Coolidge, will present several films the artist Ken Brown made in 1967-69 as visual accompaniment for performers such as The Velvet Underground, Led Zepplin and Jimmi Hendrix along with a live band on September 25. One week later, artist Amy Granat will screen several films as part of a live performance and collaboration with experimental composer Stefan Tcherepnin in the Rose Art Museum’s “Drawing on Film” exhibition. The Rose’s concurrent exhibition “Project for a New American Century,” takes its title from artist Dominic McGill’s eponymous, 80-foot long work on paper, which, according to Rose Director Michael Rush, is about “America’s complex history and current status as an economically wounded and threatened world power.”
The economic wounds of the mortgage crisis are paramount in the MIT Center for Advanced Visual Studies’ commission “Red Lines, Death Vows, Foreclosures, Risk Structures” at the MIT Museum will stay up through the fall. The installation was researched and conceived by artist Damon Rich and attempts to envelop the viewer in the history and drama of the relationship between finance and architecture. With equal prospects of making its viewers never vote Republican again, “Adel Abdessemed: Situation and Practice” will open at MIT’s List Visual Art Center on October 11. Abdessemed, who is of Algerian descent, “tackle[s]religious, sexual and hallucinogenic taboos” along with “the theme of global violence,” according to the curators. Visitors seeking refuge from reality can walk over to the “Great Glass Pumpkin Patch” (September 26-27) on the lawn in front of MIT’s Kresge Auditorium. Over 1,000 hand-blown glass squashes and gourds created over the previous year by MIT’s Glass Lab will be on display and for sale.
Amongst the thinner field of galleries in Boston after several closings this past summer, two look to press on with more daring and conceptual works by local artists with their opening shows. OH+T gallery gave its lead off position to photographic artist Ben Sloat with his Michael Jackson-inspired works in the show “I’m Not Like the Other Guys.” Steve Hollinger, who Susan Orlean profiled last winter in The New Yorker, has a show as Chase Gallery titled “What’s Left,” which features his Pods works. Pods, glass cases filled with small sunlight-sensitive, worm-like robots in mineral oil, warrant at least one real life glimpse by anyone intrigued by both the natural and technological. Both are open until September 27.
Perhaps a distraction from economic crises and gallery closings, visual splendor is a common theme in several exhibitions. “Overflow: A Visual Feast of Sensuality and Beauty” at the Laconia Gallery has a title which speaks for itself (opening October 3), while “In Pursuit of Beauty” (opening November 7) at the Montserrat College of Art takes a slightly headier approach to aesthetics by investigating pattern and decoration. Tara Donovan’s mammoth sculptures coming to the ICA (opening October 10) swathe entire rooms with undulating landscapes, but rely on quotidian items such as plastic cups.
A slightly augmented and modestly truncated version of this article appeared in the 10 September 2008 issue of Boston's Weekly Dig