I'm new to Boston, been here a little more than a week. Before I showed up, I had heard about Newbury Street as the place where art is shown, but it turned out to be that, for the most part, it's art for tourists. Predigested art for consumption, non-poisonous, calming, predictable, like a chain restaurant. Like Applebee's.
A few places had something quite different, a great Edward Burtynsky show at Barbara Krakow Gallery, as well as an interesting multimedia collaboration at Howard Yezerski. In the middle, I found Chase Gallery, showing work by Vanessa Tropeano, native to the area. Seeing this show is where I found the crux of what Newbury Street thinks of itself, and desires to be.
Tropeano shows scenes of suburbia: football fields, children playing, nature and people's backyards at some compromise. I was reminded of the whole world of suburban photography: Gregory Crewdson's alien atmospheres, Ralph Eugene Meatyard's children wearing masks, and Joel Sternfeld's austere landscapes. Tropeano is a student of suburbia, and a graduate student of photography, her work was generally good, though familiar. The editing for the show was inconsistent, as though it became terribly necessary to include one element each for the suburban theme to work: one interior, one forest scene, one closeup of plants growing, one couple interacting, one shot with the dog outside, one shot of children playing...I wonder if this was the imposition of the gallery, for they impose several times on the show.
I got the feeling that Chase Gallery, which bills itself as "One of Boston's finest contemporary art galleries" on its website, wants to be safe and traditional (and make money), while positioning itself as cutting edge. In Tropeano's show, a few sculptures of the former type were stuck in the middle of the floorspace, a big distraction from the photographs. Also, other work from the gallery was positioned in the back so that I, as the gallery attendee, could see it if I wanted to drop some cash on it. This is also a move by many galleries in my native Chicago, but they don't emphasize how contemporary they are.
For the Chase Gallery to have its cake and eat it too means that it's going to have to make a few decisions: are they going to show contemporary art and really support it? Or are they going to be safe and continue make money off tourists? They can't be everything to everyone, or else everyone loses, worst of all, the artist.
"The Lexington Project" is on view until September 30th, at Chase Gallery, located at 129 Newbury St., Boston
All images are courtesy of the artist and Chase Gallery.