Alison Saar, Rouse. 2002, Wood and Bronze.

Credit: Chris Warner

Arts This Week: Alison Saar At MassArt

January 30, 2014

I devoted much of my arts attention this week to the "DIY analysis," of Alison Saar. That's how she described her work to me during our interview. There are many, many layers of thought here for us to explore. Also, I report back from the first of three big conversations on the future of museums, held at the Boston Athenaeum.

Alison Saar: Still... On view at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design (MassArt) through March 8th. Admission is free. 

Informed by artistic traditions from the Americas to Africa and beyond, and by her mixed racial upbringing, Alison Saar fuses her paradoxical responses to the black-and-white delineations of political and social forces into a powerful, visual, and kinesthetic tension. Saar uses the history and associations of her materials, everyday experience, African art and ritual, Greek mythology, and the stark sculptural tradition of German Expressionism to infuse her work with an intensity that challenges cultural and historic references and stereotypes. Through a process of self-scrutiny and introspection, Saar forcefully investigates elements of marginalization and discrimination to present poetic responses as to how these historical burdens can be transformed, and how symbolic atonement, and even some measure of redemption, can be imagined.

The Future of the Museum A conversation in three parts. Still to come: a Technology discussion will be held February 10th and a Governance conversation will be on February 24th. All are at 6pm and since the events are sold out, they’ll be streamed live on-line.

Buffeted by winds of change-- financial, cultural, and technological--- museums are struggling to adapt. Museums are popular as never before but how can they best serve their new and expanded audiences? Are museums making full use of new technologies to help visitors understand their collections and mission? Are boards of trustees and the structure of museum governance keeping up with the changes and challenges? A series of three panel discussions will address these and many other important issues with experts from around the United States. Panelists will include the directors of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; the president and C.E.O. of the J. Paul Getty Trust; innovating technology leaders from The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum, and Google; and trustees and board members from MIT, the Boston Symphony, the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum, and the Boston Athenaeum.

Labor Day, in theaters Friday. 
Thirteen year-old Henry Wheeler struggles to be the man of his house and care for his reclusive mother, Adele, while confronting all the pangs of adolescence. On a back-to-school shopping trip, Henry and his mother encounter Frank Chambers, a man both intimidating and clearly in need of help, who convinces them to take him into their home and later is revealed to be an escaped convict. The events of this long Labor Day weekend will shape them for the rest of their lives. The very bizarre and unconventional story line may leave other critics too put off to praise the film, but it is much of the reason I liked it.

Coming up on Open Studio
A profile of artist Alison Saar, whose show Still… is now on view at MassArt. We get an inside look at Downton Abbey courtesy of actor Allen Leech, who plays Tom Branson, and we feature a designer who was the Dior of the Downton age—Charles Frederick Worth whose work is included in a new Gilded Age exhibition at the Museum of the City of New York.

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