Summer Preview: 5 Must-See Boston Exhibitions

Untitled, 2017 by Deborah Roberts, mixed media on paper, 30 x 22 inches. Photo Credit: Philip Roger. Image courtesy of  MASS MoCA

Untitled, 2017 by Deborah Roberts, mixed media on paper, 30 x 22 inches.
Photo Credit: Philip Roger. Image courtesy of MASS MoCA

1.     Still I Rise at MASS MoCA
On view from June 15, 2019 
1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, MA 01247

MASS MoCA draws influence from Maya Angelou for its current summer exhibition, Still I Rise. The museum showcases various portraits of women of color, ranging from different ethnicities and backgrounds throughout history. The five featured artists include artists Deborah Roberts, Genevieve Gaignard,  E2 – Kleinveld & Julien, Gustave Blache III, and Tim Okamura. These selected artists have created their artworks through various forms media, ranging from photography, painting, collage, and installation. Throughout Western culture, the typical sitter for portraits would be that of a white woman, and in reaction to this common depiction, Still I Rise aims to incorporate the lacking portrayal of women of color throughout history.

2.     Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse at MIT List Visual Arts Center

May 24, 2019 - July 28, 2019
20 Ames St, Cambridge, MA 02142

Catch it before it closes; the MIT List Visual Arts Center is providing its visitors with a sensory experience through the mixed media works by Ericka Beckman. Taking concepts from her previous installations, Ericka mixes clips from various films and photography, with that of light and color. The artist’s interest in gambling and games, particularly with the video game Pokémon, are depicted in this exhibition - containing underlying social and political meaning. 

Switch Center  (still), 2003 16mm film, transferred to HD video, color, sound, 12 min. Photo credit: Ericka Beckman. Image courtesy of  MIT List

Switch Center (still), 2003
16mm film, transferred to HD video, color, sound, 12 min.
Photo credit: Ericka Beckman. Image courtesy of MIT List


3.   
2019 James and Audrey Foster Prize at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
August 21 – December 31, 2019
25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, MA 02210

Studio image of works in progress from Lavaughan Jenkins’ studio.

Studio image of works in progress from Lavaughan Jenkins’ studio.

This year, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston will hold its biannual James and Audrey Foster Prize exhibition. The museum has selected to feature works from four different artists: Rashin Fahandej, Josephine Halvorson, Lavaughan Jenkins, and Helga Roht Poznanski. Each artist will display their newly created works that range from sculpture, painting, video, and film. The purpose of this showcase is to emphasize the influence of contemporary art and to highlight local talent from the Boston arts community. Check out their website for their upcoming summer events and free admission days!

Interested in visiting Lavaughan Jenkins’ South End studio? Email us to schedule a visit! info@abigailogilvy.com

Nicole Eisenman,  Sketch for a Fountain , 2017.  Photo: Henning Rogge. Image courtesy of  Artforum

Nicole Eisenman, Sketch for a Fountain, 2017. Photo: Henning Rogge. Image courtesy of Artforum

4.  Nicole Eisenman: Grouping of Works from Fountain at the redeveloped 401 Park building in Fenway
On view starting June 2, 2019
401 Park, Fenway

Nicole Eisenman’s sculptural installation is now permanently on view at Boston’s 401 park, located in the heart of Fenway. Like her previous showcase from 2017 in Skulptur Projekte Münster, this set up reveals multiple large scale figures with missing facial features. Eisenman’s work is a lovely addition to the acre of greenery next to the recently developed office building which was bought and renovated by one of Boston’s local firms, Samuel & Associates. Her installation provides an interactive space for any of those who pass by. Additionally, her sculptures breathe contemporary life into the hustle and bustle of the cityscape that surrounds it, further encouraging people to pause and enjoy the artwork. 

5.    A Seat at the Table at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute
June 12th, 2019 - Spring 2020
210 Morrissey Blvd, Boston, MA 02125

Twenty artists have been selected to interpret and create their own seats for trailblazing women throughout history. These feminine influencers range from both the past and present. Our represented artist, Kristina McComb, has been chosen for this project and was given the task to create a bench in honor of Barbara Mikulski, the United State’s longest serving congresswoman. Come take a seat and learn about some of our states most powerful female leaders! 

Image taken by  Kristina McComb  of her bench from A Seat at the Table exhibition

Image taken by Kristina McComb of her bench from A Seat at the Table exhibition

Forever Temporary by Cassandra C. Jones

Cassandra C. Jones created a wall-specific installation on view at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery from May 3 – June 16, 2019. The title of the entire work is “Forever Temporary,” which includes a wallpaper installation and nine digital prints. While the bright colors bring you in, the work has a much deeper significance. Read more about the work from Jones’ point of view below.

Cassandra C. Jones in front of her installation, Forever Temporary. Photo by: David Guerra

From the artist:

In 2017, a massive wildfire swept through the small desert town of Ojai, CA. It consumed over 500 homes on the very first night and raged for over a month.  And while our home remained safe, the air around it became toxic and uninhabitable for many weeks.

All the modern day conveniences, and synthetics of our time, in all those houses, melted. They turned to acidic embers, bad gases, and nano-plastics, and then they rose up into the air, swirling in great plumes.  When they reached as high as they could go up in the atmosphere they gently floated down, onto our landscape, as the softest and smallest of relics.

I still struggle to describe the way the mountains that surround our home looked covered in a blanket of ash, knowing it harbored a legacy, of all the pretty things our townspeople bought and considered either temporary or treasures in their lives.  And even though the fire reduced their effects to the tiniest of fragments, many will still be here for hundreds, if not thousands of years. 

detail of Golden Torch, Archival inkjet on cotton rag pearl, 30 x 18 in. Photo by Chris Anderson / CDA Media

When the rains finally came, the tiny shoots of new plants coming up through the charred black earth looked like green lace covering the valley.  And the locals say that all the vegetation this year, in 2019, is more beautiful because the ash has finally seeped in and fertilized the soil.  A super bloom of color; flowers and succulents, cactus and perennials blanket the terrain. It's just like the smog that makes the sunsets more beautiful; it is so vibrant yet still spoiled.

I think about the fresh new wild cactus in the mountains, just coming out of the ground, slow-growing vegetation that will likely still be around when my children have grandchildren.  I imagine them absorbing and curling their watery flesh and spines around all those pernicious particles, like tree limbs sometimes wrap themselves around telephone wires.  All the sinister little-bits are part of them now.  For better or worse, those cactus will never know life without them. 

The beach ball is an object that I chose to represents the ordinary disposable possessions in our lives. It is pretty, shiny, and fun, much like new technologies, beauty products, food packaging, synthetic clothes, etc., And like all those things it is short-lived and replaceable. In whatever way our creations of this caliber are disposed of or destroyed, recycled or reused, the human-made ingredients that go into them are becoming part of our natural world, creating shifting waters, altered landscapes, and new gardens that are forever and temporary all at once. 

Photo by Chris Anderson / CDA Media

Behind the Scenes of a Studio Visit

As a gallery, we are constantly inspired by getting out of the gallery and seeing art. Every couple of months we have studio visits with our represented artists to see what projects they are working on. Many gallery visitors do not get the chance to visit an artist’s studio (although we always encourage it!), so here is a behind the scenes look into our time with our artist Ariel Basson Freiberg:

Ariel Basson Freiberg’s studio, Somerville, MA

Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: Thank you for hosting us, Ariel! To kick off our questions, let’s start with your schedule: What time of the day do you usually feel the most creative and do your best work? Do you stick to a regular schedule or paint whenever you have time?

Ariel Basson Freiberg: Typically, I’m in the studio four days a week. I find I work best when I have a large chunk of time. I’ll take several short breaks, but with an 8- to 16-hour day I can work with the whole surface of the canvas. I prefer to paint wet into wet so that I can make changes swiftly. It’s a balancing act scheduling time between my studio practice, my teaching schedule, and my responsibilities for the Post Baccalaureate program in studio art at Brandeis.

AOG:  Do you have any daily routines that help your productivity? And/or any pre- or post-work rituals?

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Wasnowwhen, oil on linen, 42 x 34 in., 2016

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Wasnowwhen, oil on linen, 42 x 34 in., 2016

ABF: Music is an important part of setting the tone for my studio activities. Lately, I’ve been gearing up with a mix of Felt, Grimes, Kate Bush, and the score for Sem Mim of Grupo Corpo. I also do some quick drawings to warm up before painting. I see mixing color as part of “the making” stage. I don’t really have any post-work rituals, except the obligatory brush clean up and most likely will take a photo or two of the latest works in progress.

AOG: What type/how many brushes do you use on average for each piece? Any other tools?

ABF: I use ten to thirty brushes, palette knives, scrapers, rags, and sometime brayers/rollers on the canvas and panels. I love bristle brushes for impasto painting and red stable and synthetic for smoother passages.

AOG: When you feel stuck, what do you do to become inspired again?

ABF: Inspiration is vast and complicated. The ritual of showing up in the studio is key for working through delays and hiccups. Sometimes a conversation with a partner, friend, or mentor will spark the fire. Sometimes, it’s going to see art by my favorites at one of the local museums. Other days, it’s reading poetry, like the collection Twerk by Latasha N. Nevada Diggs. I also mine dance performances for new ways of considering bodily gestures. I attend one or two dance classes a week, and I incubate the energy generated there for the studio.

AOG: Do you ever use models for your poses?

ABF: Sometimes I invite friends to model for me. I usually make drawings, which then may or may not be used in a future painting project. Most of the time I do not use models. My relationship with the canvas is very intimate, and I find it’s easier to work without having to worry about a model.

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Pegasus, oil on linen, 48 x 36 in., 2018

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Pegasus, oil on linen, 48 x 36 in., 2018

AOG: Your work is often considered bold and vibrant in terms of color palette. What colors inspire you to most? Do you perceive any specific colors in a certain way?

ABF: Vibrancy and color contrast are most inspiring for me. Fields of toxic green with a whiplash of pinks is forever seductive. Sometimes, I want the figures in my paintings to live deep in a mono-color world like in Standing Ovation. The moments of chromatic shifts occur in the accessories, and small adornments in and around the body pushed to an extreme posture. For me, color imbues a great deal of meaning. I draw many of my colors from amulets from my family heritage, fashion advertisements, the glam malls I grew up with in Houston, TX, and the landscape of my grandparent’s home in Ramat Gan, Israel.

AOG: You come from an Iraqi-Jewish heritage, have you visited Israel and if so, what did the visit(s) mean for you? How did they inspire you?

ABF: Most of my extended family currently live in Israel and Montreal. All of my family fled Iraq in the ‘50s and ‘70s. My family in Montreal kept close to their Iraqi identity, speaking their dialect all the time. My mom was only three years old, and my uncle eight days old, when they left Baghdad for Israel. As refugees from a Middle Eastern country, it was important for the youth to embody “Israeli” culture. Since the whole family had to revoke their Iraqi citizenships, they had to remake and modify themselves, from their names and language to their behavior to assimilate to their new home.
From a very young age, I would visit my family near Tel Aviv. It was the place I was always accepted and embraced. I loved the feel of the red clay soil on my feet and the dumplings my grandmother would make, along with the sweet milk and date cookies. 
The will to make art is a feeble attempt at forging an understanding and unity between the high-contrast, surreal states of two disparate cultures: Texas and Iraqi Israeli. It took years to see how complicated our Iraqi identity was. It was privately fully embodied by my family yet publicly severed and veiled as much as possible. Only as a late teen did I realize I spoke two different languages when I thought I was only speaking Hebrew.

We were so grateful for the time spent at Vernon Street Studios with Ariel Basson Freiberg, thanks for having us!

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Standing Ovation, oil on linen, 56 x 78 in., 2018

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Standing Ovation, oil on linen, 56 x 78 in., 2018

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Double Twist, oil on linen, 48 x 36 in., 2018

Ariel Basson Freiberg, Double Twist, oil on linen, 48 x 36 in., 2018

Artist Spotlight: Richard Keen

Our gallery Director Allyson Boli sat down with Richard Keen to learn more about his creative process. Not only is Richard both a talented painter and sculptor, but he also has three studio dogs! Read our interview below to learn more about him:

Allyson Boli: What was your initial spark to be an artist?  

Richard Keen: I can remember drawing and tracing a lot as a child. Throughout school, I also gravitated to art and music classes and fortunately went to a public high school that had a solid art program with four art faculty who were very supportive.  After high school, when it came time to decide between moving to LA to become a “Rock and Roll Star” versus going to college for art, something inside me must have known I would be a better visual artist – that plus a heavy parental urging to go to college.   

AB: What is your creative process like? Do you begin with an end result envisioned?

RK: My creative process generally starts with turning on music and looking around at what I did last. I often have at least 10-15 pieces happening at once and paints mixed up ready to go so that I can jump right in and get messy. Most of my work starts with putting down some light ground colors with acrylics to block out some simple shapes. Then, I start building up lines, shapes, colors and textures with my oils. Sometimes I have a sense of a basic direction that I want a painting to head in, or I try to capture elements of other paintings that I’ve completed, but I don’t typically have a vision for an end result. 

AB: So it sounds like you’re working on multiple pieces at once, how does that play into your overall process?

RK: Yes, I find that working on similar but different bodies of work at the same time keeps my work moving in interesting directions. I often find that one painting, or group of paintings, informs the other and helps me with color choices, textures and generally keeps me from getting stuck in a rut. 

AB: What inspired your sculptural and shaped paintings? 

RK: My current sculptural and shaped paintings come from within my “Form Singularity” paintings and through finding shapes that resonate with me. I’ve been exploring three-dimensional work as far back as I can remember, but I think that I would have to say that making shaped paintings could be directly attributed to my appreciation for Elizabeth Murray’s work. I can also say that walking through a boatyard in the off season, and seeing how boat hulls get sanded and repainted also stimulated my urge to make shaped work. I think I saw a rudder laying on the ground half sanded by the yard crew… that was a moment of inspiration for me too.

AB: What made you move toward the more minimal style of the Form Singularity series?  

RK: I’ve leaned towards simplifying, reducing, and minimizing the amount of information that I put onto the canvas all along my path as an artist. As far back as high school, I remember working with simplified shapes and amplified colors. My “Form Singularity” Series is, in a sense, my natural state of being, while my other series act as bridges for viewers to cross over into the way I see the world.   

AB: Are there any artists that inform your work?  

RK: Oh yes… I love so many fantastic artists. I mentioned Elizabeth Murray earlier, who I was lucky enough to meet a couple times. I’m a fan of Richard Diebenkorn, Clyfford Still, Helen Frankenthaler and so many of the late greats. A few contemporary artists that I admire greatly are Julie Mehretu, Cadence Giersbach, Chris Ofili, Gary Hume and David Tremlett.  

AB: What are you currently working on? 

RK: I’m currently working on new “Form Singularity” paintings, new “Island Geometry and Sea Geometry” paintings, and several new sculptures while balancing out the demands of a couple upcoming three-person shows here in Maine. I’m also working on a Public Art Project through Maine’s Percent for Art Program. The multi-panel mural is an 8’ x 8’ abstraction made up of 6 geometric panels linked closely to my “Island Geometry” and will be installed in June of 2020.

View Richard Keen’s work in our exhibition Almost Exactly on view through June 16, 2019.

Artist Richard Keen in front of his work at Abigail Ogilvy Gallery: Form Singularity No. 165, Acrylic and Oil on Canvas, 72 x 64 in., 2019