Come out of hibernation. Search for action, adventure and… art
It’s time to come out of hibernation and satisfy the craving for action, adventure and art. Hit the open road for trips short, medium and long to visit these venerable industrial cities and world-class museums.
Just down the road is Buffalo, home of Anchor Bar chicken wings, Frederick Law Olmstead-designed parks and Frank Lloyd Wright homes. Currently the Albright-Knox Gallery (albrightknox.org) is featuring no less than three Canadian artists in their lineup of exhibitions. Agnes Martin’s solo show of early paintings and drawings is nearly over so act quickly to see the transitional works that preceded her delicate grids and pale abstractions. Martin attempted to destroy all of these early pieces (more than 100 were disposed of) but mercifully she didn’t get them all. It is a rare treat to see these semi-figurative but formative works.
A large swath of the museum has been turned over to former Torontonian Kelly Richardson for a mid-career retrospective of 15 cinematic, immersive video installations. Her meditations on otherworldly landscapes highlight what the artist (and Umberto Eco) call “the authentic-fake” as her digital, aural and animated tweaks call to mind both post-apocalyptic scenarios as well as the art-historical tradition of The Sublime.
Looking Out and Looking In: A Selection of Contemporary Photography brings together a wide range of the gallery’s permanent collection of photo-based work (the Albright-Knox was a pioneer in considering photo as an essential and worthy media for exhibition and acquisition). John Massey’s cerebral 10-part series After Le Mepris is one of the high points in the exhibition.
The Steel City is lousy with both bridges and incredible museums. I’ve always made the trek during The Carnegie International (ci13blog.cmoa.org), the original roundup of international contemporary art in the US (only the Venice Biennale has been around longer). Happening every three to five years, this survey is always a smart, gorgeously installed overview of what is going on in the contemporary art world. The show will open this fall and once again I will get on the road to spend the day with 35 artists’ projects (including Canadian Rodney Graham).
While in town visit the Mattress Factory (mattress.org) for cutting-edge installations by international artists who live in residence and create site-specific works, as well as the Warhol Museum (warhol.-org) dedicated to the art and life of Pittsburgh’s Pop Art progeny. All of these museums are housed in architecturally spectacular historical buildings, which leads me to suggest a stop at Fallingwater (fallingwater.org), Frank Lloyd Wright’s most famous residential project, just east of Pittsburgh.
Nestled into a valley in the Berkshires, gritty North Adams, Massachusetts abuts quaint Williamstown (home of Williams College, The Clark Institute, The Williamstown Theatre Festival). Both towns are worth the seven-hour drive, but MASS MoCA (massmoca.org) is the star attraction for contemporary art lovers. Housed in 26 interconnected former industrial buildings on 13 acres of downtown North Adams, the museum must be experienced to be believed. It is a marvel of vision, scale and innovative programming. At any given moment, the museum is so vast that there may be 10 to 12 exhibitions, artists-in-residence, performances, outdoor artworks, dance parties and films all happening simultaneously. A number of Canadians were recently featured in the large survey Oh, Canada (travelling to various locations in Canada in 2014).
Currently, it is home to the remarkable exhibition by Xu Bing, which is not only a jaw-dropping spectacle and feat of engineering but also a thoughtful rumination on contemporary issues in Chinese culture and beyond. Its scale and beauty match MASS MoCA’s ambitions perfectly.
I would visit on the June 21 weekend to attend Wilco’s annual Solid Sound Festival (solidsoundfestival.-com) featuring music by Low, Neko Case, Yo La Tengo and, of course, Wilco. Save lots of time to view the ongoing Sol LeWitt Wall Drawing Retrospective (105 works!) and Mark Dion’s Octagon Room.