Category Archives: Museums

Roni Horn at the ICA and Tomb 10a at the MFA

Two quick mini-posts to follow up on my last post. I’ve ended up seeing almost every new exhibit at the ICA, and the most recent was their survey of Roni Horn that I caught on the last day it was open two weeks ago. Enjoyable though it was, the works as a whole felt curiously uninvolving. Perhaps because Horn is a conceptual artist whose concepts feel “safe”, neither daring nor innovative nor electrically charged. There are some moments of surprise and reaction, but on the whole the exhibit felt rather too suburban and neat. Perhaps this is most epitomized by her treatment of Dickinson, in which she’s content to restrain the poet’s words in cold metal bars, acknowledging her quiet, solid strength but without allowing any of her passion to be felt. I agree with much of Sebastian Smee’s review for The Boston Globe, and I also wholeheartedly second his appeal for the ICA to give us a change of pace from these fairly benign exhibits and explore more visceral areas of the art world. The accompanying exhibit, of Mexican artist Dr. Lakra, proved to be the more interesting one overall, although certainly less easy to swallow.

I was also happy to see the MFA’s The Secrets of Tomb 10A: Egypt 2000 BC (today’s the last day). The exhibit is highly entertaining and at times moving, although it follows the same obvious path as most exhibits of ancient relics do, which is to emphasize the functional usage of the artifacts over their artistic value. Smee, again providing a cogent review in The Globe, particularly laments the exhibit’s presentation of a 4000-year-old mummy’s skull, which emphasizes the scientific anaylsis of it more than the skull itself.

On that visit I also checked out the museum’s Durer exhibit. The works are quite amazing, although some background on the various techniques used would have been helpful. And to round things off, here’s Smee’s review of the exhibit for The Globe.

Free admission at MIT Museum tomorrow (Saturday)

Quick post that The MIT Museum is going to be free tomorrow 10 a.m.-6 p.m. as part of The Cambridge Science Festival, now in its 3rd year. I posted some comments on the permanent exhibits a while back, which includes a collection of Arthur Ganson’s totally rad kinetic sculptures. The bf hasn’t seen them yet, though, so I’m going to make an effort to squeeze in a quick visit amidst enjoying all the sunshine over the weekend.

The Science Festival has never really been on my radar, although it seems it’s not just focused on kids. Some of the activities seem like a bit of a stretch, though, e.g.:

    Carnival! Learn from the Microsoft experts how to keep your kids safe online!!
    Hands-on demonstrations help teach children how to spot dangerous risks online. A bonus for parents – see how to use technology at your fingertips to protect your kids!

Oh, whoops, it ended today at 4. Looks like I just missed it! Ha ha.

“Luminous Windows” at the MIT Museum

[The preview for this review is here.]

Oof. I’ve gotten behind. Clearly I’ve been going out too much and not doing enough writing. Here are some thoughts on the MIT Museum’s new exhibit Luminous Windows: Holograms for the 21st Century, though, which was a little more than a week ago.

The new exhibit consists of six new works, that “[represent] artistic and technical advancements in the field of display holography”. The most successful of them are “Thera” by Ikuo Nakamura which combines holography and video of a woman in an interesting way, and “Insights” by Michael Bleyenberg which is abstract. The images are on display from Massachusetts Ave. throughout the winter, so it’s definitely worth checking out if you walk by it in the evening (e.g. if you’re on your way to or from the Miracle of Science which is just a few blocks away).

The accompanying opening was very low key, but fairly well attended. The museum provided free admission, snacks, a DJ, and activities for children which, although only tenuously connected to the theme of light, successfully drew families in to see the new exhibit. Better yet, though, was the chance to see the museum’s expanded facilities and permanent exhibits and, in my case, to reacquaint myself with some impressive collections that I hadn’t seen in years.

Two exhibits in particular, are worth highlighting. The first of these, (and special attention must be given to it, considering the occasion of the new exhibit opening), is the museum’s permanent holography exhibit, from which the two images in this post are taken. The exhibit has an impressive range, and although a lot is focused on the simple “cool” factor, there are several moments of surprising emotional resonance. The exhibit would have benefited tremendously from a more detailed look at how holograms are made, but, alas, instead we are forced to make do with only two very sketchy panels of information.

The second noteworthy exhibit was the collection of kinetic sculptures by Arthur Ganson. Having just seen the fantastic Calder exhibit at the Whitney in New York City it’s easy to see the roots of Ganson’s inspiration. Ganson combines Calder’s love of the mechanical with Calder’s whimsy, creating sculptures that are often motorized and perpetual, illustrating tiny little human truths or dramas or just fun entertainments with materials as varied as a wishbone, black oil, or little slips of paper.

Both exhibits are extremely audience-friendly, unlike the majority of the rest of the museum which in general just seems far too cluttered with text. The MIT Museum seems a bit awkward in its presentation overall, combining science, history, and art into one uncohesive whole. As a result the exhibits alternate between being either far too scientific and technical or virtually completely ignoring the scientific side (in the latter cases the exhibits reach about the level of the Museum of Science, which most of the time seems more full of toys than information). In any case the museum is worth a visit for the holography and Ganson exhibits alone. Visiting information can be found here.