On Exhibit: Industrial shipping as art

Enormous display at MASS MoCA created by Los Angeles artist Liz Glynn
A bright copper sculpture resembles a windblown dress in the MASS MoCA exhibit “The Archeology of Another Possible Future.”
A bright copper sculpture resembles a windblown dress in the MASS MoCA exhibit “The Archeology of Another Possible Future.”

Caves made of industrial shipping pallets greet museum-goers in “The Archeology of Another Possible Future,” the latest exhibit to open at MASS MoCA.

The enormous exhibit was created by Los Angeles artist Liz Glynn and inspired by the evolving manufacturing industry. It’s featured in MASS MoCA’s Building 5, a space which already echoes the North Admas, Massachusetts, museum’s industrial history. Glynn’s sculptures are as mesmerizing as they are thought-provoking and “The Archeology of Another Possible Future” is a feast for the eye as well as the intellect. 

One bright copper sculpture, pictured at right, resembles a windblown dress. It’s in part inspired by the Statue of Liberty (which is copper coated) and named after a painting by John Gast called “American Progress,” where a woman in a flowing white dress is depicted leading settlers out west. The dress is like a ghost of those figures, leaving viewers wondering about the next frontier. 

“Glynn is a performance artist as well as a sculpture artist. In both disciplines, you really think about the body and the phenomenological responses we have to our environment. She’s made this very visceral installation where you’re confronted with monumental objects [and] you’re confronted with human-scale objects. She’s making us think about what happens to our physical selves that’s becoming less physical and more ephemeral,” said Susan Cross, the museum’s curator of visual arts. 

It’s a layered exhibit, with references to the manufacturing industry of days past, as well as its future. 

Several shipping containers are one of the most obvious references to the industry. Each container carries a multimedia installation. One contains drawings inspired by patented inventions, another contains videos which evoke the cloudy future of manufacturing. 

In a piece called the “Shape of Progress,” Glynn examines some of the ideas that economists and thinkers from Nietzsche to Ben Bernanke, have contemplated over the years. 

“She’s really interrogating the ideas we have of advancement and progress. We often think it’s a linear evolution, but is it?” Cross said. 

“The Archeology” is multilevel, with catwalks giving viewers a high-level view (14 feet high be exact). 

“You look down from these catwalks onto this industrial ruin,” Cross said. 

Part of the ruin includes several metal chairs that look like they’re a cross between a hospital stretcher and a beach chair. These are placed below tanning bed-like lighting. It begs an eerie question: what happens to our life after labor? 

As Cross puts it: “Will it be a holiday or will it make us sick?”

Glynn’s work will be on exhibit until September 2018. For more information visit massmoca.org.

Opening This Week

This weekend, an exhibit of powerful portraits opens at the Tang Teaching Museum. As part of the museum’s Opener series, the exhibit (called “Predecessors”)  spotlights Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s work.

Akunyili Crosby, who was born in Nigeria and came to the United States in 1999, often draws on her cultural roots for inspiration and this exhibit is no different. She depicts her late mother, sister and herself in large portraits that examine the cross between her Nigerian upbringing and her life in the United States. 

The exhibit is aptly timed, as Akunyili Crosby was awarded a MacArthur fellowship for her exceptional insight and potential earlier this week. The fellowship grants her $625,000 over five years to further develop her work.

“Akunyili Crosby’s work, in stunning detail, subverts preconceived notions of artistic representation. Through layering different methods and at times unexpected materials, she presents an alternative to stereotypical perceptions about Western art and the lives of contemporary Africans,” said Ian Berry, the director of the Tang Teaching Museum.“Predecessors” is on exhibit from October 14 through December 30. There will be an artist talk with Akunyili Crosby and artist Julia Jacquette at 3 p.m. on Sat. Oct. 21.  

Last Chance

The experimental show “That. Was. EPIC!!!: When Quotidian Becomes Lore,” featured at Collar Works in Troy, ends on October 14. It features sculptures, performances and installations by artists like Cody Arnall, David Carpenter, Tehniyet Masood, Dylan Redford, Dane Winkler and Georgia Wohnsen.

Categories: Art, Entertainment

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