So on Saturday I went out to North Adams to visit the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. As always it was a fantastic time.
The drive out was delightful. We stopped off in Greenfield where I ran into a few friends at the farmer's market and then we stopped for lunch at Shelburne Falls (where we also trooped across the Bridge of Flowers and checked out the glacial pot holes). Then a winding drive through the Berkshires to reach North Adams and the museum. Someday when I have more time, I really want to explore a few more of the spots along the road -- apparently there's a zipline canopy tour out there now. I'd also do some of the rafting/tubing/canoeing trips but the Deerfield river is very shallow and I cause a lot of displacement in small boats.
At any rate, we found some parking and went inside. The Mass MoCA is a converted mill building with lots of big, open spaces to display all kinds of great art. There's a lot of great stuff going on right now including exhibitions of work by:
Jason Middlebrook -- His artwork involves taking longitudinal cross-sections of trees and then painting over the wood with angular stripes. The effect is an artificial "wood grain" and it's very arresting and attractive. If I were a wealthy art collector, I'd certainly want a piece or two of his decorating my palatial estate.
Sol LeWitt -- Bright, colorful, geometric wall paintings. Wonderful selections of form and color. You'll have an intense desire to repaint every room in your house.
Michael Oatman -- Imagine if someone converted an Airstream trailer into a space station. Now imagine that it fell from orbit to land on a gantry three stories above the ground. That's what his exhibit is like. The trailer suffered from being a bit small for me, but it was meticulously decked out with everything a lonely astronaut could need -- although how he managed to get all those ham radio call-sign postcards into orbit is a bit of a question. Just a fun exhibit.
Mark Dion-- Likewise, Mr. Dion has built an octagonal room, the inside of which he has furnished with his life, or perhaps a 19th century analog of his life. Odd and ends and boxes and packages and books and curios and all of it tempting you to touch it (although please don't touch anything).
One Minute Film Festival -- exactly what you think it is. There was a one-minute film festival in New York and this collects about a decade worth of films. The only problem with this exhibit (aside from your inability to not watch "just one more") is that there are movie posters of a number of films and I wish I could have selected them on demand since you had no idea when you'd see it.
Xu Bing -- The artist has brought his two Phoenix (a male and a female, although why immortal animals have gender is beyond me) to the US. The phoenixes are two massive sculptures made out of construction site debris. One of the phoenixes has a coxcomb made of red hardhats. There are feathers made of shovel heads. All kinds of leftover scrap goes to create these enormous and fantastic creatures. Other items from the artist include a giant brushwork painting, a poem with amazing calligraphy, a panoramic movie, a book made up entirely of symbols and an intriguing display of cigarettes.
Tom Phillips -- This was my favorite exhibit. In the late 60's Tom Phillips purchased this Victorian Novel called "A Human Document" for a couple shillings. He then took each page of the book and covered it with his artwork except for a few carefully chosen words/phrases on each page. In this way he's re-inventing the book and telling a new tale from what existed before. He finished replacing each page in the early 70's. Now he's going back and redoing the whole thing. The exhibit shows the original page, his first draft below that, and the current draft below that. You could easily spend all day just going page to page to page. I had to force myself to look away or I'd be trapped when they closed the museum. The gift shop had a copy of this "art book" -- which has a mix of first- and second- draft artwork, so I picked that up to gaze through. Just fascinating.
So that was everything on display. We went out for supper and came back for the evening performance of Mucca Pazza, a punk-rock marching band from Chicago. They were a lot of fun and put on a good show. They even had post-modern cheerleaders -- which I can't explain any better than that. They also had accordion, violin and electric guitar who all used megaphone-topped crash helmets to get their sound out when marching. Sadly, they aren't planning to make Honk! this year, but they'd be a great addition.
After that, it was time to drive home...through the twisty mountain roads...in the dark. But I'm posting so obviously we made it. But yeah, Mass MoCA has some great stuff going on and if you can get out to see it, you should.