Oh, Canada at MASS MoCA

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I am on vacation this week but viewing some great art necessitated a post from the road. On route to Maine, Frank and I took a detour through the Berkshires to stop at MASS MoCA. Unfortunately, we got there with only about 90 minutes of viewing time and the first exhibition was so good, we did not get to see all that was on offer in this old factory (which manufactured components for the A bomb during WWII!) turned museum/art complex.

Oh, Canada is “the largest survey of contemporary Canadian art ever produced outside Canada” and “features work by more than 60 artists who hail from every province and nearly every territory in the country, spanning multiple generations and working in all media.” After facing yet another disappointing show at the Whitney Biennial this spring, I was floored by the consistently high level of work–both in concept and execution–shown in this group exhibition. I also noticed a distinct thread of theatricality running through nearly all of the pieces that often led to a surprise. Every jaded New Yorker should make a trip north and west to see this show and you have the next 10 months to do it (on view through April 2013).

Sketches for A Game of Chess.

The work of Marcel Dzama was of particular interest to me. His sketches, sculptures, and film of the ballet “A Game of Chess” were haunting and strange. Apparently, there is a history linking ballet and chess.

Researching this link between dance and strategy brought me to the even stranger Triadic Ballet by Oskar Schlemmer. (To make even more connections, this Bauhaus ballet was inspired in part by Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire and the ideas of artifice both recently covered in the Dd Book Club’s study of The Rest is Noise.

Wild boar in a china shop?

Beyond leading me deeper into the history of ballet, some other unexpected wonders included David R. Harper’s enamel hog and geodesic fort made of enamel and hide bones, Patrick Bernatchez’s captivating film of Ronald McDonald in a parked car filling up slowly with water, and Bill Burns’s chopped logs with the names of some of the art world’s finest carved into them. Kindling? This exhibit was definitely fuel for my artistic fire.

Jerry Saltz? Check. These are either bats for offending critics or kindling for burning in effigy offending spirits. Looks good to me either way.

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