For 20 years the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Massachusetts, mounted annual exhibitions that took the pulse of new art in New England. In 2010, the museum is cutting back its eagerly awaited launching pad show to every two years, but the first DeCordova Biennial (January 23 to April 11) looks to be every bit as artistically adventurous as its more frequent predecessors, a gathering of cutting edge new media, video installations, performances, paintings, sculpture and photographs that celebrates the bizarro world of 21st century art.
Organized by assistant curator Dina Deitsch in collaboration of with an advisory board consisting of Portland Museum of Art director Mark Bessire, Yale University Art Gallery curator of modern and contemporary art Jennifer Gross, and Boston Cyberarts Festival director George Fifield, the 2010 DeCordova Biennial features challenging work by 17 artists from each of the six New England states. Fifield is a leader in advancing new media in the region, and though Bessire and Gross now work at rather more staid institutions, they are both former directors of the Institute of Contemporary Art at the Maine College of Art, their envelope-pushing credentials well established, so expect the unexpected, the unconventional, and the uninhibited if you make the worthwhile trek to Lincoln.
The invitational exhibition features seven artists from Massachusetts (Georgie Friedman, Paul Laffoley, Liz Nofniger, Oscar Palacio, Otto Piene, Laurel Sparks, and Augustino Ventimiglia), three from Maine (Greta Bank, William Pope.L, and Randy Regier), three from Connecticut (Phil Lique, Christopher Mir, and Ward Shelley), two from Rhode Island (Xander Marro and Mark Tribe), Ross Cisneros from New Hampshire, and Karin Weiner, an artist with close ties to Vermont now living in Maine.
Karin Weiner’s apocalyptical collages are about as close to traditional easel art as the biennial gets. Weiner makes imaginary images that often deal with nature and environmental degradation. “At the End of the Day” is a collage of tree stumps left in the wake of clearcutting a forest. “Sink or Swim” is a collage of polar bears clinging to the few remaining fragments of Arctic sea ice as our world melts theirs.
Georgie Friedman, named one of Boston’s “Rising Stars” by the Boston Globe, is a videographer and photographer who also tends to focus on environmental phenomenon. Her “Geyser” at Boston College last year was a video diptych that depicted a geyser bubbling and erupting on one screen and the sky above the geyser fulminating on another.
At the January 28 (7-9 p.m.) opening of the biennial, William Pope.L, a Bates College professor who is an international master of outrageous performance art, will deliver a lecture about his work and stage a “paint-based performance” at the museum. I’d wear a poncho if I were you.
Art in the 21st century tends to have a strong element of ironic techno-play about it, artists bringing aspects of science and technology to bear on aesthetic experience. In this Gyro Gearloose vein, the biennial will feature “Shark,” a fantastical found-object shark airplane by Phil Lique, and “Fallen Spacecraft,” a shiny, candy apple green space capsule that Randy Regier has been working on since 2001.
The 2010 DeCordova Biennial will be a must-see for those with an interest in the advancement of contemporary art and an instructive awakening to the wonders of new art for those with more traditional interests and tastes.
[DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, 51 Sandy Point Rd., Lincoln MA, 781-259-8355.]