Thanks to Mother Nature's dumping a whole mess of snow on New York City and making it a slushy, treacherous mess, for once I am not anxious to get home and am selectively snowbound in Boston (where they are more adept at handling the aftermath of blizzards). Staying in Boston, I was finally able to head to the ICA and check out the museum's excellent Mark Bradford exhibit. The first survey exhibition of Bradford's work, the show has on view paintings, sculptures, videos, and an installation created by the artist between 1997 and 2010.
The Los Angeles native scours his Leimert Park neighborhood for materials to use in his works—old posters, advertisements (for cellphones, cars, movies...), billboards, and signs are layered and layered along with wrapping paper, perming papers, and pages from newspapers and comic books to create his intricate, multi-layered, abstract canvases that explore pop culture, "class, race, and gender in American urban society," (from museum's website). The ICA describes Bradford as an "archeologist of his own environment" using found materials which he "layers, embellishes, erodes, and reconstitutes" along with string, twine, and other supplies purchased from Home Depot, to create stunning and evocative abstract works. Learn more at icaboston.org. See my post on Bradford's current exhibit, Alphabet, at The Studio Museum in Harlem here and the artist's website at pinocchioisonfire.org. Through March 13, 2011.
I was glad to see that the ICA also joined a group of U.S. cultural institutions in screening David Wojnarowicz's 1987 film A Fire in My Belly to protest censorship. Created in response to the AIDS-related death of his partner and fellow artist, Peter Hujar, the thirteen-minute video is "an artistic meditation on life, death, faith and suffering," (from ICA's website). On November 30th this year, the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery famously pulled a four-minute edit of the video from its exhibit Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture after receiving complaints about the piece from the Catholic League and after the GOP threatened to take away the institute's federal funding. The Catholic League finds a scene in the film showing ants crawling on a crucified Jesus figure offensive and have described the piece as "hate speech." The Smithsonian's removal of the work sparked outrage with The Andy Warhol Foundation threatening to cut their funding to the museum unless the film is reinstalled and artist AA Bronson requesting the removal of his own work - Felix, June 5, 1994, featuring an image of his partner, Felix Partz, shortly after dying from AIDS-related complications - from the exhibition (a request the Smithsonian has refused to grant).
New York's PPOW Gallery, which represents Wojnarowicz's estate, disagreed with the Smithsonian's decision to remove the video from Hide/Seek and organized panel discussions regarding the museum's move and screened the video in its Chelsea space along with making it readily available to view online. Many museums and galleries have been screening the video as well in a show of support.
David Wojnarowicz was a prominent NYC artist and activist during the 1980s. He died of AIDS-related complications on July 22, 1992 at the age of 37. As if foreshadowing the current controversy regarding his work, in 1989, Wojnarowicz stated in an interview: "Animals allow us to view certain things that we wouldn't allow ourselves to see in regard to human activity. In the Mexican photographs with the coins and the clock and the gun and the Christ figure and all that, I used the ants as a metaphor for society because the social structure of the ant world is is parallel to ours," (excerpt from PPOW's press release). A Fire in My Belly will be on view at the ICA until January 2, 2011. Learn more here. The video is also screening in the lobby of the New Museum in NYC until January 23, 2011. Go check out A Fire in My Belly if you can, and if not, you can watch the surreal and haunting video below (courtesy of PPOW).