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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Fun at MASS MoCA

Last week's Friday Funnies post featured work from a current exhibit at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA). We visited in August on our anniversary road trip to nearby Williamstown, MA. Finding this museum was an unexpected, and very pleasant surprise, as we hadn't traveled to the Berkshires specifically for this purpose.

We spent several hours exploring the buildings and tried to see as many exhibits as possible.  Shown below are more pieces from artist Lonnie Holley artist, creator of the piece shown in the Friday Funnies. 
To update fellow bloggers who expressed concern over the demise of the instruments in comments, NO musical instruments were trashed for its creation. Holley, an African-American artist, art educator, musician and performance artist, fashions his art from "found" materials, the stuff folks trash. He's often referred to as The Sand Man because his art began after a family tragedy when he made sandstone tombstones for his sister's children killed in a fire. Articles about Holley and his art have appeared in Art in AmericaContemporary Art DailyHuffington Post, and Garden&Gun among others.

Holley's art and that of fellow southern artist and writer Dawn DeDeaux, from New Orleans, LA, were jointly featured in a MassMOCA exhibit. Like Holley, DeDeaux also experienced early tragedy with the death of two siblings. They shared other similarities: DeDeaux worked in the prison system. Holley was incarcerated at the Alabama Industrial School of Negro Children. Both lost artwork: DeDeaux in Hurricane Katrina and later a fire; Holley when his work area was bulldozed. Yet, despite these similarities and geographic proximity, they never met until invited to exhibit at MASS MoCA.

The above two works by DeDeaux were featured in the exhibit. She is regarded as a pioneer in media art. Her work uses two-dimensional imagery and sculptureHer work requires more than just a first look, as apparent in these pieces.

DeDeaux has exhibited in the Whitney Museum of American Art, Armand Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, and the Baltimore Museum of Contemporary Art. Like Holley, she has been featured in many publications including The New York TimesKnow Louisiana, and New Orleans Living Magazine

Holley and DeDeaux were not the featured artists when we visited MassMOCA. That distinction went to artist Nick Cave of Chicago. His exhibit, Untilthe museum's costliest and most elaborate one to date, was housed in Building 5, an open, column-free, football field sized space. It's also the museum's largest exhibit space.
Cave's “Kinetic Spinner Forest” lets people follows a path of 12,000 spinners suspended from 1,500 thin cables. Some spinners had tiny motors keeping them in continuous motion. Others bore images of bullets and targets, a very unsettling sight.
“Crystal Cloudscape,” another part of Cave's exhibit, featured an enormous hanging chandelier which at the top contained an assortment of "tchotchkes" that resembled yard sale finds, including 17 black-faced lawn jockeys. Several ladders were provided to allow access to the top. The description said the piece was meant to symbolize racial evil.
Internet image

Cave is a fabric sculptor, dancer and performance artist who is best known for creating "Soundsuits," wearable fabric sculptures described as " bright, whimsical, and other-worldly." Fully concealing the body, they obscure race, gender, and class, allowing viewers to look without bias towards the wearer’s identity. Cave regularly performs in the sculptures either dancing for the camera or in a public space. (None of these pieces were included in the Mass MoCA exhibit.)

MASS MoCA is located in the western Massachusetts town of North Adams, a small town in the Berkshire Mountains. Opened in 1999, it's one of the largest museums in the world with 25 buildings on 16 acres, galleries the size of football fields, and exhibition space that exceeds 250,000 square feet. Its focus is on contemporary visual art and performing arts (as evidenced by the exhibits we saw there). 

In 1985, the former factory complex was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is the U.S. federal government's official list of sites, buildings, structures, and objects deemed worthy of preservation. 

The museum is in a former factory building complex that housed two local industries.

Arnold Print Works, a cloth printing firm was one of the world's leading producers of printed textiles operated from 1860-1942. At its 1905 peak, it employed over 3,000 workers. The company closed due to the low prices of cloth produced in the South and abroad as well as economic effects from the Great Depression.

Sprague Electric Company (1942-1985) purchased the site to produce capacitors and in WW II, operated 24 hours, employing a largely female workforce. At its 1960s peak, in a North Adams community of 18,000, Sprague employed 4,137 workers. Its shutdown came in the wake of economic difficulties caused by cheaper Asian-produced electronic components and changes in high-tech electronics.

The shutdown of these once-vital industries seriously impacted the North Adams economy. It has been somewhat, but not completely, revived by the establishment of this world-class museum. Could it be that not everyone knows of its existence?

We certainly didn't know of MASS MoCA before and agreed that it was one of the best art experiences we've experienced. We are planning a return visit and if you've ever in western Massachusetts, look up this museum and allow plenty of time to explore.

13 comments:

mamasmercantile said...

Wow, what an amazing exhibition. Thank you so much for sharing, that is what I love about blogging the fact that you can enjoy so many things from around the World that you wouldn't normally see.

Sandra said...

truly amazing, and I would love to visit all that ART... I really like the fat chain and ball hanging from the ceiling. very interesting art and it would take a long time for me to view it all.

Ginnie said...

Thanks for the tour. It's amazing what an artist with an imagination can produce. Great pictures.

William Kendall said...

Some dazzling works in those collections!

L. D. said...

I have never heard of this place but it sounds amazing at the size of it. Many buildings and much to see. That first artist has such a great sense of humor with imagination.

Denise inVA said...

A very nice tour of all the exhibits and of the building itself. Great post! An interesting history of the artist too.

Michelle said...

I am impressed by these exhibits. NICE! Something I would like to see.

Face & Skin Upkeep said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lynn said...

That is a wonderful place - thank you for sharing the artists' stories.

Emma Springfield said...

That was fun. And unusual to say the least.

My name is Erika. said...

Hi Beatrice. Nice to meet you. Thanks for visiting my blog and introducing yourself. I've never made it to Mass Moca and one of these days I will. Wow. It's quite an exhibit. I've heard of it but never new much about it. North Adams is a ways out but now my daughter is living out in Keene I shall have to drag her out there one day. I've followed you so I can see what other fun things you might introduce me to. Where is your foliage river cruise? Hugs-Erika

gigihawaii said...

I have only been to Boston and Winchester (1987), but would love to explore this museum. Nice exhibits.

Ida said...

Very creative and fascinating art pieces.

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