Written up post pizza and lounging in the Atlantic Works Gallery for my sitting shift; slippers on, spice rum served, and wrapped up in a perfumed emerald damask shawl. Fierce femme lesbian-fiancé vibe blasting.
Due to a colleague’s enterprising generosity I’ve had something of a fairly long weekend and I’ve been loving it, eating it up with a spoon in each hand. I’ve been up to all sorts of things: Chopping my way through new work, ordering new source material, and had time to languidly finish reading Joan Lindsay’s classic period thriller Picnic at Hanging Rock, and then started reading John Water’s mid career memoir, Shock Value. it’s been really quite lovely. Highly recommended all around.
This last Thursday I had access* to spend time with the work of Boston’s very own grand-master of gore, lore, and yore: Hyman Bloom. HR Giger be biomechanoidistically damned & gagged, Bloom is and was a genius of tantalizingly rendering subjects of repulsion, voyeurism, while candy-coloring the abject and forbidden. This kind of sensually seductive power play is all too lost on the endless Art As Journalism churn in these still all too static current moments. It’s welcomed to see a feature sized show with this trusted and reliable tack. Its bright, colorful, gross, sacred, limbic-triggering. Fucking Fabulous. I’ll have a triple scoop, thanks.
In thinking back on the work in this show I happened to recall the years spent in a certain all too-local Art Gulag that was host to something of a formative exhibition for me, specifically two of the four artists: Kathy Butterly and Sue Williams. Folds, crenelations, goopy, drippy fluids and flaps. Boston absolutely forgets where it comes from sometimes, especially when the institutions at its disposal continue to be be too big for their britches that are finally getting called out for being so drastically out of style.
No one likes a try-hard, Mr. Director, especially Bostonians, it reeks of disingenuousness. So though the Bloom show is nice, I have to agree with other folks I’ve heard from that it could have been more front and center within the museum itself, away and separate from the Jackson Pollock | Katharina Grosse Mural. Why not highlighted in the “new” American wing?
Personally, it’s my very un-asked for option on the following: this selection could have benefited from more of Bloom’s rabbis, portraits, chandeliers, with greater exposition regarding the Jewish and POC-settled Old West End. Mr. Spock Himself, Leonard f’n Nemoy is from that otherwise ghosted neighborhood, as are the following. Works that are inherently biographic are a weird thing to omit: the man’s Jewish culture and heritage. I know it might be strange to harp on that too, but to have scant examples of it in an exhibition that appears to be an attempt at making an amend, I just don’t quite buy it.
Bloom’s work is still nevertheless absolutely brilliant, but the same regular blunders continue throughout the space. Bloom’s pieces are tremendous, beautiful, challenging, real- its the plexi’d shrines of Bloom’s journals and sketches that miss the mark entirely, these clumsy, anachronistic reliquaries are fundamentalistic (artist as cult figure) and that’s just down right tacky.
And another thing: I must question the curatorial layout where what could be considered the most explicit contents are corralled into very last room; not quite your intended sanctum sanctorum, my preferred expectaton of a charnel house, nor the freaks the barker promised. This sequestration comes across as half-baked manufactured scandal. We know what the man is about, what he’s painted and how, and it really cheapens his legacy to cluster “those” works together in the very last room. Come on.
Point of Transparency: I’ve taken my time this weekend in screaming this screed unto you oh Sacred Void, l’internet, a slow low cook if you will, and between Saturday night and Sunday morning I had a most vivid dream, a vision, a portent:
Helen Molesworth was helping me finish the last of an install she curated for the American Pavilion, and it was renovated to being an exact duplicate of my adolescent home in Chicopee.
We’re talking Ed Ruscha on dark wood paneled walls, Mona Hatoum on a hard 90’s desert rose high pile carpet. It was actually quite brilliant. We celebrated by going to the Whately Diner where she and I were sitting across from each other in a booth and she offered many opinions on the contemporary art scene including her very own definition for:
compound noun & verb
when folks try to be too polite when they’re upset, and/or use overly large words- people can tell that these speakers aren’t being straightforward and we resent this because it first assumes then secondly denies the intelligence/emotional capacity of the audience. Just be direct and brave for once, like all those artists you claim to admire.
See this exhibition, my complaints are small fry to the Leviathan big fish that is Bloom and his brilliant impact. You owe it to your greater love and appreciation for this Neon Boston Babylon growing up all around us.
*Recommendations: ask & borrow a MFA membership or enquire re: community tickets through a local branch library.