Deep in the heart of the fresh and bustling Newmarket District, within one of the many renovated mills, you’ll find a hub of creativity and entrepreneurialism.
CASABLANC is the wild child of Pat Dagle and Cait Danahy. The Blanc Agency, their first creation, is a marketing and design company that has been around since 2011. After a year of growing success, and a yearning to give back to the artistic community in Boston, they opened the first incarnation of CASABLANC in Cambridge. The idea was to give brick and mortar retail access to emerging artists. A half gallery, half office space hybrid, the location saw artists given their own production space as well as a place for the artists to offer their goods to the public.
However, with rising fees, the folks of CASABLANC started seeking to relocate to make things more affordable for their artists. Enter Norfolk Avenue in Newmarket. Embracing a mall-style, micro-retail mindset they went to work renovating the warehouse they now call home.
Always embracing the DIY nature of their punk beginnings, Pat and Cait have brought together multiple artists throughout the years. Whether they are photographers, wood-workers, painters, sculptors, or the crafters of custom beehives, the doors are open to anyone and everyone at the House of Blanc.
In that line of thinking, the main goal of CASABLANC is for the artists there to perfect their craft while also crafting an identifiable brand; something seen as a reluctance within certain circles of the artistic community. The retail spaces and access to the Blanc Agency allows the artists to cultivate habits that will enable their own survival as well as the enhancing of their own business. As Dagle puts it, “We all have bills to pay.”
The location itself also enables access for all of surrounding communities. Go to any event there and you will see people from neighborhoods all over Boston. This is something that CASABLANC is looking to highlight: the Boston art identity. Growing tired of comparisons to San Francisco, LA, or Brooklyn, CASABLANC is looking to create something uniquely Boston.
They also seek to bring the wide range of artistic communities together. As mentioned, you’ll find a wide range of artists taking up residency at the House of Blanc, but, if you go to their open markets, or other monthly events, you’ll like encounter live bands, working fashion designers, and others.
While already proven to be quite successful, CASABLANC is far from achieving their overall goals. There are already plans in place to open up a satellite location in Miami that would bring the CASABLANC brand and ethos down south. The sky is the limit for the Blanc Agency and their growing community.
CASABLANC is located at 169 Norfolk Avenue, in Newmarket, Boston. They host monthly open markets as well as other live events. Check out www.casablanc.co for more details.
If you happen to be around the JKF/UMass spot of the Red Line, do yourself a favor and take a left down Dorchester Avenue. On the left side of the road, about a half mile down, you’ll find a large brick complex that resembles the old mills that used to cover half of Massachusetts. Walk into the parking lot and look for the green transformer which is neither an Autobot nor a Decepticon. What it is, is a marker for the entrance of HallSpace Gallery.
HallSpace, now in its third incarnation, is a small, artist friendly gallery that is run by John Colan. He moved the gallery here in December of 2007 from Roxbury, Colan had to rebuild the inside of the space as it was lacking the proper utilities. He officially opened the spot in February of 2008 and is now celebrating his twentieth year as a gallery owner and operator.
HallSpace runs roughly six to seven shows per year. Currently, they are featuring drawings by local artist Jeffery Hull, who Colan has shown multiple, and in September there will be a showing of small drawings (12×12 paper, no frames, no canvas). A call for submissions has already been sent out.
Colan has no prejudices when it comes to showing artists. He has featured poets, painters, sculptors, animators, and photographers. He has even had guest curators come in and direct showings. HallSpace has featured the works of local artists, Barry Hazard, Jo Ann Rothschild, Rico Pinardi, and Bill Flynn.
When asked what he thought was the best to get the word out in the art’s community, Colan went with social media. In his eyes, the best thing about social media is seeing the interaction happen, as it’s happening, among the community. Before it may have been newspapers and magazines, but, Colan felt those were mainly pushing gallery reviews to the people who were already involved with the arts community.
As to the outlook of the community looking forward, Colan has nothing but hope. In his eyes, the Boston arts community has been strong for years and years, but, it is posed to get even stronger. He points to the recent plan pushed forward by Mayor Marty Walsh, the Boston Creates Cultural Plan, a ten-year plan that is aiming to push the art community to the center of Boson’s already vibrant identity.
HallSpace is located at 950 Dorchester Ave just outside of the JFK/UMass Red Line Stop. Drawings by Jeffery Hull will be featured until August 13 and the 12×12 = 1 Square Foot Exhibition opens on September 3.
Check out www.HallSpace.org for more details.
What are we up to right now? Boston Art Underground is adding more dimensions to what we we’re doing and will launch new weekly artist and gallerist interviews, studio visits and art work profiles this August.
In the meantime, there are hundreds of Boston galleries and studios within a few minutes of the metro stops. Hop on the subway for five minutes and see some art. If you’re a gallery or artist, contact us HERE.
by Sam Nickerson
Originally appeared in Fjords Review
In place of words, dilapidated buildings and delicate, gaunt figures form the vocabulary of photographer Karen Jerzyk’s Parellel World.
Jerzyk admits to struggling to express herself verbally, especially in relation to family tragedy, and instead relies on the nightmarish tableaux that make up the show to say what words cannot. The 22 works on view at Gallery @ Art Block come from several series in Jerzyk’s archives: Nightmares and Dreamscapes, Self Portraits, Headshots, and Dudes in Pajamas, though there are no labels or titles indicating anything about the photographs.
This is for the viewer to determine.
“I want my photos to really tell a story. When people are looking at it, I want it to almost be read like a book,” Jerzyk said. “I didn’t want to have photos close together so someones eye was going from one to another.”
While Jerzyk meticulously prepares the set – sometimes spending hours cleaning a dirty, abandoned room, while only shooting for 10 minutes – she leaves the story fairly ambiguous. In some cases, this is a springboard for the viewer’s imagination – as with a photo of two figures in G-Men suits and luminescent goggles, one levitating in a chair, while stacked old televisions churn out static, like some mid-century dystopian fantasy.
In others, however, the viewer may simply be content with the initial shock of a portrait subject’s pale skin and rolled back eyes before moving on to the next work. Where substance or content may be lacking, Jerzyk does shine when it comes to orchestrating her dream images.
Most are set in old industrial buildings or abandoned homes across places like New England, New Jersey, New York, and Detroit, and appear as though they haven’t been visited in years. In some cases, they probably hadn’t – Jerzyk said more than one time she had to sneak into the buildings with her models, leading to a trespassing arrest in August.
The willingness to go searching for a spot with only a model and camera often paid dividends for Jerzyk. She may spend an hour cleaning or rearranging the room, but in each Jerzyk finds mementos from bygone eras that allow her to create an off-kilter, pastiche version of those points in time. And the models, delicate, contorted, and often nude, stand out sharply from the background, whether indicating they don’t belong in where they’ve been cast or that they are intended to be like a cheap scare in a pulp horror film – a shock to the senses, and nothing more.
Jerzyk is also a master of light. She does not use flash in her work, and often relies on the natural light from windows to illuminate her arrangements. But, likely with the help of after-effects, this does not translate into dim, gloomy photographs. In fact, each of Jerzyk’s photos, even a portrait set against a black background, is vivid and luminous. This adds perhaps the most haunting quality to Jerzyk’s work: is this actually a dream? Or are we looking at reality?
“I’m trying to make something surreal out of a normal setting,” Jerzyk said.
Some of her most surreal works are those that reach beyond the walls of a room. For instance, Jerzyk uses the villainous, yet delicate fashion of local designer Ashley Rose to cloak her models in grim authority, posing them outdoors next to shrines of burning animal carcasses or amid ice walls we assume were parted using some kind of magic.
And this leads to another possibly undeveloped theme in Jerzyk’s tableaux: the power at play in Jerzyk’s robed ice queens and her more vulnerable, even bound, nude figures. Is there a transformation between the two roles? Or are these different parts of the same sentiment?
While depth of content does not always appear as important to Jerzyk, or does not always come across as strongly, Parallel World seems to take a page from the book of Jeff Wall, whose staged photography emphasizes the power of the photographer beyond the ability to push a button.
Think “After ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue” or “The Destroyed Room.” In these photographs – and Jerzyk’s, we are reminded that the eyes or capture itself is not always the skill of the photographer to be praised, but also the dedication to creating a moment to be witnessed and read.
Enjoy Parellel World like you would a haunted house. Allow yourself to be frightened by B-movie tricks and embrace the blatant fantasy of each scene without looking to craft words and context into each. Because of Jerzyk’s personal inspirations ring true, there may not be any.
By: Emily Stewart
There are perhaps very few things that are quite as prestigious as the Nobel Prize, and receiving one for literature could very well be the pinnacle of a writer’s career. The ceremony is a momentous occasion, and the award is nearly every aspiring author’s dream. The honor is awarded after careful study of an author’s technique and craft, and throughout the years, a wide range of laureates has been named for a variety of reasons, from the mastery of a genre to the skillful use of technique. Every year, worthy candidates are lined up and meticulously analyzed, and every year, one candidate is awarded the honor. The process begins as early as September, and throughout the following year, nominees are whittled down to the best.
With such a rigorous process involved in the determination of the laureate, it comes as a surprise that still, every year, droves of people come together to bet on who will receive the Nobel Prize in Literature. Betting on the Nobel Prize in Literature has become a rather strong industry, just as awards betting in general has continued to evolve. As the candidates for the prize are announced, people begin to take notes of their favorites, and betting appears to be a way to show their support as well as make a little more money on the side. Of course, the methods used by bookers to determine the odds for each nominee have been questioned, and some have called them downright unreliable, but this hasn’t stopped thousands from engaging in the activity.
Although many believe that this type of betting is still restricted to sporting events, over the years, we’ve seen betting transcend into awards shows and other entertainment formats. Information on Betfair shows that many have taken to betting on the BRIT Awards, Big Brother, and even Top Gear. But just because so many are engaging in the activity, does it mean we should participate in betting on the Nobel Prize? Time says that we shouldn’t even bother. As Daniel D’Addario puts it, “The real frontrunner for the prize, if history is guide, is someone we’re not thinking of — an exciting twist ending.”
Text Written By Maria Napolitano
Last month I had the pleasure of visiting downtown Boston’s best-kept secret, Artists Crossing, which was showing a vibrant and thoughtful exhibit by Deepak Kumar. Kumar’s background in microbiology fuels his work coupled with his awareness of the larger perspectives he can take with his art; his photographs range from tranquil scenes and portraits to careful examinations of color – or a muted expression of it.
On one end of his exhibit’s spectrum, Kumar’s photographs bring the viewer detailed studies in vivid color and light. Jumping Spider and his portraits of resting butterflies pay strict attention to their subjects, but in various settings: the butterflies are carefully edited to dominate the foreground of the photos with their rich wings while the arachnid sits poised atop its own reflection in full color. These photographs hang in contrast to Biker and July 4th; distant snapshots of quotidian life in black and white and more muted color palettes, respectively. Kumar guides the viewer from the micro examinations to more familiar scales, hues, and content, but then continues to zoom out until he frames the serene Moon in Winter: a grey-scale image that is already accurate in a subdued color scheme. But beside the progression from astronomical to minuscule stills Kumar distracts the viewer with a dynamic centerpiece. Tree of Life stands apart from the still images, a suspended instant of motion and color. Powerful and engaging in its own right; its energetic composition stands out particularly as a part of this exhibit, and its motion centers the range of images in the gallery. Tree of Life is an exuberant snapshot of motion frozen in time, surrounded by calm and deliberate images that remain still even in life.
Kumar shows a modern awareness and a mature sense of space in his work. With a classical respect and distance from his subjects he is careful not to overly distort or unnecessarily edit his images. Instead he carefully directs his viewer’s attention in each cleanly composed frame. He uses color and setting wisely from his micro to macro images, and explores both clear settings and images in the abstract without overwhelming the viewer. Exploring natural images in and out of their larger and typical contexts allows him to investigate the inherent features of each subject as well as its connection to a larger and more familiar setting. Kumar’s exhibit is straightforward and accessible, but not simplistic. The variety in terms of subject and energy does not make for a disjointed exhibit. Instead, Kumar displays a cohesive and stimulating set of photographs reminiscent of the heterogeneous images his viewers may encounter each and every day.
GET THERE: Take the Red Line to Downtown Crossing.
MORE INFO: http://artistscrossingboston.com
Text Written By Rachel Parker
Recently, I visited The Copley Society of Art and was delighted by an unsuspecting exhibition. Hidden away in a small back gallery of the Copley Society is a real treat that takes you far away from the New England summer heat of the other works in the Small Works show to the French countryside. Mike Weymouth is from Maine, and coincidentally the latitude 45-line runs directly through Maine and through France and Tuscany giving inspiration to this show of landscapes. The colors in this small show of fifteen paintings are stunning.
In Mustard Fields, Dijon the intense orange-yellow of the field, and the pale blue sky are thinly separated by a distant scene of trees and farm houses. The depth to this painting is surprising because of the flatness of the field and its oneness of color. However, Weymouth conjures up the exact feeling of the place transporting his viewer with just the barest, loose brushstroke. On The Road to Monteroni d’Arbia is similarly taken over by one color. A bright green swathe of land rolling away into the distance is only interrupted by a house or two and a cold, cloudy triangle of sky.
On The Road to Auxerre excels at recreating the atmosphere of a country road in France. It is exact in every way conjuring up a place that is so remote to the New England landscape. One can imagine the road streaming past this stand of tall trees, and the mirage-like reflection of the trees in what looks like water below.
Very different from the other breezy, luscious paintings in the show; On The Road to Poilly en Auxois is dark and brooding. It seems intensely labored over. The heavy brushstrokes and the heavy color outline the few shapes of trees and house with great effort. The rest of the painting is taken over by a moody sky and a dark, rusty ground; the two separated by the intense black and orange lines of horizon.
GET THERE: Take the Green Line to Copley.
MORE INFO: https://www.copleysociety.org | For more information on Weymouth visit the Copley Society’s blog http://copleysociety.blogspot.com/
Photo provided by the Boston Art Commission
Text Written By Elana Willinsky
I have lived in the same apartment on the Brookline/Allston border for two years. Everyday I walk the familiar stretch of Harvard Street, glossing over the landmarks I have seen hundreds of times. Once in a while, and to my continuing delight, I will notice something new in the otherwise typical pallet of the neighborhood. There! a large spray paint skeleton bringing excitement to an inert brick wall. And, viewed from the roof of my apartment complex, a colorful and incomprehensible tag splashed beneath the overhang of a building.
Street art is an undercurrent of vibrancy throughout Allston. It mingles with the grit of the neighborhood, while simultaneously lifting the eye to the exceptional creativity the community fosters. I feel as though by witnessing and appreciating the street art that gets put up, destroyed, painted over, and redone all over the city, I am encountering some underground language to which only a few are attuned. Street art is a medium with a different kind of freedom than any other type of art. Its interaction with environment is celebratory yet provocative, bold yet transient.
Because of the inherent controversies in this art form it is, to me, highly compelling. Debates on every level over street art versus graffiti and vandalism versus creative expression will continue to rage. As an art lover, I want to say create and let create regardless of whether a street sign or a canvas calls to you. As a logical thinker I can understand how a tag on a store’s window front is disrespectful and an infringement upon the storeowner’s rights. There are many talented street artists who are forging their own paths, storeowner’s rights be damned. I think the work they do is important in keeping an artistic community’s creative spirit free and inventive, and vital to the conversation about the definition and meaning of art. That being said, there are also ways in which the medium of street art is flourishing in conjunction with the “powers that be”.
The Paintbox Program, launched by the Boston Art Commission and thriving in its sixth year, has touched every neighborhood of the city. Local artists are invited to make a piece of art out of government regulated utility boxes. The program was intended to deter “vandalism” of the spaces and bring lively art directly to the community. If you have been in Boston recently, or will be in the city soon, you will undoubtedly come across a treasure of this project. In nice weather artists can be seen, headphones on, working doggedly on their respective utility boxes amidst the bustle of the city streets. Throughout the cold months, the colorful and varied artworks pop through the freezing gray sludge of the weather, peeking from behind snowdrifts as a tiny reminder that eventually the winter will end. Besides being small pleasures for art lovers artists are able to showcase their style and imagination to the public. The paintboxes provide a small reconciliation within the art world between freedom of artistic expression and respect for a community at large.
GET THERE: Go Outside!
SEE IT: On view indefinitely.
MORE INFO: http://www.publicartboston.com/content/paintbox
Text Written By Maria Napolitano
I am a writer for Boston Art Underground—as you know, an art blog. This relies upon, or implies, two things about me. The first is simple: I write, and so, I am a writer. To me, this is straightforward. But, I also make art. Is my work exceptional? No. Am I talented? A second no. But do I always return to it, as I do to my writing? Yes. So, if the same idea holds true for both my writing and my art, then the fact I create makes me an artist. But this is a concept I struggle with: I’m no professional, no star of the community. My work sits in a pile in the corner of my bedroom instead of hanging on museum walls, and even my college degrees are in language arts, not art itself. Do I need to be an artist to participate in the community, to write for this blog? Can or should I claim this the title of artist? If I do, what does that make those who are more involved and prolific? Is there more to being an artist or a writer than participation?
I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve been asked, “So, you’re an artist?” simply because I show an interest in art. I visit museums, installations, galleries—often to write for this very blog—and in making conversation, gallerists often conclude that I’m an artist too. I usually stammer some short, lighthearted response that amounts to, “No, but I pretend to be,” but this explanation ages quickly and feels like an excuse for my presence, as if I need permission to enter the art world. But it raises the question: what is being an artist? Is it an internal desire to create, or is it a label bestowed by an impressed audience?
When I was a college student, my declared majors were English and Spanish; though we studied language and literature in my classes, we constantly drew on culture and art in that pursuit. The Spanish major in particular emphasized the ties between language and cultural production, and the importance of art to a community as a whole. However, as I tried to expand my involvement in my own world, I found that enrolling in art classes was nearly impossible. The art school was a very closed community, one that actively excluded outside students from classes despite ample enrollment and studio space; I was very lucky to succeed in gaining permission to participate. However, the people, both undergraduates and faculty, that I studied with were welcoming and inspiring, and stood in complete contrast with how practically difficult it was to dabble in their world. Once I was able to work around and with them, there was no resistance to my presence. No one questioned my qualifications or dedication, and I found more admiration that I was willing to confront my talentless hands than judgment of my young work. But without the label of art student—that is, artist-in-training—I still had to battle bureaucracy to enroll in these classes.
I did not graduate from artist-in-training to artist; I graduated from my majors to the “real world,” where I had to create a new title for myself, as my courses of study no longer defined me. When making small talk, I am now identified by my career: when asked, “What do you do?” my response begins with “I’m a…” before my current title, reducing my identity to my job. But, like anyone else, I am more than that. How do I choose the adjectives to describe my life, my identity? Some are simple: heritage, hometown, height, age, and profession. But the more difficult ones come from within, without an external representation. It is difficult to describe myself to someone and ask them to take me at my word: having proof of my statements gives me credibility. I write, so I am a writer, and here, you see some of the results of that pursuit. My career is similarly straightforward. But we run into problems when we reach further. Am I an artist without art to show for it? Or is there something else, some way of thinking or participating in the community that fills that space?
Writing for Boston Art Underground has provided me with the consistent motivation to cross in the art world, and while my status as artist is constantly questioned it has not been as a discourteous query or an assessment of my presence. I would instead characterize it as a cousin of the “What do you do?” we all encounter so often in day-to-day life: as a form of small talk, an easy way to open a dialogue, and a way to allow someone to define themselves. Instead of assuming my position in a community, I’m being asked how I self-identify. If I choose to call myself an artist, so be it. It ultimately depends upon my perspective.
But springing from this train of thought is a more important one: I haven’t parsed exactly how I identify, but I still participate in the community. A completely determined identity is not integral to being a part of the Boston, or any, art scene. There is no need for this world to be closed off; any community worth its while, especially a growing one, is composed of diverse participants, even those who are unsure of exactly what they bring to the table. A person’s exact niche may not be clear until they explore internally and externally. The status of being an Artist, or any other descriptor, is an issue everyone must approach individually, but the construction of a shared community does not have to wait for that question to be answered. The art world draws on the production of Artists who are sure of their craft, but still this community is part of and depends on the participation of a wider population. Labels matter less than collaboration, and titles matter less than community. From spontaneous conversation to widespread events like Open Studios and First Fridays and Thursdays, I have found the Boston art scene to be welcoming to dilettantes and devotees, and growing with inspiring speed through the involvement of self-proclaimed artists and unlabelled participants, together.
Photo Provided by the Cambridge Art Association
Text Written By Rachel Parker
On exhibition at The Cambridge Art Association is the National Prize show juried by James A. Welu, Director Emeritus of the Worcester Art Museum. With 1,200 works submitted by 400 artists from 30 states it couldn’t have been an easy task! Welu took particular care in looking at the way artists used their chosen medium to express subject resulting in a very diverse group exhibition with a wide selection of styles and mediums. Best in Show went to Zoe Perry-Wood; social documentarian and photographer from Lexington, MA. The photograph she submitted is from her BAGLY Prom Series; a series of portraits of young people attending the Boston Alliance of Gay Lesbian Transgender Youth’s yearly prom. The portrait, named for its subject, Kaitlyn, is sympathetic and striking with a black background in high contrast to her red prom dress.
Outstanding Mixed Media was awarded to Warren Croce of Belmont for his There’s Nothin’ Like a Dame. The work seems to be constructed from a collection of twelve magazine or news covers obscured by a sketchy figure. Outstanding Work on Paper went to Carol Flax of West Yarmouth for Gray’s Beach Low tide; a fun and beautiful mosaic of cut paper, which show’s Flax’s attention to color. Wilson Hunt Jr. of Roslindale was awarded for his painting Law of Attraction; a popping acrylic abstract painting. The photography category was taken by Dorothy Pilla of Duxbury for Curious. Pilla staged the photograph using a fake reindeer, a la Christmas lawn ornaments. The reindeer faces away from us, looking into a glass enclosed barn where there are oxen (or cows, I can’t say I know much about these things). The real animals almost look like a reflection while the plastic reindeer is more present and active.
Outstanding sculpture when to Jesse Thompson of Providence, RI, for Dress Up (Long arm). This wild and finely crafted painted resin sculpture is perplexing, engaging, and challenging. I find myself dichotomously describing it as both life-like and fantasy-like. A young boy with a strong gaze puts on an elongated, fake arm. Perhaps the boy is putting on the “clothing” of adulthood. However, the meaning behind the work seems more complicated than that leaving a lot to the imagination.
There are countless other interesting pieces in the show including Eunice Choi’s (Im)possibility, which is a painting of a colorful fantasy landscape. On a larger scale than other works of hers I’ve seen, it dominates the space. A highlight for me was Conny Goelz-Schmitt of Beverly, MA, and her collage Tipi; a small work that shows great control over and mastery of composition and color.
The show is split between the Art Association’s two locations, Kathryn Schultz Gallery and University Place Gallery. Just a ten minute walk between the two, it is well worth the walk on a sunny afternoon!
GET THERE: Red Line to Harvard Square
SEE IT: On view through June 26th.
MORE INFO: http://www.cambridgeart.org