I am a big fan of Arthur Dove (1880-1946), an American modernist associated with the Alfred Stieglitz group in the early 20th century. He didn’t become a household name like Georgia O’Keeffe, who was a good friend of his. I’ve long thought of him as “one of…” the pioneer abstractionists, “one of…” the painters who evoked nature and landscape in his works, “one of…” the names to be spoken of in the same breath as John Marin, Marsden Harley, and Charles Demuth. He didn’t stand out for me until I recently noticed some stunning works at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston:
I’m participating in an international artists’ residency program hosted by Red Gate Gallery, and my apartment is in Feijiacun, a growing village of migrant workers and artists, on the outskirts of Beijing.
This is where a nostalgic human-scale China can be found—dusty streets, dumpling restaurants, small shops selling household goods, vegetable stalls, and a casual flow of pedestrians, motorcycles, baby carriages, and trucks. But the place is dynamic, not settled–people move in and out, and buildings come and go. The village has grown from an expanse of fields near the airport to a bustling small marketplace with makeshift shopfronts and temporary homes. What is here today may be gone tomorrow.
Just as I was pondering how globalism and contemporary art are related, I visited the New Museum in New York and saw its 2015 Triennial: Surround Audience exhibition. Fifty-one artists from 25 countries were represented, all artists under 40, with works using many materials, technologies, and artistic references. In an interconnected world, ideas and trends are exchanged easily and quickly, so what can be new? And do artists evoke their own time and place anymore? I would think it excruciatingly tough to be innovative with art these days. The wonderful thing is, people all around the world are still meeting the challenge.
The Harvard Art Museums just reopened last month after having been under renovation ever since I moved to the Boston area six years ago. That means I have not had a chance to enjoy Harvard’s full range of art treasures until now. This has changed my whole outlook on living in the wintry Northeast.