Innovative Art Spaces
ICA Watershed, Boston
Located in the Boston Harbor Shipyard and Marina in East Boston, the ICA Watershed transforms a 15,000-square-foot, formerly condemned space into a new civic and cultural asset. Anmahian Winton Architects designed the renovation of the derelict former copper pipe facility, conserving its industrial feel while restoring the building for new use. Each summer, the ICA will invite one artist to create a site-specific work or installation; for its inaugural year, artist Diana Thater illuminated the Watershed with colored light and moving-image projections that reflect on the fragility of the natural world.
Studio Allston Hotel, Allston
A hotel may seem an unusual choice for this list, but the Studio Allston is not your average hotel. Every space has been reimagined by one of twenty contemporary artists — 90% of whom were Boston-based — selected in collaboration with creative advisory firm Isenberg Projects, and who painted murals and created distinct visual identities for each guest room, as well as the bar and lobby.
Seaport Boulevard, Boston
In the fall of 2018, Seaport invited Spanish artist Okuda San Miguel to instal seven vibrant, monumental sculptures entitled “Air, Sea, Land” along the Seaport Boulevard median. The installation tells a story of coexistence and exploring humans’ relationship to the natural environment. Okuda is best known as a street artist, and his unique iconographic language of multicolored geometric structures and patterns can be seen in public spaces around the world.
Significant Survey Exhibitions
We Wanted a Revolution: Black Radical Women, 1965-1985, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Focusing on the work of black women artists, this exhibition examines the political, social, cultural, and aesthetic priorities of women of color during the emergence of second-wave feminism. It is the first exhibition to highlight the voices and experiences of women of color—distinct from the primarily white, middle-class mainstream feminist movement—in order to reorient conversations around race, feminism, political action, art production, and art history in this significant historical period. It features performance, film, and video art, as well as photography, painting, sculpture, and printmaking by a diverse group of artists and activists.
Before Projection: Video Sculpture 1974-1995, MIT List Visual Arts Center
Before Projection: Video Sculpture 1974-1995 shines a spotlight on a historical moment and a body of work in the history of media art that has been largely overlooked since its inception. The exhibition explores the connections between our current moment and the point at which video art was transformed dramatically with the entry of large-scale, cinematic installation into the gallery space. This exhibition will present a re-evaluation of monitor-based sculpture since the 1970’s and serve as a tightly focused survey of works that have been rarely seen in the last twenty years.
Sheila Pepe: Hot Mess Formalism, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
For over twenty years, Sheila Pepe has made large-scale sculptures and installations using domestic and industrial fibers. This exhibition, the first mid-career survey of Pepe’s work, examines how the artist plays with feminist and craft traditions to counter patriarchal notions of art making. While Pepe incorporates personal and cultural narratives into her work, she also invites a broad range of viewers’ interpretations. Many of her fiber-based works respond to architectural spaces, adding a layer of awareness about the context of museum display to the meaning of her work.
Carrie Mae Weems: Strategies of Engagement, Boston College McMullen Museum of Art
Carrie Mae Weems: Strategies of Engagement examines this eminent American artist’s diverse and innovative career through both celebrated and rarely exhibited projects made during the last thirty years. The exhibition focuses on the relational aspect of Weems’s art, recreating original installations in which viewers wander among suspended images on translucent fabric, enveloped by the artist’s audio narration, or stand confronted with video and photographic works that expose systems of power and injustice. The resulting immersion in moments of global and historical struggle prepares viewers for a more engaged discussion of American history through such difficult issues as violence, survival, and the need for radical social change.
Under a Dismal Boston Skyline, Boston University Art Galleries
Curated by Lynne Cooney, Leah Triplett Harrington, and Evan Fiveash Smith
Under a Dismal Boston Skyline examines the city as witness to intensely concentrated moments of artistic experimentation over the last several decades. The exhibition reexamines a group of practitioners working in the late 1970s and 1980s, collectively known as the Boston School. Considering resonances between this group and other iconoclastic artists working outside of Boston’s culturally conservative mainstream, the exhibition connects the Boston School to other artists in the city who have set their own terms for art, life, and community. Under the city’s skyline, and under different circumstances and time periods, the artists in this exhibition sought to represent their friends, families, haunts, homes, lovers, and selves.
Coded., Mills Gallery, Boston Center for the Arts
Curated by Alexandria Smith
Coded. presents color-driven work by artists based in New England. Color is the building block of our aesthetic and psychological experiences and is the most relative medium in art. It has the ability to alter one’s perception of self and the world around us. The eight artists in Coded.—Laylah Ali, Carla Edwards, Alex Jackson, Steve Locke, Simonette Quamina, Kenny Rivero, Jordan Seaberry and Lachell Workman—exhibit a range of artistic, technical and conceptual prowess in their work and use color as a character, a trickster, a device and a provocation.
Nine Moments for Now, The Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art, Harvard University
Curated by Dell M. Hamiltion
Nine Moments for Now brings together contemporary art and modernist approaches to the question of how artists engage in political speech. In other words, what do freedom and liberation look like in the wake of Black Lives Matter and the astounding uncertainties of the Trump era? As with all cultural transformations, artists have been at the forefront of creating meaningful and complex responses to social engagement and civic discourse.
Provocative Performance Art
Bashezo, Space With Those Without Names, CASTLEDRONE
Representing the transformations that we and our spiritual counterpoints go through on either side of a thin metaphysical veil, "Space With Those Without Names", is a participatory landscape that gives image to copresence. Death, blackness, and transfiguration continue to recirculate in the artists’ work. They inverted CASTLEDRONE visually into a layered, blackened space meant to be navigated. “A cartesian experience doesn’t exist in my experience” Bashezo describes when considering the role of pathways in their work, “I want to explore how the audience can be negotiated, as part of the installation.”
Fog x FLO Performances, The Emerald Necklace Conservancy
Artist Fujiko Nakaya calls fog “the most generous medium,” as its dynamic permeable form allows for limitless interaction, and collaboration, with others. For five decades, she has partnered with choreographers and dancers, composers, musicians and sound artists, light and projection artists, and visual artists and designers of ranging disciplines to create dialogues with her work as “fog performances.” Throughout the summer and fall, artists and performers used Nakaya’s sculptures as a unique backdrop for a diverse range of programs that took place throughout the park system.
Martin Creed, Words and Music, Peabody Essex Museum
In conjunction with the PlayTime exhibition at The Peabody Essex Museum, Creed performed Words and Music (2) at the BCA. The quirky, highly engaging evening included the premier of Work No. 2890: Bum Piano, performed by the composer. It was an extraordinary encounter between artist and audience: a bit contemporary music hall, a bit art lecture, shot through with Creed's renowned wit and absurdity, and delivered in his own highly original style.
Karen Young, Older and Bolder, Grove Hall Senior Center
Older and Bolder is an elder voice project designed to engage, empower, and make elders of color visible in Boston. Developed out of the Boston Artist-in-Residence Program (Boston AIR) and based at BCYF Grove Hall Senior Center, Older and Bolder utilized Japanese taiko drumming as a vehicle to command space and attention. Working with Age-Friendly Boston, one of the initiative’s key achievements was partnering on an event to bring awareness to a dangerous crosswalk where cars would not yield to pedestrians.
Smolnikova + Williams, Rainbow Collapse, BCA
Step into a brave new world in Rainbow Collapse, where artists Smolnikova + Williams imagine how a dystopian utopia might grow from the ashes of a complete societal and environmental collapse. Both darkly foreboding and hopeful at the same time, this self-determined experience features a birch forest, a pyramid of television sets, and an opportunity to read from the book of senses.
Coleslaw's Corner, Boston’s Best Drag Queens, Museum of Science Boston
Boston’s Best Drag Queens took Boston nightlife (and HUBweek) to exciting new levels in 2018, taking over the Museum of Science with a groundbreaking lineup of drag performances paired with full dome immersive projections in the Charles Hayden Planetarium.
Public Art Installations
Steve Locke, Three Deliberate Grays for Freddie (A Memorial For Freddie Gray), Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
For his Facade installation, Locke painted an abstract portrait of Gray, a 25-year-old Black American man, whose untimely death after being in Baltimore Police custody in 2015 aggravated long-standing racial tensions in the city and sparked street protests, police clashes, and violence. Locke generated three distinct monochromes by averaging the pixels of three individual photos of Gray that were frequently used in the media. The resulting colors form a timeline of the life, suffering, and death of Freddie Gray. The piece powerfully addresses issues of race and violence in America today.
Fujiko Nakaya, Fog x FLO, Emerald Necklace Conservancy
Fog x FLO, artist Fujiko Nakaya’s installation on the Emerald Necklace earlier this year, enveloped the seven-mile long park in ephemeral, dynamic fog sculptures as part of one of the most innovative exhibitions we saw this year. Using clouds and mist to “make the invisible visible,” each work responded to a certain element of the park system — from the Back Bay Fens to Franklin Park — transforming the landscape with totally unique sensory experiences. The fog sculptures were created in response to the landmarked waterways and landscapes designed by Frederick Law Olmsted (FLO), and Nakaya’s “climate responsive” shape-shifting, pure water forms invited visitors to immerse themselves in the art, experience nature anew, and appreciate the vital role of the Emerald Necklace in our city’s history, present, and future.
Cynthia Gunadi and Joel Lamere, Lost House, Now + There, Dorchester, MA
Lost House converted a vacant city-owned lot at 405 Washington Street in Dorchester’s Four Corners neighborhood into a communal place that honors the site’s forgotten domestic histories. It explores the ever-changing nature of the built environment — what remains or is erased over time, and what future possibilities may be. The project sits at the site of a former house that had several owners and was ultimately foreclosed and demolished in the 1970s. The installation consists of an open, filigreed structure and a communal bench, an object that stands alone but grows richer through the narrative of its site.
Liz Glynn, Open House, Now + There, Commonwealth Avenue Mall
An installation created by Los Angeles-based, Boston-born artist Liz Glynn, Open House was organized for the Commonwealth Avenue Mall by Now + There. Originally commissioned by the Public Art Fund in cooperation with the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, Open House was first presented at Doris C. Freedman Plaza in Central Park, New York. This new installment of Open House transformed the Commonwealth Avenue Mall in Kenmore Square into an open air ruin of a ballroom. In this contemporary re-imagining of a historically exclusive space, Glynn addresses the evolving face of a city: who has access to space in a society that is increasingly divided along socio-economic lines? And how can we use history to shape a different future?
Lynn Lights, Beyond Walls, Lynn
The overhead rail line that transects downtown Lynn serves as a vital commuter rail connection for the North Shore to Boston. In 2018, Beyond Walls assembled a team of partners and worked to brighten and activate the underside of the shadowy overpasses with dynamic LED lighting installations. The Underpasses of Central Square, Washington Street, and Market Street now have an exciting and visually compelling field of dynamic and color changing full-spectrum lighting that not only delights the eye, but contribute to pedestrian safety along the undersides of this public infrastructure.
Fresh New Murals
Percy Fortini-Wright, Central Square, Cambridge
This past summer, 10 artists from Boston and Cambridge (including several HUBweek artists!) were commissioned to transform walls of the newly designated Central Square Cultural District, turning the area into an open gallery. Percy Fortini-Wright’s mural, which towers over Pill Hardware, shows an almost life-size view looking down Massachusetts Avenue.
Shara Hughes, Carving Out Fresh Options, Rose Kennedy Greenway
In Carving Out Fresh Options, artist Shara Hughes uses experimental painting techniques to create ecstatic interpretations of the natural world. Hughes’ first large-scale mural, Carving Out Fresh Options began as a painting on canvas, which is now on view at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. The work explores steeply receding perspectives and curvilinear passages in deliberate contrast to the urban geometries of architecture and roadways that surround this façade. Translated onto this wall by professional muralists, the swirling pleasures of her work radiate at a monumental scale.
Marka 27 (Victor Quiñonez), Love Thyself, Grove Hall
Muralist Victor Quiñonez unveiled Love Thyself this spring, a new mural in the Grove Hall neighborhood between Roxbury and Dorchester. Supported by Street Theory, the Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture, and the Boston Housing Agency, Love Thyself covers a three-story apartment building with an expressive portrait of a black woman with a natural afro, eyes closed, and a massive turquoise heart centered between her hands. The work showcases the artist’s unique “neo-indigenous” style that blends graffiti with Native, Latinx, and African ancestries, and is one of several new murals in the Grove Hall neighborhood.
IMAGINE (Sneha Shrestha), For Cambridge with Love from Nepal, Central Square, Cambridge
Commissioned as part of the Central Square Mural Project, For Cambridge with Love from Nepal showcases IMAGINE’s classic fusion of Nepali script with graffiti techniques. The mural focuses on a quote from a Nepali poet, which roughly translates to “Success is defined by what’s in your heart, not your background and where you come from.” The work is meant to speak to people from all different backgrounds who converge in the Central Square neighborhood, and the artist hopes that the mural will spark conversations and help everyone in the area — from families in The Port to the small and big businesses to the students — appreciate the differences around them and think about what success personally means to them in their various stages of life.
Caitlin Foley, Heather Kapplow and Misha Rabinovich, Sweat it Out, Fort Point
Sweat it Out offers free wintertime public access to a beautiful, handmade mobile sauna (courtesy of the DS Institute,) which also acts as the site for and prelude to frank but friendly, mediated conversations. We bring the rejuvenating health benefits of sauna out of the spas and back to its community-strengthening origins, and then apply the well-being and camaraderie it generates towards exploring local tensions and disputes. Sweat it Out based its initial offerings along Fort Point’s beautiful, MBTA-accessible waterfront, where rapid real estate development presents immediate fodder for conversations about Boston’s conflicted desires for growth and authentic local character.
Steve Locke, Love Letter to a Library, Boston Public Library
Boston Public Library and the Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture launched the Love Letter to a Library public art collaboration with a banner display at the Central Library and continuing throughout the BPL system. Developed out of the Boston Artist-in-Residence Program (Boston AIR), the project is intended to encourage viewers to engage with libraries as sites of learning, discourse, and memory, with the banners reading, "I Remember Everything You Taught Me Here."
Stephanie Cardon, Unless, Now + There at the Prudential Center
In this dramatic floor-to-ceiling installation at the entrance to the landmark Prudential Center marketplace, Cardon used orange construction debris netting, made by many hands from the Boston community and embroidered with text. The vibrant contemporary tapestry disrupts the cool marble and glass entrance, posing questions of climate justice and sustainability, and the mounting urgency to act together to effect positive change.
William Forsythe: Choreographic Objects, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Blurring the lines between performance, sculpture, and installation, Forsythe’s Choreographic Objects invite the viewer to engage with the fundamental ideas of choreography. These site-responsive, interactive works are designed to stimulate movement from visitors through interactions with kinetic sculptures, video projections, and architectural environments. Via the artist’s instructions for action posted on the wall next to the works, visitors are invited to move freely through the performative exhibition and generate an infinite range of individual choreographies.
Free Public Events
Boston Art & Music Soul (BAMS) Fest is a nonprofit organization that strives to break down racial and social barriers to arts, music, and culture for marginalized communities of color across Greater Boston. Their annual BAMS Festival engages Greater Boston's recording, performing, and visual artists of color to use their artistic talents in a manner that changes societal perception, and empowers and engages audiences of color to convene.
ILLUMINUS is a contemporary arts festival that features original installations, video projections and performances by artists who work in the medium of light and sound to create immersive experiences that turn city streets into an installation gallery. This festival is created by and for the Boston community. The festival’s mission is to support a network of artists, designers and creative technologists who collaborate to develop new and innovative works. ILLUMINUS gives artists the platform to enter into conversation with the city and current culture. ILLUMINUS takes place in the public realm and bridges cultures and communities by engaging artists who create through many different lenses.
Art in Motion
ANIKAYA Dance Theater, Conference of the Birds, BCA
Through the contemporary elements of video projection, original sound score, and an ensemble of dancers from across the globe, ANIKAYA Dance Theater invites you to experience an ancient tale about the soul’s search for meaning. Inspired by the Persian literary masterpiece Conference of the Birds, this world premiere shares stories of modern epic journeys collected from members of local Muslim, immigrant, refugee and dance communities in a magnificent allegory about the human spirit and the quest for the divine. A global work incubated and developed in Boston, Conference of the Birds is a major original movement theater piece commissioned by Boston Center for the Arts.
Boston Dance Theater, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Under the co–artistic direction of Jessie Jeanne Stinnett and award-winning Israeli choreographer Itzik Galili, Boston Dance Theater (BDT) is a Boston-based contemporary dance company committed to presenting relevant works by acclaimed choreographers. BDT showcases the talents of Boston-based dancers and has performed the Boston premieres of works by Itzik Galili, Sidra Bell, and Yin Yue.
Abby Zbikowski and the New Utility, abandoned playground, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
In Abby Zbikowski’s abandoned playground, nine dancers rip through the theater performing complex sequences of hyper-physical dance that push them to the brink of their capabilities and endurance. In this evening length work, Zbikowski highlights each dancer’s unique strengths and forges an intense ensemble connection through vocalizations and the channeling of communal energy. Performing such extreme and virtuosic movement at a relentless pace, the dancers invigorate and push each other to overcome their physical and mental exhaustion.
Best in Art, Science, and Tech
Artificial Creativity: Neural Network and Augmented Intelligence Art, Boston Cyberarts
Artificial Creativity: Neural Network and Augmented Intelligence Art, explores new tools born of artificial intelligence research that artists are using to make unique new work. Neural network art is a tool for artistic embellishment and creation. In its most common visual form, it combines the imagery of one image and the style of another to create a third hybrid image. The exhibition also explores augmented intelligence used in the creation of music. Artists include Mike Tyka, Mario Klingemann and Jessica Brillhart, among others.
Stephanie Benenson, Harbor Voices, and Ereni Markos, My name translated is Strength
My name translated is Strength is a collection of ancestral and recent stories of immigration and origin and connects stories of the past to stories of the present in immersive community collaborative public art installations. The projects aims to strengthen community bonds by finding parallels in our common story and celebrate cultural diversity in harbor communities. Social collaboration and storytelling strengthen family and community bonds, creating resilience in our youth and increasing connectivity within diverse populations.
Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston
Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today explored the widespread cultural impact of the internet on art. Featuring a broad range of works across a variety of mediums — including painting, performance, photography, sculpture, video, and web-based works — the exhibition considers the extensive effects of the internet on artistic practice and contemporary culture. Cultural organizations throughout Greater Boston partnered to present an ambitious, region-wide exploration of art and technology, aligned with the ICA’s sweeping exhibition, and this extraordinary collaboration offered the public concurrent exhibitions, performances, screenings, and programs at area cultural organizations, all exploring the relationship between art and technology.
Ani Liu, Laboratory of Longings: The Experiments of Ani Liu, BCA
Viewers discovered the unexpected in this Run of the Mills with Ani Liu, an artist working at intersection of science and art who uses playful experimentation, intuition and speculative biology to explore being fully human in a technologically-mediated world. Featuring a selection of projects curated by Ethan Vogt and drawn from Liu's time at the MIT Media Lab, visitors circulated through interactive and performative stations while enjoying complimentary refreshments at this immersive event that fuses scientific experimentation with sensory expression.
Joy Buolamwini, AI, Ain't I a Woman?, The Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art, Harvard University
This spoken word piece on view as part of the Nine Moments of Now exhibition at the Cooper Gallery was inspired by Gender Shades, Buolamwini's research investigation that uncovered gender and skin-type bias in facial analysis technology from leading tech companies.