By Rosemary Chandler
CONCORD, MA- Albright Art Gallery is looking to mix things up in Concord, a small town rich with American history and tradition. With its latest exhibition, “GOING PLACES,” it has done exactly that. Featuring the work of Raphael Griswold, a New England native who just returned from two years abroad in Spain, “GOING PLACES” is a unique exhibition that allows visitors to view the world through Griswold’s eyes.
The exhibition is a collection of landscapes executed in varied media. Through a combination of painting, film and photography, visitors are removed from the gallery space and immersed in the small segment of the world represented by each work, what Griswold calls artobjects. The latitude and longitude of each destination are listed in the exhibition guide, and from these numbers the visitor is able to determine the real distance between the landscapes, which come from around the world. Destinations from across New England are sequenced alongside scenes from Griswold’s travels abroad, allowing the viewer to contemplate many of the places that have struck the artist as significant throughout his lifetime.
These works, however, are not your typical landscapes. Many feature unconventional locations and focus on elements that the artist seems to have selected purposefully for their lack of aesthetic appeal. “Not an Entrance,” a watercolor and graphite work on found paper, shows a scene not unlike what you might see driving along I-90. It depicts a large, fenced-in demolition site with a mountain of debris rising up from behind the chain-link, with a forbidding “DO NOT ENTER” hung across the entrance. The work is wrought with tension between the delicacy of the watercolor and the hostility of its subject matter, and creates an interesting contrast for the viewer to observe. Yet the work does not project an obvious message about humanity, or nature, or any other profound subject the way you might expect. Griswold doesn’t encumber his works with that sort of heavy critique. Rather, he allows the artsobjects and the destinations that they represent to speak for themselves.
“GOING PLACES” is a testament to Griswold’s versatility as an artist. Originally trained as a printmaker, Griswold seamlessly integrates a number of other media to create a true experience for the visitor. The arrangement of the works compels the visitor to interact with the space around them. You must choose which direction to take as you explore the gallery because the works are not presented in an obvious sequence, and there are no numbers or other markers to guide you through the exhibition. A tape player hangs on one wall and plays a strange collection of noise — an argument between young lovers, a family’s conversation around the breakfast table, and the sound of faraway music — some of which have obvious connections to the paintings and photographs along the wall, while others leave you wondering how they are related to the rest of what you see.
When you emerge from Albright Art Gallery, you’re filled with the sensation that you’ve just arrived back on Main Street from a very long trip. You can’t exactly name the places that you’ve traveled, but you’re unable to forget the fragmentary sights and sounds of your journey.
(“GOING PLACES” is at Albright Art Gallery, 32 Main Street, Concord, Mass. through November 6. For more information, call (978) 369-7300.)