While most of our writers get to view the shows and work that they write about in person, our fall issue comes with the challenge of previewing shows that have yet to open. In some instances, the work has yet to be fully selected, while galleries, artists and writers are in the midst of their summer vacations. This, coupled with our short lead time, brings a level of difficulty to our intention of timely and relevant content that is not present in other months’ issues.
As our main goal as a magazine has always been to encourage our readers to get out and see the work we write about in person, we ask our writers to do whatever they can to preview an exhibition we’ve identified as worthy of your attention. Sometimes we have to resort to looking at digital images and artist statements, and other times, conduct an interview about work “you just have to see.” At times, it can be hard to grasp an artist or a curator’s concept, regardless of how well it is thought out and explained, on words alone. Seeing is, of course, believing.
Not all artists are comfortable explaining their work — sometimes under the guise of not wanting to remove the mystery behind it — and other times, talking about their work isn’t a personal strong point. But it’s also a key part of the development of an artist in marketing their own work.
Similarly, the art journalism field is one with comparable challenges. With fewer publications for young writers to place their work and find employment, there’s less initiative for them to delve into developing a strong knowledge of art history and each region’s arts communities. Artscope’s college intern program is dedicated to providing the opportunity for budding writers to learn about the field; along those lines, we’re pleased that two recent interns — Bryanna F. Drew (Lesley University) and Jacob Cutler (Emerson College) — make their professional writing debut in this issue.
Few things we’ve run in our 13-and-a-half-year history have gotten the response we received to our ad for Gary Marotta Fine Art’s “Sexo 21: twenty first century safe sex” exhibition in Provincetown that featured Manuel Pardo’s “Trust” painting of a condom-covered sex act in our July/August 2018 issue.
Artscope publisher Kaveh Mojtabai and I had an extended discussion on the response to the ad and we were both in agreement that, as he noted, “during this period in our history when there is worldwide debate on censorship versus free speech, the arts are a foundation to communication for humanity — we are against censoring advertisers.”
The ad ran at a time our region has been battling a horrible epidemic of opiate use; when the Boston Globe reported an outbreak of “HIV among injecting-drug users in Lawrence and Lowell has spread to many more people than originally thought,” for me, it verified the importance of running the ad. One of the attributed causes of the outbreak was the arrival of fentanyl to the area; seeing a person unconscious on the sidewalk as you go about your daily chores is a lot more disturbing than any art work.
The press release for the Marotta exhibition noted that Pardo, who passed away in 2012, introduced his “Trust” series after realizing women were not being included in early safe sex talks. The series, showing a woman performing oral sex with a condom on a penis, was his attempt to warn women that they too were at risk and “at the mercy of their husband’s (or partner’s) fidelity.”
I contacted Marotta to get his response to the reaction we had received and find out how the exhibition had fared. “As a curator and the shepherd of Pardo’s work, it would have been nothing short of irresponsible to exclude the image of his work from the advertising for this timely and important exhibition,” he wrote.
“The controversy of the first view of the image is forgotten when the meaning is understood,” Marotta stated. “I suppose Manuel knew exactly what he needed to do when he created the language of his life’s work.”
Many artists choose “to let the art speak for itself.” When that art comes under attack, I’m thankful that people like Marotta are willing to come to its defense, especially when the artist is no longer around to do so.
Art has always been at the forefront of addressing important, and to some, disturbing issues. The fact that so many artists lost their lives to AIDS in the not-so-distant past is reason enough for the importance of works like Pardo’s to get greater exposure. Shocking? For many, yes, especially if it causes them to confront their own religious and cultural beliefs. Seeing people overdosing on city streets and benches and remaining silent? Unthinkable.
This issue includes coverage of exhibitions intended to make us consider the effects of our actions on the environment of our planet (“Gerry Bergstein and Gail Boyajian: Uncovered” at the Catamount Arts Center in St. Johnsbury, Vermont and the Cambridge Art Association’s “Creature Comforts”) and to pull down cultural barriers, including Saberah Malik’s textile fiber works, which give us a greater understanding of her Muslim and Pakistani-American background, on view at Atrium Gallery and AS220’s Project Space in Providence, Rhode Island.
Street artists continue to serve at the forefront of breaking social and cultural walls through engaging audiences of all ages and artists from around the world during mural festivals and, in the instance of South Shore Art Center’s “StreetARTISTS | Bogotá –> Boston” exhibition, in institutions that, until recently, such a presentation was unthinkable. And it’s a great way to get those much desired — and needed — younger audiences.
A special note that we’ll once again be official exhibitors in the Magazines Sector at Art Basel Miami Beach that takes place from December 6 through 9. To advertise or list your upcoming exhibitions in our November/December issue which will be on display at the Collective Booth, please call us at (617) 639-5771.
Before you to dig into this issue’s offerings, please check out “Artscope Online,” our newly remodeled artscopemagazine.com website featuring a streaming events calendar and timely articles and reviews that complement our magazine features.
| Brian Goslow, Managing Editor