Honesty in art criticism at Brandeis

Empires and Environments,” curated by Dominique Nahas and Margaret Evangeline. Rose Art Museum at Brandeis University, Waltham, MA. Through April 13.

Critic Dominique Nahas, who wrote an excellent essay for one of my exhibition catalogues, and artist Margaret Evangeline selected work from the Rose Museum’s permanent collection. Student reporter Rachel Pfeffer, baffled by the show’s press release, was not afraid to say it. In The Justice, Brandeis’s independent student newspaper, she writes that “the Rose website offers an explanation of the meaning behind the title: ‘Empires and Environments proposes to address the interface of environments (psychological, natural, and cultural) with drives that entail the structuring of ’empires’ in symbolic, imaginary, and real terms.’ To be perfectly honest,” Pfeffer continues, “this made very little sense to me. As an art major with an English minor, I felt obligated to understand such convoluted art language, but it soared over my head like seagulls on a beach. I would just have to see the exhibit for myself….I finally began to understand the exhibit’s title better, but right when I thought I had something, it slipped away from my brain like a soggy matzo ball. Nevertheless, being able to see works from such a large time scale in one gallery makes for some introspective art viewing and is certainly worth taking a look at.”

In Waltham’s Daily News Tribune, reporter Chris Bergeron had a similar reaction. “Sometimes bewilderment is the best reaction to art that grabs you in unexpected ways. I hope the organizers of ‘Empires and Environments’ consider that a compliment….I stopped taking notes or even thinking how to explain the exhibit in writing and really liked 80 percent of what I saw. In their curatorial statement, Evangeline and Nahas said the show’s title ‘insinuates interplay between cultural and natural energies.’ I was skeptical. They wrote they’d hoped the show made viewers ‘reflect what living in this moment of 2008 feels like.’ I felt a little better. For me, this strange, funny and profound show feels just like 2008 so far, and I still can’t figure out what the title means.” Read more.

Artists include Andy Warhol, Max Beckman, Bryan Hunt, Elizabeth Murray, Florine Stettheimer, Eduoard Boubat, R.B. Kitaj, Ross Bleckner, and Jackson Pollock. Joing them will be Rudd Van Empel, John Powers, Nathalie Frank, Kate Gilmore, Kris Lukomski, Wayne Gonzales, Nicole Cherubini, Michael Combs, F:T Architecture, Joan Mitchell, Karl Klingbiel, Tonya Ingersoll.

Also at the Rose, �Arp to Reinhardt: Rose Geometries,”curated by Adelina Jedrzejczak. The exhibition investigates geometric abstraction�s rise to prominence in America in the 1950s and 60s, its roots in European art of the 1920s and 30s, the GeoAb artists’ reaction to Abstract Expressionism’s emotive histrionics, and ultimately the emergence of Minimalism. Centered on two paintings by Ellsworth Kelly � Yellow Curves (1954) and Blue White (1962) � the exhibition includes works by Jean Arp, Josef Albers Leon Polk Smith, Mary Heilmann, Brice Marden, Robert Mangold, Al Held and Ad Reinhardt.

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