There is an innate duality to being human; It is the basis of Freud’s id and ego, Plato’s being and form, and Aquinas’s body and soul. All of these dichotomies fit under of a large umbrella of the sacred and the base. The best works in Teresita Fernández’s As Above So Below, recently on display at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA), evokes this sense. The artist displays haunting landscapes which turn into evocative metaphors of the human condition. The exhibition includes three separate installations, whose works do not engage on the same visceral level as the paintings.
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Australian video artist Angelica Mesiti examined the conflict between private space and public performance in Citizens Band, an installation comprised of four projected videos at the Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusettes, 24 October 2014—4 January 2015. Four projected videos comprised the exhibition; each showed a musician performing in a public or semi-public space. All of the performers were displaced. They performed works from their homeland in their adopted countries; Cameroon, Algeria, Mongolia and Sudan. They migrated to large cities like Paris, Sydney and Brisbane.
Rodeo - New York City, 1954 / Photograph © Robert Frank, from The Americans
Robert Frank’s America is a tough America. Of all the people depicted in the 83 photographs comprising Frank’s The Americans, only a few smile. Most people have empty expressions while they gaze into a bleak future. They are neither dreaming nor pondering. The small number of those devoted to evading a dreary fate either grimace or scowl. They are defiant.
Despite the diversity of Frank’s subjects—old or young, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, rural or urban, gay or straight, black or white—all represent the stars and stripes. And what are Americans seeking? Freedom, presumably. Their austere posture is aimed at a life that promises more than it delivers. Frank travels across America trying to capture the moment when the naivety of each individual cracks and a flood of hard sadness comes gushing through.
Since the Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit of Frank’s photography is arranged to unfold in a specific order, the initial photograph sets the tone. It is entitled Parade—Hoboken, New Jersey, but we see no parade, no joy, no celebration, no destination. All we see is a brick building with two people looking out of their respective windows. The woman in the left window is partly obscured by the shade of a lowered blind, while the face of the person in the right window is completely covered by an American flag attached to a pole and flapping in the wind. It’s eerie: There is something ominous about an American flag—a widely recognized symbol of freedom—erasing the existence of an individual.
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