Acclaimed artists take viewers ‘Beyond the Wunderkammer’ through Oct. 27 in University’s main Boston gallery
Friday, September 06, 2013
From now to the end of October, the Lesley University College of Art and Design is presenting its Main Gallery in Kenmore Square as a modern version of the 16th-century wunderkammer — a cabinet of curiosities.
Artists Lasse Antonsen, Mark Dion, Jesseca Ferguson, Steve Hollinger, Rosamond Wolff Purcell and others are exhibiting their various stunning and original work in one of the university’s galleries at 700 Beacon St., Boston.
“Beyond the Wunderkammer,” a free exhibition, kicked off Sept. 4. An artists’ reception is Sept. 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. in the gallery. The Lesley University College of Art and Design is the new name of The Art Institute of Boston, which for 100 years has helped shape the ideas and career paths of visual artists and designers.
The antecedents of the wunderkammer lie in the 16th century, when scholars, scientists, monarchs and artists began to assemble collections associated with the wonders of natural history, especially specimens of flora and fauna discovered by explorers circling the globe.
Curator of the show Bonnell Robinson writes: “The exhibition focuses on artists working in the spirit of the wunderkammer, or cabinet of curiosities, who are drawn to the multiplicity of meanings that unfold as objects find new and unexpected contexts.
“Natural science or fantastic invention, the wunderkammer can be a fact or a riddle, a reality or a dream, a means or an end.”
A repository of the elusive, arcane and bizarre, the gallery is filled with specimens from natural history, taxidermy, photographs, drawings, kinetic sculpture, assemblages, scientific tools and objects, and everyday objects re-contextualized and transformed.
Lasse Antonsen’s assemblages and collages seem to follow in the classic tradition of the wunderkammer as an archive of natural history, but his witty, playful approach offers elegant surprises and raises questions of authenticity. Is the object real or invented? Fact or fiction?
Mark Dion’s shell collection from Fall River, Mass., and his “Travels with William Bartram” pay homage to the naturalist who collects, identifies and catalogs in order to study the workings of the universe through things large and small. Here, the wunderkammer is a site of investigation, both physical and intellectual.
Jesseca Ferguson presents a cabinet of wonder and also her studies of the moon, its phases and mysteries explored through telescopic images, antique prints and schematic renderings. Lush gum prints show how physical facts as described by text and image can be transformed into a visual poetry that points to the beauty of our world as well as the interior life of the artist.
Steve Hollinger’s wooden boxes on the outside appear to have weathered time and use, but closer inspection reveals an interior microcosmic world of activity and even metamorphosis. His sources of energy are light, breath and the viewer’s own movement around the work.
Rosamond Purcell brings strange and marvelous objects into play with images based on Shakespeare made in the reflections of antique bottles. Layers of mottled mercury held in glass provide a reflecting wunderkammer of distortions from figurative to abstract.
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