Politics and Passion: The MFA unveils new exhibits and overnight stays

By Jennifer Ives

Staff Writer

Balancing art and politics is never an easy task, but the MFA has made the line between them never seem easier to walk than in their new parallel exhibits in the Henry and Lois Foster Gallery (Gallery 158). The MFA has seemed to refocused on expanding their relatively small if high-quality modern art collection recently. Integrating new pieces into their overall collection in new and unusual ways such as the inclusion of Kehinde Wiley’s “John, 1st Baron Byron”(2013) in the British 1750-1800 Portraits Gallery (Gallery 141) Their efforts certainly show to great effect in their new exhibits.

Pushing boundaries and challenging our view of history and politics, the MFA’s Political Intent exhibit displays some of the museum’s most recent acquisitions alongside some of their crowd favorites. Among some of the pieces temporarily relocated is “The Rich Soil Down There” (2002), a stunning commentary on racial tensions by Kara Walker, that now covers the wall faced by the MFAs first acquired performance art piece, Amalia Pica’s “Now Speak!” (2011). Pica’s work consists of a stone podium from which visitors are encouraged to recreate speeches from history and contemplate the impact of the original location and identity of the speaker. As visitors stand and recite the “Gettysburg Address”, or Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech, they contemplate not only their audience, or lack thereof, but also the racial stereotypes and history both blatantly and subtly hinted at in Pica’s silhouette-style work on the wall before them.

Complementing “Political Intent”, the MFA’s “Beyond Limits” exhibit challenges the limitations of art much in the way that “Political Intent” challenges the status quo of politics. Displaying classics such as Andy Warhol’s “Red Disaster” (1963,1985) and newer pieces like Mark Branford’s mixed media “Backwards” (2005), the exhibit challenges the edges and boundaries within which art is typically confined, neatly bisecting with the Museum’s overall modern art collection. By placing it alongside “Political Intent”, the “Beyond Limits” collection echoes a certain curiosity and determination to refuse to accept what is standard, and to push forward with new ideas and definitions of what is art, and what, if anything, is not art.

For those interested in experiencing the Modern Art Wing in a new and more interactive way, the MFA recently hosted the first of what will be four MFANOW Overnight parties on Sept. 17-18 6p.m.-9a.m. Featuring free admission on a first-come-first-serve basis, the overnight experience included food trucks, lawn games, a yoga workshop hosted in the gallery itself, and lectures and performance art from individuals like Frances Stark and MerkThose. Coming up next month is their College Edition on Oct. 14-15 9p.m-9a.m. With a huge turnout at the first overnight, this experience may become a yearly staple on par with the Boston Children’s Museum’s annual “Grownups Museum” event. And at just a five minute walk away from campus, the MFA is always a great deal and a good time if you’re looking for something to do.

The MFA is open

Monday and Tuesday 10a.m.–5p.m., Wednesday–Friday 10a.m.–10p.m.Saturday-Sunday 10a.m.-5p.m.

Admission is free with your Simmons ID.