Amie Siegel, still from Black Moon (2010), Via ICA
The James and Audrey Foster Prize at the ICA, which showcases the work of Boston area artists, always proves its necessity. I’ve seen it three times, three years in a row, and never recognize the names or the work of the artists in the show. And they’re supposedly Boston’s best, proving the city’s cultural vibrancy. One is alerted instead to the fact that the city doesn’t exhibit its own enough to generate familiarity or a sense of active community. Additionally, the show is always pedestrian. It’s easy to say that Boston is conservative, that it doesn’t support or foster productive artistic activity. This is completely true. More interesting though, is that Boston area contemporary art consistently has a very similar aesthetic, one which is generally limp wristed and caught in a vacuum several years behind the interests of the rest of the culturally informed world. This slow speed has its benefits and produces its own artistic parameters. The art time in Boston runs in an alternate plane to the rest of the recognized art world, at times parallel and simply recognizably behind. At other moments however, Boston time is hard to place in established cultural chronology and instead, has its own set of values. There are never completely disgusting, hugely over funded spectacles (which generally make or should make viewers feel guilty-for a multitude of reasons) like Jennifer Rubell’s meat party at the Brooklyn Museum, which the New York Times rightly classifies as a low of 2010. In Boston this would never happen. However it seems better to risk the audacious. Even when a big, famous artist shows (like Mark Bradford), the sense of largeness and drama is sucked out in this city.