MFA exhibit, programming celebrates minorities
‘Monuments to Us’ runs through April 8
Celina Colby | 2/9/2018, 6 a.m.
Amalia Pica’s “Now Speak!” performance sculpture stands at the center of the “Monuments to Us” exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The grey, cast-concrete lectern symbolizes a call to action to speak out against injustices. Over the next few months the lectern will serve not only as an art piece but also to facilitate talks and discussions about minority experiences.
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“Monuments to Us,” on view through April 8, was conceived by Liz Munsell, curator of contemporary art, in reaction to recent controversies over Confederate monuments. The exhibit specifically features pieces that function as monuments, if you will, to marginalized groups, people of color, the LGBTQ community and others. “I wanted to select works that are made by artists to monumentalize people close to them,” she says. “Artists make monuments to people who are ordinary. It speaks to the question, ‘Who gets remembered?’”
One of those ordinary people is artist Sedrick Huckaby’s cousin, depicted in the large-scale portrait “Enocio.” Munsell found the piece in the museum’s collection; it hadn’t been displayed in years. Painted from the shoulders up, Enocio stares downward at the viewer with his lips slightly parted in a way that’s distrustful, or maybe disappointed. Though he wears an ornate collared shirt, the focus is on his face, where Huckaby has used impasto, the layering of paint, to bring texture and three-dimensionality to the work. It’s this physicality, Munsell says, that gives the painting so much presence in the space.
A robust programming schedule accompanies “Monuments to Us.” On March 29 and 30, students from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University Intermediate Performance Workshop will perform pieces inspired by and interacting with “Now Speak!” The exhibit also promotes the MFA Citizens program, which offers a free yearlong membership to the museum for new U.S. citizens living in Massachusetts. A full list of programming can be found online.
Every piece in the exhibit is drawn from the MFA’s collection. Many of them were created decades ago and haven’t been displayed since. “In the early ’90s artists were creating increasingly politicized work, which is now seeing a renewed relevance,” says Munsell. A wall sculpture by Donald Moffett titled “Facts, Which If True (Joe McCarthy)” references the political double-speak around the 1980s AIDS crisis. The issues of health care and political distrust continue to be at play in today’s world.
Munsell says, “I hope viewers come away with the sense that history is in constant reconstruction, and artists and activists and viewers are responsible for reconstructing the history to be more inclusive.”