While Boston is really just an hour drive from Providence, I think the traffic that plagues the city and surrounding area during high volume times makes it seem even further away for most Rhode Islanders. There’s always quite a bit going on up there, but the drive always seems daunting, even for someone who was somewhat cured of the regional distaste for medium distance driving. Two hours of enduring LA traffic ONCE is enough to make Boston’s usual gridlock seem like the open highways of Iowa (I highly recommend Iowa and Colorado as midwest states to explore!).
That being said, zipping up to Boston on a bright, sunny Saturday mid-morning felt downright jaunty! I decided to head up to the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston probably after reading something on twitter. I also was feeling the need to do something impulsive and arts related. I love visiting spaces that I’ve never been to before and that usually seems to fulfill that need for spontaneity that nags at me from time to time. Visiting the ICA in it’s little corner of South Boston felt like a great trip for exploration.
ICA/Boston is settled right on the harbor overlooking one of the most scenic vistas in the city. You could probably sit there all day and watch the planes fly in and out of Logan after heading in to see the art. Heck you can sit in the museum and do just that.
I knew when I went up there about two of their exhibitions, but I didn’t realize in actuality how small the actual space was. Granted, one of the galleries was in the middle of installation and closed off, but much of the building operates in other ways with classroom space and a theater. This was my first visit to this museum and I didn’t expect to be in and out in just over an hour. However, what I did see there I enjoyed. The numerous works in their permanent collection were of great intrigue, especially David Chan’s projected animation 1st Light and Damian Ortega’s dissected Olympus. When the Stars Began to Fall was an extensive exhibition of 35 artists whose interests in the American South and its black experience translate into their work. The garden-esque The Sonic Arboretum combined the numerous horn speakers from Ian Schneller and original music from Andrew Bird calling for you to give pause.
With the smaller size of ICA:Boston, there were no real moments of seclusion with the art to process its meaning. Another thing about the ICA was that I felt quite unsettled during my visit, which perhaps had something to do with the museum guards. They were EVERYWHERE watching closely and after being admonished not once (for photographing one of the few things you couldn’t), but twice (this time for capturing on video something you just couldn’t take a decent picture of. I know NOT to record films), you couldn’t help but feel at unease. The crazy thing is that they encourage you to Instagram while there, just not everything. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled in regards to capturing most everything on my phone. At MassMOCA, I photographed with reckless abandon! At Dia:Beacon, I knew quickly what TWO artists out of many I couldn’t capture, but the guards were a bit more sparse and hovered less. It could have been the timing of going on a Saturday, but I’ve felt less monitored at MOMA.
This feeling of discontent continued as I returned to my car. The ICA is surrounded by the construction of new high rise, luxury condo developments. While I am not opposed to development in general, the whole operation seemed at odds with what I have always thought of when I think of Boston. That city is a place with unique character, great history (on the American scale of things), and operates as the urban heart of the New England region. It doesn’t just belong to Massachusetts, but to everyone within the region. Then again, this sense of ownership may come from being raised a Red Sox fan. That team and that city are inseparable. If only I felt that those same ties were applicable to the ICA. I guess at heart I’m a MFA: Boston gal (raised as such), but it’s good to know that I could do both in a day. They have some amazing art there, it just isn’t a full days worth (unless you’re ok being unabashedly watched all day).