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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Arts

The Setonian
Arts

It's OK to lose this 'Ticket'

When The Darkness' first stateside release, "Permission to Land," hit shelves in winter 2004, audiences were wowed by the pomp and vigor of the contemporary quartet from Norfolk, England. Praise for the band's interpretation and emulation of the classic rock sound flooded from media outlets, as did comparisons to myriad bands of the '70s and '80s. Most remember them, however, from radio disc jockeys' obsession with blasting "I Believe in a Thing Called Love" at all hours of the day or from lead singer Justin Hawkins's infamous falsetto. But they may be remembered; the band has made a name for itself by inciting wistfulness for rock behemoths of yore. By adapting their musical nuances and dressing in spandex, The Darkness pays homage to the unrestrained energy and gusto of their musical predecessors. Last week, the band released their sophomore stateside effort, "One Way Ticket to Hell...and Back." In contrast to their previous album (whose songs merely evoked the ghosts of classic artists), in "One Way Ticket" The Darkness wholly impersonate them in sound and instrumentation. Whereas "Permission to Land" combined the originality of The Darkness with that of their influencers to create a uniquely nostalgic sound, their new album sounds as if it were a cover album of classic rock tunes from decades past. The Darkness scarcely used more than keyboard, drums, bass, guitar, and Hawkins's fluctuating voice to fashion songs on "Permission to Land," but in "One Way Ticket" the band expands their repertoire considerably in terms of the variety of instruments and vocal techniques. Sadly, what would appear to be a positive influence on the band proves pernicious as The Darkness uses these musical means to imitate their predecessors too closely. The album starts out with a one-minute pan-flute and Gregorian choir intro on the title track. During that same song, one can hear a consistent cowbell and multi-track vocals that can't help but remind listeners of AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long." The album then shifts to "Knockers," a song appropriately about a woman on which Hawkins screams like Big Star's Alex Chilton in "Don't Lie to Me." The following song, "Is it Just Me?," is transformed into a blatantly Judas Priest-inspired song by dint of Hawkins' vocals and the crisp driving guitar. The same goes for "Bald" later on in the album. Surprisingly, string and horn sections make it onto the album as well. In "Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time," "Girlfriend," and the clincher "Blind Man," string and horn sections turn potentially emotional and lyrically potent songs into ones that resemble cheesy seventies Meat Loaf ballads. Something similar happens in "English Country Garden," where the grand piano and Hawkins's Freddie Mercury-esque vocals make the song sound as if it were straight off a Queen record. Probably the most original song on the album is "Dinner Lady Arms." Still, it sounds as if it could be a B-side off "Permission to Land." That is, they sound like The Darkness on their first album, but it is not up to the standards of the other songs from it. All of the aforementioned new instruments would seem to be a constructive force for the band. Yet the way in which The Darkness uses them becomes regressive as the band begins to resemble its influencers too closely. Many of these likenesses can be attributed to the decision by The Darkness to employ producer Roy Thomas Baker. Baker was the producer and a great power behind two of Queen's albums (including their seminal hit tune "Bohemian Rhapsody"). By soliciting the ex-producer of a band to which The Darkness is overwhelmingly likened, the band concedes its image as a wannabe classic rock band. This realization not only detracts from the band's credibility as artists but also damages their image as progressive musicians However, it would be arrogant not to point out the good in this album. The clarity of their new sound is laudable. The songs are indeed upbeat, catchy, and fun. Also, the varied and new sounds that the band takes on in "One Way Ticket" prove an admirable endeavor. They have a clear, cohesive sound and accordingly, one cannot deride the album for being as insignificant as it first seems. Eventually it appears that The Darkness didn't actually plagiarize the sound of their classic rock idols, they likened their music to them. The group probably should have been more conspicuous of their appreciation, something that's hard to do with Queen's old producer. Fans liked The Darkness because their oldness was something new. Hopefully, this relatively lackluster release will allow the band to see that their success emanates from their novelty, and not from their association with '70s rock and '80s hair metal.


The Setonian
Arts

All hail the queen: Madonna incarnation is in vogue

Madonna, once the sexually liberated, erotically charged, persona-changing pop icon of the '80s and '90s, is embarking on her newest reinvention. Apparently, it is that of a prudish schoolmarm. The perpetrator of 1992's book "Sex" and a handful of explicit videos now ghost-writes children's books (which must look a tad funny alongside "Sex" on a bookshelf), boasts that she bans her own offspring from watching television (probably so her kids won't come across her "Justify My Love" and "Vogue" videos), and embraces her newly-acquired Kabbalah religion. In the midst of this newfound born-again attitude (or calculated image revamping), it's almost surprising that Madonna didn't record a gospel album. Instead, "Confessions on a Dance Floor" goes back to her club kid roots. This isn't to say that anything on the CD comes close to the dance classics she created on her 1983 self-titled debut, but at least she realized after 2003's disappointing release, "American Life" (who can forget that pathetic rap she attempted on the title track?) that she should get back under the disco ball and leave the hip hop to Missy Elliot. Actually, "Confessions on a Dance Floor" is not a bad effort. Clearly she has come to terms with the fact that dance tunes are what people actually want to hear from her. The blistering dance track "Hung Up," the first single, has carved another notch in Madonna's belt of hits. Other standout songs, "Jump," "Get Together," and "Let It Will Be," employ the synthesized dance beats of "Hung Up" and will make her die-hard dance floor disciples extremely happy. "Let It Will Be" is especially appealing; more of a raw-produced dance track, it is akin to the '80s remixed Madonna hits which were made even more magical by legendary DJ/mixer John "Jellybean" Benitez. "Push Me" also contains a certain energy, but its repetition makes the listener wonder if we truly need another song praising some unknown mentor who apparently "pushed" or "pushes" or "inspired" Madonna (or us) to be better. One would have thought that songs with this kind of trite sentiment died after "Wind Beneath My Wings," but alas it has not. The CD's biggest letdown is the saccharine "Forbidden Love." The slowest track on "Confessions," the song may have been Madonna's attempt to decelerate a bit, but it just stalls with its sappy lyrics and lukewarm delivery. One must wonder: after the hoopla over "Hung Up" passes, how much interest will there be for the rest of the CD's myriad dance tracks? It is unlikely that many present day club DJs, currently overloaded with requests for Kanye West and 50 Cent, will be excited about spinning a new Madonna dance product. Although Madonna has apparently resigned herself to the fact that her days of shocking the world are over, her fans still seem interested in the singer's newer and cleaner incarnation. The things she used to do to astonish - which seemed outrageous 10 or 15 years ago - would now be as uninteresting as any calculated Paris Hilton PR stunt. But, for now anyway, the material girl-turned-mom (twice) has toned it down. If the CD's Number 1 debut in 28 countries is any indicator, the world has seemingly embraced the more grown-up Madonna. Then again, maybe her actions are more subliminal than they appear. There once was a time when all would have scoffed at the thought of a "settled" Madonna. In a way, maybe she's trying to shock us by doing something we never expected of her: maturing.


The Setonian
Arts

Apple release is a lean, 'Extraordinary Machine'

There are only a few albums in your mom's music collection that you can actually imagine her sitting and listening to. They are the oldies she has a story about when they come on the radio, the albums that she was excited to get on CD when they were re-released. They are the Joni Mitchells and the Carole Kings that you just know she flipped endlessly from side A to B and back again, listening as her high school sweethearts held her hand or broke her heart. And for the combined reason that they're a window into your mom's soul and they're just plain good, you like them too. With "Extraordinary Machine," her most recent addition to a cache of already impressive and critically acclaimed albums, Fiona Apple becomes your Joni. Some day a listen to her music will evoke nostalgia - not in the embarrassing way that "Barbie Girl" makes you think of the choreographed dance you made up in middle school, but a different brand that reminds you of real sentiment. Like Apple herself, "Extraordinary Machine" has a sordid past. No, it didn't come out with a precocious and powerful debut at the tender age of 18, film a borderline soft-core music video and famously proclaim that "this world is bullshit" in an acceptance speech at the VMAs. Instead, its bit of scandal came from an Internet leak of an early version of the album. After releasing the widely praised and commercially successful "Tidal" in 1996 and the widely praised though not-so-commercially successful "When the Pawn Hits the Conflicts He Thinks Like a King..." (1999), Apple retreated on a six-year music hiatus. She eventually broke her silence by recording tracks with producer John Brion but then decided to shelve the album. These songs, not intended for release, were leaked as the nasty rumor spread that Apple's label, Sony, was withholding the record because it felt the songs weren't appealing enough. Apple, insisting she was the cause of the album's shelf status, tried again with producer Mike Elizondo, known for his past work with Dr. Dre, Eminem, and 50 Cent. The unlikely pair worked on a simpler take on Apple's songs - one that takes care to showcase the artist's vocals and piano stylings. Brion's touch can still be felt on the first and last tracks, both of which are holdovers from round one. These two songs are among the most memorable on the CD. The title track opens the album with a bouncy, show tune-esque song, proving that Apple didn't emerge from her time away wishing to sound exactly as she did before. "Extraordinary Machine" ends on an equally positive note with the optimistic "Waltz (Better Than Fine)." Staying true to its title, the three-quarter time breezy tune manages to impart a simple, hopeful message while Apple's well-wishing comes across as genuinely sincere. On the rest of the album as well, Apple provides a diverse and well-executed collection of tracks that hold their own next to previous favorites like "Criminal" and "Shadowboxer." With some songs infectiously upbeat and others beautifully woeful, all boast the type of timeless composition that separates the "Blue (Da Ba Dee)"s from the "Big Yellow Taxi"s. "Extraordinary Machine" is the type of album on which each track will be a favorite at some point. Individual experiences may vary, but Apple has provided enough range in both style and tone to suit all of the emotional needs of her audience. Apple's strength undoubtedly lies in her lyrics, which she manages to craft poetically without sounding overwrought, and in her thoughtful distillations of emotions you hadn't realized were universal until she put them into words. She manages to make a circular argument sound lovely ("Last night's phrases / Sick with lack of basis / Are still writhing on my floor") and the routine sound lyrical ("Home is where my habits have a habitat"). While the idea of a singer and her trusty piano is by no stretch a new one, Apple holds her own in the genre and confirms her unique style among her contemporaries, some of whom weren't around last time she was adjusting her mic. With more street cred than Norah Jones and Vanessa Carlton, and with a shade less feminism than Tori Amos, Apple gets it right, as per her usual, on this new album. "Extraordinary Machine" exists as a wholly enjoyable and thoughtful record from first track to last, plus all the new ones in between. It can provide background music or solace and its lyrics can, as is Apple's strength, take on a chameleonic role to fit with the listener's own emotion.


The Setonian
Arts

The loneliest monk strikes once again

Legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk was famous for leaving audiences hanging. He would end a song one note short, leaving the listener waiting to hear it resolved, but knowing that resolution would never come. When archivists found a 48-year-old live recording at Carnegie Hall featuring the historically significant but rarely recorded Thelonious Monk Quartet with saxophonist John Coltrane, it seemed too good to be true. This was a resolution fifty years in the making. When Larry Applebaum, a Library of Congress employee, stumbled across an unmarked box in the archives and found this recording, he probably thought some fellow librarians were trying to pull a fast one on him. A find like this would be like turning over the cheap painting in your living room and finding "DaVinci" scrawled across the back. Thelonious Monk and John Coltrane's collaboration in 1957 is well-known among many jazz fans; however, recordings are few and far between, and their sound quality is amateur at best. The collaboration came at an important time in both musicians' careers. Monk's eccentric style was gaining acceptance, and he would soon become one of the leading figures in jazz. Even more so than Monk, Coltrane was poised for his breakthrough. Having just recovered from a heroin addiction that lead to his expulsion from Miles Davis's band, Coltrane was a man on a mission when he joined Monk. Within the next few years, Coltrane would become a monumental figure in jazz history, playing on Davis's landmark "Kind of Blue" (1959) and his own intensely personal "A Love Supreme" (1964). Coltrane's passion is on display in this recording. On "Epistrophy" and "Bye-Ya," he hints at glimpses of things to come later in his career, blazing through his solos and stretching his limitations. These recordings will undoubtedly lead many jazz fans to question how much Coltrane's playing evolved from his time with Monk. It is clear that Monk's unorthodox stilted style of play kept Coltrane guessing and pushed him into a realm of experimentation that he probably hadn't experienced before. The night's set kicked off with "Monk's Mood." Monk begins by exploring on the piano for the first two minutes, testing out different sounds and chords. Coltrane enters by himself, his playing slow and slightly melancholy, while Monk runs back and forth along the keyboard. At roughly four minutes, the rest of the quartet joins, the tempo picks up a bit, and the set hits its stride. The album is book-ended by another signature Monk tune, "Blue Monk." The opening riff is immediately recognizable to many people, even those who don't listen to jazz. Monk and Coltrane start out playing in unison before playfully echoing each other. Soon, Coltrane takes off on a mind-bending solo, driving the original theme in a million different directions at once. Perhaps Monk's finest moment comes on the ballad "Crepescule with Nellie." For the first half of the song, Monk's playing is stunningly sparse. But in the second half, Coltrane and the rest join in. The combination of Monk's ascending notes coupled with the beat of the drumming - which shines on this track - makes listeners feel like they're floating out of their seats. For almost 50 years, jazz fans have first been exposed to the genre through classics like "Kind of Blue" or "A Love Supreme." Though "Carnegie Hall" will never match the historical and cultural significance of Davis's classic, it is destined to provide an introduction to generations of future listeners. Coltrane and Monk do it all on this record, from delicate ballads to blazing solos, creating an accessible and entertaining recording that's welcoming to uninitiated ears, all while pushing the limits of experimentation. It may have taken Monk a while, but this resolution was worth the wait.


The Setonian
Arts

Don't call it a comeback

Rick Rubin had it easy producing Johnny Cash's last records. Even after making unremarkable albums for twenty years, he was still The Man in Black, a rock prototype. All Rubin had to do to bring Cash back into the mainstream musical landscape was put him in a room with a guitar and recommend a few songs to cover. Johnny Cash was just that cool. Neil Diamond is not cool. Over the past several decades he has become something of a joke, appreciated ironically by hipsters and with achingly earnest devotion by middle-aged women. Next to Fat Elvis, he is the definition of extravagance and kitsch. Even his last name is gaudy. Back in the '60s and early '70s, Diamond was a pop dynamo. After earning his stripes in the Brill Building, a Tin Pan Alley hit-producing studio, he set out on his own career, leading the singer-songwriter movement. As he developed a reputation as a charismatic live performer, his fan base expanded and he began his slow decent into easy listening. Rick Rubin, producer of minimal classics by artists ranging from LL Cool J to the aforementioned Cash, wondered where the spark of Diamond's earlier records had gone. Rubin lobbied him to record an album together, and Diamond agreed. The result is the acoustic-pop gem "12 Songs." The record kicks off with "Hey Mary," a quiet, gentle love song with a slightly repetitive chorus. It is followed by "Hell Yeah," a song that acknowledges the new direction the record is taking, while noting that this 'return to form' shouldn't detract from his other work. The record hits its stride with a run of stripped-down vintage Diamond classics. "Save Me a Saturday Night" is a classic pop ballad with hooks to kill. Even if Diamond's soft-spoken delivery over a xylophone melody and a great bass line almost make it a lullaby, it's the catchiest lullaby you'll ever hear. "Delirious Love," could be the long lost twin of "Sweet Caroline." There's a reason that "Sweet Caroline" will still be played in Fenway for years to come, long after everyone's forgotten about the Dropkick Murphy's annoying "Tessie" - it is a perfect pop song. "Delirious Love" is a worthy successor, building up slowly, generating giddy suspense before Neil belts out the chorus. A word to music downloaders - you are infinitely better off buying this album from iTunes; not only is the CD copy-protected with software that could potentially harm your computer, but on top of that, the iTunes version comes with a rendition of "Delirious Love" featuring Brian Wilson. Though the record flows perfectly and moves at a rapid pace, there are a few duds. "Create Me" is slightly self-important and its bravado borders on Andrew Lloyd Webber territory. "We" is a funny little love song, bouncing along to a plodding tuba and honky-tonk piano while Diamond sings about how love isn't about "you or me / love is all about we." It's goofy, hokey and nothing you'll remember. In the liner notes detailing the album's creation, Diamond says the songs, "are done so simply and truthfully that only the heart of them remained." The album succeeds based on this honesty. It isn't a record trying to convince hipsters that he can be appreciated in earnest; he still is sentimental and even bombastic at times. This is not, as it could have been, a Rick Rubin pet project, a chance for the producer to show how he could take the lame Diamond and make him cool and edgy. Rubin really did strip away excesses to get at the heart of the material, leaving only Diamond and the essence of 12 songs. Diamond has had a career spanning thirty years and even if he hasn't been trendy, he has entertained many people. When addressing the question of whether he is happy with his life's work, the answer is an emphatic "hell yeah." Diamond does not try to recreate the strikingly austere and mortality-obsessed atmosphere of Cash's final records. This is a Neil Diamond record; it is simultaneously catchy, cheesy, somber, and honest. But Cash and Diamond do have some things in common - Cash covered Neil Diamond's "Solitary Man" on his third record with Rubin. Both Cash and Diamond are solitary men in the world of pop music, Cash dressed in black on one side of the spectrum and Diamond in a white jumpsuit on the other. Both stand alone, unafraid to be pariahs and unashamed of their work- wait a minute, maybe Neil Diamond is cool after all.


The Setonian
Arts

The good times are Sun Kil Moon

Have you ever been engaged in a conversation about your love for Modest Mouse when, all of a sudden, someone interrupts with "Oh yeah, I've heard of them, I love 'Float On'!" Did you avoid brutally murdering the ignorant fool for fear of seeming elitist but quietly suggested that they don't know what the hell they are talking about? Sun Kil Moon tackles this dilemma by composing "Tiny Cities," a cover album of acoustic interpretations of Modest Mouse's greatest hits and a must-hear for those so-called "elitist" fans out there. "Tiny Cities" being Sun Kil Moon's second full album, the band is taking a big risk by showing this level of creative freedom so early in their career. But lead singer Mark Kozelek is no stranger to experimentation, especially as it pertains to covers. He has put out numerous albums over the years under his independently-owned label, Caldo Verde, including 2001's "What's Next to the Moon," in which he takes on rock gods AC/DC. You might be thinking to yourself, "Modest Mouse? AC/DC? This guy really knows how to rock!" It's much more interesting, however, for Kozelek to turn the dial down from eleven, since these bands have been playing at one louder long enough to hold us all over for many years to come. In general, the most interesting cover albums are recorded in a style far different from the originals, and "Tiny Cities" is no exception. Just as Me First and the Gimme Gimmes found their greatest success doing punk covers of classic soul hits, Sun Kil Moon brings a slow, steady, soft-rock style to some of the most raw, experimental rock music available to form a striking contrast. The most evident change that Sun Kil Moon has brought to Modest Mouse's work is steady simplicity. Whereas the original music can ranged from grunge rock ("Convenient Parking") to a country hoedown ("Jesus Christ Was an Only Child"), Kozelek somehow makes each song stylistically fade into the next. Although some are simply guitar and vocals and others feature percussion and a string section, the songs are brought together by the common approach. The band combines complex, fast progressions with a soft, gentle voice reminiscent of The Beatles' famous "Blackbird." Modest Mouse's lyrics are so abstract that they can accommodate any musical interpretation. The classic "Trucker's Atlas," for example, normally accentuates a sense of excitement with jerky rhythms and a fast tempo, but as these elements are stripped away and replaced by a slower rhythms listeners must think even harder about what the already abstract lyrics mean. After listening to this album, fans of the poetry of music will want to own an energetic version of Modest Mouse for the morning and a softer, gentler Modest Mouse for the evening. There is a reason, though, why The Beatles only wrote one "Blackbird." Listening to "Twin Cities" without the proper context will put the average college student to sleep faster than an 8:30 philosophy lecture. The album is a tribute, a corollary to an already impressive display of music and poetry. In discovering this album, the average consumer must therefore be careful not to overlook the music's origins, because having two interpretations of each song to compare is what gives Sun Kil Moon's work here life and meaning. Overall, original Modest Mouse is far superior, but Kozelek's unconventional experiment successfully pays tribute to the complexity of Modest Mouse's work and adds new dimensions to the words. Fans of Modest Mouse will greatly appreciate new dimensions that "Twin Cities" brings to these classics. Those who aren't as familiar with the band's work should realize that even the mere existence of such a masterful cover album proves the influence and importance that this legendary indie rock band has demonstrated over the years. Our advice: discover Modest Mouse first, and when you are ready check out "Tiny Cities."



The Setonian
Arts

There's no masking MF Doom's skill

Albert Pujols is amazing; each year of his career, he has added something to or improved something within his superstar repertoire. But while he can rack up mind-numbing statistics, he can't win by himself. To win a World Series, the Cardinals need to surround him with a team that plays to his strengths, complements his abilities and picks up the slack when he isn't perfect. Enter "The Mouse and the Mask" by Danger Doom, the collaboration between masked emcee MF Doom and producer Danger Mouse, inspired and supported by Cartoon Network's Adult Swim. MF Doom is also amazing. He wears an intense iron mask onstage (MF stands for metal-faced) and refuses to be photographed without it. He raps in a lazy baritone, like he's lounging on a chaise in the studio being fed grapes by beautiful half-naked Arabian princesses. He loves comic books and obscure television cartoons, and pens bizarre, hilarious rhymes with a penchant for antiquated colloquialisms and super hero references. On his solo albums he spits gems, but he seems to save some of his A-material for collaborations. On 2004's Madvillain union with Oxnard, Calif. native Madlib, Doom (real name Daniel Dumille) reached his lyrical apex, swirling his laidback ironic wit and Japanese monster-movie jargon with self-deprecation and introspection, turning in one of the decade's best rap performances. While such superlatives do not quite apply to Doom's work on "The Mouse and the Mask," they barely miss. On each of the album's 14 songs, he weaves massive tapestries of pop culture nods, arcane disses, scene shifts and cartoon allusions that are so intricate and immense you need to consult the liner notes to make sure you don't miss anything. Though choosing snippets does no justice to his songs' lyrical expansiveness, "Crosshairs" is an adequate example: "When he's on the mic he's like the triggerman, fig jam / Doom, not to be confused with nobody / Especially since the flows he used was so nutty / Never to woozy to go study / crews got no clues / Like old cruddy, officer McGilicuddy." The album's Adult Swim theme, which admittedly sounds really lame, is wholly appropriate for Doom, whose very moniker is derived from a cartoon (Dr. Doom is The Fantastic Four's nemesis). He crams shout-outs to a variety of the bizarre programming's characters into his verses with the most vocal energy of his career. On the brilliant "A.T.H.F." which opens with the mucus-y voice of Meatwad spittin' gangsta' to sex offending neighbor Karl, Doom's rhymes are bouncy, even youthful. If it were a less avowedly cartoon-loving emcee rapping about a household of quirky, animated food products, he or she would almost certainly sound pathetic. Sadly, despite Doom's outstanding performance, this album is short of excellent. On "The Mouse and the Mask," the mask carries his weight, but the mouse lets him down. In 2004, Danger Mouse incurred all kinds of copyright-related fines by blending The Beatles' beats from "The White Album" with Jay-Z's lyrics from the "Black Album" into "The Grey Album;" a notable achievement, but nothing to swoon over. Nonetheless, Danger Mouse somehow became a hip-hop commodity. He produced a song on Sage Francis' "A Healthy Distrust," and in May, produced Gorillaz' "Demon Days." Again, both were solid outings by the producer, but nothing to suggest that he should succeed the incomparable Madlib as MF Doom's collaborator. And, as it turned out, he probably shouldn't have. His parts on "El Chupua Libre," "Bizzy Box" and "Mince Meat," for example, are toothlessly subdued and technically unimpressive, and if someone wasn't rapping over them there would be no incentive to listen. With his tiny beats, it's as though Danger Mouse wants to stay out of Doom's way. But that's not what the masked superstar needs. He needs someone to set a stage suitable for his unique and massive talents, not afraid to steal the show when the Frylock rhymes go stale. Danger Mouse shows fleeting glimpses of this, most notably on "Perfect Hair," where syncopated bass drums drive flute trills and keyboards from '50s TV. Sustain it for an entire album and you've got yourself a classic. Danger Mouse may well end up an excellent producer later in his career, but the problem on "The Mouse" isn't necessarily the quality of the beats, although they often suck - it's chemistry that's a problem here. Madlib knew exactly how to get the most out of Doom, and though his beats weren't always mind-blowing, the album was. Danger Mouse needs a better understanding of Doom's abilities if the two are going to try this again.


The Setonian
Arts

Civil War history freed from page

Today could be the day you meet Abraham Lincoln. At the grand opening of Tisch's "Forever Free" exhibit tonight at 6 p.m., you could even say hello to and shake the hand of the stovepipe-hatted gentleman. Well, maybe not the stovepipe-hatted gentleman, but someone who closely resembles the 16th president (the 6'10" local historian and Lincoln impersonator George Cheevers). His appearance will be just a sideshow at the national traveling exhibition, "Forever Free: Abraham Lincoln's Journey to Emancipation," which opened at Tisch on Wednesday. The exhibit itself consists of three multi-paneled displays, spread out to allow for uncrowded viewing. In a corner, one can examine a remarkable binder of photocopied documents with a Union soldier's hymn book ("For right is right, since God is God, and right the day must win; to doubt would be disloyalty, to falter would be a sin") and a slave sale receipt ("one thousand and twenty five Dollars, being in full for the purchase of one Negro slave named Sam"). This section strives to give voices to the many sides present during this tumultuous time in American history, from the black soldiers to Lincoln's opponents. The political cartoons are fascinating: keep an eye out for one depicting Honest Abe as an irritated Satan. Another panel features vitriolic propaganda published by the Democrats during the 1864 presidential election. Calling the then-president "Abraham Africanus the First," the tract asked, "What is the Constitution? A compact with hell - now obsolete." The panels are designed with aesthetics in mind and an emphasis on imagery. The panels whet one's taste for the time period and make a trip to the E457 section (where Lincoln books are stored) on the first floor of Tisch very desirable. To fully appreciate the exhibit requires about an hour, but the experience of the exhibit does not end when your examination of the panels is complete. This is an exhibition that moves beyond the stagnant two-dimensional to breathe and rejoice in the idea of living history. The simple act of unfolding one of the program pamphlets opens a nearly overwhelming number of opportunities. The events of "Forever Free" span lectures, speeches, workshops, re-enactments, film series and concerts (including one that may prominently feature President Bacow). During the next six weeks, the campus will host school groups on field trips from third graders through high-schoolers. Stephanie St. Laurence, Tisch co-coordinator of "Forever Free," said people heard of the project through word of mouth, and came from every corner of Massachusetts to get involved. The Medford Historical Society worked closely with Tisch coordinators by contributing financially and enhancing the collection. The coordinators have been so involved with planning the exhibition for the past three years that they are not quite sure what to do now that it is finally open. "It's a little like graduating," said St. Laurence with a sigh. St. Laurence was then momentarily distracted by a gentleman with a strange question: how many four-legged animals, such as horses and mules, were killed during the Civil War? Check the display on "Animals in the Civil War" at the veterinary school campus in Grafton, St. Laurence said. This is just a hint of the wealth of information and culture, available these next six weeks from Tisch, the heavily-involved academic departments and the extremely responsive community. The past does not have to be facts on a page, memorized, subjected to exams, and finally relegated to apathy. This exhibit shows the power of living history. Before leaving, be absolutely sure to stand in front of the glass display case on one side of the Tisch lobby. In the center of the case, you will find the actual broadside advertisement that was hanging in Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865, the night Lincoln was shot. It was retrieved by Edwin Adams, the performer booked at the theater for the week after - who was also a Medford native. What goes around comes around, and Lincoln has finally come to Tufts.


The Setonian
Arts

Degas show covers a wide subject matter

For the artist whose name immediately brings to mind images of ballerinas, the new "Degas at Harvard" show at Harvard's Arthur M. Sackler Museum demonstrates the breadth of Edgar Degas' career. "Degas at Harvard," which runs through November 27, shows the Impressionist-era artist's work in a small, manageable space. The three-room exhibition is broken up by rough subject matters-- themes relating to horses and earlier work, performance and dance, nature, and bathers, and shows that Degas tended towards variety in subject matter and form. In fact, despite the show's small size, attendees can see that Degas created work in many different areas and prodigiously worked in a variety of materials. The show begins with Degas' earlier work, including drawings based on Renaissance masters and equestrian themes. When Degas became interested in a subject, he did not limit himself to one depiction of it, nor did he limit himself to one medium with which to render it. Instead, Degas chose to explore, and this is shown in this small equestrian area. The oil painting "Horses and Riders on a Road" (1867-1868) has the look of an impromptu painting of horses and their riders trotting down a brown path with a cityscape as background. The unusual choice of cracked panel on which it is painted adds interesting textures to the painting, showing Degas to have been unafraid of unique materials. Also in this portion of the exhibit, Degas shows his versatility through the bronze sculpture "Horse Trotting, the Feet Not Touching the Ground" (1881-1890). Degas' great ability to capture another aspect of equestrian life is made clear with this figure-the horse is captured in motion, caught mid-air. The second room offers a glimpse into Paris in the late nineteenth century, a society nearly enslaved to its culture of leisure. Cafes offered a good balance of private activities like dining and resting, while offering a public place for Parisians to meet. Degas was famously able to attend rehearsals to watch and sketch dancers as they practiced, and as a result his paintings in this area show the dancers and entertainers who performed at these cafes in more untraditional poses. Highlighting one of Paris' popular leisure activities the cafe concert, Degas' "Singer with a Glove" from 1878 shows a singer in the middle of a particularly high note. The cafe concert was a combination of the Parisian cafe scene with music, performance, and comedy. In this pastel, Degas' interest is less on the glamour of the performance and instead focuses on the high energy of the performer. As viewers, we can practically see up her nose and into her mouth as she sings a high note. Degas emphasizes this energy of performance through a bright palette and variety of textures. Across the room from this pastel drawing hangs the elegant "Young Woman in Street Costume" (c. 1879). This small but intense study of a stylish woman out for a walk jumps off the page through Degas' masterful use of inks, wash, gouache, and chalk on wove paper. This small yet sophisticated composition highlights Degas' interest in the fashionable set with time for afternoon strolls. Besides figural representations, the Harvard exhibit also shows Degas to have been interested in themes of nature as well. His "Untitled (The Hourdel Road, near St-Valery-sur-Somme)" from 1895 depicts a series of forlorn trees slanting to the right. The black and white photograph is bleak, the sky is awash in grey tones, there aren't any clouds, and the road down the center is empty. Shades of grey completely comprise this composition, as the trees are merely dark shades against the pale sky above the speckled medium grey road. This photograph harkens to Degas' Impressionist contemporary, Claude Monet's painting "Sea Coast at Trouville" (1881), which is housed at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Monet's use of rich color tones in "Trouville" serves as a stark contrast to Degas' bleak picture. Perhaps Degas had this painting in mind while taking his desolate photograph some years later. Another interesting piece in the landscape section is "The Road in the Forest," a monotype in green and brown oil colors on white paper. The artist derived this abstract piece, made later on in the artists' life between the years 1890-1893, entirely from a memory of a carriage ride through the Burgundy countryside. Since this work is more of a composite rendering than it is the depiction of one specific local, Degas later described the scene as "paysages imaginares" (imaginary countryside). The rest of the exhibition focuses on one of Degas' favorite subject matters: bathers. Harvard does a nice job of juxtaposing prints and charcoals of varying sizes and on different colored papers to highlight the different effects these factors give to the drawings and prints. Three scenes from Degas' 1892-1898 "After the Bath" series that hang in a row along the back wall are particularly striking. All were produced on colored papers and as a result convey very different effects than the "Nude Figure Bathing" (1892-1895), whose composition of charcoal on white paper gives the piece a brighter look than the others. In another part of the bathers section, "After the Bath, Woman with a Towel" (1893-1897) again shows Degas' rapacious interest in various media and in experimenting with techniques. This pastel depicts much the same subject matter as the charcoals and prints, but was rendered in vivid colors and with a strong use of patterns and textures. It is painterly in its execution and Degas uses strong lines. The "Degas at Harvard" show is on the small side, yet despite its size, it strives to exhibit a wide variety of both subject matters and media. Harvard's is the largest collection of Degas of any university museum, and this beautiful show truly highlights its best work.


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Arts

Despite sentimentality, there are still 'things to love' at MFA's latest exhibit

There are two decidedly different ways to look at the "Things I Love: The Many Collections of William I. Koch" exhibit now on display at the Museum of Fine Arts. The first, more obvious and probably "wrong" way to look at it would be to simply see the three-room show as a bunch of pretty things some middle-America, rich WASP bought for fun. The second, more intuitive way, would be to try and see the assembled works as Koch did when he bought and curated them. This is the way Koch and the MFA want the show to be seen, and this approach allows for an experience that is ultimately more satisfying - one often has to work hard to imagine what Koch was thinking (though some lucky museum-goers may happen upon a tour given by the collector himself). The MFA is currently besieged with a number of Koch's collectables. In fact, immediately upon entering from Huntington Avenue, one is confronted by yachts from the America's Cup which he managed to install on the verdant front lawn. At the west wing entrance one can behold a number of Koch's sculptures, including works by Fernando Botero, which Koch loves "because they're big and fat and friendly." The show begins in the antechamber which highlights Koch's visceral approach to collecting. He chose the theme of inebriation to open the exhibit, and to highlight this theme he pairs bottles of expensive wine, a 470 B.C. ceramic "Attic Red Figure Drinking Cup" and a Picasso tile painting depicting drunken sailors. Koch is the founder of the Oxbow Group, whose name connoisseurs of American art will recognize as an allusion to the classic nineteenth-century painting by Thomas Cole. "I don't collect art because I want to be challenged," Koch said recently to a group at the museum. "All day long I'm challenged at work by lawyers... when I get home I want to enjoy what I see; I want to enjoy the art." As a result, his collection can be described as varied, eccentric and idiosyncratic. Koch's collection of art has a strong showing of big names. The first room features a sentimental hodgepodge from a variety twentieth century artists. John Koch's photorealistic painting resides next to an eighteenth-century Dutch masterpiece by Jan van Os. The Impressionist masterpiece, "Field of Oats and Poppies" by Monet, is a favorite of Koch's because the painting reminds him of the Midwestern fields from his childhood - even though the poppy field it depicts hails from France. Across from the Monet one can find nautical works by American artist Winslow Homer. Koch, who has a deep interest in boating, likes their fantastical nature. Koch admits that when he sees the work, he wishes he could sail away with the men depicted. The witty, Belgian nineteenth-century painter Alfred Stevens is also represented with "The Coquette," a Degas-like, beautifully rendered study of a young woman's enthrallment with her own reflection in a mirror. This charming comment on vanity reminds Koch of his daughter, and to him the young woman appears older and wiser in her reflected image than in her actual depiction, something he imagines all girls see when they look in the mirror. The painting is beautifully executed - the girl's hair is silky and auburn, she sits on a plush green chair, and her skin is pale and flawless. The next room is dedicated to themes of Americana, with a particular emphasis on the Wild West. Koch decided to collect these works because they reminded him of the time he spent on his father's ranches throughout the American West. Works by Frederic Remington include "The Cheyenne," a well-detailed bronze figure study of equine motion. A Native American sits atop a horse in mid-stride, dust rising up in the back, showing the great force of the horse's gallop. The famous Cyrus Edward Dallin bronze piece "Appeal to the Great Spirit," also depicting a Native American majestically riding a horse, is set amongst display cases filled with a variety of historic firearms and traditional Native American objects. This portion of the exhibit also includes a wedding dress which Koch tried to convince one of his wives to wear, but she "wouldn't because it had BO." The final room is more figural, and contains a variety of nude studies with tastes ranging from a unique 1929 Matisse entitled "Young Woman Made up in Oriental Style" which is a light, simple nude, to Koch's most valuable piece, Picasso's 1901 "Night Club Singer," the back of which contains a surprise for astute observers. The exhibition's cover girl, Modigliani's "Reclining Nude" from 1917, is also featured in this room. Although it seems odd that Koch would be interested in the history of figure depiction unless that history appealed to some aspect of his own life, he includes a controposto ancient Roman marble sculpture that harkens back to the more modern paintings' roots. Koch's collections shown at the MFA have been controversial to say the least, primarily because Koch himself is one of the principle sources of its funding. The assemblage of work is interesting and deeply personal even if it may not have much rhyme or reason outside of Koch's own life. Although the exhibit may not be a great one, it is an interesting compilation of one man's tastes.


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Arts

Age-old medium 'Resurfaced'

Postmodern painting has posed a problem ever since, well, the modern era faded into the misty past. Amid cries of "Painting is dead!" some artists still choose to push the boundaries of the traditional medium. "Resurfaced," the current exhibition at the Boston University Art Gallery (BUAG), addresses the challenges of contemporary painting in a colorful, varied exhibition. By showcasing art from across the country -- the curator, Joshua Buckno, solicited work from places as varied as Miami and New York City -- the BUAG displays the ways artists have innovatively handled paint and the surfaces beneath it. Seven artists are included in the show: Sam Gilliam, Katy Stone, Gina Ruggieri, Sam Cady, Jennifer Riley, Bill Thompson, and Roger Tibbetts. All of them approach the question posed by the curator, "What constitutes a painting in the wake of the postmodern period?" in completely different ways. "'Resurfaced' explores the intersection between sculpture and painting," said Buckno. The works by Thompson, Gilliam, Tibbitts and Stone showcase this intersection most explicitly. Bill Thompson's portraits of "Ruben," "Doris," "Ray," "Hudson," and "Pet" greet the visitor like jewels studding the title wall of the exhibition. Against the black background, the epoxy blocks come off of the wall, glittering in a way reminiscent of a new car. Upon approach, viewers can see their own reflections, adding another dimension to the idea of a portrait. The unique shape and shade of each block serve as representations of different people in Thompson's life. Sam Gilliam paints colorful, fabric sculpture-like pieces that protrude from the wall into the viewing area. The first, "Poster Turban," doesn't allow the word "turban" out of your head, though it does not resemble one. Its folds and creases, along with its Technicolor reds, blues and greens, somehow echo a headdress. The second, "Untitled," is much larger and contains many smaller structures, some of which resemble collapsing boxes. It is one of the exhibit's gambles to classify works like these as paintings; many conventional perspectives would call Gilliam's work fiber art or sculpture. Roger Tibbitts's work, primarily balls resembling molecular structures that appear to grow out of the wall, is the weakest of the show in terms of its relevance to the theme. In monochromatic black and white, these installations fall more into the category of sculpture than painting since color and shading weren't even considered. The balls take over an entire wall of the small exhibition space. Shimmering cascades of Mylar and vibrant reds, whites, yellows and blues dominate the opposite wall of the exhibition. Katy Stone's two pieces, with their realistic painted elements on Mylar installations, provide the bridge between the more sculptural and more painterly aspects of the exhibition. "[Her] abstract paintings inhabit the third dimension with a nebulous quality, as if the painting descended form the ceiling and is in the midst of evolving into an object," Buckno said in the exhibition catalog. Jennifer Riley's "Five Sleds" are paintings exploring color, in an Ellsworth Kelly sort of way. Leaned against the wall rather than hung, the backs of the paintings reflect off the white wall in a secondary spectrum. They seem more imitative than innovative. Sam Cady and Gina Ruggieri are the two artists whose work is most impressive in the exhibition. Cady's work fits into the theme through his exploration of canvas shapes, while Ruggieri's falls under innovative surface explorations. Cady's "Single Scull" hangs on the wall, appearing to be the three-dimensional bottom of a boat although in reality it is just a well-rendered painting. "Morning Mirage, Jones Garden" seems like a typical landscape -- except that the canvas stops where the trees and water do rather than including the sky. Its long, thin shape attracts the viewer to lean in closely and observe the details, such as distant boats along the shoreline. Ruggieri's realistic paintings of rock piles appear to lie directly on the wall, but they are in fact painted on Mylar. The contrast between the incredibly thin surface and the heavy solidity of the hyper-realistic rocks poses a question for visitors peering from across the gallery: are those rocks really there? Is there a window there? But no, the paintings are just exceedingly well done, and draw viewers in through the tension between material and subject. "Resurfaced" is worth visiting if you're on the BU campus or are exceedingly interested in postmodern painting. The small size of the exhibition and the inconsistent quality of the work, however, with Tibbits and Riley being the weakest links, make it unworthy of a special trip. Take the Green 'B' Line to BU-West. For more information, visit www.bu.edu/art.


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Arts

Aidekman gets all dressed up with new clothing exhibit

Guest curator Judith Hoos Fox's new traveling exhibit "Pattern Language: Clothing as Communicator" might not be exactly the show for aspiring Prada gurus and Versace connoisseurs. The exhibition, which opened last Thursday in the Tufts University Arts Gallery in Aidekman, strives to be the antithesis of the typical "fashion show" you'd have in mind. Rather than showcase luxurious garb and outrageous prices, more than twenty artists used clothing to leave a mark about the wearer's essence: the human spirit. "This exhibit is unusual for Tufts," said Jeanne Koles, the Gallery Outreach Coordinator. "It's one of the most ambitious exhibits we've done in a couple of years. When you just look around, the number of objects and various types of objects aren't just pieces on the walls - they're displayed in unique ways and made in unique ways ... It's a holistic approach that makes [the exhibit] really interesting." Unique is definitely the word to describe it. The exhibit divides into four categories, and in every part, clothes make some sort of statement about humanity. In the "Everyman" category, for example, one striking piece is a seemingly normal sweater - but with two neck holes. Called "Schizo-Pullover," this piece by Rosemarie Trockel symbolizes the struggle for personality, with the two presumed heads fighting for the limelight. It could also be a convenient knit for conjoined twins. Moving along in the collection will reveal pieces that draw even more attention. Ever sport those Abercrombie labels in all their glory? Do you believe that "Clothes Make the Man?" The power of advertising takes a whole new turn in The Art Guys' piece of that name: in an ironic parody of the never-ending quest for labels, this project has the tags define the suits. Sporting coats and pants with brand names like "Krispy Kreme," "Altoids," and "Budweiser," the two models can be seen wandering the city streets in the opening video. Parodying that integral daily demonstration of labels on personal clothing, the artists' display makes a powerful statement about today's ad-soaked world. In addition to their instinctive functions, clothes serve to contain and screen parts of the body. In the "Container/Contained" section, be sure to note the "Camouflage Maternity Dress" by Mimi Smith. The pregnant sergeant's frock with its space helmet belly is quite an eccentric eye catcher. The dress shows the absolute opposite of "normal" maternity clothes, with its glass stomach taking center stage amidst green army patterns. "People try to hide the fact that they're pregnant," said Koles. "In fact, here it is, showing it for all the world!" In the "(Un)Clothed" section there is no shyness either. In "The Immortal Tailor," artist Alba D'Urbano attempts to redefine the very nature of clothing. Rather than covering the body, her flesh-colored satin frocks have all intimate areas painted on - essentially revealing everything and nothing at once. There is a place for innovative multitasking, too. In the "Construction/Creation" section, the clothes can create themselves or even self-destruct. Try to resist the temptation to pull the zipper when viewing Galya Rosenfeld's "Object Un-Dress:" it's a gown made entirely out of "one continuous piece of zipper" that somehow holds the shape of a full dress. "The stiffness is created from the zipper's own tension, without the help of a crinoline," said Koles. In the demonstrative video, a model took about two minutes to unroll the entire outfit. It can also be customized to different lengths just by unzipping. Among the works in the last section is the aesthetically pleasing "Measure For Measure" by Cat Chow, a 50s-style housedress created completely out of measuring tape. The colorful blend of checkers and numbers appears to be pretty and innocent at first glance; however, it represents "every woman's struggle to measure up," according to the program. Still, this tailored measuring tape concoction is probably the most wearable outfit from the collection with a bright pattern of fuchsia, yellow and green squares. Perhaps the most important aspect of "Pattern Language" is the emotions and themes that the art evokes: human vulnerabilities, complexes, needs, wants and dreams. "It's not a fashion exhibition," Koles said. "It's about the function of clothing, how human beings use clothing. In a way it's about the body, too." "Pattern Language" will stay at Tufts until Nov. 13. Afterwards, it will move on to universities in Illinois, California and Minnesota. In the past few weeks, the Aidekman gallery space has actually been redesigned to accommodate this exhibit; this is the first time in recent history that Tufts is involved with a touring exhibition of this magnitude. Tufts offers comprehensive tours of the gallery with an Art Gallery Guide, available by schedule, as well as individual group appointments. For more information, e-mail galleryinfo@tufts.edu or call (617) 627-3094.


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Arts

Garage-turned-gallery is the 'incubator' for local talent

Owner Meredith Garniss refers to Willoughby & Baltic, a commercial art space in Davis Square, as "an incubator for artists." Based on the impression that it gives upon entering, it must be a kind of hangout for them as well. From the quirkiness of the space, which is a garage turned studio turned gallery, to the nude model who was wrapping up his session before it opened at noon on Sunday, the place screams "character." Tucked into a small alleyway off of Elm St., it is at this point frequented only by those who are in-the-know: Somerville's ample artist population. Every two weeks, a Somerville artist displays his or her art for viewing, and hopefully, to sparks buyers' interest. Garniss wants the space to be a comfortable environment for both the artist and art appreciator. Artists who have just a few pieces, or who don't necessarily have an official r?©sum?© are welcomed to submit their work for the gallery. At the same time, people who may not feel comfortable walking into a gallery on Newbury St. and dropping their life savings on a painting have the chance to casually view artwork and buy it at a more reasonable price. On display now is a collection of Garniss' works, in preparation for the upcoming Somerville Open Studios weekend, when artists throughout the city open their doors and invite the public to view their work. Her pieces range from older portraits and paintings of objects to her more recent work with landscape. These landscapes are not overly concerned with structure or accurately depicting a certain setting, but are more tonal and indicative of Garniss' mood. They do not portray specific scenes, but rely on contrasting colors and a wax and oil color combination to bring out the mood that she was in while painting it. An earlier painting, entitled "Woman #1" is part of a series of three. It is done entirely with a pallet knife, which gives it an abstract feel. Next to it hangs a painting of buildings in the North End, made up of warmer colors than those in her landscapes. This painting, as well as a portrait of a construction worker, is representative of Garniss' earlier style. A common characteristic in many of her paintings is the use of contrasting colors, which gives her work a unique depth and vibrating quality. Garniss stressed that Willoughby & Baltic is heavier on the commercial side than other galleries in the area. The artists on display can see which of their paintings sell, and are then able to produce more work in that vein. The gallery also offers a space for people to work. On Sunday mornings, Garniss hires a model so that aspiring artists can come in and practice. Garniss is in a perpetual state of preparation and progress. She has recently founded the Somerville Center for Adult Education, holding fine arts classes in the Willoughby & Baltic gallery. This collective hopes to eventually include a variety of classes and possibly spread into Medford and Arlington as well. For Somerville Open Studios, Garris is finishing up some of her work, as well as continuing to make improvements on the relatively new gallery space. "I often say that I have two projects; my paintings and the gallery." In the corner sits a long vertical canvas, primed for a painting of Willoughby and Baltic, who, until the painting is completed, do not actually exist. This is just another interesting touch to this artist's haven.


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Arts

Shanti explores her stormy past

Many art history scholars argue that in order to understand the work of Picasso, one must first know his background and all of the meaningful experiences that shaped his life. This strategy, on a much smaller scale, is helpful in grasping the newest exhibit at Art Attack, "Battlescenes."


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Museum offers sublime sight of empty Lay-Z-Boy

Mama always said, you can tell a lot about a person by their...chairs? Okay, so your mama may not have said it, but Dayanita Singh's sure did. In a series of photographs, Gardner Museum Artist-in-Residence Dayanita Singh explores the cultural significance of chairs and their ability as a simple object to provide an array of information. Each of Singh's photographs brings out the distinct quality of its subject. Displayed in conjunction with her photographs are two installations that incorporate historic chairs from the Gardner collection. The project was a collaborative between Singh, furniture historian Fausto Calderai from Italy, filmmaker Michael Sheridan and art educator Carla Hartman. Singh is based in India but has been well received in the United States. In a recent project, she photographed the lives and environment of the elite class in India. Singh came to the artist-in-residence program at the Gardner Museum and began photographing the objects with which Isabella Stewart Gardner filled her home. This led Singh to take a specific interest in the many chairs of the museum. The large collection of chairs, which many people would simply ignore on their walk through the three-story museum, are taken out of the shadows and given their own spotlight in Singh's photographs, which are exhibited on the first floor. Singh's work is the first of three contemporary exhibitions to be displayed there this year. Many of the photographs have a sad, lonely quality to them. This is largely due to the lack of activity and life in the images. This could also be a result of the personification of the chairs, as they are each different in age, make-up, and placement within a space. One photograph entitled "Ballerina chair" is of a small chair with thin legs held firmly in place, its shadow cast on the wall behind it. If the chair were a person, it would have perfect grace and posture. Singh's images invite viewers to create their own ideas of whom or what once inhabited the empty chairs. There is an irony in doing this, however, in that they have been, and will continue to be, unused at the museum. Another photograph is of an 18th-century Italian chair that faces a small table with Raphael's "Piet? ," likening the chair to a viewer of art. The photographs are black-and-white, which causes there to be a timeless quality about them and furthers the theme of emptiness. The multimedia installation entitled "Amnesia," is made up of an Italian walnut chair with a flat screen built into it. A series of Singh's photos are projected onto the screen, and even an image of the chair itself makes its way into the slides, which would make this chair, what, narcissistic? The exhibit extends into a room on the second floor in which an arrangement of chairs and sofas has been made. They are placed in small clusters throughout the room, suggesting that a social gathering has taken place there. Outside of the museum caf?© is an excerpt from Michael Sheridan's film documentation of the goings-on behind the scenes, while the exhibit was being coordinated and set up. What comes across strongly and clearly in these images is the power of suggestion. Singh's work proves that with a simple movement of an object, or by viewing it from a different angle, something new and interesting can be conveyed. "Chairs" is Dayanita Singh's first solo exhibition in the United States. She also has work on display at the Asia Society in New York through June 1st.


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Arts

Stirner's sculpture explores both sensuality and morbidity

Karl Stirner was discovered by students in Pennsylvania over 30 years ago, when he was designing metal jewelry and furniture. Ripped from his small studio by these inquisitive young minds, Stirner began to teach at the Tyler School of Art. This fostered his interest in sculpture and he went on to collect and create a large body of art, continuing to teach at schools like Moore and Swarthmore. Stirner's current exhibition, entitled "Feeling Lucky," is on display in the Remis Sculpture Court. Over the course of his life, Stirner has taken an interest in a variety of art, and has developed a large collection of African and Pre-Columbian pieces. While he does not directly reference this art in his own, it has had an unconscious effect on him and his artwork. "A piece of art doesn't have external dictates, it's all from within," said Stirner. Often labeled a minimalist, Stirner described his sculpting process as "trying to do what is absolutely essential to get to my ends." Stirner's work is primarily concerned with the formal elements involved in the sculpture. Stirner has worked with iron for much of his life, and has recently begun to incorporate photographs into his sculpture, as is evident in this exhibition. "Barbara's room," a piece Stirner created four years ago, is an iron encasing with an enlarged photograph inside. To view the photograph, visitors must peer into the sculpture from above. The photograph is of a young and beautiful bride. Stirner's pieces often deal with this young woman, his former wife, who committed suicide not long after they were married. "It's been many years, and it never goes away," Stirner said of the piece. Because of the beauty and nostalgia that is called to mind by the image, there is an inherent sweetness to the piece. However, at the same time, "Barbara's room" evokes a sense of death, as it resembles both a shrine and a coffin. The contrast between the well-defined lines and edges of a piece of metal, and the visual complexity of a photograph is quite striking. The duality experienced in viewing this piece is a common characteristic of much of Stirner's work. "Fleisch," is a two-part sculpture that consists of two curved iron pieces atop tables that are equal in height. There are small ridges on the sculptures, and the overall effect is both of sensuality and morbidity. This is captured in the title, which stands for the German word for both "flesh" and "meat." In "Barbara 1," a 55-gallon drum is compressed to simulate the shape of a brain A single bolt is placed within, evoking the nature of Stirner's wife's death. This part of the sculpture sits on a metal I-beam. "Barbara 2" recalls the image of a Renaissance-style grave. In this piece, a figure made of a compacted steel pipe in the shape of a torso lies on top of a flat iron surface, mimicing the recumebent figures often found on Renaissance tombs. The materials that Stirner uses come from many different sources. He and his assistant Carl Disastio have found metal in places like railroad tracks and scrap-yards. The older pieces of metal that they discover will often bring something unique to the art, whether it is a rusted surface or a shade of paint that is deliberately left untouched in the metal-working process and adds a depth to a final piece This display is Stirner's first solo exhibition in New England.


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Arts

'Hotel' mixes classic Moby with rock

Throughout his fairly prolific career, Moby has never been afraid of experimentation, which, as one would expect, yields a decidedly mixed bag of results. Over the course of his numerous albums, Moby has embraced eclecticism as much as an electronic artist can; that is, while still remaining within his chosen genre.


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Arts

Art that travels from the earth to the stars

In displaying the works of so many artists who live in the Boston area, common themes are bound to be addressed. With each artist, however, comes a unique story and perspective. The artists in the latest installment of the ongoing thesis exhibition series at the Tufts galleries take full advantage of their designated space, and even exceed it: much of their artwork spreads from the floor to the walls and ceiling, in a variety of mediums. Lior Neiger originally came to the Museum School program from Israel to paint. However, for the past two and a half years he has immersed himself in a new language, and has found that his artwork has shifted as well. Lior learned to "talk" computer, and began to explore themes in technology and the metaphorical relationship it has with society. Neiger presents paintings, video and photographs in what he has termed "Constellation Art." Works in each medium stand on their own, but they have obvious connections in color, form and content. His video, "Dead Pixels," explores the disturbing connection between technological viruses and real-life epidemics, with many other subtexts at work. He takes the typical landscape desktop image and, over the course of his video, morphs it into a rotating globe. The number of AIDS victims over the past year appears over each continent, numbers which Neiger must continually update. Text in html runs across the screen with alerts like "virus suspected," and continues on with the more complacent "your monitor is working correctly." The display has a grace and balance that is hard to find in modern artwork. Although it has a definite resonance and triggers thought on social patterns and injustices, the exhibit does not overpower or attempt to shock you. Leah Bedrosian looks at the interplay between fiction and reality. She has designed an artificially Armenian dating website (Armeniandate.net), complete with photos and profiles of each site member. Accompanying the cyber component of her work are large photographs that display each member in their day-to-day environment. There is, of course, a disparity between their profiles and their images. "I am working towards one day becoming President of the United States. I work really hard and am a dedicated and motivated person," reads the description of one cyber member, Future President, an "Armenian by association." His photographed image is not of a man hard at work, but instead, of a disheveled young blond man in a shirt and loosened tie, drinking Carlo Rossi. Bedrosian's photographs are very large, and have an evident fictive quality to them, as items are strategically placed to tell a story and characters are often portrayed in a satirical light. Juniper Perlis explores fantasy and reality in a different vein. She joined the Masters program two and a half years ago with the knowledge that her father had a house in Somerville. Although she hadn't seen him in 20 years, while studying at the Museum School Perlis became obsessed with searching for him, and her art explores her emotions about the search. Her work is inspired by the outside of his two houses, the one in Somerville and the one he lives at in Newfoundland, both of which she visited many times without her father knowing. With the opening of the exhibit approaching, she wrote to her father and invited him to come see it, telling him what she'd been doing for the past few years. "A part of it is my inability to distinguish between reality and fantasy," said Perlis of her work. Her voyeuristic approach seems to have prolonged this confusion. Another pseudo-spy is Gina Dawson, whose work, "Movie Star Homes," looks at the lure of celebrities and their personal estates. She has stitched a map of Hollywood and the homes of the stars, her research drawn from hours upon hours of television footage from their mansions. Hilary Baldwin's work consists of an array of many objects, some real, some false. For example, a string of lights appears to hang from the ceiling; in reality they are just decoration pieces used by storefronts. "Many of these objects are icons from city life. They show the reality and falseness of the urban landscape," said Baldwin. Also showing their thesis work this month are Nicole Arendt, Yvonne Boogaerts, Amy Finkelstein, Aimee LaPorte, Evelyn Rydz, Erin M. Sadler and Tim Saltarelli. Viewing the work of these 12 artists provides a rather comprehensive look at themes that are being explored in modern art today. All artists are part of the Joint Graduate Degree Program of Tufts University and SMFA, Boston. The exhibit opens today, and the artists will be present at the opening reception held on Thursday from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.


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Arts

Artists ask: How much is that human in the window?

Walking into a life-size gerbil cage, complete with floor shavings and a water tube, is not something a person gets to do everyday. But for those who have ever wanted to empathize with their favorite hamster or bird and see things from its point of view, then "PE(s)T," the new exhibit at the Atlantic Works Gallery, is the thing to see. A collaborative installation between artists Liz Nofziger and Peter Pizzi, "PE(s)T," asks what it is that transforms an animal from an unwanted nuisance into a member of the family. According to the creators, an animal becomes a pet when it has been invited into a human's world and is given a home. With that in mind, the artists have converted the entire gallery into an interactive playpen to show what that "home" might feel like to its inhabitants. The shock value of the installation is its greatest asset. Bars are painted on the walls to indicate the cage-like nature of the piece, and the floor is several inches deep with wood chips and hay. A gerbil tube and a bird perch have been created to human scale. Visitors are encouraged to crawl and swing their way through the exhibit. "We are playing with perspective, making the familiar unfamiliar and inaccessible" Nofziger said. Also life-sized are the food and water containers (the pellets are made from Dunkin' Donuts' Crullers), as well as papier-m??ch?© excrements scattered around the gallery. Tellingly, the humor is not lost on the artists. Nofziger and Pizzi both have full-time day jobs as an artist's assistant and photographer, respectively. They were interested in creating an installation on their own, however, so they worked together to form the theme and setup of "PE(s)T." Despite careful planning beforehand, it still took the pair five days to fully install the exhibit. With so much time and energy devoted to this project, one might guess that Nofziger and Pizzi are animal fanatics. In fact, Pizzi is an animal lover and has several pets of his own. On the other hand, Nofziger doesn't particularly like animals and has no interest in being responsible for pets. This difference in interests gives the installation a dynamic voice and a multitude of readings. The atmosphere they created, for example, can be seen either as a playroom full of colorful toys and fun distractions or as an inescapable prison. In one area of the wall, the bars take on three-dimensional form. Behind them is an alcove which the artists have turned into a small living room with a sofa, TV, and other human items. This is the one familiar space in the installation, but the bars prevent the viewer (and make-believe pet) from accessing it. This emphasizes the role-reversal that is taking place; the visitor now becomes the display. There is, however, a peephole behind the living room through which viewers are allowed to sneak a peek. Not only that, but the TV in the living room, visible through the hole, is also playing surveillance footage of the room. This provides yet another vantage point on the whimsical yet unnerving world that Nofziger and Pizzi have devised. Perspective is compounded many times over in "PE(s)T" by the strange juxtapositions of space and size. In viewing humans from the inside of an animal's world, visitors begin to question the purpose of the imprisonment and who or what it actually benefits. As Nofziger sways back and forth on the bird perch/human swing suspended from the ceiling, it is clear that she relishes her creation and wants everyone else to enjoy it as well. She and Pizzi will be hosting an Easter egg hunt in the installation on Easter Sunday, and they welcome anyone to stop by. "PE(s)T" succeeds in attacking a concept with real but lighthearted intent. It illuminates the relationship between humans and animals by taking the viewers out of the familiar and into the containment to which many people subject their most beloved pets. Love it or hate it, it's an undeniably original experience which will subsequently make a person look at any caged animal in a very different light.


The Setonian
Arts

Thievery Corp. takes a journey through the 'Cosmic Gate'

It's tempting to write off Thievery Corporation as lounge music: a horrible term which brings to mind pretentious New York hipsters wearing light colored sunglasses at night, always seeming high on something, and hanging out at dimly lit clubs with cooler-than-thou DJs. Yet Thievery's latest album, "The Cosmic Gate" is more complex than that, taking the listener through a whirlwind of psychedelic beats, intriguing lyrics sung by guest artists, and styles borrowed from a variety of cultures. The journey begins in indie-rock America and moves from there to Jamaica, Brazil and India. The album opens with "Marching the Hate Machines (Into the Sun)." The opening sounds suspiciously like Massive Attack's "Teardrop" until the entrance of a very weird voice: Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. This is one of Thievery's most political songs and sets the album's tone of protest. Coyne's opening line is: "Let's start by/making it clear/Who is the enemy/Show them/That it's not them/Who is superior." Coyne's voice is distorted and there is a melodic chorus of voices in the background. The piece stands as a departure from the band's earlier work. The world tour continues in Jamaica, with one of the strongest songs on the album, "Warning Shots." On this track, Thievery blends jungle MCs and their usual Rude Boys references with a hard, psychedelic backbeat. The echoes and the distortion are on par with any Thievery album, but the addition of the jungle MC makes it more unique. "The Cosmic Gate" is full of guest vocalists, including Perry Farrell of Jane's Addiction and David Byrne of Talking Heads. There are also several less famous additions, most of them Indian or Brazilian artists. The use of so many different styles adds variety to the album, yet the group manages to keep the album cohesive through their signature psychedelic style and the use of African drums, which appear on several songs. The best of the Indian influenced songs is "Doors of Perception," featuring Gunjan. Thievery effectively mixes the unique, traditional sound of the sitar with lofty electronica melodies. The vocalist does not sing words; instead she just produces melodic tones. In the middle of the song, very suddenly, a hardcore drum beat begins. The m?©lange produced by the sitar, the voice and the drums makes this one of the more unique songs on the album. "The Cosmic Gate" is a good album for its genre, thanks to the heavy blending of cultural music and trip-hop, yet the album has a few boring songs interspersed in between the more creative tracks. "Satyam Shivam Sundaram" and "Amerimacka" are not particularly interesting unless the listener is on enough drugs to make roller coasters appear in front of him, while "The Heart's a Lonely Hunter" - the song featuring David Byrne - simply makes no sense. Byrne sings, "Welcome to my spaceship/you're beautiful forever." The beats are interesting but Byrne's lack of coherence takes something away from the song. A drawback to the Thievery duo's music is pretension. It is very difficult to make a lounge music album unpretentious, and Garza and Hilton sometimes go too far in trying to be creative and different. The use of Indian Bhangra was creative on one or two songs, but by the fourth Indian song, it is no longer innovative. Artists must take care when adopting other cultures' fashions in their music and not forget their own personal style, which in Thievery's case, more closely resembles Portishead and Massive Attack than Astrud Gilberto.