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VISUAL ARTS; Photos click with kids' reality
[All Editions] Joanne Silver, Boston Herald; Boston, Mass: Aug 3, 2003, pg. 058

Copyright Boston Herald

Library Aug 3, 2003

The girl is standing with one foot at home and one foot already out. Literally. On an asphalt playground in Jamaica Plain, this preteen has her left foot on the end zone of a hopscotch court, labeled "home," and her right in the next box over, marked "7." A rotating Hula Hoop hovers midair around her hips.

Robin Radin's black-and-white photograph eloquently captures two realities: the visible world of this city youngster, as well as more abstract truths about growing up. Both forces merge in the exhibition "Robin Radin: Secrets and Revelations - Photographs From Jamaica Plain Playgrounds," on view through Aug. 20 at the Dean's Gallery of the MIT Sloan School of Management.

For the past 20 years, the artist has recorded the social landscape of her Boston neighborhood. She began the most recent series - exploring the lives of children in a primarily Latino and African-American part of town - after becoming a parent. These scenes are animated by the antics of the young lives she is documenting and by the vision of someone whose experience extends far beyond the chalk outline of a playground game.

Like their subjects, these photographs have many stories to tell. The tales are uttered in whispers on a park bench, in rhythm to the clapping beat of a street song, in a braiding session alongside a fountain, under an overpass on the way home from school.

Sometimes silence reigns. "El Suicida" focuses on a large figure, seen from behind, wearing a shirt inscribed with the date "12-2- 2000" and an assortment of Spanish names and nicknames. The pensive girl in "Untitled II" - one of the finest portraits in the show - rests her chin on her hand as she leans against a heavy chain barricade. Her crisp features form a striking contrast to the blurry playground behind her.

During what appears to be autumn, she is caught between seasons of her own. "Expectation" translates this sort of inquiry into a more forced shot, as a teenage girl leans over a bench where "I love" has been scratched into the wood.

Radin is at her best when she lets personalities unfold naturally. In "Trinity," a girl on a swing grins as she drapes herself across the shoulders of her two buddies on the ground. The boys in "Last Day of School" are looking for more of a thrill. Clustered around an explosive puff of smoke, the five individuals here share in the excitement of the moment. Some hold lighters or cherry-shaped devices. Others crowd a bench to watch. This photograph translates the frenzy of an instant into a more lasting image, with an order of its own.

Even in the chaos of a last-day explosion, structure exists. In fact, it is everywhere. Braiding sessions, clapping games, hopscotch, secrets, songs and commemorations all reflect the youngsters' efforts to give shape to the shapeless. If change is everywhere - in their neighborhoods, their families, their friendships and their bodies - then the response of these children is to impose a rhythm or a ritual.

A certain visual grace emerges, despite the youthful awkwardness. It is revealed in the spray of wet hair near a playground sprinkler in "Fresh," the motion of hands in "Card Game," the postures of a trio of schoolgirls weighed down by book bags in "Word." Long after their school days have ended and their secrets have been forgotten, these three will retain the sunlit symmetry Radin caught one afternoon in 2001.

"Robin Radin: Secrets and Revelations - Photographs From Jamaica Plain Playgrounds," The Dean's Gallery of the MIT Sloan School of Management, 50 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, through Aug. 20. Free. 617- 253-9455.

Arts MEDIA Magazine, Winter 2002, Noemi Giszpene

Carol Blackwell: Object Lessons
The Dean's Gallery
MIT Sloan School of Management
50 Memorial Drive, Cambridge
Through January 15, 2003

Carol Blackwell's stylish, humorous boxed assemblages combine objects you might find in a great aunt's attic, an eccentric neighbor's work shed, or a kooky scholar's library. For one thing, Blackwell uses printed materials from different countries and different eras (examples include French melodramas, German account-books, Greek school texts, and Italian novels, in addition to English and Japanese tests).

She also uses electric components such as circuit boards, capacitors, and resistors in all sizes and colors--not to mention buttons, seashells, loops, and marbles.

These things, both commonplace and rare, are taken out of one context only to be given a new context and new roles.

Blackwell doesn't impose narratives on the objects, but she presents them in a way that suggests stories. Sometimes these are quite literal, as in "Full Fathom Six," where bits of rust, mica, and wire mesh make a picture of a boat, complete with resistor rudders.

Other compositions are literary and metaphorical. For example, "three on a Match" features candles burned at both ends while a clock's secondhand ticks endlessly over faded pictures of ancient temples in "Greek Lessons."

Often Blackwell puts a romantic twist on pedestrian objects, like in "Robi San" where she uses an electric typewriter ball, plastic sock holders and a tea bag painted red to ornament a Chinese shrine-like construction.

A few pieces border on the overly spare, saved by a touch of bright color playfully thrown into an otherwise washed-out picture. Others flirt with unreadable chaos, but usually maintain a few accessible, direct elements. Most pieces succeed in hinting at the automomous worlds within worlds in which we live.

VISUAL ARTS; Berry captures spirit

Boston Herald; Boston, Mass.; Aug 5, 2001; Mary Sherman;

Copyright Boston Herald Library

Aug 5, 2001

Children are endlessly fascinating. Even children themselves are transfixed by those younger than they, and that interest doesn't seem to dissipate with age. That is the chief charm of Alexia Berry's black-and-white photographs: Her winning depictions of children, often engaged in playing "adult," easily capitalize on her subjects' inherent appeal.

The show includes more than 25 photographs taken by Berry in 1998, during a trip to Cuba. The timing couldn't be better. Not only is there a lot of interest in Cuba at the moment, but her work is an ideal companion to the Institute of Contemporary Arts' show of photography, "The Social Scene."

Unfortunately, aside from such glimpses of Havana's colonial architecture as seen in "Stripes" and "Street Scene 1," little of Cuba makes its way into Berry's frames. And even when architectural details do appear, they often are slightly blurred, so that they read more as generic Third World, urban backdrops than details of a specific locale.

So, for those looking to see what the forbidden country of Cuba looks like, the show is sure to disappoint. However, for anyone interested in insightful portraits of people, the exhibit offers a great deal. Although Berry writes in her artist statement that "Words are too weak to express this energy (the Cubans) have within, the sparkle in their eye is indescribable," it would be very difficult - except in a very few cases - to guess her subjects' exact nationality.

This work's strength is Berry's ability to capture the personalities of her individuals, as opposed to a class of people, in a single shot. The boy with tousled hair leaning back on a '50s Chevy in "James Dean" is a pure embodiment of youthful bravura. The soaked children in "Cuban Rain" pose for Berry, full of smiles and smirks, knowing that their wet clothes are a taunting pleasure that can no longer be enjoyed by those older than them. And the depiction of the young girl in "Matilda" sensitively expresses that child's grace and self-assured beauty.

Throughout the shifts in mood from one person to the next - from the anger expressed in the shirtless man whose face is arrogantly turned away from the viewer in "Argument" to the happy look of the young girl in "Twins" - Berry's portraits are commanding. By focusing intensely on her subjects, cropping out most backgrounds or letting them fade from sight, Berry draws her viewers' attention to the subtle play of her individuals' facial expressions. She seems very much in tune with her subjects' interior lives and, thus, is able to orchestrate her images to translate such states into stunning photographs.

This quality is best expressed in the images of her most endearing subjects. These, for the most part, are her portraits of children. They offer themselves up to the photographer with the kind of candor that few adults will allow. Aware of being photographed, they willingly pose and act their parts with such openness that their personality also surfaces. The young "James Dean," stretched across the car with his hands locked behind his head, is obviously affecting a pose. But his open shirt, crossed leg and cocked head also reveal his own pleasure at being taken so seriously.

Like all of Berry's best work, "James Dean" exhibits a gift for anecdote and an appreciation of character. It exults in the transcription of a moment and the immediacy of a chance encounter, enchanting and engaging.

Further north, the Arlington Center for the Arts is showcasing the paintings of sisters Alice Denison and Kate Ledogar, through Friday. What unites their work, aside from their blood ties, is a high-key color sense and confident, broad brush work, although their subjects could not be more diverse. Denison paints lush views of nature so close up as to be nearly abstract; whereas Ledogar focuses on the human face, examining both others and her own in various expressive states. The combination creates a lively counterpoint as vibrant as it is intense.

The Boston Globe June 11, 1998

Cate MacQuaid
Gallery Review

A.E. Ryan's reliquaries and architectural tableaus at the Dean's Gallery at MIT's Sloan School of Management stands out for their beauty and wry sense of humor. Ryan creates elaborate stage sets within ornate frames, evoking a lot of depth out of a little space in a sunny, Mediterranean palette. She conflates the lullaby majesty of Italian landscape architecture, and are history with the ordinary meanderings of everyday life in a way that's bound to spark a chuckle.

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