Gallery talk by art critic, Greg Cook

Hyman Bloom, Skeleton in a Red Dress
Image: Hyman Bloom, Skeleton in Red Dress, c. 1942-45
oil on canvas, Promised Gift of Drs. Francene and G. Timothy Orrok

"Alternate Reality: From Boston Expressionism to Lowbrow"
Sunday, March 21, 2010, at 3 pm 

In the 1930s and '40s, Boston painters developed a moody, mythic realism. They mixed social satire with depictions of street scenes, Biblical scenes, and mystical symbolic narratives, all of it darkened by the shadow of the Great Depression and World War II. It became known as Boston Expressionism, and it was "for a time the center of this line of [expressionist] development" in America, as Brooklyn Museum of Art curator John Baur wrote in 1951.

But the Bostonians have come to be left out of today's art histories and dismissed as backward provincials because their expressionist realism did not fit into the triumphant narrative of abstract art — particularly as it was made in New York. Despite being ignored and even discouraged by New York–centered officialdom, the expressionist-realist strain kept sprouting up across the country, like a genetic mutation in isolated archipelagos, willing itself into existence.

Boston art critic Greg Cook presents new research connecting the dots among related developments in Boston, Chicago, and California, as the expressionist realist style incorporated the look of pop culture in the 1950s and '60s and evolved into the Lowbrow art of Shepard Fairey, Gary Panter, Sue Coe, Claire Rojas, Providence's Fort Thunder and many others today. Cook describes an alternative history of art of the past century that reestablishes Boston Expressionism as early example of a remarkably resilient and ever more prominent movement.

About Greg Cook

Greg Cook is an art critic for The Boston Phoenix, and founder of The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research and the New England Art Awards. His words and pictures have appeared in fancy publications like Nickelodeon magazine, Publishers Weekly, The Believer and The Boston Globe. He has inspired an impostor on Facebook and Wikipedia once declared him dead. He's teaching this semester at Montserrat College of Art in Beverly. But his boyish good looks still cause him to frequently be mistaken for a reporter from the school paper. He likes to photograph parades.

So it comes as little surprise that Cook's New England Journal of Aesthetic Research won a 2009 Creative Capital Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant. The Boston Globe calls The New England Journal of Aesthetic Research one of "The best of the (local) web." Yankee Magazine: “Indispensable ... Probably the best regional art site in the country.” Los Angeles Times: "Estimable." Wikipedia: One of the "Notable art blogs." Art Connect: "Cook covers so much ground that you get the feeling that he must be aware of everything that goes on in the New England art scene." Joel Brown of HubArts: "Cook has been a veritable Woodward and Bernstein on the Rose." Modern Kicks: "When it comes to art in New England, the man sees everything. I don't even want to know what the mileage on his car is." Online University Reviews: One of the "100 Best Scholarly Art Blogs."

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