Flash Forward Festival Boston in SoWa« back to Portfolio
By Olivia J. Kiers
Taking art out to the streets—or, in this case, under the street—can be a daring move for a week-long arts festival. It demonstrates true dedication to bringing an open art experience to the average citizen; that person who finds himself intimidated by the white gallery walls might be more at ease strolling past and enjoying art installed on a fence. Yet the move out-of-doors puts any exhibition at the mercy of the weather, and springtime in New England is notoriously unpredictable.
As in the past, Flash Forward Festival Boston 2016 has mounted incredible photography exhibitions in a cluster of pop-up shipping container galleries. For the first time, they are located in Boston’s SoWa district in the South End, under a section of I-93 overpass along Albany Street, to be exact. The six containers present six solo shows by a well-curated group of international photographers who are all looking at the world around them and finding highly charged emotion in every shot. As a result, each container is like a treasure box containing oddity, sorrow, profound beauty or bold wonder—there’s no telling what may be inside until you breach that threshold between street and art-space.
All six shows pack a punch. For the American audience, the two that present the most familiar subject matter end up providing the most alien experience. Montreal-based photographer Joannie Lafrenière’s Backroad and Louisiana artist Frank Relle’s Until the Water are both odes to the American landscape, but they also amp up myth to the point of creating a dream world. Lafrenière’s voyage fills roadside America with more sky-dwelling zebras, pastel diners and landed spaceships than even the most kitsch-enthused hipster could hope for. For its part, Relle’s New Orleans drifts into a supernatural realm in which Nature has warped human intervention into an anthem to its own power. The other shows, like Bulgarian photographer Pepa Hristova’s The Bartered Bride or Jason Larkin’s Johannesburg, South Africa series Waiting, take the viewer on journeys to far flung corners of the globe in National Geographic-style explorations of human-interest themes tied to exotic places. Here, the viewer is given more food for thought than flights of fancy, but the experience is none-the-less rich and rewarding.
While the shipping containers are not able to open on days when the weather doesn’t cooperate—which has been a challenge this week—no trip to Albany Street is in vain, since The Fence remains open to view in all weather, day or night, through September 1. Flanking Albany Street near the containers, The Fence is Boston’s iteration of a five-city outdoor exhibition project that places an eclectic mix of photography in the public view, in parks and along sidewalks. From scarab beetles crawling across Art-Nouveau floral motifs, to raw images of refugees in the Mediterranean, to photomontage surrealism, The Fence provokes, astounds, and delights passers-by. It is well worth a visit this summer.
Shipping container shows: Through May 21, open Saturday–Sunday, 12–6 p.m., weather permitting.
The Fence: along Albany Street near Thayer Street, through September 1.
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