One of the great joys of summer is a simple day-trip to North Adams, Massachusetts, where you’ll find Mass MoCA, one of the most unusual contemporary art museums in the world. Not only is it the site for the spectacular quasi-permanent exhibitions of Sol LeWitt and Anselm Kiefer, but this former industrial factory complex is also that rare museum that provides major artists with the time and space necessary for truly ground-breaking exhibitions.
This summer, Mass MoCA is home to two such shows. In the massive central exhibition hall, you will find Izhar Patkin’s long-overdue survey, and it alone would be worth the trip. But in the light-filled triple-height galleries on the first floor there is another exquisite exhibition, this one of of new site-specific works by New York artist Teresita Fernández.
Fernández, whose work is distinguished by her poetic exploration of materials, has produced a series of installations exploring her continuing interest in the relative notions of scale. The Vedic concept “as above so below”—which serves as the exhibition’s evocative title—led Fernández to create room-scaled sculptural environments that compel the viewer to experience a particularly grand idea of beauty.
Patkin is an Israeli-born artist who has worked in New York since the early 1980s and whose art marries formal complexity, extraordinary craftsmanship and a highly original engagement with challenging notions of narrative and metaphor. Patkin works in a wide range of media, including porcelain, glass and a remarkable form of painting on layers of tulle that the artist invented. These tulle works are the star of the show, and experienced via a suite of five room-sized installations based on collaborations with the late Kashmiri-American poet Agha Shahid Ali.
On view through Labor Day, the Patkin and Fernández exhibitions have intelligence and soulful beauty in equal measure, and in an art world often defined by empty spectacle, a trip to Mass MoCA may be just the summer tonic you need.
The Wandering Veil: Izhar Patkin at Mass MOCA in North Adams, MA through Labor Day. Teresita Fernández: As Above So Below is on view through April of 2015.