Playtime, Drawn, & Questions and Answers
Playtime—Peabody Essex Museum
You know that you’re in Playtime from the squealing emanating from one of Martin Creed’s two pieces in the show, Work No. 329 (2004). The installation, following the artist’s precise instructions to “fill latex balloons with half of the air in a given space and then fill that space with the balloons,” is the highlight of the show because it’s most appealing to children, who know far more about play than the rest of us. The shrieks are theirs, though they themselves are invisible save for the displacement of balloons as they navigate the glowing pink room.
The best works for adults slip by our guard, using play to explore uncomfortable themes. Some of the strongest of these are videos: Mark Bradford’s 2003 short “Practice,” where he shoots hoops with deadly seriousness on a windy day while wearing an antebellum hoop skirt version of a Lakers uniform, and a collection of Angela Washko’s pieces (2012-17) set in World of Warcraft that focus on confronting sexism inside that sphere.
Show runs until 5.6. Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem. pem.org
Klimt and Schiele: Drawn—Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Gustav Klimt drew snaking lines that wend silently around the sheet as if of their own accord, creating curves and warm hollows, ruffling hair and defining pubic patches in loops like the path of a blind animal. Yet his figure studies are too authoritative to capitulate wholly to eroticism.
Egon Schiele, the world’s first punk, was 28 years Klimt’s junior—the same number of years he was to live before dying of Spanish Flu with his pregnant wife. His studio was a gathering place for delinquent youths. A charge of seducing a minor and exhibiting smut accessible to children led to many of his drawings being seized and destroyed. The judge even burned one in court.
Klimt and Schiele: Drawn at the MFA brings a hundred drawings from the Albertina in Vienna by the Byzantine decadent and his obstinate protege, the latter who seemed to know that he was not long for this world and answered by producing writhing, angular nudes, eternally mangled, sickly, disabled.
Show runs until 5.28. Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston. mfa.org.
Conny Goelz Schmitt: More Questions Than Answers—Kingston Gallery
At Kingston, Conny Goelz Schmitt is displaying abstractions made out of old books, built across the wall and away from it. She relies equally on collage, decollage, and assemblage. For those of us who are aficionados of both abstraction and used bookstores, the exhibition is catnip.
Behind the Scene (2017) is a boxy, irregular oval, five inches thick from the wall, with a rectilinear hub of cream paper, lightly foxed. It is in fact a color wheel, cycling through ROYGBIV as much as the old book cloth would allow, though the blue at the top spills outward, suggesting sky. The construction is sharp but humane. The treatment is hard-edge but the surfaces are redolent of times spent thoughtfully.
Getting the right vintage of material, or degrading the surfaces just so, can turn collage into a precious process. Goelz Schmitt checks that tendency with a fortitudinous formal vision. The used bookstore ambiance is there, but the freshness of good abstract composition predominates.
Show runs until 4.29. Kingston Gallery, 450 Harrison Ave., No. 43, Boston. kingstongallery.com
These shorts are being simultaneously published at Delicious Line, deliciousline.org. David Curcio is an artist who lives and works in Watertown. His work can be viewed at davidcurcio.com. Franklin Einspruch is the editor in chief of Delicious Line. Heather Kapplow is a Boston-based conceptual artist and writer, heatherkapplow.com.