REAL/IDEAL Globe review

The Boston Center for the Arts looks at utopia

By Cate McQuaid GLOBE CORRESPONDENT  AUGUST 24, 2017

 MELISSA BLACKALL PHOTOGRAPHY

MELISSA BLACKALL PHOTOGRAPHY

“REAL/IDEAL (Turning Utopia Into Reality)” at the Boston Center for the Arts Mills Gallery is a reassuring show for tense times.

In recent years, Randi Hopkins, the center’s director of visual arts, has elevated the annual resident artists’ exhibition above the level of an obligatory members show, which can be scattershot. This year, curator David Guerra invited 18 residents and 10 guests to contemplate utopia. These artists’ ideals range from personal to philosophical to societal, but they hang together on hope.

Kate Gilbert installs her photo “Untitled (Chinatown Housing)” above rocks and asphalt adorned with gold leaf, moss, and a nylon sack. In the photo, a dress Gilbert wore for a public performance piece about economic inequality has been made into a tent in a deserted lot. Each element here sets off bare subsistence with touches of value and dearness, and the prospect of wholeness.

Utopias are easy. It’s in dystopias such as Gilbert’s that ideals are most cherished.

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