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Off-Campus: Mass MoCA Leaves a Massive Impression

In this weekly feature, we will share our ideas for what you can do “off-campus” while the museum is closed. This week’s entry comes from Anna Rogulina, Vassar College class of 2011 and Art Center student docent.

Re-projection: Hoosac, 2010 by Tobias Putrih, a work that is a part of the exhibition Material World: Sculpture to Environment. An inspection from various angles reveals an incredibly complex interaction between light and one very simple material.

For some, in the context of art, the term “contemporary” might as well be replaced by “inconsequential”, “inaccessible”,  “perverse”, etc. In reality, because “contemporary art” is hardly a single entity, it defies generalization. But you don’t have to take my word for it.

One possible way to shatter one’s negative expectations of contemporary art (or to reinforce already positive associations) is to pay a visit to MASS MoCA, a contemporary art museum that “thrives on making and presenting work that is fresh, surprising and challenging”. Situated in North Adams, a quaint town tucked away in the northwestern corner of Massachusetts, MASS MoCA has been an important and internationally renowned center for both visual and performing arts since its founding in 1986. Two weeks ago, the Lehman Loeb student docents were among the 120,000 visitors that MASS MoCA welcomes every year.

Upon our arrival to North Adams, we were greeted by the sprawling, industrial, brick facade of MASS MoCA. (Prior to its 1986 conversion, the site had served as a textile mill and later an electronics plant.) Once inside the courtyard, we encountered a row of trees hung upside down in the air and held there by a system of trusses – Tree Logic, an ongoing installation by Natalie Jeremijenko. Once inside, three stories and 100,000 square feet of exhibition space were ours to discover. With only two hours set aside for the visit, we were docents on a mission.
A total of twelve exhibitions are currently on view, covering a wide range of mediums from sculpture, painting, and photography to installation and video art. Many of the works live outside of simple classifications altogether. Material World: Sculpture to Environment is not to be missed: the exhibit presents a group of epic, site specific installations by seven different artists who transform ordinary, everyday materials into enchanting, awe-inspiring, and dynamic environments that take advantage of the galleries’ vast size. Other parts of the building are occupied by a Sol LeWitt retrospective, unique exhibitions from Petah Coyne and Leonard Nimoy, as well as a number of other projects. Study areas, shopping, and dining options are available for recharging.  All in all, MASS MoCA was well worth the three-hour drive. It is an exciting place to “unwrap” and chances are, there will be something for everyone.

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