Dead Blogging ‘Avant-Garde Japanese Fashions’ And ‘Impressionists On The Water’ At PEM

Well the Missus and I trundled up to the Peabody Essex Museum over the weekend to catch Future Beauty: Avant-Garde Japanese Fashion (through January 26, 2014) and Impressionists on the Water (through February 17, 2014), and, say, they were . . . underwhelming.

From PEM’s description of the Japanese Fashion exhibit:

Japanese designers such as Issey Miyake, Rei Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto reshaped fashion in the early 1980s. The tatsuno_aw_1993_16584_art_01d_rb_fgqkadj2narrow silhouettes of Western couture gave way to flowing, sculpted forms. A reduced range of color emphasized cut and proportion. The voluminous spaces they created between body and fabric boldly redefined Japanese avant-garde fashion and forced people to reconsider the relationship between art, design and fashion.

Upon reconsideration, the hardworking staf thought it was kind of silly.

Then again, you should check out WBUR stalwart Sacha Pfeiffer’s Radio Boston tour of the exhibit for an alternative view.

On to the Impressionist Water works:

As an artistic subject, there could be no better match for the Impressionists than the element of water.  The play of light, sense of atmosphere and physical experience of floating in a web-a303559_monet_011813_copy1groundless world were irresistible for artists like Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Signac and Caillebotte  (an accomplished sailor in his own right)  — key Impressionists who spent many hours at sea, on river boats, leisure craft and floating studios.

These artists painted in gestural techniques to suggest movement and the ephemeral, yet also frequently made specific notations of changing configurations of hull, sail and rigging. In the process, they celebrated the experience of gently drifting on a riverboat, or braving the elements on a ship at sea.

Through nearly 60 oil paintings, works on paper, models and small craft, this exhibition illuminates the importance that access to the sea and France’s extensive inland waterways played in the development of one of the world’s most enduring artistic movements.

Again, the hardlooking staff found the exhibit less than see-worthy, but Boston Globe art critic Sebastian Smee floated a different view.

From a marketing standpoint, whoever thought up “Impressionists on the Water” was a sky-sniffing, steely-eyed diviner. You thought the Impressionist well had dried up? That merely using the word “Impressionist” in the title of an exhibition was no longer guaranteed to bring in the crowds?

I give you “Impressionists on the Water” at the Peabody Essex Museum. With plenty of padding, it’s a show that’s far from overflowing with masterpieces. But it’s solid enough, and has trumps up its sleeve.

Our recommendation: Trundle up to PEM and see for yourself.

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