Cate McQuaid, Boston Globe: Jenene Nagy

Two local biennials demonstrate value of curator’s eye

By Cate McQuaid
Boston Globe
November 24, 2015

Artists get the spotlight, but the curator makes the exhibition. It’s the curator who comes up with arguments to defend, themes to flesh out, and formal links around which to install a show. If you just throw a bunch of art up on the wall without a curator’s eye, you’ve likely got visual cacophony.

Two venerable local biennials, both juried shows, are up now. The Boston Center for the Arts’ “24th Drawing Show: Feelers,” at the Mills Gallery, has a curator: artist Susan Metrican. “Boston Printmakers 2015 North American Print Biennial,” at Lesley University’s Lunder Arts Center, tapped artist Willie Cole as a juror, but lacks a curator and an overall theme. “Feelers” is by far the more graceful show.

That’s not to say the work in the print biennial is bad — Cole has a cunning eye and a pungent sense of humor — or even that it’s poorly installed. There’s just too much going on.

If there’s a theme, it’s how wide and varied the field of printmaking has grown. Just as it moves from screenprint to digital print, the show shuttles wildly from satire to landscape, from abstraction to illustration. An exhibition should coalesce into more than the sum of its parts, and this one does not.