The objects created by Anissa Mack currently on display at the Contemporary Arts Forum are all about near misses and moments after-things that didn’t quite happen, and things that just happened. They are treated with a wry New England sensibility that’s filtered through Mack’s casual intellectual command of the vocabulary and tradition of contemporary art-making. In one piece, a series of off-to-the-side photographic portraits document the moment after a group of high school seniors had their yearbook photos taken. In another, the artist relives the debunking of a family myth by stitching the words “MY GREAT, GREAT, GREAT, GREAT GRANDFATHER KNEW DANIEL BOONE” onto quilts bought on eBay. These crisp witticisms and their attendant ironies of displacement and self-recognition achieve one effect in the gallery, and an entirely different resonance in the context of the private homes in which a nearly identical counter-exhibition is held.
On the morning of Saturday, April 28, 14 or so people gathered at CAF to join the journey to the houses where Mack has installed the partner pieces. Mack explained that as an artist, “there is a point when you realize it’s relatively easy to get your work into another big white box, and to see it juxtaposed with other labeled objects in a space that’s been designated for art. But to see what the work looks like and means in someone’s home, amid their belongings and their life? This you don’t see as much.”
During the next three hours, we caravanned from a breathtaking new Jeffrey Berkus house high above the Bird Refuge, where the owner throws clever and elegant vases and fires them on the property, to a cottage on Alamar Street full of amazing digital sand sculptures, and finally to a spot tucked behind Hendry’s Beach, where black glass panthers keep house with a beloved old light-green Wedgewood gas stove. Everywhere we went, we were accompanied by the charming Mack, who described and cajoled and explained and remembered as happily as the two birds we heard singing in the chimney at the final house. The whole thing repeats itself, with new houses, on Sunday, May 13, and Saturday, June 9, both days at 11 a.m.