With a quiet, unflinching confidence, Virginia L. Molyneaux Hewlett Douglass posed for the photographer, one slender hand rustling the pleats of her fine silk dress. Although portraits were trendy and accessible in the 1860s when hers was shot, hand-colored photographs were a luxury, and this one is saturated with shades of emerald and lilac, underlining Virginia’s wealth and high social standing as the wife of Frederick Douglass, Jr., son of the celebrated abolitionist. Her name is handwritten above the portrait in flowery cursive as Mrs. Frederick Douglas, pasted into one of two recently discovered albums that have the potential to change much of what we know of the network of African-Americans centered around the steep north slope of Boston’s Beacon Hill in the 1860s and beyond.  Read More…

 

Image: This hand-colored carte de visite depicts Virginia L. Molyneaux Hewlett Douglass, who married Frederick Douglass, Jr., the son of the famous African American leader. The mount is inscribed: “Mrs. Fredk Douglass.” (Courtesy of the Boston Athenæum)

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“Maximalism” is having a moment. But what does it really mean? In fashion and design circles, it is thrown around almost as frequently and hollowly as all variations of “curator”, the curator Jenelle Porter joked at the press preview for Less is a Bore: Maximalist Art and Design, her show at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) Boston (until 22 September).

The exhibition’s starting point rewards knowledge of a battle of 20th century architectural maxims that began with Mies van der Rohe adopting “Less is More” as his mantra in 1947 to describe a rigidly pared-down Minimalist vision. In 1963, Robert Venturi then wittily retorted, “Less is a bore”, praising fluid design that takes on qualities and needs of its locale rather than blindly obeying the inflexible principles of an intellectual movement.

Stepping into the first of four galleries devoted to the show and pausing in front of a large-scale Sol LeWitt line drawing from 1976, faithfully reproduced and installed by the ICA staff using the artist’s set of directions, I anticipated a summer fling bent on attracting crowds of Boston Seaport visitors who wanted busy, decorative backdrops for their live Instagram stories. Read More…

Image Credit: Nathalie du Pasquier, Untitled (around 1984), marker and collage. Courtesy of the artist

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The Civil Rights division of the Massachusetts attorney general’s office is investigating an incident at the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA), Boston that occurred on 16 May, in which a group of honours middle school students and their chaperones on a visit from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy in Boston reported being racially profiled and harassed by museum patrons, volunteers and staff. The office contacted the school and museum after media reports about the trip, says a spokeswoman for the attorney general Maura Healey.

Together with their teachers, the students, all of whom identify as persons of colour, filed a complaint in person that day, before abruptly leaving the museum. The group reported being followed uncomfortably closely by security guards, and while on their way to an African art gallery hearing a visitor loudly and offensively comment, “Never mind, there are [expletive] black kids in the way”, among other instances of harassment. Read More…

Image Credit: Michael Matthews/Alamy

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