Tuesday, August 23, 2011

INTENT and the Artist Behind It

"How's it going, man? All of my fingertips are tingling."

Those were the first words that friend and artist Wade Aaron said on Monday when I walked into a temporary workspace that had been set up for him at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. On the floor in front of us was a 4'x15' panel Wade had been hunching over for three days. Today it was so he could cut, strip, twist and cap wiring for 95 of an eventual 333 light sockets. Eight more to go. Tomorrow it'll be down to 238. Materials still hadn't arrived. Schedules were getting messy.

"This is the tough part," Wade said of the hidden, solitary process any artist has to slog through to give final form to an initial concept. In this case, however, the effort will be rewarded at a preordained time. On Saturday, September 17 at 8 p.m., MFA staff will flip a switch and Untitled (INTENT), Wade's completed, 600-pound light installation will shine high and bright over thousands of revelers attending the museum's highly anticipated opening of the Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art.

For nearly two years the work's 333 incan- descent light bulbs will at first spell the word INTENT but then slowly lose their message as they randomly burn out one by one. Right now, however, all Wade wants is a burrito, so we set out into a flawlessly sunny day with my husband Marc and Allison Carswell, who keep 13FOREST on course. Finding Mexican in a college area? It's the easiest thing Wade will do for the next few weeks.

When the Linde wing is open, the MFA will have space to present new works of art from its own and other museum's inventories, and from the studios of emerging artists like Wade who, until now, have had difficulty finding venues in Boston. Sparking Dialogue is the title of the exhibition that Wade's installation will announce from a prominent location above the museum's concourse. As the MFA states, this particular show will introduce "electric-lit text-based works to offer open-ended statements and prompt discussion about contemporary culture." Inspired by the work of Jenny Holzer, it will include more than a dozen works by acclaimed artists such as Joseph Kosuth, Kader Attia and Tracey Emin.

Wade's a calm man, a brother who always looks forward. When I asked about being included in his first high-profile exhibition, he stated, "At an institution like the MFA, my voice gets shouted into a cultural space where voices like Kosuth's have been echoing for forty-plus years. I mean, this is a guy whose practice I've referenced very specifically in some of my past work. I think I can feel proud to be included." But, he adds, it's an experience that he wants the MFA to give to a countless number of emerging artists as well. One could argue it's the right thing to do.

On the way back to Wade's temporary workspace, we talked about his prints and drawings that are now on display at 13FOREST as part of Space/Light/City, which will run through Friday, October 7. After the Linde opening on September 17, Wade will return to the area from Manhattan to be the featured speaker at a special event at the gallery on Friday, September 23 from 7-9 pm. It will be free and open to the public.

He'll have a lot to talk about. And some sleep to catch up on.

Untitled (INTENT) - concept rendering
commercial light fixtures with incandescent lamps
40 1/2" x 166 1/2" x 5", designed; installation dimensions variable