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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts • Page 83
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The Boston Globe from Boston, Massachusetts • Page 83

The Boston Globei
Boston, Massachusetts
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a 4 4 Namos Faces F2 Literary Life F3 Book Review FG Advice F9 iwnrff (0) Movie Directory F8-9 bJI mJ L-J Lai RadioTV D13-14 .1 THE BOSTON GLOBE WEDNESDAY, JULY 1, 1998 (2J Hi Right on principle, offonNEA hen it came time to be counted, one man If stood up for artistic freedom in America. He is a bit of an odd The film is likely to be a box-office rocket, even if it's a manufactured effort that parodies itself. duck. When not in Washington, he lives alone in a small town in New Hampshire. His idea of a hot author is Henry Adams. If you offered him a free ticket to see performance "artist" Karen Finley smear her naked body with chocolate and alfalfa sprouts to protest the 'oppression of women, he would politely decline. His name is David Last week, the Supreme Court handed down its long-awaited ruling 'on government funding for the arts. an 8-1 majority in Finley v. National Endowment for the Arts, Ihe court upheld a 1990 law requiring the NEA to observe "general standards of decency" when doling out grants. The dissenter was David Souter. Couched in legal mumbo jumbo, Supreme Court decisions can be hard to understand. This one is no exception. Liberals moaned about the "chilling effect" of Finley. Conservatives couldn't figure out what it meant. Newt Gingrich loved it; Justice Antonin Scalia, who voted with the majority, hated it. That's because the court's finger- in-the-wind trimmers diluted Finley's impact by insisting that the 1990 law was merely "advisory." No guts, no glory; no grants. The court's pusillanimous center caved in to the far right while ensuring that a silver-spoon Cambridge "liberal" like Steve Breyer will still get invited to the right cocktail parties on the Vineyard this summer. Listen to the sound of a clear mind at work. Here is the first paragraph of Justice Souter's lonely dissent: "The question here is whether this statute is unconstitutional on its face: It is." Although his opinion plumbs the many subtleties of Finley, his prose remains as clear as Lake Chocorua's waters. After citing numerous Supreme Court decisions reinforcing the idea "that the First Amendment means that government has no power to restrict expression because of its message," he concludes: "It goes without saying that artistic expression lies within this First Amendment protection." By Jay CaiT OI.OUF STAFF Movie Review duced by Jerry Bruckheimer Gun," "Days of the high-energy advocate behind this one. "Armageddon" is a manufactured object that parodies itself in the image of a big heavy thing about to be dropped on us from a great height. You probably won't be furrowing your brow wondering if the heroes do the job. We're still here, right? Still, one sign of a truly advanced civilization is that in a given summer you can have a choice of cosmic killer movies. We now have two, and compared with "Armageddon," FILM, PageF4 terone attack. Guys whose idea of a good movie consists of watching things get blown up to an amped-up soundtrack are going to be happy with this one, even if it seems no more than an attitude-heavy recycling of "Deep Impact." Just to make sure the frenzy concept stays upfront, director Michael Bay shakes the camera a lot as the heroes blast off and favors a rapid-fire cutting style that raises the question of whether the world is going to be saved by America or by MTV. Blast is the operative word here, as it usually is in films pro 'Armageddon' is just another cataclysm, though fresh cast is a bright spot nnageddon" is big and noisy and stupid and shameless and it's going to be huge at the box of-fice. Never mind what you hear about the movie's low-tech oil riggers sent into space to blow up a Texas-size asteroid before it creams our planet. "Armageddon" isn't really about an asteroid attack. It's about a testos Bold 'DeCordova Annual' By Christine Temin GLOBE STAFF fect, a series of small, discrete solo turns, you inevitably discover connections between artists. This year's show is heavy on the personal, the intimate, the obsessed. The only politics are sexual. Most of the artists are concerned, in one way or another, with history. Most important, unlike many contemporary artists, this group is not afraid of beauty, because they know how to create it without cliche. There's a geographical connection among them, too. All the artists work in the Boston area, except for Tom Chapin, based in Maine, and John Hughes, in Vermont. These two will be the least familiar to Boston gallery-goers. The DeCordova's new space makes it possible to show substantial bodies of work by each artist -even large installations like Vico Fabbris's "Botanical Unknown," which looks like the private cabinet of curiosities of some wacky 18th-century botanist who'd collected exotic species from the far corners of the globe. Fabbris fabricates plants. He makes meticulously detailed water-colors of his plant fantasies, accompanied by painstaking histories hand-PERSPECTIVES, Page F7 LINCOLN The DeCordova Museum has changed the name of the series it used to call "Artists Visions" to the more prosaic "DeCordova Annual." Ironically, this year's artists have more vision than usual. This is the Perspectives boldest of these group shows by New Englanders that the DeCordova has mounted every summer since 1989. And it looks the best, thanks not only to the artists and curators, but also to the museum's new and renovated spaces. Among the 10 artists DeCordova curators Rachel Rosenfield Lafo and Nick Capasso selected for the 1998 annual, there are young talents and veterans, artists who work with oil paint or marble, an artist who works with Handi Wipes and Band-Aids. This series has never had either theme or theory, which makes it a refreshing break from exhibitions weighed down by convoluted curatorial concepts. Even though the show is always, in ef Ben Freeman's mixed-media "Romance: Heartbreaker" (1997). Now for the kicker. I think Souter is right on form, but wrong on content On arts funding, I am a pure Jacobin, meaning a down-the-line supporter of Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby, who has written several columns trashing the NEA. Not enough ill can befall the NEA, which simultaneously craps all over deeply held moral values and religious beliefs while snaking its surly hand into taxpayers' pockets. If anything, conservative commentators have gone too easy on the NEA. Much of what jokers like have-museum-will-travel David Ross and the Guggenheim's Thomas 1 1 Krens call "art" is just smoke blown i in the face of rich, ignorant collectors, with the Greek Chorus of i High Art criticsmedicine men hooting in the background. When I was a callow teenager, I used to opine that modern art ended with Piet Mondrian. Thirty years later, I'm not so sure I was wrong. But I digress. Here's Newton's own Barbara Grossman, who leveraged her friendship with the Clintons into a nebulous NEA sinecure, assuring the world that the 1 endowment's days of underwriting Andres Serrano's "Piss Christ" and Robert Mapplethorpe's perversions are over. Wrong! Ross's trashy Whitney Museum featured what one reviewer called a "perverted Santa's workshop" with naked female elves defecating into buckets. Naturally, the Whitney feasts at the NEA BEAM, Page F3 Berkshire theaters offer pair of peaks By Ed Siegel (il.OLIF STAFF STOCKBRIDGE A year ago two of the best productions on any Massachusetts stage originated in the Berkshires "Quills" at the Berkshire Theatre Festi- I I I 1 I -X -5 V- J- -C i I I iBiMMniin'i "-i'-H y-- Il'ir mini ttiaaeaar -TWTWjMjtttMWWMiad val's Unicorn Theatre and ReVieW "Puhrpt" at Rarrineton Statre Stage Eric Hill at the Unicorn and Julianne Boyd at Barring-ton. If they worked in the Boston area, one could easily imagine Hill directing plays at the American Repertory Theatre and Boyd working at the Huntington Theatre Company. In fact, Hill and his wife, Kate Maguire, producing director at the Berkshire Theatre Festival, cast two members from the ART Institute, Gin Hammond and Rob Grader, as members of the Unicorn, BTF's experimental non-Equity second stage. Both have prominent roles in "Life's a Dream," Pedro Calderon de la Barca's 17th-century masterpiece in which Oedipus the King meets Richard the Third. The king of Poland has been told that his son, Sigismund, will grow up to be a tyrant so he keeps him imprisoned and his identity STAGE, Page F8 Company. The two season openers this year begin where those theaters left off. "Life's a Dream" at the Unicorn in Stockbridge and "A Little Night Music" at Barring-ton Stage in Sheffield aren't the eye-poppers that "Quills" and "Cabaret" were, but they're both excellent productions worth a Tanglewood detour. Both stages are run by active theater directors. PHOTO NUL HAMMFR Tom Story portrays Sigismund in "Life's a Dream" at the Unicorn Theatre.

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