SALLY OF THE Tassle used to hang around Scollay Square. Harvard professors still half-consciously desire her attractively active navel. But Scollary Square is now Government Center Plaza. It has a brand new blue and green MBTA, the John F. Kennedy building, and the new City Hall.
The City Hall's architecture is consciously new and vast. The guides say that it is planned to last 500 years. But it is so much separated from the City that it already conveys aging's aloof serenity. The building perceives, reaches out, looks around, withdraws. Its varying orifices capture the different frequencies of light and people in the City. The extending superstructure engulfs and enfolds. The cavernous expanse of the delicate underbelly captures you before you're aware.
The bricks of the Old city give way to the textured concrete of the New. Once inside, you are free. Already on the third level when you enter, you look up a hundred feet to the overhanging cliffs of a stairwell from the bare arcadia in which you stand. The red-gray bricks carry you to sunny terrace and farther and up to the concrete transition.
The exhibition gallery is still higher, almost hidden. Two low-ceilinged spaces, lit even to the corners, surround the Boston Now exhibition by young Boston artists. Few of the thirty pieces of painting and sculpture are even three old. Hyman Bloom's mysterious, Dorerlike forest in Charcoal, done by the dean of Boston artists in 1963, is remote and antique.
The triumphal enthusiasm of Boston's new artists' groups rebounds in the gallery. Groups like the Boston Studio Coalition, Art and Technology Inc., and the Institute of Contemporary Art know that they are firm in their grasp. Finally, one is comfortable with the heirs of Abstract Expressionism, all of them. We are at last joyfully in our own century.
A large jury of critics and collectors selected the works. Unfortunately, the exhibition is not as cohesive not as rich as one hand-picked by one man, but the diversity pushes at the limits of our contemporary sensibility.
Some of the works are, of course, stronger than others. You don't remember Anthony Thompson's rectangular sheet of clear plexiglass with one corner folded until you're deep in the subway. Only then does the powerful subtlety of Minimal Art attack. By contrast, the huge white canvas with three thick black lines by Curtis Crystal, a Tufts undergraduate, seems consciously aware of its importance.
And for once, the same act that liberates the artist can liberate us. Curtis Crystal writes:
Conditioned into insecurity as to the validity of our own experience, we want to know what to expect from our art rather than meet the challenge of true expereince. The idea that the creative process is complete within the decisions of the artist is erroneous and contemptible of the viewer. The actuality of a work lies not in the relationships within the work, but in relationships established between it and the viewer.
Artist may work with space and color. Since Cezanne, an artist's space has been getting shallower and his color brighter. One of the best pieces in the exhibition, Andrew Tavarelli's red, blue, yellow, orange, and green stain painting, again on a gigantic canvas, is color, floating and blowing across a white expanse.
The exhibition passes quickly, almost at a Mussorgsky-like pace. At the end of the gallery, you stop at a large window through which the City comes into the room. It takes a while to feel that the City is beating in the same rhythm as the room. After a tour through the minds of newly-won friends, I realized that I too was throbbing with the same pulse. At the exhibition, I found that the New City had become my city.