The art world in and around Cambridge has been producing thousands of words, but few pictures worth looking at, these weeks. Anthony Caro's sculpture at the MFA, one of the bright oases in the desert of exhibits, is leaving the museum May 9; Wedding just closed at the Carpenter Center. Gund Hall is trying to sell the Semitic Museum in an exhibit that contains three objects and lots of propaganda to show that something is going on over in the basement of the Center for International Affairs, where the Museum is buried. The Fogg's Contemporary Photographs are contemporary to the point of being already dated, and photographic to the extreme of gimmickiness. Though the Special Exhibition of American Art on the ground floor of the Fogg "illustrates in several ways the changes in American art during the course of the 19th century," as the blurb has it, the changes, the paintings (and the "period" for that matter) are boring.
But there are some small ways to escape into a world more harmonious than Cambridge, or a time less threatening than Reading Period. Upstairs at the Fogg, Orazio Gentileschi's Madonna With the Sleeping Christ Child (a recent acquisition) shines with that inexplicable inner light of Caravaggio, Gentileschi's master. And in a small back gallery on the first floor of the museum the Heinz Gotze Exhibit of Japanese Art exemplifies the peculiarly Oriental process of passing from the seen to the unseen. The paintings and calligraphy make a pictorial poetry which Ezra Pound described as "the ideal language of the world."
In Boston, the Institute of Contemporary Art is showing paintings which prove our world aesthetically meaningless. Catherine Murphy's scenes of cities and suburbs we all know only too well are absolutely unbeautiful and have absolutely nothing to say. Except that there is frighteningly little that is lovely in the life outside the window of her apartment or automobile. One has to look hard to find the trees in Ailanthus Trees; it comes as a slight surprise to find them there behind the billboards, alive, green, growing.
Get back on the Green Line, change at Park St., and take the Orange Line through Roxbury (look out the window) to Forest Hills. At the Arboretum the lilacs are in bloom and the crabapples and cherry trees are just finishing. The use of form and color should delight the eye of any aesthete. There is a display about the history, uses and so forth of the collection if you insist on an indoors definition of art. But the best exhibit is outside.