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Art Exhibit Transforms Storefront

A Harvard-owned storefront in Brighton that once hosted desk chairs and legal pads is today home to PURE, an art exhibition curated by Lisa L. Gordon ’93.

PURE features the work of over 70 artists, including medical professionals, technologists, and musicians. The exhibit ties together four themes—medicine, art, technology, and commerce—with the contrasting ideas of purity and contagion.

The month-long exhibit occupies a 20,000-square-foot space, formerly an OfficeMax superstore, in the Brighton Mills Shopping Plaza, which Harvard owns.

Gordon, who spent two years formulating the concepts behind the show and getting in touch with artists, wanted a nontraditional space for the exhibit.

Harvard Real Estate Services offered Gordon the use of one of the empty storefronts Harvard owns in Brighton.

“As cities become unlivable for artists because they’re too expensive, we’ll all be moving out to the shopping malls,” sculptor Gina Kamentsky told The Boston Globe. Kamentsky’s work is included in the exhibition.

Gordon, who concentrated in Visual and Environmental Studies and is a former Adams House photography tutor, originally wanted to stage the show in a laboratory space, as medicine is one of the exhibition’s themes.

She added commerce as another theme after deciding the show would take place in the former OfficeMax store.

“One of the things that artists always struggle with is their relationship with money,” Gordon said. “The fact that this is in an OfficeMax injects the idea that commerce is a vital part of art whether we like it or not.”

Visitors must go through a purification ritual upon entering the exhibit.

They place their hands on a “moral purifier” machine that uses a “plasma process,” to cleanse them morally for 90 days, according to Gordon. They also each receive a set of surgical gloves, mask, and hat.

PURE aims to challenge the current trend of white-walled art galleries and the assumption that they offer the least obstructed way of viewing artwork, according to Gordon.

“Now, most galleries that you go to are based on the sort of white-box gallery model,” Gordon said. “Anything that’s sort of become the system needs to be challenged.”

While the old OfficeMax space is essentially a white box, several elements challenge the traditional white-walled gallery, including bright fluorescent lighting, the largeness of the venue, and the completely bare walls, where none of the art is actually displayed.

The show, which runs from Oct. 14 through Nov. 12, is open Saturdays and Sundays from 12 to 5 p.m., Wednesdays from 12 to 2 p.m., and by appointment.
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