BY MARTHA JEONG
Next time you find yourself on the oh-so-familiar Newbury Street, consider taking a road less traveled. A great way to see contemporary art for free is the numerous art galleries which line the drive on both sides, nestled among the designer shops, jewelry stores, and numerous culinary delights. To all of those single law school men out there, next time you ask a date to dinner on Newbury, why not score some cultural points by casually suggesting the two of you check out some galleries while waiting for your table to open up? Be sure to pick up the newest edition of the Gallery Guide which is available at most galleries to give you a jump start; it lists the current month’s exhibition listings around town as well as a map of the galleries you will want to check out. Remember that galleries on Newbury tend to be clustered together, so if you spot one, chances are there is another one lurking close by. Also, if you’re looking to impress that special someone, take your date before dinner, as galleries tend to close around 5 or 6 on the weekends. For those in need of a caffeine jolt, pick up an Espresso dello Zio (traditional Italian espresso with a dollop of creamy foam and cocoa powder) or, for those feeling more indulgent, try an Espresso Affogato (espresso over vanilla gelato) at Torrefazione Italia (85 Newbury) before you start your gallery-hopping.
First, one has to pay respects to the longest running commercial gallery on Newbury: Child’s (169 Newbury), established in 1937. This unassuming gallery reminds me slightly of the shop in Stephen King’s Needful Things, but only in the best way-without all the horrors. I watched as an older couple worked with one of the gallery’s employees; they provided a description of the medium they were thinking about and the styles they enjoyed, and the employee came back with all sorts of suggestions from the back room, behind the layers of paintings which line the main floor. Climb down a short winding set of wooden stairs to take a look at their works on paper and be sure to say hello to Meghan when you are there. Ask her to show you Joseph Pennel’s etching from 1919 called The Terminal, Weehawken, an incredible work that highlights the Manhattan skyline. While you are there, take a quick art lesson from Meghan on how etchings and dry points are made. Definitely take advantage of the art gallery staff; they are an underused resource, vastly different from the security guards in museums whose only advice to you is not to breathe so hard on the Monet.
And for those of you who like to go to galleries where you recognize the artist’s name, DTR Modern Galleries (167 Newbury) is the place for you. Last week, DTR opened the largest surrealist exhibition in Boston. Works by Max Ernst, Rene Magritte, Joan Miro, Alexander Calder, and Salvador Dali line the walls of this bright and welcoming gallery floor. Homesick New Yorkers would be happy to know this is a Chelsea-based gallery which focuses entirely on 20th century art. DTR offered five complete suites of Dali and I was surprised to see that many had little red dots on them, the equivalent of the “I’m going home!” sign on puppy cages at pet stores. Note: if you want to take Dali’s The Blood of the Yin and Yang back with you to Gropius, you’ll be $14,850 behind in your loans. And something to look forward to: DTR’s upcoming exhibition Pop Show! (starting October 7th) features works by Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, Robert Rauschenberg and more.
If flat art isn’t your thing, try the Pucker Gallery (171 Newbury) which is exhibiting porcelain works by Brother Thomas Bezanson until October 16th, as well as other ceramic works, Inuit soapstone carvings, and media constructions, in their beautiful, five floor gallery. You can also get a preview of the upcoming exhibition Mark Davis’ colorful, brass, aluminum and steel wired mobiles. The opening reception entitled Energy in Motion will take place on Saturday, October 22nd, from 3-6 p.m. Attire is casual; go drink wine, chat with the artist, and play with the mobiles. If you make it to the Pucker, be sure to spend a few minutes gazing at two of the most mesmerizing watercolors I saw on Newbury: Yellowstone Fire and Wooded Shore, both by Donald Holden.
On a lucky day, you’ll run into veteran MFA-trained artist, Brian Josselyn, as he paints on the streets of Newbury in a style he coined as Luscious Realism. In laymen’s terms, it looks like he’s painting with buckets of Duncan Hines frosting. The beachscapes are exceptionally marvelous. The colorful paint strokes drip thickly out of the canvas, tempting you to take a quick lick and run away quickly.
Finally, when you are done with the art gallery-hopping and need a place to rest those weary legs and culturally-exhausted minds, take a break at Piattini (226 Newbury), an Italian tapas-style restaurant. No heat lamps on the patio, so the cozy indoor dining room for the evenings would be your best bet. Be prepared to either feel a little teased by the small dishes or make an extra trip to the ATM if you want to fill up on these samplers: small plates run from $7.95 to $11.95 and one order will feed but a small feeble child. Waitress suggests 3-4 per person, but some are more filling than others and all are meant to be shared. One notable dish is the Ravioli di Zucca Gialla, a butternut squash ravioli made with brown sugar, apple cider and sage, which seems like a part of dessert that escaped early into the main meal. The best part of the Piattini menu is that they do all the wine pairing work for you-each small plate is accompanied by one or two numbers which correspond to the wine list. And if you want to continue the “food-tease” theme, try your hand at one of the five wine flights ($9.00 to $10.50). Food and drink are all very delightful, just be sure to hit up Felipe’s on your way back to campus.
Another art event not to be missed: Degas at Harvard runs through November 27th at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum. Thursdays have late viewing times until 8 p.m. and students with Harvard IDs are admitted free of charge. Brush up on your knowledge of the artist, by getting a free lunch tour, offered from 12:15 to 12:45. If you’re feeling personally inspired, take your pencils and sketchbook between 1-3 p.m. on October 2nd and 9th to the Sackler lobby, where a ballerina will be present to pose for the audience.