April 1, 2012

ART REVIEW: Bell-Smith show a fascinating, fun look at technology in art


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"Return to Forever" by Michael-Bell Smith.

Courtesy of Michael Bell-Smith

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"Action Hack" by Michael Bell-Smith.

Courtesy of Michael Bell-Smith

Additional Photos Below


WHERE: ICA at MECA, 522 Congress St., Portland

WHEN: Through April 8

HOURS: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday to Sunday; until 7 p.m. Thursday

COST: Free

INFO: 775-3052; meca.ed/ica

My favorite is "Art Tape: Live With/Think About," which is basically a "video" for the Talking Heads' song "Naive Melody." It begins with a scene from the TV show "Law and Order" in which two characters debate the merits of Impressionism versus the gruesomely heady physicality of Lucien Freud's nudes.

It switches to the creation of a superficially artsy apartment in the movie "Wall Street" and then shifts to "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," in which a trio of school-skipping teenagers spends much of their day of freedom gaping at masterpieces at the Art Institute of Chicago.

Instead of tooting his own horn, Bell-Smith credits the pop culture set-piece movie with appropriating the paintings in the first place. This observant humility smartly serves to place Bell-Smith's own work within an undeniable continuum of popular culture.

Bell-Smith punctuates "Art Tape" with a scene of his own electronic whiteboard gestures happily bouncing to the music. It's a brilliant work of art, and all the more so for being so sweetly enjoyable.

You might associate appropriation with amoral, cutting-edge postmodernism, but looking back at Manet, Van Gogh, Cubism, Dada, Surrealism and post-war American art, it's nothing new. What has changed are copyright laws and reproduction technologies.

Bell-Smith's insight follows the fact that our sensibilities now accommodate digital media. His elegant point isn't the uniqueness of his own work, but rather that our cultural developments have made it essentially inevitable.


Freelance writer Daniel Kany is an art historian who lives in Cumberland. He can be contacted at:



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Additional Photos

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"Art Tape" by Michael Bell-Smith.

Courtesy of Michael Bell-Smith


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