Wall Works

Natalie Lanese - Retro Future
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On View Jun 11, 2011 - Apr 22, 2012
Exhibition Location: Dewey Family Gallery

In Wall Works, six artists were invited to create site-specific wall installations in response to the Museum’s collection of modern and contemporary American art. In preparation for the exhibition, artists Kysa Johnson, Natalie Lanese, Caleb Neelon, Alison Owen, Justin Richel, and Mary Temple trolled the Museum’s database of 3,500 objects and selected an artwork to serve as a source of inspiration for their proposed “wall work.” The artists identified artworks that resonated with their varied interests and aesthetics and have consequently assembled an eclectic assortment of objects from deCordova’s collection. Sited both in the gallery and the Museum’s Café, these new installations reflect each artist’s own practice while creatively engaging the Permanent Collection as an educational, historical, and inspirational entity. 

Additionally, the artists reference longstanding artistic traditions of working directly on the wall. Caleb Neelon’s piece draws on the history of slogans through street art, placards, bumper stickers, and buttons in his graphic portrayal of the visual language of political activism. Alison Owen’s subtle investigation of space emerges from the conceptual practice of Sol LeWitt’s architectural wall drawings, while Natalie Lanese’s pop-tastic assemblage refers to the tradition of murals as narrative epics. Justin Richel’s delicately rendered sweets and Kysa Johnson’s dense chalk drawings on blackboard call upon early fresco techniques, whereas Mary Temple’s use of the wall as conduit speaks to the history of site-specific artwork.   

Wall Works is part of a new initiative to rethink Permanent Collection exhibitions at deCordova. This “artist as curator” project invites the artists to curate their own exhibitions from the institutional vault, mining the collection for new relationships and meaning. By illuminating both the unique holdings of deCordova and the work of the participating artists, Wall Works aims to create a new space for dialogue between the collection and contemporary art practice.

Participate in Wall Works! Share "someone else's secret" by completing the "Secret" form and have it included and performed in Mary Temple's site-specific, sound piece Someone Else's Secret. (Form no longer available.)

Watch Natalie Lanese as she creates her installation, "Retro Future" for Wall Works.


All programs are free with Museum admission.

Process Gallery

Explore Wall Works in a behind-the-scenes way through hands-on interactive activities, touchable materials samples, and insights on all six artists’ site-specific installations at deCordova. Find out more about how the artists installed their work, the creative inspirations behind their practices, and challenges of working directly on the wall in this interactive gallery.  

Cell Phone Audio Tour

Part of the Wall Works process involved the six exhibiting artists selecting a work from deCordova’s Permanent Collection to respond to. Bring your cell phones to hear from the artists-as curators and learn more about how their site-specific installations relate to the pieces in deCordova’s collection in this artist-as-curator exhibition.

Public Installation Tour

May 31, 1 pm

See Wall Works from the insider’s perspective with this unique behind-the-scenes opportunity.  The public will have a chance to watch the installations take place, and ask questions and converse with the six artists installing site-specific artworks.

Artist Talks

Saturdays at 3 pm

Come to deCordova to meet the artists behind the artwork. Meet five of the artists from Wall Works and take the opportunity to get the inside perspective on the artists’ work, processes, and creative inspirations. Talks begin at 3 pm in the 3rd Floor Lobby, and will be followed by a brief Q & A period.

June 18: Alison Owen

June 25: Natalie Lanese

July 9: Kysa Johnson

July 16: Mary Temple

October 15, 2 pm: Caleb Neelon

Curator Talk

Saturday, July 30, 3 pm: Koch Curatorial Fellow Lexi Lee

Eye Wonder

Sunday, July 10, 1–3 pm, drop-in: Guest Artist Kysa Johnson