MASS MoCA commission studies on view

Aug 09, 2017
Barbara Prey’s monumental watercolor at MASS MoCA shares a floor with a collection of Louise Bourgeois sculptures and works from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation; and long-term exhibits of work by Jenny Holzer, Laurie Anderson and Sol Lewitt.

Port Clyde — “MASS MoCA: Studies from a Museum Commission” will open Tuesday, Aug. 15, at Barbara Prey Projects, 855 Port Clyde Road/Route 131. The show will run through Sept. 20, concurrently with the “Inflection Points: 40 Years Painting Maine” annual exhibition.

The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art commissioned Barbara Prey to create the world’s largest known watercolor painting for exhibit in the front of their new Building 6, which opened to the public in May.

At 8-by-15 feet, the piece is, according to MASS MoCA director Joe Thompson, a technical tour de force that required specially made papers, mounts and frames — not to mention, the masterful execution of more than 120 square feet of watercolor painting, a transparent medium in which any “errors” cannot be erased or hidden.

The monumental scale of Prey's project broke boundaries and opened up new ideas and concepts within the artist’s own practice. “MASS MoCA Building 6” depicts part of North Adams’ historic mill in its raw, un-renovated state, just prior to its renovation into long-term exhibition spaces.

As an artist who works mainly on site, Prey spent countless hours in the space at MASS MoCA. As the concept developed, she started working on preliminary drawings during her visits. The studies began small and in pencil to accurately capture the architecture and overall composition; Prey then moved to color and larger formats, working out the light and the complex colors which focused on a different aspect of the space’s industrial beauty. Distinct advance studies include the quality of light, the layers of paint on the columns and the geometry of the industrial paned windows.

Prey painted more than 40 studies for the final painting. This exhibit of the drawings and paintings serves as reference for the final painting and uniquely chronicles the development of the commission.

Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily and by appointment. For more information, visit

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or

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