Librería Donceles, A Brilliant and Uplifting Installation at Urbano Project

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything for anyone, let alone for this blog. I intended to publish shortly after the election of Donald Trump, but felt that no post—regardless of how good I felt about it—was worthy of being published. It goes without saying that the times we’re currently living in, are dark and terrifying. The anti-immigrant, white-nationalist rhetoric that launched the political career of Donald Trump has exposed many ugly truths about our society. While many of us continue to be in shock following the events of November 8, many more are determined to continue fighting for equal rights, liberty and justice for all.

It’s fitting that the first post of 2017 on The Evolving Critic is about Librería Donceles—an installation by Pablo Helguera currently on view at The Urbano Project in Boston’s Jamaica Plain neighborhood.

Practicing within the realm of performance, visual art, community outreach and social activism, Mr. Helguera conceived Librería Donceles as a socially engaging, part-functioning used bookstore and part-installation that aims at fostering a greater sense of community and cultural understanding in Boston. It also simultaneously exposes the social and economic inequalities that continue to plague Spanish-speaking, tax-paying New Americans in the United States.

The installation—brilliant and uplifting in so many ways—comprises of more than 10,000 used books in Spanish in all subjects, from the arts to travel and everything in between. Titled after Calle Donceles, a street in the historic quarters of Mexico City, Librería Donceles has been—until April 22nd—the only Spanish language bookstore in the City of Boston and the only I’ve ever been to in the United States.

Pablo Helguera performes at Libreria Donceles opening night at Project Urbano

Pablo Helguera performes at Libreria Donceles opening night at Project Urbano. Photo Courtesy of the Urbano Project.

Begun in 2013 in Brooklyn, New York, the project has gone through several iterations and has been installed in Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago, Indianapolis and finally, Boston. Those who visit the installation have access to all the books and events associated with it, regardless of income or socio-economic status. Those who wish to make a purchase are asked to limit it to one book per visit and donate what they wish for it. The funds collected through the sale of books will go towards Urbano’s arts education and social justice programs, something everyone should stand behind.

To further drive the point that bookstores are the pillars of communities, one of the most important components of Librería Donceles are its salon-like gatherings that bring members of the community together around conversations and workshops that foster and encourage social activism and tolerance. These community gatherings are what make this installation by Mr. Helguera one of the most powerful I’ve experienced in recent memory.

On the day I visited Librería Donceles, an intimate group of people gathered to hear poet and Wellesley College professor Majorie Agosín and her colleague Chris Mollica discuss among many things, the role poetry plays in our lives and the importance of listening to one another.

Librería Donceles reminds us all that celebrating our diversity and humanity, matters now more than ever in these uncertain times. Rather than focusing on building walls and closing our minds, we should focus on engaging and celebrating the many ways that make each and every one of us, human.

Libreria Donceles Helguera

Photo Courtesy: The Urbano Project


Libreria Donceles. Photo Courtesy: The Urbano Project.

Urbano is open Monday through Friday 1-6pm; Saturday 10am-2pm or by appointment. 29 Germania Street, Jamaica Plain, MA, 02130.

After a Much Awaited Relocation and Expansion, The McMullen Museum of Art Is Set to Reopen This Fall

McMullen Museum, atrium and entrance

McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College, Brighton Campus. 2101 Commonwealth Avenue. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

This September, after roughly two years of renovation and construction, Boston gears up to celebrate the grand reopening of the McMullen Museum of Art on the Boston College campus in Brighton.

Now housed in a newly renovated and expanded Renaissance Revival style building designed in 1927 by Maginnis and Walsh, the new McMullen Museum of Art will include 30,000 gross-square feet of exhibition space—that’s three times more the space it used to have in its former location also on campus.

Formerly located in a congested corner of Devlin Hall—one of the four original Gothic Revival buildings designed by Maginnis and Walsh on the college’s campus—the McMullen will feature two main galleries on the second floor, a sculpture gallery as well as a smaller gallery on the third. The renovations also include a large rooftop terrace.

LaFarge Windows, McMullen Museum of Art, Brighton Campus, Boston College.

LaFarge Windows, McMullen Museum of Art, Brighton Campus, Boston College. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

Opened in 1995 as a teaching museum, the McMullen Museum has organized many critically acclaimed exhibits, including an excellent retrospective on Wilfredo Lam as well as exhibits on Paul Klee, Roberto Matta, Edvard Munch, Sarah Westlake and Jackson Pollock among others. Its most recent tour de force, John La Farge and the Recovery of the Sacred, brought together more than 85 works consisting of paintings, stained glass windows, and works on paper that shed new light one of the most innovative American artists of the 19th century.

La Farge’s astonishing stained glass tryptic of Christ preaching, St. John the Evangelist, and St. Paul, a recent gift to the University from the Vareika Family, will be one of the crowning jewels on view in this newly renovated and expanded building by DiMella Shaffer.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus.

New McMullen Museum spaces at 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, on Brighton Campus. Photo Courtesy of Gary Wayne Gilbert, Boston College.

And as if a “new” museum in a new location wasn’t exciting enough, the McMullen Museum of Art has partnered with Harvard University’s Houghton Library and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for its inaugural exhibit, Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections. The exhibit, which is being billed as “one of the most important ensembles of illuminated manuscripts anywhere in North America,” will feature different explorations surrounding the creation and study of illuminated manuscripts. It will be on view concurrently at these indtitutions beginning on September 12 until December 11, 2016.

The museum, which has always been free to the public, will also expand its opening hours and relaunch a newly revamped docent program.

So much to look forward to this Fall at Boston College.

At PinkComma Gallery, Architecture Sandwiches to Satisfy All Your Cravings 


There’s something revelatory and even comical about the exhibit on view now at PinkComma Gallery in the South End. If you don’t know about PinkComma, allow me to introduce you to it. Curated by Chris Grimley, Michael Kubo and Mark Pasnik of Over,Under (and also the folks behind the phenomenal book that historicizes Boston City Hall, Heroic: Concrete Architecture and the New Boston), PinkComma is the firm’s exhibit space dedicated to all things design—architecture, landscape architecture, graphic design, urbanism, interior design and industrial design.

Not only is PinkComma a space dedicated to all things design, but a space dedicated to work “that may be at times politically unpalatable or financially untenable, unpopular or unacknowledged,” as curators explain on the gallery’s website. I can’t think of a more perfect space to exhibit Jennifer Bonner’s decadent architectural sandwiches than at PinkComma Gallery.

An assistant professor of architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Jennifer Bonner’s Best Sandwiches, is a small but delightfully snarky exhibit that’s sure to get you talking. Ingenious in its many subtleties, the exhibit comments on more than just architecture’s identity crisis—in my opinion, anyways. It pokes fun at an industry infatuated with trends and so much more, some of the ideas Ms. Bonner has been exploring in her conceptual work as an architect.

The nine sandwiches, along with the nine posters on display at PinkComma, are the product of one of Ms. Bonner’s many design and research projects, executed with her firm MALL (Mass Architectural Loopty Loops, or Miniature Angles and Little Lines, or Maximum Arches with Limited Liabilities)—an acronym that not only unleashes its own bit of snark unto Ms. Bonner’s work, but that also underscores the playful nature in much of it. “The acronym is a 20th century Americanism in wide circulation—Americans love their shorthand,” Ms. Bonner explains on her website. “MALL uses shortform, not to be quick or flippant, but because we can’t say that we have it all figured out yet.” This is brilliant, to say the least.

As you consider the architecture, composition and color combination of the architectural sandwiches on display—the classic grilled cheese, BLT, a scrumptious burger and other equally delicious (I think?) and eye catching creations in the gallery space—keep in mind Ms. Bonner’s Four Things to Note about Best Sandwiches, a cool, sort of manifesto that forms the basis for the sandwiches on display. Does it get any better than this? I think, not.

Are many of the works on view a little too overwhelming? Maybe. But is the exhibit astute and exhilarating? Absolutely. Everything from the neon colors to the tacky faux chrome pedestals on which the sandwiches are displayed on, should leave you with a grinning smile on your face.  Maybe I’ve read too much into all the snarky remarks built into every one of the sandwiches on display, but one thing is certain, I regret not knowing about this terrific exhibit earlier or I would have written a much more thorough review.



Best Sandwiches is on view through the month of July at PinkComma Gallery- 46 Waltham St. in the South End. All images courtesy of PinkComma Gallery and Jennifer Bonner (

The Evolving Critic is Runner-Up in Boston A-List’s Best Local Blog Poll

Just a quick update on the blog’s nomination as Best Local Blog by the Boston A-List and City Voter. Winners were announced on June 20, 2016 and I’m happy to say that The Evolving Critic is 2016’s Runner-Up in the Best Local Blog category. Thank you to all of you who voted for the blog and thank you for the support you’ve given me through the years. I also wanted to extend my congratulations to the music blog, Sounds of Boston for winning the top spot this year.