Fall Arts Preview: Visual Arts
Stop. Look. Think.: Lots to see and ponder at museums this fall
“Just Looking,” the great title of John Updike’s book on visiting museums, is the perfect way to describe this fall’s upcoming exhibitions. But instead of “Just Looking,” there may be some thinking, talking, and learning as well.
The Museum of Fine Arts, in the midst of a half-billion dollar expansion program, offers one of the more interestingly titled exhibitions ever: “Shy Boy, She Devil and Isis.” It’s a collection of contemporary decorative arts — and we’re not talking your grandmother’s rocking chair here. Opens Sept. 11, and runs through Jan. 6. Other fall exhibitions at the MFA include three separate shows of Japanese art, including “Sumo, Japan’s Big Sport,” which highlights paintings and woodblock prints of sumo wrestlers.
With its swanky new waterfront location and greatly expanded physical resources, the Institute of Contemporary Art has dozens of programs and exhibitions this fall. One of the most interesting events is a one-day photo show, with narrators and musicians (including Yo-Yo Ma), which is focused on the ongoing bloodshed in Sudan’s Darfur region. The exhibition, “Darfur/Darfur,” takes place Sept. 7. Among the other fall highlights include the second show of the ICA’s new permanent collection, “Accumulations.”
Jackson Pollock fans will probably be riveted by the just-opened “Pollock Matters” exhibit at Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art. The show explores the relationship between Pollock and noted photographer Herbert Matter. Their relationship is at the center of a fascinating debate: whether 25 paintings recently discovered in a storage facility belonging to Matter are actually the work of Pollock. The paintings are part of the exhibit, which runs through Dec. 9.
The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem has also reinvented itself in recent years, with a nearly $200 million expansion that has not only transformed the museum but much of downtown Salem. Upcoming exhibitions include the magnificent ornate furniture of Samuel McIntire, opening Oct. 13 (although we are privately looking most forward to “The Art of Maori Tattoo,” which opens next February).
The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, also in the midst of a huge expansion, has an ongoing exhibition aimed at the mellow crowd, who need to sit and think and avoid the pressures and excesses of everyday life. “The Asian Shore,” created by Stefano Arienti, brings together works by the artist inspired by works in the Gardner’s collection. Visitors are encouraged to take off their shoes, come and sit on rugs in the gallery, and meditate about the art. Ooommm.
The Harvard art museums — the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger and Sackler — specialize of course in teaching exhibitions. This fall is no different, as upcoming shows will highlight contemporary art from the permanent collections, Indian drawings, paintings by the German modernist Max Beckmann, and opening in December, of what appears to be a fascinating exhibition that compares the arts of the Islamic world with that of India.
Museums seem to be doing the best job of trying to bridge the cultural gap between our culture and Islamic culture — lord knows we’re not doing it politically. Framingham’s Danforth Museum’s biennial photography show, which opens Sept. 9, includes the work of Rania Matar, whose photographs from Beirut juxtapose veiled women with mini-skirted supermodels. This major exhibition includes 78 photographs chosen from more than 600 submissions.
Railroad freaks will be queuing up for Lincoln’s Decordova Museum’s “Trainscape,” an installation of art for model railroads, which just opened. You can also see an exhibition of new gifts to the museum’s permanent collection, Harriet Casdin-Silver’s holograms, a Randal Thurston installation, “Kingdom,” and Ricardo Barros’ riveting photographs of sculpture.
The Davis Museum in Wellesley takes a look at “Global Feminism,” using sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, video and performance to explore the definition of feminism. The exhibit also asks what it means to be a feminist artist today. The exhibit runs Sept. 19 to Dec. 9.