Save the Dates: Six Highly Anticipated Exhibitions

By: Christopher Volpe

Georgia O’Keeffe, The Mountain, New Mexico, 1931, oil on canvas. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase 32.14. ©The Georgia O’Keeffe Foundation/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. 

Taken together, the region’s most exciting upcoming exhibitions offer a dramatic and thought-provoking exploration of the very nature of art, from its origins in drawing to its outer reaches in data and sound. Exhibitions on the calendar range from drawings by ancient Egyptians, Michelangelo and Leonardo, to an audio-intervention in a New Hampshire village and an examination of the selfie. Here are six of the most highly anticipated upcoming shows from Rhode Island to Maine.

Lines of Thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to Now from the British Museum
October 6, 2017–January 7, 2018
RISD Museum
Providence, RI

Drawing can be used as an active process of discovery, a tool for profound questioning of the world of appearances and things. But how much is drawing—fundamental for the history of Western art—still relevant to contemporary practice? That question lies at the heart of RISD’s Lines of Thought. For this exhibition, RISD has borrowed 70 choice works from the British Museum, many never before seen in the U.S. Rather than present the works chronologically, Lines of Thought highlights the relationship of drawing to thinking and the thought-processes involved in many forms of art, from generating ideas to synthesizing multiple solutions to a problem. The selection spans 500 years, from the Renaissance through Albrecht Dürer, Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Pablo Picasso, Bridget Riley, Peter Doig, Rachel Whiteread, William Kentridge and RISD alumna Julie Mehretu. The exhibition as a whole investigates “the ability of drawing to show the direct and immediate relationship between the artists and their material,” according to the curators, “and the continuing importance of drawing today.”

Manuel Neri: The Human Figure in Plaster and on Paper
March 2–July 8, 2018
Yale University Art Gallery
New Haven, CT

When, as a young ceramicist, Manuel Neri saw his first child being born, he realized, “the body has the magic.” His art spun around on its heels, and he found himself molding the human figure in plaster, which as a “mere blob,” as he’s called it, allowed him to work quickly and spontaneously. Today, Neri is considered a major force in keeping Bay Area figuration relevant and fresh. Now in his mid-70s, Neri has managed not just to carry on, but to extend the semi-abstracted, expressionistic approach to the figure developed by Joan Brown, David Park and Neri’s own mentors Elmer Bischoff, Wayne Thiebaud and Richard Diebenkorn. This exhibition showcases Neri’s plaster sculptures and works on paper from a recent major gift to the gallery by the Manuel Neri Trust.

EXL1 2017 37 Seurat Study for La Grande Jatte 00099000 001
Georges Seurat, Study for La Grande Jatte, 1884, conté crayon, touched with pen and ink, 16 3/4 x 24 3/4″. ©The Trustees of the British Museum (2017).

Georgia O’Keeffe: Art, Image, Style
December 16, 2017–April 1, 2018
Peabody Essex Museum
Salem, MA

If Georgia O’Keeffe were living today, she’d be famous even if she didn’t make art. A brilliant stylist, O’Keeffe cultivated a unified aesthetic by creating her own androgynous look and bringing to her self-crafted public persona the same mystique of intense independence, severity and elegant simplification that marks her art. Georgia O’Keeffe: Art, Image, Style, organized by the Brooklyn Museum with guest curator Wanda M. Corn, considers the whole package—art, image and personal style, of the iconic artist—including her clothing and the way she posed for the camera. An expert seamstress, O’Keeffe’s understated and carefully designed garments will be presented alongside meticulously staged photographs and her paintings, illuminating O’Keeffe’s modernist aesthetic. Her bold yet restrained, minimal-organic fashion continues to captivate the public imagination and to inspire contemporary design, perhaps because, as she stated, “Nothing is less real than realism—details are confusing. It is only by selection, by elimination, by emphasis, that we get the real meaning of things.”

Resonant Spaces
September 15, 2017–December 10, 2017
Hood Museum
Hanover, NH

Art that you can neither see nor touch, sound art takes abstraction and turns it up to 11. Sound installations (some say sound “sculptures”) use the environment as a source of musical information or produce nonmusical soundscapes from an object, sculpture, instrument or living being. It can be responsive to installed spaces or autonomous, continuous or intermittent, loud or soft, intended to conjure up visual imagery in the mind of the listener or designed specifically not to. In collaboration with guest-curator faculty member Spencer Topel, Resonant Spaces will showcase diverse work from emerging and established international sound artists in seven site-specific and sound-based commissions that will guide visitors across the Dartmouth campus and into the town of Hanover. Artists creating new installations for the show include Bill Fontana, Christine Sun Kim, Jacob Kirkegaard, Alvin Lucier, Laura Maes and Julianne Swartz.

September 22, 2017–November 11, 2017
Helen Day Art Center
Stowe, VT

The (blurry) line between selfie and self-portrait has arguably been that way since Andy Warhol turned a brand new Polaroid camera toward his own made-up face (see Self-Portrait in Drag). In addition to Warhol’s self-portrait Polaroids, on view will be photo-based images from Suzy Lake, Cindy Sherman, Carrie Mae Weems, performance-based works from Marina Abramović and “self-video” work from such artists as Hannah Perry. Bringing it up to our fraught, digital minute will be altered images appropriated from the Internet by emerging LA artist Sarana Mehra. In each work, the artist is generally both sitter and “author” in an intimate moment of personal revelation (or invention), providing another clue to the riddle of self and identity, persona and archetype, autobiography and performance. The work of guest curator Sarah Greiche, Selfies promises a compelling lens through which to focus on presence, distortion, artifice and candor.

ManuelNeri RemakingofMaryJulia 1976
Manuel Neri, The Remaking of Mary Julia, 1976, plaster, steel armature, Styrofoam, and burlap. Yale University Art Gallery, Gift of the Manuel Neri Trust. Photo: M. Lee Fatherree/The Manuel Neri Trust.

Nan Goldin: Family History
October 6, 2017—December 31, 2017
Portland Museum of Art
Portland, ME

Few visual artists have been so influential in disrupting the boundary between art and life as photographer Nan Goldin. After leaving her parents’ suburban home at the age of 13, Goldin formed a kind of surrogate “family,” a chosen family she photographed constantly. “Creating a history by recording a history,” Goldin fixed her new “history” in time through unvarnished, intimate glimpses into her life played out in nightclubs and drag bars as well as hotel rooms, hospitals and beyond. Nan Goldin: Family History questions the notion of “history” and “family” through the presentation of two of Goldin’s multimedia installations, a series of grids in which Goldin has grouped—and in many cases reprinted—her photographs into narrative themes, several works from her most recent project and approximately two dozen photographs spanning her career.

Christopher Volpe is a New Hampshire-based artist and teacher.

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