10 must-see museums that will banish winter gloom

MAYA LIN: MAPS Lin, the architect who designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, is renowned for bringing an uncanny degree of humanism to his often stark, minimal designs. At Smith College, where Lin’s Neilson Library recently opened, an exhibition of his map-based works is scheduled for late January. It focuses on climate change, species extinction and ecosystem devastation. 28 Jan-Aug. 7, Smith College Museum of Art, 20 Elm St., Northampton. 413-585-2760, smca.smith.edu

ONE OR THE OTHER: MARIE WATT AND CANNUPA HANSKA LUGER Watt and Luger are two Indigenous artists whose work spans the gamut from sculpture to installation, performance to video and across media including ceramics, wood, fabric, photography and barrels. oil (to name a few). Yet they have a binding sensibility: collaboration and community. The 26 works in this exhibition will include a new large-scale work created in concert with people from around the world who were asked to embroider messages on scraps of fabric which they embedded into an oversized patchwork coyote. From January 29 to May 8, Peabody Essex Museum. 161 Essex Street, Salem. 978-745-9500, pem.org

MARTIN PARR: TIME AND PLACE parr, perhaps best known for his photos of British working-class vacation spots and the British holidaymakers who populate them, treads uncomfortable ground that blurs the lines between objectification, affection and farce. He has been a dominant figure in the field of street photography for decades, and this exhibition, with 135 images, is the first extensive study of his work in an American museum. Of particular note are Parr’s photos of Ireland over the past four decades, charting its rise from poor cousin to its British neighbor and adversary to economic power. January 31-June 5, McMullen Museum of Art, Boston College. 2101 Commonwealth Ave, Boston. 617-552-8587, www.bc.edu/sites/artmuseum

Marie Watt and Cannupa Hanska Luger, “Each/Other”, 2020-2021. Courtesy of the artists (Artwork © Marie Watt and Cannupa Hanska Luger. Installation photography © Denver Art Museum)

© Denver Art Museum

BEING MUHOLI: PORTRAITS AS RESISTANCE The intense and often heartbreaking black-and-white photo self-portrait that South African artist Zanele Muholi is sometimes known for seems to encompass all the dark tensions of their home country’s racially charged history at once. Muholi says they are not an artist but a “visual activist”, and their work confirms this. Their images frequently tease a litany of stereotypes with the intention of deflating them and retrieving them from the bottom: Naked Muholi with shell breastplate, an exoticized nymph; or with a wooden footstool converted into a headgear, a noble savage. “Portraits As Resistance” is an apt name for their long-standing practice and will feature entirely new creative departures, such as colorful painting and bronze sculpture. February 10-May 8, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. 25 Evans Way, Boston. 617-566-1401, www.gardnermuseum.org

BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS: MY MECHANICAL SKETCHBOOK His graceful life-size painted portraits may be the work he is best known for, but Hendricks had a less visible undercurrent to his artistic creation that used photography in surprising and innovative ways. When Hendricks called it a “mechanical sketchbook”, he was hardly exaggerating. This exhibition brings together dozens of his photographs together with paintings and drawings that show an active and creative mind rarely at rest. It’s only part of Hendricks’ revival — the Brooklyn Museum is currently working on organizing a major career retrospective — that the artist, sadly, didn’t live to see. He died in 2017 at just 72, it seems, as his career was just getting started. February 10-July 24, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University. 415 South Street, Waltham. 781-736-3434, brandeis.edu/rose

Zanele Muholi, “Zazi II”, 2019 © Zanele Muholi. (Courtesy of the artist, Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York and Stevenson Gallery, Cape Town/Johannesburg)Courtesy of the artist

NAPOLEON JONES-HENDERSON: I AM AS I AM — A MAN Jones-Henderson, founding member of the collective African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA), has been based in Roxbury since 1974; since then he has been a teacher, mentor and pillar of community cultural initiatives. This study of his large-scale oeuvre, spanning tapestry, mosaic, sculpture and works on paper, takes into account the artist’s lifelong project to shed light on the experience of the African diaspora and the hard road to racial justice always with a hopeful spirit. future. February 17-July 24, Boston Institute of Contemporary Art. 25 Harbor Shore Drive. 617-478-3100, www.icaboston.org

WE THEM US: RACE ETHNICITY IDENTITY How can a single museum exhibition capture such a vast, loaded subject is a question worth asking; but good on the Worcester Art Museum for stepping so boldly into an arena that is increasingly becoming the norm for any museum, anywhere. This exhibition will “examine the ways in which contemporary artists accentuate concepts like race and ethnicity through various visual strategies,” particularly text, juxtaposition, seriality, and motif. February 19-June 19, Worcester Art Museum. 55 Salisbury Street, Worcester. 508-799-4406, www.worcesterart.org

MILTON AVERY An under-heralded American painter of the mid-20th century, Avery was overshadowed by the country’s obsession with the dominant narrative of Abstract Expressionism, including many key figures – Mark Rothko, anyone? – considered him a mentor and an inspiration. Avery’s works, often reduced to simple form and filled with vivid color, are a masterclass in composition, balance and the subtle subversion of traditional figure painting. This exhibition, with 60 key works, organized by the Royal Academy of Art in London, is the first major survey in more than 30 years and also represents a real homecoming: Avery grew up just outside Hartford and made his first formative attempts at creating art in the surrounding Connecticut landscape. From March 5 to June 5, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. 600 Main Street, Hartford, Connecticut 860-278-2670, www.thewadsworth.org

THE MODERN WORLD OF TURNER Joseph Mallord William Turner – or JMW, to you – was less a British artist of the Romantic era than a fiery experimenter whose bold work paved the way from serene Romanticism to the turbulent realm of Modernist art. Any Turner exhibit is almost inevitably a thrill ride; this one, with over 100 paintings and drawings centering on the central role of the artist as a bridge between eras, promises to be more than most. From March 27 to July 10, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston. 465 Huntington Ave 617-267-9300, www.mfa.org

A PLACE FOR ME: FIGURATIVE PAINTING NOW The obituary of figurative painting has been written so many times over the past 100 years that it is tempting to think of any exhibition as some sort of seance. The truth is quite the opposite: despite decades of avoidance by connoisseurs of the art world from millennial forms such as portraiture and landscape painting, it has never gone away and, in the last 20 years in particular, has experienced a bubbling renaissance. This show once again makes a point that should hardly need making: that human hands pushing paint to represent human beings are as basic to the culture of our species as walking and breathing. March 31-Sept. 5, Boston Institute of Contemporary Art. 25 Harbor Shore Drive. 617-478-3100, icaboston.org


Murray Whyte can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @TheMurrayWhyte.

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