Set your sights on these curators’ five must-see picks from springtime exhibits.
Photo Credit: Holly Rike
For M.C. Escher: Infinite Dimensions, the Museum of Fine Arts’ senior curator of European paintings, Ronni Baer, has pieced together 50 works by the Dutch graphic artist whose puzzling work has widely appeared on album covers and wallpapered dorm walls. It wasn’t until a few years before his death in 1972, however, that an arts institution mounted a retrospective of his mind-bending career. Through May 28, the MFA brings the first show of Escher originals to Boston, including the 13-foot-long woodcut Metamorphosis II, filled with swarming bees, a sloping village and a chessboard. “This extremely large print summarizes many of the subjects that fascinated the artist, including tessellations and transformations, and features his beloved birds and fish, figures that appear in many of his works,” Baer says. “In a sense, it’s a synopsis of his obsessions.” And the MFA also tapped chef Barbara Lynch, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and other creatives to muse on how Escher inspired them, including A.R.T. director Diane Paulus who reminisces about dreaming up The Donkey Show.
Get up in arms at Davis Museum through June 10 with Artists Take Action!, featuring 25 recently acquired pièces de résistance that address sexism, racism and other political and social issues. Among the prints and posters, find rallying cries from Obama illustrator Shepard Fairey and the decades-running anonymous collective Guerrilla Girls. Curator Meredith Fluke also points to Francisco de Goya’s 1810-20 Disasters of War series, which the Spanish artist created during the clash for the Iberian peninsula—the first that saw guerrilla warfare tactics. “The woman depicted is believed to be Agustina Zaragoza, a supporter of the Spanish militia who fired a cannon at the French army during the Napoleonic siege of Saragossa,” Fluke says. “At the same time, Goya’s depiction of her as a shadowy faceless entity atop a mass of bodies seems to complicate his caption, Que Valor! (What Courage!)”
For part of Based on a True Story, photographer Edie Bresler asked strangers to literally lend a hand as she created more than 100 cyanotypes of their outstretched arms. And for her March 19-April 19 exhibit, Simmons’ Trustman Gallery is also dressing its walls with her new ongoing endeavor Anonymous, sprung from a yearlong illness during which the Somerville resident found herself perusing photography books and struck by unnamed nude subjects. As Bresler invented their life stories, she placed the figures on new backdrops and stitched getups for them, as in Anonymous Man (1843). “The square haircut and wiry build is reminiscent of 19th-century sailors, and from there I make the transition to thinking of Ishmael in Melville’s Moby Dick,” director B. Lynch says. “The blank slate of an unknown story allows for speculation.”
From March 29 through May 4, flock to Babson College to catch a glimpse of Jane Marsching’s A bird I do not know, an investigation of the endangered Eskimo curlew, a 12-inch speckled brown bird whose mass migration from Canada to South America at one point turned the skies dark. “It addresses extinction by talking about the question of, ‘How and when do we know that we have lost something forever?’ ” Hollister Gallery director Danielle Krcmar says of the MassArt professor’s installation, which includes text, video and a sound component that tries to reproduce the animal’s call based on descriptions. “There have been unconfirmed amateur sightings, so while some hold hope that a few members of the species still survive, many believe it is most likely extinct,” Krcmar explains. Marsching documents these appearances in Sightings, 1709-2012, an acrylic sheet that spells out Texas, Maine, Labrador and other rumored locations.
Relocating from its 200-square-foot space on Shawmut Avenue, Kabinett Gallery breaks in its SoWa digs with Killers & Thrillers, highlighting the likes of Dana Schutz, Roy Lichtenstein and John Lennon. The inaugural exhibit closes on March 30, but two of the more than 50 artists, Jeff Quinn and Doug Henders, will make an encore appearance a week later in Unreal Estate, which runs through June 30. “Both play with the idea of the genre by interrogating what is real or imagined,” says gallery director/owner Gabriel Boyers. Henders, whose handiwork has graced Prince’s Around the World in a Day album cover, draws on his background as an Army cartographer in his work, including The Erasers, named after Alain Robbe-Grillet’s 1950s mystery novel. Says Boyers: “This painting began with a haunting photograph of a landscape in Cologne, Germany, but has been layered with mysterious forms which interrupt the landscape and confuse the narrative possibilities.”
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