100 Northern Boulevard, Boston | $15 | 617.478.3100 or icaboston.org
"STAN VANDERBEEK: THE CULTURE INTERCOM" | MIT's List Visual Arts Center | February 4–April 3 | VanDerBeek began his career working on a 1950s kids TV show and proceeded to become a pioneering tech artist, serving as artist in residence at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies and WGBH TV from 1969 to '71 and collaborating with the likes of Claes Oldenburg, Allan Kaprow, Merce Cunningham, and Yvonne Rainer until his death in 1984. His collages, stop-motion animations, immersive multi-projection film environments, and computer-generated videos often merge a playful, childlike jauntiness and early psychedelia with influences from Dada, the Beats, and Black Mountain College in North Carolina, where he studied. His formal invention parallels his concern that technological advances were outstripping the moral capacity of people to manage them. At times his work questions Cold War politics, violence, and race relations in America, while asserting the responsibility of artists to shape technology to foster a better world.
20 Ames St, Cambridge | Free | 617.253.4680 or listart.mit.edu
"ELEGANT ENIGMAS: THE ART OF EDWARD GOREY" | Boston Athenaeum | February 9–June 3 | Gorey (1925-2000), the master of neo-Edwardian gothic wit who spent his last years on Cape Cod, gets a well-deserved retrospective of some 180 works. Sampling his cartoony pen-and-ink drawings, from The Doubtful Guest to his macabre alphabet book The Gashlycrumb Tinies, the show, organized by the Brandywine River Museum, should live up to Gorey's droll goal for his art: "In a way, I hope it is mildly unsettling."
10½ Beacon St, Boston | suggested donation $5 | 617.227.0270 or bostonathenaeum.org
"CONVERSATIONS: PHOTOGRAPHY FROM THE BANK OF AMERICA COLLECTION" | Museum of Fine Arts | February 9–June 19 | The MFA digs into the art collection of Bank of America (one of our favorite government-bailed-out banks) to highlight 100 images — from Francis Frith's 1858 photo of ancient Egyptian ruins to Lee Friedlander's 1962 shot of a face staring out of a television at the end of a Virginia hotel-room bed to William Eggleston's monumental 1970s photo of a tricycle — for a snapshot history of photography.
465 Huntington Ave, Boston | $20 | 617.267.9300 or mfa.org
"FRANCIS ALŸS: THE MOMENT WHERE SCULPTURE HAPPENS" | Davis Museum at Wellesley College | February 16–June 5 | Belgian-born, Mexico-based Alÿs has stalked an ostrich across Patagonia, wandered Mexico City with a Baretta in his hand, walked the 1948 partition line of Jerusalem at the end of the Arab-Israeli war, chased a tornado, and spent nine hours pushing a large block of ice through the hot streets of Mexico City until all that was left of it was a puddle. In advance of his Museum of Modern Art retrospective opening in May, the Davis Museum offers a small sampler of Alÿs's conceptual shenanigans and his mulling of futility.
106 Central St, Wellesley | Free | 781.283.2051 or davismuseum.wellesley.edu
"GOLDEN: DUTCH AND FLEMISH MASTERWORKS FROM THE ROSE-MARIE AND EIJK VAN OTTERLOO COLLECTION"| Peabody Essex Museum | February 26–June 19 | An exemplary selection of 17th-century northern European art, including Rembrandt, Frans Hals, Jacob van Ruisdael, Jan Brueghel the Elder, and Jan Steen, showcases the brilliance of the region's golden age. The nearly 70 paintings are all drawn from the private collection of a Massachusetts couple.
1 East India Square, Salem | $15 | 866.745.1876 or pem.org
Read Greg Cook's blog at gregcookland.com/journal, where through January 5 he's looking at your nominations for the 2010 New England Art Awards.