The role of the audience in the experience of art is also at issue in “THE WORLD AS A STAGE,” at the Institute of Contemporary Art (100 Northern Ave, Boston; February 1–April 27), with work by artists operating at the intersection of visual art and theater including Andrea Fraser, Jeremy Deller, and Catherine Sullivan. Likewise at the ICA, “MOMENTUM 10: RANJANI SHETTAR” (March 19–July 13) features site-specific work by an artist whose delicate sculptural installations make use of organic as well as industrial materials and have been interpreted as evoking her native Bangalore, a high-tech Indian city in rural surroundings.
Early artistic exchange along trade routes in the Indian Ocean is the subject of “LUXURY FOR EXPORT: ARTISTIC EXCHANGE BETWEEN INDIA AND PORTUGAL AROUND 1600,” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (280 the Fenway, Boston; February 8–May 4). The centerpiece of this scholarly show is a rare 17th-century silk embroidery made in Bengal for export to Portugal.
Eco-friendly materials are HOT in “IT’S GETTING HOT IN HERE,” at Montserrat College of Art Gallery (23 Essex St, Beverly; February 15–April 5), a show that reflects the growing trend toward making use of materials that have minimal environmental impact. Artists including Ellen Driscoll, Vaughn Bell, and Rachel Perry Welty make fine work using recycled, used, and/or locally found materials.
The role of brands in creating identity and the growing overlap among art, design, and commerce are considered in “BRANDED AND ON DISPLAY,” at Tufts University Art Gallery (40R Talbot Avenue, Medford; January 17–March 30). Ashley Bickerton, Diller + Scofidio, Philippe Parreno & Pierre Huyghe, and more employ many media in their scrutiny of the deep personal relationship we maintain with our belongings. Also at Tufts, at the same time, is “IVAN NAVARRO: NO MAN’S LAND”: the Chilean artist’s work is informed by his experience growing up under Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship and by major figures in minimalism, particularly Dan Flavin and Tony Smith.
Forget the large-scale staged photographs that have come to dominate gallery exhibitions and museum shows of late — a brave new direction in photography finds artists making quietly powerful work with less-than-monumental subject matter. “LONG LIFE COOL WHITE: PHOTOGRAPHS BY MOYRA DAVEY,” at the Fogg Art Museum (32 Quincy St, Cambridge; February 28–June 30), marks the first survey of Davey’s work as it focuses on modest-sized shots of mundane accumulations of everyday objects including stacks of newspapers, books, records, and the stuff that ends up on the top of refrigerators. The related “TWO OR THREE THINGS I KNOW ABOUT HER” (thanks for the title, Jean-Luc), at the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts (24 Quincy Street, Cambridge; February 28–April 6), presents time-based video, sound, and slide pieces by Davey, K8 Hardy, Sharon Hayes, Ulrike Muller, and Wynne Greenwood, all of them concerned with the intersections of sex, freedom, and urban space in the post-9/11 era.
“WAR STORIES,” at Mass College of Art (621 Huntington Ave, Boston; February 11–March 12), examines the politics, events, and consequences surrounding war; the artists include Nina Berman, whose portraits and interviews with US soldiers wounded in Iraq will take your breath away.
The seven recipients of the Museum School’s 2006 Traveling Scholarship Awards show their stuff in “SMFA TRAVELING SCHOLARS,” at the Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Ave, Boston; February 2–March 2). The group includes Gem Sweater gal Leslie Hall, photographer Bill Durgin, and painter Laurel Sparks, who has a great way with Venetian chandeliers.
Even the office cubicle gets into the winter art act, playing muse to six artists who transform functional objects — rubber bands, paperclips, shredded documents — into the works on view in “OFFICE SPACE,” at the New Art Center (61 Washington Park, Newtonville; January 14–February 24).