Art in the air conditioning

Local museums keep you cool — and the art's pretty good, too
By GREG COOK  |  June 16, 2010

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From "Avedon Fashion: 1944 - 2000," August 10 through January 17 at the MFA.

From Picasso to William "Shrek" Steig's cartoons, and surfer photos to a Twilight Zone toy store, New England offers art worth traveling to this summer. Here we round up the best in the region, no matter the weather or your artistic inclinations.

MASSACHUSETTS
MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS | Since World War II, Boston's most internationally celebrated art has been photography — from Harold "Doc" Edgerton to Nan Goldin. The area's most prominent artist today may be Nicholas Nixon of Brookline, who has photographed Boston cityscapes (he was included in the seminal 1975 "New Topographics" exhibition), people dying of AIDS, and his own kin. "Family Album" (July 28 through May 1) presents intimate glimpses into the life of his family when his children were young, as well as his most famous work, annual portraits of the Brown Sisters (his wife and her three siblings) since 1975, which have come to seem a monument to aging.

Nobody ever gets old in "Avedon Fashion: 1944–2000" (August 10 through January 17), a survey of the late New Yorker Richard Avedon's legendary fashion photography. It begins with his work for Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, suave shots of smartly dressed models seemingly on the fly in romantic '40s Paris.

465 Huntington Avenue, Boston | 617.267.9300 | mfa.org

INSTITUTE OF CONTEMPORARY ART | "Charles LeDray: workworkworkworkwork" (July 16 through October 17) surveys the New York sculptor's meticulously handcrafted doll-size suits, hats, and vases. From a miniature coat rack to a bed piled with clothes, to a model of the solar system carved from bone, LeDray uses small scales to condense feelings of nostalgia, loneliness, and loss.

100 Northern Avenue, Boston | 617.478.3100 | icaboston.org

NORMAN ROCKWELL MUSEUM | Shrek, back in theaters with Shrek Forever After, began his hideously, deliciously curmudgeonly life in William Steig's 1990 picture book. Steig (1907–2003), who spent his last years in Boston, was one of the great cartoonists of the past century. "Love and Laughter" (June 12 through October 31) shows how he took off from Picasso and Jung and children's doodles to make cartoons in the New Yorker and, beginning in his 60s, children's books like the Caldecott Medal–winning Sylvester and the Magic Pebble that push the bounds of the medium — and crack us up.

9 Route 183, Stockbridge | 413.298.4100 | nrm.org

PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM | For "Imprints" (June 12 through January 1), Mark Ruwedel lugged his large-format camera to remote spots on the high plains and deserts of the American West to record stark images of ancient human footprints and dinosaur tracks. These marks have survived millennia to connect us to our ancestors.

East India Square, Salem | 978.745.9500 | pem.org

ISABELLA STEWART GARDNER MUSEUM | Special exhibitions take a hiatus as this jewel-box museum undergoes its Renzo Piano–designed expansion. But Mrs. Jack's extraordinary collection remains on view — from Botticelli to John Singer Sargent to Titian's Europa, one of the Venetian master's greatest canvases.

280 Fenway, Boston | 617.566.1401 | gardnermuseum.org

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  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Entertainment, Rockwell Kent, Isabella Stewart Gardner,  More more >
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