UNTITLED #5 (INAUGURATION PORTRAIT) Catherine Opie’s work ranges from tough, queer self-portraits to images of high-school football players to photos of the Obama inauguration.
This spring brings major exhibits by three of the biggest names in contemporary art. Nigeria-based sculptor EL ANATSUI has astonished viewers in recent years by turning recycled liquor-bottle caps into monumental kente-cloth-like quilts. "When I Last Wrote to You About Africa," at Wellesley College's Davis Museum (106 Central St, Wellesley; March 30–June 30), surveys four decades of his work. And the artist himself arrives for a March 31 talk.
DALE CHIHULY is a champion of too-much-of-a-good-thing excess in his glass sculptures resembling wedding cakes, balloon animals, and tropical reefs. "Through the Looking Glass," at the Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Ave, Boston; April 10–August 7), looks at the Seattle artist's work going back to his graduation from RISD in 1968. A highlight: his spiky Lime Green Icicle Tower will rise 42 feet high in the MFA's courtyard.
The Institute of Contemporary Art (100 Northern Blvd, Boston; April 15–September 5) focuses on Los Angeles photographer CATHERINE OPIE, whose work has ranged from tough, queer self-portraits in which she might appear topless with the word "pervert" cut into her chest to images of high-school football players to photos of the Obama inauguration to placid vistas of the Alaska coast. She speaks at the ICA on April 14.
In "THE RECORD: CONTEMPORARY ART AND VINYL" (April 15–September 5), the ICA explores album-inspired art, from David Byrne's Polaroids for a Talking Heads record cover to a column of vinyl records by William Cordova. For more music-inspired art, check out "ON TOUR: LETTERPRESS GIG POSTERS," at Montserrat College of Art (23 Essex St, Beverly; March 8–April 8), and a new sound piece at the Peabody Essex Museum (East India Square, Salem; May 7–September 1) by SUSAN PHILIPSZ, who won the 2010 Turner Prize for a recording installed under three Glasgow bridges on which she sings a traditional Scottish lament about a drowned lover haunting her sweetheart.
The BOSTON CYBERARTS FESTIVAL, the seventh biennial showcase of tech and digital art at various institutions across the city (headquarters at Atlantic Wharf, 530 Atlantic Ave, Boston; April 22–May 8), offers events ranging from talks by local video-game developers to the raising of Otto Piene's large, brightly lit "star" over MIT's Killian Court.
Barbara Krakow Gallery (10 Newbury St, Boston; April 30–June 7) exhibits late paintings and prints with titles like Headless in Iraq, Explosion, and Reinventing Empire by Cantabrigian MICHAEL MAZUR, who died in 2009. Artists Michael David, Joel Janowitz, and Betsey Garand remember Mazur in an April 10 talk at the Danforth Museum of Art (123 Union Ave, Framingham), which has an exhibit of Mazur's 1960s expressionist prints, "Images from a Locked Ward," on view through May 1. Hospitals and death are also the subjects of Philadelphia photographer LORI WASELCHUK's "Grace Before Dying," at the Photographic Resource Center (832 Comm Ave, Boston; May 17–July 10), which features gritty photos of inmates, many serving life sentences, at the Louisiana State Penitentiary hospital in Angola.
Best known for cedar sculptures that resemble craggy cliffs, New Yorker URSULA VON RYDINGSVARD gets the retrospective treatment with "Sculpture 1991–2011" at the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum (51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln; May 28–August 28). And in preparation for a large outdoor snowy sculpture by British land artist ANDY GOLDSWORTHY, the DeCordova showcases his preparatory sketches and related works (May 28–December 31).