Exhibition expedition

By GREG COOK  |  June 14, 2006

“American Splendor: Hudson River School Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum,” Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT, June 2 through December 31
This is a collection of 60 swooning landscapes by American painters associated with the 19th-century Hudson River School — Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, Albert Bierstadt, Sanford Gifford, and John Kensett. These vistas of New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the Catskills, Niagara Falls, Maine’s Mount Desert Island, and, of course, the Hudson River speak to the promise of America’s natural resources, while simultaneously revealing the artists’ nostalgia for an already-tamed wildernesses.

FROM THE PRIVATE COLLECTION: Frederic Church’s Twilight at the Portland Museum of Art.
“Treasures from Olana: Landscapes by Frederic Edwin Church,” Portland Museum of Art, Portland, ME, through September 10
Frederic Church was trained by Hudson River School founder Thomas Cole and went on to become a major landscape painter in his own right. See these 18 oil, watercolor, and drawn studies of Maine, Jamaica, the Near East, and Germany taken from Olana, Church’s home in upstate New York.
Afterward, you can study Portland’s own Church canvas, an 1895 rendering of Maine’s Mount Katahdin.

While you’re there, check out the summer exhibition of a 15th-century Mona Lisa, which the museum bills as “either a preparatory study for the Mona Lisa by Leonardo himself, or a copy painted by one of his followers shortly after the creation of the original.” It looks a lot like the original, but I’m dubious about Leonardo’s involvement (the facial anatomy is off, the colors seem unusual for Leonardo, and, if it’s really a Leonardo, how come they usually hide the thing?). Decide for yourself.

“Ahistoric Occasion: Artists Making History,” Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA, May 27 through Spring 2007
Eleven contemporary artists weigh in on how we remember and misremember history in our reality-TV era. Works include Jeremy Deller’s filmed re-enactment of a 1984 British coal miners’ strike (complete with “1000 fake bricks for miners to throw”); Allison Smith’s arrangement of rifles, sabers, and pistols as folk-art wall decorations; Greta Pratt’s photo of Lincoln impersonators posed as if they were in one of Mathew Brady’s classic Civil War photos; and Kerry James Marshall’s searing examination of the portrayal of blacks in Western art via his paintings, sculptures, and comics.

Also check out Carsten Höller’s Amusement Park (open through October). He runs actual carnival rides like the Gravitron, bumper cars, and Twister in slow-mo to, like, blow your mind.

“Back to the Future: Re-Viewing the Twentieth Century,” RISD Museum, Providence, RI, July 21 through April 22, 2007
The RISD Museum rewinds 20th-century art with the greatest hits from its permanent collection — Kara Walker, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Henri Matisse, Marcel Duchamp, Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque — and highlights links between past and present. The museum is testing ideas for how it will re-install its 20th-century works once a new addition opens in 2008.

On the Web
Peabody Essex Museum: http://www.pem.org
Shelburne Museum: http://www.shelburnemuseum.org
RISD Museum: http://www.risdmuseum.org
Aldrich Contemporary Museum: http://www.aldrichart.org
Bates College Museum of Art: http://www.bates.edu/museum.xml
Worcester Art Museum: http://www.worcesterart.org
Wadsworth Atheneum: http://www.wadsworthatheneum.org
Portland Museum of Art: http://www.portlandmuseum.org
Mass MoCA: http://www.massmoca.org

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