Survival is at issue for artist John Osorio-Buck; projects in his “Utopia” series explore affordable and sustainable building practices. “U7H36: NEW WORK BY JOHN OSORIO-BUCK” at the Essex Art Center (56 Island St, Lawrence; October 26–December 7) presents work from “Utopia 7,” in which he develops a series of shelter units incorporating such systems as hydroponics, with the aim of being able to grow food if (when?) water quality or other environmental hazards preclude traditional gardening. Food, survival, and social exchange meet up with contemporary art practice in “YUM LOCAL(E)”, which is being presented by the Berwick Research Institute in partnership with Somerville’s ArtsUnion (Union Square, Somerville; October 13: 3-6 pm). Starting in early September, the Berwick will install answer boxes around the Union Square Farmer’s Market so that visitors can submit their responses to questions regarding “local food.” On October 13, the public is invited to eat, reflect, and discuss issues of food, memory, and terroir.
At MIT, two guest-curated multimedia shows are on tap. Daniel Birnbaum considers the use of sound, voice, and theatrical performance in “SOUNDING THE SUBJECT,” with work by artists including David Hammons and Pipilotti Rist. And Caroline Jones brings us “VIDEO TRAJECTORIES,” with works by more than 20 artists. (List Visual Arts Center, 20 Ames St, Cambridge; October 21–December 31).
Architecture, furniture, film, fashion, product design, and animation are just some of the creative fields represented in “DESIGN LIFE NOW: NATIONAL DESIGN TRIENNIAL” at the Institute of Contemporary Art (100 Northern Ave, Boston; September 28–January 6). This one showcases the work of designers and firms ranging from start-ups to biggies like Apple and Nike. Mexican art and design is the subject of “¡SENSACIONAL! MEXICAN STREET GRAPHICS” at Mass College of Art (621 Huntington Ave, Boston; September 24–November 24), an exhibition of murals, flyers, paintings, and posters capturing the flavor and emotion of contemporary Mexico.
Digital photomontage animation that evokes the altarpieces of northern Europe is on view in “CLIFF EVANS: EMPYREAN” at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (280 the Fenway, Boston; November 9–January 20). Evans uses imagery from the Internet to create a mythic story of baptism, repetition, and return, in light of contemporary issues of power and population control. Napoleon I used Classical emblems of power — the Roman eagle, the laurel leaf — to signify France’s military and political strength. Examples of the early 19th-century Empire Style that originated under his reign are seen in all their ornate splendor in “SYMBOLS OF POWER: NAPOLEON AND THE ART OF THE EMPIRE STYLE 1800–1815” at the Museum of Fine Arts (465 Huntington Avenue, Boston; October 21–January 27), with art and objects ranging from Napoleon’s throne to Empress Josephine’s ceramic ice-cream urn.
In celebration of the 250th birthday of Salem’s renowned architect and craftsman, “SAMUEL MCINTIRE: CARVING AN AMERICAN STYLE” at the Peabody Essex Museum (East India Square, Salem; October 13–February 24) presents McIntire’s neo-classical ornaments for buildings, ships, and furniture, along with original architectural drawings, sculpture, books, and tools. A different American era is evident in “IPSWICH DAYS: ARTHUR WESLEY DOW AND HIS HOMETOWN” at the Addison Gallery of American Art (Phillips Academy, Andover; September 22–January 6). The jumping-off point is a recently discovered album of photographs by the Ipswich-born Dow (1857–1922) containing cyanotypes of scenes of local clam shanties, marshes, people, flowers and boats.