Familiar, found materials including old billboard signs and traffic cones make up the multimedia experience “JUAN ÁNGEL CHÁVEZ: SPEAKER PROJECT” at Mass College of Art (621 Huntington Ave, Boston; September 22–November 22), which turns the gallery into an interactive sound studio. Also at MassArt this fall, color photographs of forgotten corners of the American South evoke memory and myth in “WILLIAM CHRISTENBERRY PHOTOGRAPHS, 1961–2005” (October 13–December 6).
Huge volumes of a single type of mass-produced item — for example, millions of drinking straws, or scads of pins, buttons, styrofoam cups, or toothpicks — make up the sculptural works on view in “TARA DONOVAN” at the Institute of Contemporary Art (100 Northern Ave, Boston; October 10–January 4), the first major museum survey of Donovan’s work. And entertaining Swiss artist UGO RONDINONE (October 28–October 19, 2009) transforms the ICA’s Fineberg Art Wall with an all-black installation, “The Night of Lead.” Everyday images and materials also figure in the work of the Paris-based artist who’s bringing “ADEL ABDESSEMED: SITUATION AND PRACTICE” to MIT’s List Visual Arts Center (20 Ames St, Cambridge; October 11–January 4). Abdessemed has created works from airplane fuselages and music stands, but he prefers to describe his art as consisting of “acts” in the public sphere, as he appropriates the streets and settings of everyday life for his projects. At MIT, he plans to create street acts in Cambridge, perhaps using local bars or bathrooms.
By freezing time, photography only makes us more aware of that dynamic dimension’s refusal to slow down. “KEEPING TIME: CYCLE AND DURATION IN CONTEMPORARY PHOTOGRAPHY” at BU’s Photographic Resource Center (832 Comm Ave, Boston; November 7–January 25) looks at photography’s ability to stop, pause, preserve, and contemplate time and the natural cycles of the sun and moon; the artists include Erika Blumenfeld and Sharon Harper.
Beauty remains a fraught term in contemporary art, an ideal we love to hate, an impulse whose joys we sometimes shun as superficial. “IN PURSUIT OF BEAUTY” at Montserrat College of Art (23 Essex St, Beverly; November 7–January 24) presents five artists at work investigating the pleasures and perils of surface pattern and the delightfully decorative.