RITUALS OF THE EMPATHICS: Saya Woolfalk merges the Western avant-garde and traditional African art in a Rainbow Brite dream world.
The bleakest months of New England winter are ahead of us, so the prospect of leaving your toasty house to see art may not be at the top of your to-do list. But how can you stay home when this season's art offerings include cross-dressing, an artist feeling up architecture, Mayan wet dreams, a real Muppet show, and what may be the best painting of a cauliflower ever? Here are 10 reasons to get bundled up and brave the cold.
SAYA WOOLFALK: INSTITUTE FOR THE ANALYSIS OF EMPATHY | Tufts University Art Gallery | January 21–April 4 | Woolfalk, a New Yorker who graduated from Brown University, stitches together Rainbow Brite dream worlds in which she performs curious rituals. They're like re-enactments of the uncomfortable history of relations between the Western avant-garde and traditional African art . . . as presented by Yo Gabba Gabba! In addition to her mixed-media and video installation, don't miss her performance on April 2. And while you're there, check out "Questions Without Answers," a photojournalistic survey of the past 25 years as recorded by the world-class shooters of the VII photo agency.
40R Talbot Ave, Medford | Free | 617.627.3517 or ase.tufts.edu/gallery
2010 DECORDOVA BIENNIAL | DeCordova Sculpture Park + Museum | January 23–April 25 | When Dennis Kois became director of the DeCordova, in 2008, he decided to revamp the museum's annual round-up of New England talent, turning it into a biennial and putting it in the hands of a single curator (this time the DeCordova's Dina Deitsch) instead of a team. The format premieres with a strong 17-artist effort that includes Georgie Friedman's video seascape, Xander Marro's psychedelic film theater, Mark Tribe's investigation into protests and surveillance, and Randy Reiger's wondrous life-size space capsule.
51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln | $12 | 781.259.8355 or decordova.org
LUIS MELÉNDEZ: MASTER OF THE SPANISH STILL LIFE | Museum of Fine Arts | February 2–May 9 | Meléndez petitioned the king of Spain four times to be a royal painter, and each time he was rejected. So he turned to painting the humble yet stunningly realistic portraits of pears, cheese, eggs, leeks, bread, and crockery that have earned him the title of "the greatest still-life painter of 18th-century Spain." When the 30 paintings in this exhibit organized by the National Gallery of Art debuted there last spring, the New York Times wrote that one canvas boasts "what might be the most beautiful head of cauliflower in the history of art."
465 Huntington Ave, Boston | $20 | 617.267.9300 or mfa.org
AMERICA NOW | Montserrat College of Art Gallery | February 5–April 10 | Six photographers offer portraits of their slice of America, from Daniel Cheek's tourist trap redwoods to Zoe Strauss's beat-down Philly. Also Brookline's Laura McPhee gazes upon the wide open spaces of Idaho, Shane Lavalette explores New England, Alec Soth adventures along the Mississippi, and Ben Huff bumps across a gravel road following the Trans-Alaska Pipeline.
23 Essex St, Beverly | Free | 978.921.4242 x3 or montserrat.edu/galleries