VIRTUOSO ILLUSION: CROSS-DRESSING AND THE NEW MEDIA AVANT-GARDE | MIT List Visual Arts Center | February 5–April 4 | Guest curator Michael Rush, the former director of Brandeis University's Rose Art Museum, looks at how artists use drag to explore identity, signify gay liberation, or freak out the squares. It begins with Anemic Cinema (1925), by Marcel Duchamp and attributed to his alter ego Rose Sélavy, which alternates French wisecracks with spatial illusions created by spinning spirals. Also here are Andy Warhol's Polaroids of himself in drag, photos from Matthew Barney's epic costume ode to testicles in his Cremaster cycle, and Kalup Linzy's video KK Queens Survey, in which a New York art diva played by Linzy answers a phone survey. "Metaphorically speaking," the surveyor asks, " how many asses have you kissed today?"
20 Ames St, Cambridge | Free | 617.253.4680 or listart.mit.edu
ANDREA FRASER: BOXED SET | Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts at Harvard University | February 11–April 4 | Fraser is best known for her institutional critiques, like her 2003 video Untitled, in which she, ahem, explored the economics of art by fucking an American collector who paid her $20,000 to co-star. "Talk about interactive art," New York's Daily News panted. This show surveys five of the New Yorker's acerbic satirical videos from the somewhat more innocent period 1989–2001. Included is 2001's Little Frank and His Carp, in which Fraser responded to an audio tour's description of the "powerfully sensual" curves of the Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Bilbao by getting intimate with the architecture.
24 Quincy St, Cambridge | Free | 617.495.3251 or ves.fas.harvard.edu/ccva.html
RONI HORN AKA RONI HORN | Institute of Contemporary Art | February 19–June 13 | This exhibit surveys photo portraits, collaged drawings, artist books, sound works, installations, and a five-ton pink cube of glass by Horn, a RISD grad and New York minimalist and conceptual artist. Organized by the Whitney Museum with the Tate Modern, it showcases Horn's quietly slippery meditations on water, poetry, growing up, and the natural wonders of Iceland.
100 Northern Ave, Boston | $15 | 617.478.3100 or icaboston.org
MODELING DEVOTION: TERRACOTTA SCULPTURE OF THE ITALIAN RENAISSANCE | Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum | February 25–May 23 | The Gardner showcases terra-cotta sculptures — fresh from extensive conservation — that demonstrate how Italian Renaissance sculptors molded painted clay into sensitive portraits and religious scenes.
280 the Fenway, Boston | $12 | 617.278.5156 or gardnermuseum.org
FIERY POOL: THE MAYA AND THE MYTHIC SEA | Peabody Essex Museum | March 27–July 18 | The Mayan civilization, which during its peak, from 200 to 900 AD, stretched from present-day Mexico to Honduras, is most remembered for its great pyramids, the Popol Vuh creation tale, and predicting the end of the world in 2012. (Scholars actually believe 2012 was just when it was time for the Maya to get a new calendar.) Jumping off from the Popol Vuh's account of the world beginning as sky and a calm sea, "Fiery Pool" assembles more than 90 works — from carved stone monuments to jade sculptures — to re-examine how the sea influenced Maya cosmology, trade, and power.
East India Square, 161 Essex St, Salem | $15 | 978.745.9500 or pem.org
JIM HENSON'S FANTASTIC WORLD | National Heritage Museum | April 3–June 27 | With help from the Smithsonian, the Jim Henson Legacy, a Henson-affiliated organization dedicated to promoting his work, rounds up drawings, storyboards, puppets, props, photos, and videos by Henson (1936–1990) and the merry gang who brought us the Muppets, Sesame Street, and Labyrinth. Expect it to be a most sensational, inspirational, celebrational, Muppetational Muppet show.
33 Marrett Road, Lexington | Free | 781.861.6559 or nationalheritagemuseum.org