BLUE UMBRELLA Alex Katz's prints are the subject of an extensive retrospective at the Museum of Fine Arts.
"I figured," Alex Katz said of his paintings of his wife Ada in 1969, "well, if I get Ada right, if you only get one person right— if you get a woman or a man right — it's universal." From role-playing in photography, to antique attempts to speak to the dead, to Katz's iconic portraits, the mystery of who we are is at the center of a number of exhibits this spring.
CHARLINE VON HEYL | Institute of Contemporary Art | March 21–July 15 | Five years of work from a New York abstract painter whose art often seems a mash-up of high Modernism (her mural on view at the Worcester Art Museum since 2010 vaguely recalls Matisse) and funky, glam '80s decoration. "It is about the feeling that a painting, or any work of art, can give," she has said, "when you can't stop looking because there is something that you want to find out, that you want to understand." | 100 Northern Ave, Boston | $15 | 617.478.3100 or icaboston.org
IN CHARACTER: ARTISTS' ROLE-PLAY IN PHOTOGRAPHY AND VIDEO | Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy | April 14–July 31 | In the art world these days there are four types of photography: Nan Goldin-style snapshot diaries, abstraction based on the workings of the camera or Photoshop, large format deadpan, and Hollywood-esque posing. You might call the last type the School of Cindy Sherman — for her self-portraits posed as outtakes from imagined films — and it's the subject of the Addison's show. Featured are Kalup Linzy's crossdressing soap operas, Yasumasa Morimura playing Hitler, Laurel Nakadate's sexual shenanigans, Tomoko Sawada's Japanese class photos in which she plays every student and the teacher, Gillian Wearing guised as members of her family, Lorna Simpson recreating photos she found from the '50s, and Sherman herself. A major companion show, MAKING A PRESENCE: F. HOLLAND DAY IN ARTISTIC PHOTOGRAPHY (March 27–July 31), plumbs the chameleon career of the 19th century photographer whose signature works include his self-portraits as Jesus. It's photography for the social-media, multiple-personality era. | 180 Main St, Andover | Free| 978.749.4015 or addisongallery.org
NATURAL HISTORIES: PHOTOGRAPHS BY BARBARA BOSWORTH | Peabody Essex Museum | April 14–Fall 2012 | The Boston artist and MassArt teacher is known for her panoramic photos surveying the American landscape — the largest trees of each species across the country; hunters, birds, life along Montana's Bitterroot River. This small show examines two decades of photos of her family and her childhood home in Novelty, Ohio: a meditation on youth and aging, home and time.| 161 Essex St, Salem | $15 | 978.745.9500 or pem.org
ALEXKATZ: PRINTS | Museum of Fine Arts | April 28–July 29 | Six decades ago, Katz developed his signature cool, urbane, offhand manner in the aforementioned paintings of his wife Ada, as well as art- and literary-world friends, and the landscapes of Maine (where he has long summered). His canvases are like sophisticated bon mots tossed out at a cocktail party. The MFA surveys his printmaking via some 150 prints, cutouts on aluminum, illustrated books, paintings and drawings — as well as Rush (1971), the artist's recent gift to the museum: 37 oil-paint-on-aluminum portraits that depict New York's cultural glitterati of the '60s. | 465 Huntington Ave, Boston| $22 | 617.267.9300 or mfa.org