It’s a priority for Robert Freeman to introduce himself as an African American artist, one who is best known regionally for his 1981 work, “Black Tie,” now part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s permanent collection and originally part of a series that explored his personal experiences settling into middle-class life after the racial tensions that enveloped the United States in the 1960s and ‘70s. Three and a half decades later, he’s revisiting themes of race and culture in “Robert Freeman New Works,” eight oil paintings of African Americans at formal social events, including two large triptychs — one installed as an altarpiece — from November 4 through December 18 at Adelson Galleries Boston, 520 Harrison Ave., Boston. While his exhibition statement notes that much has changed over the past halfcentury — “including the election of the nation’s first African American president — questions of identity and inclusion remain.”
A seventh-generation Vermonter who taught for over three decades, was president of the Northern Vermont Artist Association for 16 years and excelled (and continues to excel) as a painter, kinetic sculptor, book illustrator and political cartoonist, Robert Waldo Brunelle, Jr. has spent a lifetime benefiting from the inspiration of his Green Mountain State surroundings. In “The Old Neighborhood,” an exhibition in which he utilized a lifetime of photograph collecting, Brunelle “contemplates the mystery of how, as the years pass, some things remain and some things do not.” Crediting Edward Hopper as his greatest influence (“Like him, I also want to learn, as he wrote, how to ‘paint sunshine on the side of a house,’” he notes on his website). Coupled with his love of old houses and storefronts, this show, taking place from November 4 through January 2, 2017 at the Common Space Gallery at River Arts, 74 Pleasant St., Morrisville, VT, promises to be a pure joy to see.
S.A. Bachman and Neda Moridpour’s “Louder Than Words,” a “cross-cultural, intergenerational art collective that targets sexual assault, domestic violence, women’s reproductive health and homophobia by combining activism with courageous art interventions,” hopes to draw attention to and create discussion on the issue of men’s violence against women with its “Can You See It Now?” exhibition that runs through November 25 at the University Gallery at Mahoney Hall, UMass Lowell, 870 Broadway St., Lowell, Mass. The show includes intaglio prints — think bright red, inviting Victorian wallpaper — whose designs include narratives alluding to women’s violence against men; same-sex violence and transgender violence; a video entitled “Lead By Example” addressing ways men can prevent gender violence; and the display of the organization’s “Why Do Women Stay?” quilt which, after the show closes, will travel to Washington, D.C., where it will “join” with the Monument Quilt whose display serves as “a public healing space by and for survivors of rape and abuse.”
One identifiable trait of our readers is their excitement over the opportunity to be in the company of rare works by artists who changed the art world through their unique creations. 2016 ends with New England audiences having two once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
“The Art Books of Henri Matisse,” at the Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square, Portland, Maine through December 31, beautifully combines the French artist’s love of textural and visual imagery through four of his limited edited edition early 20th century artist publications. “Pasiphaë Song of Minos (The Cretans),” “The Poetry of Stéphane Mallarmé,” “Poems of Charles d’Orléans” and “Jazz” display how Matisse “embraced new challenges through continuous experimentation and extraordinary creativity” by taking different approaches to the book medium, “from manipulating white text on black pages (and vice versa)” and making colorful cut-paper collages that he later used as stencils for the book.
Another place to view rare masterworks is the Springfield Museums, 21 Edward St., Springfield, Mass., where “Small Worlds: Vassily Kandinsky’s Experiments in Printmaking” can be seen in its Collins Print Gallery in the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts through January 15. The portfolio of 12 works was created in 1922 through a variety of printmaking techniques. Also known as “Kleine Welten,” Kandinsky’s portfolio “exemplifies the artist’s abstract style, while also demonstrating his achievements with various printmaking techniques. Though Kandinsky is perhaps best known for his paintings, this series of prints shows his mastery of lithography, woodcut and etching. Kandinsky used each method to its best advantage in rendering his abstract compositions, creating a set of prints that showcases the unique aesthetic features of each printmaking style.”
As We See It: The Collection of Gail and Ernst von Metzsch, featuring over 80 paintings by approximately 30 American artists whose careers have been supported by the Boston-area collectors over four decades of collecting, can be seen through January 8, 2017 at the New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington St., New Britain, Conn. Amongst the New England artists in the show are George Nick, Paul Rahilly, Janet Monafo, Steve Hawley and Ed Stitt, whose paintings reflect the region’s unique visual environment. “The collection now reflects a multitude of styles and subjects best described as ‘contemporary realism,’ and includes naturalistic landscapes, still lifes, portraits, and interiors, as well as colorful, evocative abstractions.”
Many times, the only way we can learn about countries we truly know little about is via the arts, whether through a one-of-a-kind recording star or visual artists whose works become a backdrop to cultural change. “Phantom Punch: Contemporary Art from Saudi Arabia,” which can be seen through March 18, 2017 at the Bates College Museum of Art, 75 Russell St., Lewiston, Maine, provides “a rare opportunity to gain critical new perspectives on Saudi society and culture from a group of perceptive young artists who are challenging conventions and exploring the limits of what is possible in Saudi culture.” The show, “a significant representation of leading and emerging Saudi artists working in diverse media,” curated by Bates Museum director Dan Mills and Loring Danforth, Charles A. Dana Professor of Anthropology, features “artists who create smart, topical, funny, culturally resonant and technically savvy work.” Keep an eye on the museum’s website as the viewing period will be enhanced by the presence of artists from Saudi Arabia and other Middle Eastern countries who’ll participate in artist residences, performances, lectures and pop-up programming and events.