For the reopening at its new renovated location in the historic Jonathan Maynard Building, now part of Framingham State University, the Danforth Art Museum’s curator Jessica Roscio has organized a major permanent installation of the work and studio of Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877–1968), a groundbreaking African-American sculptor, and three other temporary exhibitions: “Landed: Selections from the Permanent Collection;” “Armchair Travel;” and “Lois Tarlow: Material Vocabulary.”
The reopening also features a selection of four recent acquisitions by Barbara Swan (1922–2003), including a
portrait of Emily Dickinson, “The Frog Prince,” published in Anne Sexton’s “Transformations,” 1971, and “Mushrooms and Babies,” from Maxine Kumin’s “Up Country,” 1972. Together, the exhibitions highlight the museum’s mission as a collecting and educational institution, and a place to celebrate and feature the work of prominent regional artists. Overall, the theme of the temporary exhibitions, as curated by Roscio, is travel, either physical and real, moving from one place or one thing to another, as was done by the Danforth Museum itself, or conceptually in the mind, by way of ideas and emotions.
Of the four exhibitions, “Armchair Travel,” which is a contemporary photography display, and “Material Vocabulary,” a mini-retrospective of the work of regionally well-known Lois Tarlow, offer the most critical and intellectual engagement regarding the status of contemporary art. These two installations also connect thematically to the main exhibition: “Landed: Selections from the Permanent Collection.”
Featured in the museum’s first gallery, the subject matter of “Landed” derives directly from the Danforth’s physical movement from one building to another, explained in the exhibition statement as “a thematic approach to a collection that has recently spent time ‘in transit’ and has now ‘landed’ in its new home.” “Landed” does something more than just respond to the Danforth’s physical transition: the curatorial arrangement puts a spotlight on landscape art to reexamine its relevance and opens the subject up to varied interpretative ideas. In
structure, the exhibition is a clever arrangement of traditional and contemporary curatorial viewpoints.
First, it’s a charming look at American landscape art displayed in salon style along the gallery’s back main wall, in a section called “The American Landscape Tradition,” which offers an excellent overview of the sublime and pastoral approaches of landscape painting with 22 works that span approximately 100 years from the mid-19th to the mid-to-late 20th century. Secondly, the salon display is in dialogue with more modern and contemporary representations in other media, arranged into two other thematic areas: “On the Road, Again: Before Landing Comes Moving” and “The Landscape of Everyday Life.”