25 Shows to See Across the US as Museums Reopen, From Jacob Lawrence’s Genius at the Met to an Epic Mexican Masterpiece in Dallas
As museums emerge from lockdown, here's what's on our must-see list.
As museums across the US dust off the cobwebs and reopen to the public, an exciting slate of exhibitions is on offer at venues from New York to California, Texas to Ohio. Some institutions have been able to extend their spring shows, while others are opening eagerly anticipated summer blockbusters a little late.
Here’s what is on our must-see list from coast to coast.
“Marking Time: Art in the Age of Mass Incarceration” at MoMA PS1
September 17, 2020–April 4, 2021
MoMA PS1 spotlights artwork made in US prisons and the harsh realities of mass incarceration. The exhibition features over 35 artists, some who have been in prison, some just making work on the subject, including Jesse Krimes and Sable Elyse Smith. The curators have updated the show during lockdown to include work made by artists in the show in response to the current crisis and its effects on prisoners.
MoMA PS1 is located at 22-25 Jackson Avenue, Queens, New York; suggested admission is $10.
“Harold Mendez: Let Us Gather in a Flourishing Way” at the ICA LA
September 26, 2020–January 10, 2021
In Harold Mendez’s first Los Angeles solo museum show, some 20 works by the first-generation American are on view, showcasing his large-format photo-based works. The artist takes found imagery and uses a labor-intensive transfer process that includes adding elements relevant to contemporary sociocultural events. Mendez also creates three-dimensional works based on found objects.
The ICA LA is located at 1717 East 7th Street, Los Angeles, California; admission is free.
“The Salem Witch Trials 1692” at the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
September 26, 2020–April 4, 2021
The Peabody Essex offers a deep dive into the infamous Salem witch trials, which led to the deaths of 25 innocent men, women, and children, in 1692 and ‘93. Rarely exhibited original documents from the trial will be on view for the first time in 30 years.
The Peabody Essex is located at 161 Essex Street, Salem, Massachusetts; general admission is $20.
“Swoon: Seven Contemplations” at the Albright-Knox Northland, Buffalo
September 26, 2020–January 10, 2021
Street artist Caledonia “Swoon” Curry is debuting her first stop-motion film at the Albright-Knox, where she’ll transform the galleries into one of her colorful, immersive environments filled with large-scale sculptural installations.
The Albright Knox is located at 612 Northland Avenue, Buffalo, New York; admission is pay-what-you-wish.
“A Perfect Power: Motherhood and African Art” at the Baltimore Museum of Art
September 30, 2020–January 17, 2021
In central Africa, societies were traditionally matrilineal, families organized around the female line with women in a place of authority. This exhibition features some 40 objects featuring depictions of mothers and the female body in 19th and early 20th century art from these communities.
The Baltimore Museum of Arts located at 10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore, Maryland; general admission is free.
“Jean Shin: Pause” at the Asian Art Museum San Francisco
October 3–November 10, 2020
The tiny mirrored pieces that cover Jean Shin’s works are actually slivers of discarded cell phones, and the spidery black tendrils the works sit atop are computer cables. “I began thinking about the Bay Area as the historical epicenter of both tech and the environmental movement,” the artist says of the site-specific commission, which uses e-waste to recreate the form of a traditional Chinese scholar’s rock.
The Asian Art Museum is located at 200 Larkin Street, San Francisco; general admission is $15.
“Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water” at the Shed, New York
October 16, 2020–Spring 2021
In this solo exhibition, Howardena Pindell debuts Rope/Fire/Water, her first video work in more than 20 years. The work grapples with the artist’s personal experiences with racism as well as historical data about lynchings and racist attacks, with Pindell speaking over archival photos of lynchings and the 1963 Children’s Crusade Civil Rights protest.
The Shed is located at the Bloomberg Building, 545 West 30 Street, New York; admission is free through October 31, $10 thereafter.
“Bruce Davidson: Brooklyn Gang” at the Cleveland Museum of Art
October 25, 2020–February 28, 2021
Photographer Bruce Davidson’s first major project, “Brooklyn Gang,” is a documentation of the Jokers, a teenage street gang that ran rampant in 1950s New York. The Jokers ruled from their perch in Park Slope, now one of the most coveted enclaves of Brooklyn, but at the time a hotbed of restless young men born into poverty.
The Cleveland Museum of Art is located at 11150 East Boulevard in Cleveland, Ohio; general admission is free.
“Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Through November 1, 2020
For the first time in over 60 years, Jacob Lawrence’s little-known series “Struggle: From the History of the American People” (1954–56) has been reunited in this show traveling to the Met from the PEM. Painted at the height of the Cold War, the 30 works feature events from European colonization to World War I, depicting, as Lawrence described it, “the struggles of a people to create a nation and their attempt to build a democracy.”
The Met is located at 1000 5th Avenue at East 83rd Street, New York; general admission is $25.
“Ansel Adams in Our Time” at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas
September 19, 2020–January 3, 2021
In this show organized by the MFA Boston, both the mastery of Ansel Ansel’s photography and the outsized influence he had on generations to come is on display. More than 100 Adams images capturing the natural beauty of the US are exhibited along with works by 24 other artists—both his 19th-century contemporaries and photographers working today who have been inspired by his work.
Crystal Bridges is located at 600 Museum Way, Bentonville, Arkansas; general admission is free.
“Picture the Dream: The Story of the Civil Rights Movement Through Children’s Books” at the High Museum of Art, Atlanta
Through November 8, 2020
Honoring such watershed civil rights events as Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat on a segregated bus 65 years ago and Ruby Bridges integrating her New Orleans school 60 years ago, the High Museum has organized the first exhibition looking at the movement through children’s books. The show features over 80 prints, paintings, drawings, and other artworks.
The High Museum of Art is located at 1280 Peachtree St Northeast, Atlanta, Georgia; general admission is $14.50.
“Kiki Smith: River Light” at the Storm King Art Center, New Windsor, New York
Through November 9, 2020
This is the first US presentation of Kiki Smith’s new flag works. The circle of nine flags in hudson river (2020) are printed with cyanotypes based on film stills the artist took of the light glinting off the East River, which she has walked along daily for the last 30 years. The standalone flag of river light (2019) features a sunset photograph of the Hudson River shot from a passing Amtrak train. In both works, the way the wind catches the flag, letting it float in the breeze, is meant to echo the ripples and waves of the river.
Storm King is located at 1 Museum Road, New Windsor, New York; general admission is $20.
“Granville Redmond: The Eloquent Palette” at the Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach
Through November 15, 2020
The Laguna Art Museum has had to close its “once-in-a-lifetime” show of California landscape painter Granville Redmond not once but twice as the state of California began reopening only to reimpose lockdown restrictions. The artist, who went deaf as a toddler after a bout of scarlet fever, painted both tranquil “Tonalist” compositions as well as bolder Impressionist scenes. His close friend, actor Charlie Chaplin, once said of Redmond’s painting, “Sometimes I think that the silence in which he lives has developed in him some sense, some great capacity for happiness in which we others are lacking.”
The Laguna Art Museum is located at 307 Cliff Drive, Laguna Beach, California; general admission is $7.
“Monet and Boston: Lasting Impression” the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
November 15, 2020–February 28, 2021
Claude Monet may not make one think of Boston, but the city’s art collectors were early adopters of the pioneering Impressionist, many traveling to France to meet him and purchase his work. The MFA has no less than 35 oil paintings by the renowned artist, many collected during Monet’s lifetime—but they haven’t been on view all at once in a quarter century, making this a once-in-a-generation display.
The MFA Boston is located at Avenue of the Arts, 465 Huntington Avenue, Boston; general admission is $25.
“i’m yours: Encounters with Art in Our Times” at the ICA Boston
November 18, 2020–May 23, 2021
In the aftermath of an unprecedented six months of protest, economic chaos, and the ongoing pandemic, ICA wants visitors to find works from within the collection that speak to them personally. The works are arranged in small galleries based on varying perspectives and themes.
The ICA is located at 25 Harbor Shore Drive, Boston, Massachusetts; general admission is $15.
“Taking Space: Contemporary Women Artists and the Politics of Scale” at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
November 19, 2020–April 11, 2021
This show takes into consideration the way in which female artists take up space, whether that be the physical presence of their bodies, space within a gallery, or simply as a woman moving throughout the world. Questions arise about the use of scale as an aspect of womanhood, and how space is gendered.
PAFA is located at 118-128 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia; general admission is $15; youth admission is $8.
“Shaun Leonardo: The Breath of Empty Space” at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art
through December 22, 2020
Controversy erupted at Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland this summer when the museum cancelled a planned exhibition of Shaun Leonardo’s drawings of well-known incidents of deadly violence against Black and Latino men due to community concerns. But the show, which debuted at the Maryland Institute College of Art, has landed at MASS MoCA instead, and will head to the Bronx Museum of the Arts come the new year.
MASS MoCA is located at 1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Massachusetts; general admission is $20.
“Flores Mexicanas: Women in Modern Mexican Art” at the Dallas Museum of Art
Through January 10, 2021
When the Missouri History Museum agreed to lend Alfredo Ramos Martínez’s monumental painting Flores Mexicanas (1914–29) to the Dallas Museum of Art, allowing it to be displayed for only the second time in 50 years, the institution took the opportunity to stage this exhibition exploring different representations of women in early in 20th-century Mexican art. The painting, recently conserved, was originally a wedding gift to aviators Anne and Charles Lindbergh from Mexican president Emilio Portes Gil. Catch it alongside works by renowned Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros.
The Dallas Museum of Art is located at 1717 North Harwood, Dallas, Texas; general admission is free.
“Monet and Chicago” at the Art Institute of Chicago
Through January 18, 2021
Boston wasn’t the only city bit by the Monet craze in the late 19th century: Chicago’s art collectors also got in on the act beginning in 1888, when a French Impressionist group show served as his introduction to the city. The Art Institute in Chicago became the first US museum to purchase his work, in 1903. Today it boasts the largest collection of his work outside of Paris. The museum’s current show offers a fascinating history of Monet’s history with Chicago and its art lovers, including his unexpected presence at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, famously held in the Windy City.
The Art Institute of Chicago is located at 111 S. Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Illinois; general admission is $25.
“Sanford Biggers: Codeswitch” at the Bronx Museum
Through January 24, 2021
This is first exhibition dedicated to the quilt-based works Sanford Biggers has been making for the past 20 years. Drawing on African American history, the artist created these mixed media paintings and sculptures using pre-1900 antique quilts.
The Bronx Museum is located at 1040 Grand Concourse, Bronx, New York; admission is free.
“Betye Saar: Call and Response” at the Morgan Library & Museum, New York
Through January 31, 2021
LACMA’s stunning Betye Saar exhibition, featuring collages and assemblage sculptures that reclaim racist imagery, has finally landed in New York. The show includes works made in the late 1960s as well as a new piece made specifically for the occasion, as well as about a dozen of Saar’s colorful travel sketchbooks.
The Morgan Library & Museum is located at 225 Madison Avenue at East 36th Street, New York; general admission is $20.
“Shantell Martin: Words and Lines” at the Denver Art Museum
Through January 31, 2021
The artist Shantell Martin (who earlier this summer called out companies for performative acts of solidarity during the Black Lives Matter protests) is taking over the Denver Art Museum with her signature black and white drawings. The show features an interactive installation that explores intersectionality and play.
The Denver Art Museum is located at 100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, Denver, Colorado; general admission is $13.
“Alien vs. Citizen” at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago
Through February 21, 2021
As the US moves increasingly to restrict immigration under merit-based policies that favor “aliens of extraordinary ability,” the MCA Chicago has organized a group show examining cultural biases and the role that they play in judging an individual’s worth. Featured artists include Glenn Ligon, Kerry James Marshall, Robert Rauschenberg, Christina Quarles, and Carrie Mae Weems.
The MCA Chicago is located at 220 E Chicago Avenue, Chicago; general admission is $15, pay-what-you-can.
“Trevor Paglen: Opposing Geometries” at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh
Through March 14, 2021
The Carnegie Museum showcases Trevor Paglen’s work on surveillance and artificial intelligence, including a new site-specific commission, photographs of people and objects bearing AI-generated labels, and a sculpture that functions as a wifi hot spot.
The Carnegie is located at 4400 Forbes Avenue, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; general admission is is $19.95.
“Climate in Crisis: Environmental Change in the Indigenous Americas” at the Brooklyn Museum
Through June 20, 2021
In this show featuring sixty works spanning 2,800 years from cultures in North, Central, and South America, the Brooklyn Museum draws parallels between the decimating effects of European colonization on Indigenous communities and the modern-day impact of climate change on native communities.
The Brooklyn Museum is located at 200 Eastern Parkway, Brooklyn, New York; general admission is $16.
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