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8 Art Exhibits To Explore This Summer

Valerie Imparato, "Essence," 2019. (Courtesy of the artist)
Valerie Imparato, "Essence," 2019. (Courtesy of the artist)

Summer is here and the sun is shining again, not only on our revived social lives, but also in the art world.

After more than a year of interruptions, thanks to pandemic restrictions, museum exhibits and gallery openings have finally resumed full force. In fact, exhibition schedules seem more jam-packed than ever as many venues eagerly make up for the canceled shows of last year.

And so, there’s lots of art to see. At the MFA, you can see the work of Roxbury artist and activist Ekua Holmes, whose colorful book illustrations will be on view beginning in July, as well as the recently-acquired work of local artists — including Dana C. Chandler Jr., Alison Croney Moses, Eben Haines, Stephen Hamilton, Tomashi Jackson and Lavaughan Jenkins — in conversation with older selections from the museum’s permanent collection. Outside of town, you can take in an experimental maritime film by Peter Hutton at the Peabody Essex Museum before the show ends in July, and at the Fitchburg Art Museum, you have until September to savor the dreamily comic and surreal paintings of New Hampshire artist Nathan Bentley. Below are a few places to start to quench your thirst for art this summer.

Samantha Nye: 'My Heart's in a Whirl'
MFA Boston

Through Oct. 31

Can old geezers still be “sexy”?

Samantha Nye strives to move beyond ageist ideas of sexuality and eroticism using the power of video. Recreating the type of 1950s and ‘60s 16 mm films played on Scopitone jukeboxes (a forerunner to MTV, YouTube and TikTok), Nye crafts her own music videos trading the genre’s stereotypical white, male pop singer surrounded by writhing, scantily clad women for queer elders (including her own mother and grandmother). By swapping out the object of desire for seniors with age spots and loose skin, Nye redefines our notions of who is both capable and worthy of lust and desire. Nye, a queer artist living in New York, broadens our view of love, sex, agency and belonging.

“Both my paintings and videos are meant as love letters to queer spaces past and present, the thriving and the abandoned,” Nye told Hyperallergic in 2019. “In my attempt to image queer kinship, I acknowledge the beautiful parts, the prickly parts, the radical parts and the parts that have long needed fixing.”

Samantha Nye, still from "SILENCER (Heart-Shaped Dance)," part of the "Visual Pleasure/Jukebox Cinema" series, 2016. (Courtesy of the artist)
Samantha Nye, still from "SILENCER (Heart-Shaped Dance)," part of the "Visual Pleasure/Jukebox Cinema" series, 2016. (Courtesy of the artist)

Virgil Abloh: 'Figures of Speech'
ICA Boston

July 3-Sept. 26

He is a designer, DJ, artist and entrepreneur. Now, Virgil Abloh, a native of Rockford, Illinois, is the subject of the first museum exhibition to examine the full breadth and scope of his multifaceted career. “Figures of Speech” touches on the many tentacles of Abloh’s wide-ranging octopian career, including his signature clothing collections, videos of his fashion shows, samples of his furniture designs, his graphic work and his collaborative projects with other artists.

The show, organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, demonstrates that though Abloh may have his roots in the American Midwest, his reach in design and music is global. Abloh founded his clothing brand “Off-White” in Italy in 2013, partnered on furniture designs with the Swedish furniture giant IKEA, collaborated with conceptual artist Jenny Holzer to create an installation on the international refugee crisis at fashion shows in Florence, and in 2018, became the artistic director of the menswear collection of the French fashion house Louis Vuitton.

W Magazine calls him “a self-made multi-hyphenate creative and canny translator of youth culture.” That sounds about right.

Installation view from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 2019 exhibit "Virgil Abloh: 'Figures of Speech.'" (Courtesy Virgil Abloh Art Studio and Design Practice)
Installation view from the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago's 2019 exhibit "Virgil Abloh: 'Figures of Speech.'" (Courtesy Virgil Abloh Art Studio and Design Practice)

Raúl de Nieves: 'The Treasure House of Memory'
ICA Boston

Sept. 1-July 24, 2022

Also at the ICA this summer is an exhibit focused on Raúl de Nieves, an interdisciplinary artist, performer and musician. Born in Mexico and now living and creating in New York, de Nieves sews up life-size extravagantly adorned Shamanistic figures covered in baubles, plastic beads, bangles and sequins. One sculpture of a horse is nearly 8 feet tall. He credits his childhood education in Mexico, in which he was taught to sew and crochet, for his passion in creating lavish figures referencing Mexican ritual costumes, religious processional clothing, circus attire and Japanese kabuki theater. The ICA credits the artist with exploring “the transformational possibilities of adornment and the mutability of identity.” George Clinton would certainly approve.

Raúl de Nieves, "Fina Vision," 2019. (Courtesy of the artist and Company Gallery)
Raúl de Nieves, "Fina Vision," 2019. (Courtesy of the artist and Company Gallery)

2021 James and Audrey Foster Prize Exhibition
ICA Boston

Sept. 1-July 24, 2022

Marlon Forrester, "SteLeRoiJones23" (work in progress), 2021. (Courtesy of the artist)
Marlon Forrester, "SteLeRoiJones23" (work in progress), 2021. (Courtesy of the artist)

Every couple of years, the ICA presents its James and Audrey Foster Prize biennial featuring the work of promising local artists. This year, the exhibition showcases the work of Marlon Forrester, Eben Haines and Dell Marie Hamilton. Forrester, who was born in Guyana but who grew up in Boston, is on the painting faculty at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts. His paintings, drawings, sculptures and multimedia work center around the use of the Black body, and specifically, the “fear of the muscular Black figure in America.” Boston-native Eben Haines’ paintings, drawings, sculptures and installations center on the constructed nature of history. He often uses the conventions of portraiture which he sets against cinematic backdrops. Dell Marie Hamilton, who  works at Harvard’s Hutchins Center for African and African American Research, makes performance-based work that she says, “examines the diasporic, fragmented and syncretic nature of the human condition at the intersections of race, gender, power, language, memory and identity.” Together, the three artists span media that include collage, painting, performance, photography, sculpture and installation.


Valerie Imparato: 'Interwoven'
Fitchburg Art Museum

Through Aug. 29

Haitian-born, Cambridge-based artist Valerie Imparato draws from cultural influences that include the Caribbean and East Africa to create murals, paintings and embroidered pieces exploring ideas around Black womanhood. In this exhibit, Imparato’s embroidered canvases continue that theme, representing Black women’s faces, devoid of hairstyles or even a realistic skin color. Instead, her women are wrought in a patchwork of jewel-toned hues reminiscent of the colorful and celebratory work coming out of America’s Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and ‘70s.

Valerie Imparato, "Dragonfly," 2021. (Courtesy of the artist)
Valerie Imparato, "Dragonfly," 2021. (Courtesy of the artist)

Nathan Clark Bentley: 'Waiting for the Night'
Fitchburg Art Museum

June 26-Sept. 5

New Hampshire artist Nathan Clark Bentley describes his work as focusing on “themes of desire, exclusion and detachment.” His paintings have ranged from playfully irreverent mixed media confections to work heavily influenced by graffiti, animation and pop art. In this show, Bentley presents an entirely new body of work created during the pandemic centered on the joys and regrets of his youth. In a flurry of tattoos, beer, fast food and a little teenage groping in the dark, Bentley’s work is surreally sardonic.

Nathan Clark Bentley, "Tomorrow Won’t Do (Waiting for the Night)," 2020. (Courtesy of the artist)
Nathan Clark Bentley, "Tomorrow Won’t Do (Waiting for the Night)," 2020. (Courtesy of the artist)

'Another Crossing: Artists Revisit the Mayflower Voyage'
Fuller Craft Museum

July 3-Oct. 10

Last year marked the 400th anniversary since the Mayflower sailed across the Atlantic, forever changing the world. To mark that event, Fuller Craft had planned a 2020 show, but of course, the pandemic changed all that. Now, the museum is reviving the show in a July exhibit mounted by guest curator Glenn Adamson. Adamson, who is based in Brooklyn, asked 10 artists to create objects for the show using only the 17th-century technology and processes that might have been available to the Pilgrims. Each of the participating artists took two research trips before getting started, one to Plymouth, England and the other to Plymouth, Massachusetts. What they’ve come up with was meant to not only showcase their technical prowess but to highlight the social realities of a complex and difficult time. While the Mayflower voyage may be celebrated as a storybook quest for religious freedom by some, others see a much darker event characterized by the terrible treatment of the Wampanoag peoples. “Another Crossing” seeks to put it all in perspective, revisiting American history through a contemporary lens.

Jeffrey Gibson, "The Past as Future Artifact (Mask 2)." (Courtesy Brian Barlow)
Jeffrey Gibson, "The Past as Future Artifact (Mask 2)." (Courtesy Brian Barlow)

Peter Hutton: 'At Sea'
Peabody Essex Museum

Through July 6

Summer wouldn’t be summer without some time spent at the sea. Now’s your last chance with Peter Hutton’s experimental 2007 film titled, appropriately enough, “At Sea.” Hutton, who passed away in 2016, was a merchant seaman in the 1960s and ‘70s and spent 40 years traveling the world often via freighter ship. Everywhere he sailed, he would create meditative film studies. With “At Sea,” Hutton follows the life cycle of a container ship from its birth in a Korean shipyard to its death by ship breakers in Bangladesh. Traveling by ship can be disorienting, as vast oceans lead to a loss of perspective. Hutton’s film evokes this loss, leaving us feeling a bit “at sea” ourselves.

A still from Peter Hutton's film "At Sea. (Courtesy PEM)
A still from Peter Hutton's film "At Sea. (Courtesy PEM)

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Pamela Reynolds Twitter Visual Arts Writer
Pamela Reynolds is a writer and a visual artist.

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