Fall art preview: Kiefer works loom large


The name of contemporary German artist Anselm Kiefer will be writ large over the Berkshire art landscape this fall with the opening Sept. 27 at Mass MoCA of a 15-year installation of his work. Large sculptures and 30 of his paintings will occupy a new 10,000-square-foot concrete and aluminum-clad structure that the artist helped design.

In other events to anticipate, James McNeill Whistler will make a posthumous appearance at Mass MoCA through contemporary painter Darren Waterston's reimagined recreation of Whistler's scandalously famous "The Peacock Room." Edward Hopper's little-known early career as a magazine illustrator will be the focus of a show at the Norman Rockwell Museum and the Berkshire Museum will take a look at what collections say about their Berkshire owners.

In a temporary loss, the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown has closed all of its galleries with the exception of those in its satellite Stone Hill Center as it enters the home stretch on a $170 million expansion to be completed next summer. Lectures, concerts and films will continue in the Clark's auditorium and work from the permanent collection will be on view at Stone Hill beginning Sept. 21.

Kiefer, 68, who lives in Paris, is one of a generation of postwar Germans who struggled to redefine their national and artistic identity in the aftermath of the Nazi era. His work in paint and three-dimensions draws upon literary history and myths with images of written words, scorched-looking landscapes, military objects and architectural compositions.

Similar in idea to the space Mass MoCA developed in 2008 for a 25-year exhibition of wall drawings by conceptual artist Sol LeWitt, the Kiefer project is being underwritten by collectors Andrew and Christine Hall through their Hall Art Foundation. It will feature art owned by the foundation and by Kiefer himself.

That same Sept. 27 date, look for the opening of "Early Anselm Kiefer" at the Williams College Museum of Art. It will showcase artist books, woodcuts, watercolors, and small-scale oil paintings Kiefer created between 1969 and 1982. Also drawn from the Hall Collection, it introduces many of the themes and subjects Kiefer would later pursue.

Painter Darren Waterston said he was drawn to Whistler's "The Peacock Room" for the way it combines painting and architecture and for what it says about patronage and artistic ego.

Hired to consult on colors for the London dining room of shipping magnate Frederick Leyland, who had already bought one of his paintings, Whistler took it upon himself, while Leyland was away, to paint golden peacocks on the room's shutters, far overspending his budget. Admonished by Leland, who refused to cover the cost, the artist gave added value by creating a mural with more peacocks shown fighting over money, and he covered the room's expensive Italian leather wall panels with Prussian blue paint. When he finished in 1877, Leyland is said to have warned him he would be horsewhipped if he ever showed his face in the house again. But Leyland kept the room intact and it is now at the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.

At Mass MoCA in March, Waterston will reinterpret the room as a ruin with his own takes on Whistler's paintings, stalactite-like ceiling fixtures and crumbling displays of the 250 hand-painted ceramics that Leyland had on view.

Painter Edward Hopper may be an icon of 20th century realist art, but before he became famous, he worked as a magazine illustrator. Opening at the Norman Rockwell Museum in June, "Edward Hopper: Art for Commerce" will look at this little known aspect of his career. Much of his work that survived as originals, proofs, and in published form will make up the exhibition that aims to tie together his published and personal art.

In Pittsfield, the Berkshire Museum will explore unusual collections shaped by Berkshire County residents in "Berkshire Collects" Jan. 25 to May 10. Collections will range from pop culture to the natural world, gadgets, technology, and fine art. Beyond objects, the show will look at what collections say about their owners and about the wider community.

Among other notable exhibitions to watch for:

n Mass MoCA will open Izhar Patkin: The Wandering Veil on Dec. 7. A collaboration between the Israeli-born artist who lives in the U.S. and exiled Kashmiri poet Agha Shalid Ali, who died in 2001, the series of theatrical screen paintings examine multi-nationality, the politics of identity, and a mixture of high and low culture.

n The Rockwell Museum will feature two children's book artists this fall as part of its contemporary illustrators series. Wendell Minor, known mostly for his partnering with authors in books like "Reaching for the Moon" and "Look to the Stars" by astronaut Buzz Aldrin, is marking 25 years in picture-book art with "Wendell Minor's America" Nov. 9 through May 26. And Ruth Sanderson, known for her work on children's fairy tales, will have a holiday show opening Dec. 7 that examines the process and inspirations for her "The Twelve Dancing Princesses." From March 15 to June 15, the Rockwell will feature baseball, rodeos, classic cars and Native American images by illustrator Murry Tinkelmann.

n The Berkshire Museum has two shows opening Nov. 8 and running through Jan 12. "Radical Traditions features landscape paintings by Janet Rickus and still lifes by Colin Brant. "Exquisite Illusion" features regional artists Michael Zelehoski, who reconstructs three-dimensional found wooden objects into a two-dimensional picture plane, and Warner Friedman, who paints spare landscapes framed by unexpected architectural details.

The annual Festival of Trees this year has the theme "Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow," a time travel to celebrate the museum's 110th anniversary.

Outside the region's museums, Pittsfield's Lichtenstein Center for the Arts features local and regional artists and artisans in rotating shows on Renne Avenue through the year.

DownStreet Art's open studio days this year in North Adams will let the public see Oct. 19-20 where the city's artists live and work and Pittsfield's First Fridays Artswalks explore art in the city's Upstreet Cultural District through October.


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