Visual art: Wide diversity in shows ahead

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Friday, September 21
The love paintings of 18th-century French artist Jean Honore Fragonard; the enormous history-inspired landscapes of contemporary German Anselm Kiefer; the ways to collect photography on a budget; and the phenomenon of the graphic novel are among the widely diverse topics of exhibitions coming before viewers at Berkshire museums this fall.

The new year will also see two impotant museum expansion projects to completion.

The Clark Art Institute expects to open its Stone Hill Center art gallery/art conservation lab, the first phase of a campus redesign by architect Tadao Ando next year, and the Berkshire Museum will to unveil its new Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation in March. The new gallery will focus on Berkshire-born innovations in art, science, technology and culture.

With the summer tourist season pressure for mainsteam fare lifting, fall is when I notice art museums here to venture quirkier topics — or perhaps just ones with narrower, or more highly charged appeal.

"LitGraphic: The World of the Graphic Novel," opening Nov. 10 at the Norman Rockwell Museum certainly tops that list.

Graphic novels, or long-form comic books, have been around for years, but they have recently captured the interest of the literary establishment.

Last spring's surprise movie hit "300," for example, adapted for the screen by ex-Pittsfielder Zack Snyder, was based on a graphic novel by Frank Miller about the Spartan/Persian Battle at Thermopylae in ancient Greece.

Focusing on subjects as diverse as the nature of relationships, the perils of war, and the meaning of life, graphic novels are said to be gaining a larger readership, as a visit to tyhat section of Barnes & Noble in Pittsfield will attest.

The Rockwell exhibition will explore their history and artistry, and feature commentary and artworks by historic and contemporary practitioners, as well as original book pages and studies, sketchbooks, and video interviews.

The show runs through May 26.

The Williams College Museum of Art has already installed "Critical Encounters: Collecting Contemporary Photography," its major new fall show, but is staging the opening for this coming Tuesday from 4 to 7 p.m.

Phyllis Tuckman, the New York-based art critic who amassed much of the work on view, will be here Oct. 23 to talk about about how she did it all on a modest budget.

Buying artwork will also be the subject of a seminar Oct. 20 at Mass MoCA. It will touch on ways to navigate the gallery world and get the most for your money.

The "Critical Encounters" show at WCMA includes work by famiilar contemporary photographers such as Annie Lebowitz, Cindy Sherman and Gregory Crewdson, as well as ones less known to the general public, like Richard Billingham, who was short-listed for the Turner Prize in 2001; Wolfgang Tillmans, a German known for uncovering the abstract found in an ordinary day; and Yasumasa Morimura, who indulges in camp photography.

The show runs through Dec. 16.

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The Clark Art Institute will also focus on photography in a small way this fall with "Facing the Lens: Nineteenth Century Portrait Photograghs opening Oct. 12. That show will feature sitters before the cameras of greats like Edouard Baldus, Nadar and Julia Margaret Cameron.

The Clark's major fall exhibition, however, will look at the love allegories of Jean Honore Fragonard (1732-1806), a major painter of playful genre subjects, garden landscapes and fantasy portraits in pre-revolutionary France.

Organized by the J. Paul Getty Museum in California, it opens Oct. 28 and runs through Jan. 21, 2008.

Said to be the first significant Fragonard exhibition in the United States in two decades, it examines new ideas about romantic love that emerged in the mid 18th century and the ways Fragon-ard's late period allegories anticipated the Neoclassical and Rom-antic movements of the 19th century.

Jumping ahead to early next year, the Clark will take a look at 19th-century illustrator Frederic Remington's eventually successful struggle for acceptance as a painter and sculptor of the Ameican West in "Remington Looking West.

That show opens Feb. 17 and runs through May 4.

Mass MoCA is paying homage to an icon of 20th-century German neo-expressionist art in "Amselm Kiefer: Sculpture and Painting," opening on Oct. 20.

It will feature four massive landscape paintings from a recent series not shown in the United States, two works from the 1980s; and an 82-foot long concrete sculpture, "Wave," that winds through the gallery.

Early next year, MoCA will take a look at work by artists addressing the complex issues facing a new economically booming China in the wake of industrialization and globalization. "Eastern Standard: Western Artists in China," is scheduled to open Feb. 3.

The Berkshire Museum has extended its "Kidstuff: Great Toys from Our Childhood" exhibition through Oct. 21 and will open its annual Festival of Trees on the transportation-oriented theme "On the Move" for the Christmas season Nov. 17 to Dec. 31.

The schedule after that is in flux with the construction of the new Feigenbaum Hall of Innovation to open in March and the reinstallation of permanent collection galleries in April.

On other fronts, the Lichten-stein Center of the Arts on Renne Avenue in Pittsfield will host the fourth annual "Think Pink" exhibition to build awareness of breast cancer. Organized by the Store-front Artist Project and featuring work by 60 artists, it will open Sept. 28 and run through Oct. 27.

The Lichtenstein Center will continue the feminine theme with an exhibition opening Nov. 9 of American women artists influenced by Sufism, the mystical branch of Islam. "In the Realm of Rumi," which takes its name from the Sufi poet Jellaudin Rumi, the show, with a program of music, dance and poetry recitals, runs through Jan. 6. 2008.

This weekend, the Storefront Artist Project will open an exhibition of work by area artists who were featured at the Massachu-setts College of Liberal Arts' Gallery 51 in North Adams over the past two years. It is a followup to a similar exhibition the MCLA Gallery 51 staged over the summer recognizing the first five years of artists showing with the Storefront Artist Project.

A public reception is planned tomorrow from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Storefront gallery, 124 Fenn St. in Pittsfield.

Finally, outdoor art will grace Pittsfield streets this fall, as "Hayman! Scarecrows in Down-town Pittsfield" gets off the ground on Oct. 5. The city and the Storefront Artist Project are collaborating on a public scarecrow-building program, inspired by the work of Plainfield artist Michael Melle, whose straw figures are on view at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge.


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