Spring Art Exhibits in Boston and Beyond

What better season than spring to be inspired? Check out Michelangelo at the MFA, Nick Cave's 'Soundsuits' at the Peabody, Anders Zorn at the Gardner, and more.

Ganapati the Warrior

Ganapati the Warrior by Jogen Chowdhury, part of the Peabody Essex Museum’s “Midnight to the Boom.”

As spring slowly but surely creeps back into Boston, we’re looking forward to some bright colorful inspiration. Thanks to museums including the MFA, the Gardner, the ICA, and the Peabody Essex Museum, however, we won’t have to wait for the great outdoors to give us what we want. Here are some of this spring’s can’t-miss art exhibits in Boston and beyond.

Joseph Wheelwright & Rosalyn Driscoll at the Boston Sculptors Gallery

For a bit of must-see sculpture, check out Rosalyn Driscoll’s Water Over Fire, described as “an intense, hermetic cube” that exudes light and signifies a bodily balance between water and fire, taken from Chinese medicinal customs. Roots by Joseph Wheelwright, also part of this month-long exhibit, features carved pairs or groups of wood and bronze roots twisted around one another with “growing tentacles in search of nutrients” likely to capture your interest.

Until April 7, Boston Sculptors Gallery, 486 Harrison Ave., 617-482-7781, bostonsculptors.com

Illuminations by Hollis Dunlap at Axelle Fine Arts

American artist Hollis Dunlap’s solo exhibit at Axelle Fine Arts Galerie Boston stars his new “figurative and landscape paintings” that blend modern-day brush strokes with “realistic classicism.” View Dunlap’s extraordinary use of color as he vivifies his subjects in light and shadows, all while creating a sense of movement.

Until April 7, Axelle Boston, 91 Newbury St., 617-450-0700, axelle.com/boston

Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India After Independence at the Peabody Essex Museum

Tracing art in India from their political freedom from Britain at midnight on August 15, 1947, until the economic boom of the 1990s, this exhibit displays the volatility and potential of abstraction that paralleled that of India at the time. The lush, bright colors and complicated story lines of the images on display highlight the cultural dimension of these works. The paintings showcase one of the broadest collections of 20th-century Indian art in the United States, including works from three generations of Indian artists experimenting with new modernism and individual expression.

Until April 21, Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem, 978-745-9500, pem.org

Less Is More: The Minimal Point at the Smith College Museum of Art

Confronting the simplicity of minimalism, this exhibit plays on the individual process of seeing, helping viewers appreciate this seemingly inexpressive art. As opposed to the expressionist art that came before it, the minimalist art on display at the Smith College Museum of Art removes the artist as completely as possible, allowing viewers to engage in the act of seeing what is right in front of them. This exhibit centers on the art of printmaking as a replicative and technical aesthetic, focusing intently on everything from the type of ink being used to the quality of the paper.

Until May 5, Smith College Museum of Art, 20 Elm St., 413-585-2760, Northampton, smith.edu/artmuseum

Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice

Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice by Anders Zorn via the Gardner Museum

Anders Zorn at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Anders Zorn: A European Artist Seduces America at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum offers viewers the chance to learn how the Swedish artist “set the groundwork for modern art.” Organized into five categories—“Zorn and Gardner,” “In the City,” “Country Life,” “Society Portraits,” and “Artist’s Studios”—24 paintings will be on display alongside drawings, photos, and other keepsakes that Zorn gave to Isabella Gardner more than 100 years ago. Some of the highlights include The Ice Skater (1898) and Isabella Stewart Gardner in Venice (1894).

Until May 13, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 280 The Fenway, 617-566-1401, gardnermuseum.org


Untitled costume from “Soundsuits” by Nick Cave via Peabody Essex Museum

FreePort [No. 006]: Nick Cave at the Peabody Essex Museum

A delightfully confusing collection, Nick Cave’s “Soundsuits” sculptures arrived at the Peabody Essex Museum on March 2. A combination of costumes and performance art, these living sculptures wildly surpass the traditional museum experience. Cave’s Soundsuits are made with materials ranging from twigs and leaves to beaded wire and felt. Each suit hides the gender, age, race, and other distinguishing demographics of the wearer with its faceless and alien-like shape. PEM’s exhibit will feature three never-before-seen creations and an encompassing video experience.

Until May 27, Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem, 978-745-9500, pem.org

Ed Ruscha: Standard at the Rose Art Museum

Drawn largely from its previous home in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, this exhibit covers the influential career of the iconic Los Angeles-based artist Ed Ruscha. “Standard,” the title of the exhibit and a commonly repeated phrase in Ruscha’s work, highlights his most pervasive conceptualizations. More than 70 pieces make philosophical comments on seemingly mundane subjects make Ruscha an important artist in urban history. This exhibit is a unique opportunity to reflect on a lifetime of work from an artist who has had an expansive impact across many fields.

Until June 9, Rose Art Museum, 415 South St., Waltham, 781-736-3434, brandeis.edu

new blue and white

Glazed stoneware from “New Blue and White” via the Museum of Fine Arts.

New Blue and White at the MFA

Put away those dusty old china patterns and experience the fine art of blue-and-white ceramic that inspires this exhibit, currently on display at the MFA. As one of the most common household patterns, it is fitting that the exhibit focus on all types of works inspired by the porcelain including clothes, shoes, and even a surfboard. Involving themes such as globalism, power, and commerce, these pieces come from artists around the world, spanning from extremely traditional and ancient Islamic and Asian traditions to modern global ideas and inspiration. On Thursday, April 4, curator Emily Zilber will speak about how contemporary artists reinterpreted the age-old theme. 

Until July 14 (gallery talk April 4), Gallery 158, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., 617-267-9300mfa.org

Triumph of the Winter Queen

Triumph of the Winter Queen: Allegory of the Just by Gerrit van Honthorst via the Museum of Fine Arts

Triumph of the Winter Queen at the MFA

Starting on Valentine’s Day, renowned Dutch artist Gerrit van Honthorst’s Triumph of the Winter Queen was debuted for public viewing in the Loring Gallery of the Museum of Fine Arts. The 1636 painting is paired with a special media presentation that takes the viewer back in time and further explains the story (think: war, exile, and death) and technique behind the artist’s great masterpiece. The painting shows the Bohemian Queen Elizabeth Stuart atop a lion-drawn chariot with her children around her and Neptune, Envy, and Death squashed beneath the wheels of the chariot. The exhibit will be open through July, and on April 25, the MFA will host a gallery talk exploring methods of conservation and various interpretations of the work.

Until July 21 (gallery talk April 25), Gallery 276, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., 617-267-9300, mfa.org

Barry McGee at the ICA

On April 6, the Institute of Contemporary Art will welcome the works of Barry McGee, who began as a graffiti artist by the name “Twist” in his hometown of San Francisco. His street works are said to “express the anarchic vitality of inner-city street life” that lives within his neighborhood, and his gallery pieces explore a much broader picture—life in early 21st-century America among unemployment, wars, social class, consumerism, and much more, yet all while reflecting an alternate reality to what is occurring in the now.

April 6-September 2, West Gallery, Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., 617-478-3100, icaboston.org

Armor of the Nimaitachido

Armor of the Nimaitachido photo via the Museum of Fine Arts

Samurai! at the MFA

Showcasing the art of the warrior, Samurai! Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection opens in April and will display the traditional designs adorning the armor of these historical soldiers. The exhibit features more than 140 objects used to protect the samurai, the military elite led by the shoguns in Japan between the 12th and 19th centuries. An impressive collection of helmets, horse armor, weapons, and more, this exhibit showcases the colorful and intricate pageantry of the culture of the historical Asian military.

April 14-August 4, Ann and Graham Gund Gallery, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., 617-267-9300mfa.org

Michelangelo at the MFA

Arguably the biggest household name in art of all time, Michelangelo has produced some of the greatest artistic works in history. Take a look behind the grandeur of the artist and view Sacred and Profane, Master Drawings from the Casa Buonaroti at the MFA of 26 drawings preserved in Michelangelo’s home in Florence. With pieces from throughout his career, the exhibit toggles the line between the divine and the profane. Free gallery talks will be held on April 21 and May 8.

April 21-June 30 (gallery talks on April 21 and May 8), Gallery 154, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., 617-267-9300mfa.org

Edgardo Gonzalez at the Revere Hotel

At the end of March, painter Edgardo Gonzalez’s exhibit in Boston will combine his own work and that of three popular Boston designers. Edgardo’s Art on the Runway will offer the public a chance to view his unique, Picasso-esque paintings that he cleverly fuses with fashion. Popular across New England, Gonzalez is best known for his oil painting and larger-scale canvases.

March 31, 7:30 p.m., The Emerald Lounge at Revere Hotel, 200 Stuart St., edgardoarts.com

Slow Art Day at the Peabody Essex Museum

With our million-mile-an-hour lives, it is easy to rush through activities, even those that are meant to be relaxing. For a more reflective experience for the true art lover, the Peabody Essex Museum is taking part in the fourth annual international Slow Art Day along with more than 90 museums. The day is a chance to truly stop and smell the roses, or rather, to stop and enjoy art. Advocating resting on each individual piece and deeply taking in each work, PEM offers a list of suggested pieces, or you can choose your own. Join other art lovers in the Atrium Cafe at 2 p.m. to discuss the experience and engage in insightful conversation.

April 27, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem, 978-745-9500, pem.org

—Additional reporting by Meara Hamidiani