Spring Arts Preview 2014

From classical music and theater to visual arts and books, a look at the hottest events and releases this season.

visual arts

Guns and rock ’n’ roll, old American quilts and modern Mexican couture, paintings of shining seas, New York streets, and America the beautiful are some of the sights in store around Boston this spring. Plus: a rare visit from one of the founding documents of Western democracy. —Greg Cook

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Photograph © Graciela Iturbide; bracelets by Juan Alonso; embroidery by Endy Lopez; rebozo by Fermin Escobar; model, Liliana Dominguez

Carla Fernández: “The Barefoot Designer”

As the daughter of the director of the Mexican government’s National Institute of Anthropology and History, fashion designer Carla Fernández was raised with a reverence for historical traditions. Her designs mix Western high fashion with the rectangles and patterns of traditional Mexican blouses, ponchos, and wraparound skirts. And she’s the founder of the Taller Flora fashion label, which works with indigenous groups—especially women’s co-ops—to sustain Mexican textile traditions.

4/17–9/1, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 280 The Fenway, Boston, gardnermuseum.org.

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Bus with Reflection of the Flatiron Building © Richard Estes, private collection, courtesy of Marlborough Gallery, New York

“Richard Estes’ Realism”

This survey of one of the pioneers of photo-inspired realist painting that emerged in the 1960s demonstrates the New Yorker’s magical ability to capture the gleam of light on cars, windows, and the waters of Maine, where he’s spent time since the late ’70s. As the paintings have aged, they’ve ripened with the heart-tugging feeling of moments irretrievably gone.

5/22–9/7, Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Sq., Portland, Maine, portlandmuseum.org.

Joe Wardwell

In this Boston painter’s canvases, psychedelic words seem to burn through classic American landscapes of waterfalls, forested mountain lakes, and crashing ocean shores. The words, in fact, are lyrics from rock bands like Black Sabbath and Rage Against the Machine.

5/10–6/20, LaMontagne Gallery, 555 E. 2nd St., South Boston, lamontagnegallery.com.

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Venice: The Dogana and San Giorgio Maggiore, by Joseph Mallord William Turner, National Gallery of Art, Washington, Widener Collection

“Turner & the Sea”

The 19th-century British artist Joseph Mallord William Turner’s paintings of land and water are so lush and passionate and tumultuous that they split the opinions of his contemporaries. “Vibrating between the absurd and the sublime” was how the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray put it.

5/31–9/1, Peabody Essex Museum, 161 Essex St., Salem, pem.org.

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A1 1911 © Jordan Kessler

Jordan Kessler “Lead and Silver”

The recent MassArt grad looks at America’s gun culture via photos of targets and shipping cases. The guns themselves are absent, but you can sense their spirit, humming with annihilating power.

4/18–5/24, Gallery Kayafas, 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, gallerykayafas.com.

“Magna Carta: Cornerstone of Liberty”

One of four surviving copies of the 1215 charter that became the seed for modern English and American democracy makes a rare voyage from its home at Britain’s Lincoln Cathedral to the New World on the eve of its 800th birthday in 2015.

7/2–9/1, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, mfa.org.

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Carpenter’s Wheel Quilt, Pilgrim/Roy Collection, courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Quilts and Color”

Quilts are America’s old-time, no-prescription-required psychedelics. Here are prime examples spanning from the Civil War to World War II from the collection of Gerald Roy and the late Paul Pilgrim. They began acquiring antique textiles as part of their interior-decorating business in the 1960s—and were especially attuned to patterns of rings and triangles and bunches of grapes that will make your eyes pop.

4/6–7/27, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave., Boston, mfa.org.

Kenji Nakayama “Etudes”

The hip Boston sign painter is perhaps best known for his project creating bespoke placards for beggars, though he also likes to turn out crazily elaborate stencil paintings of city streets and trains. One of his signatures is the pinstriping that he’s previously used to decorate lettering on signs, antique saws, and motorcycles. Here it mutates into calligraphic abstractions.

4/14–5/18, Fourth Wall Project, 132 Brookline Ave., Boston, fourthwallproject.com.

“Urban Timber”

Wood construction is the subject of this Boston Society of Architects exhibit. From old New England (Hancock Shaker Village, the USS Constitution) to contemporary design, lumber is considered in many forms—composite, veneer, ancient, green, sensual, strong.

6/30–9/30, BSA Space, 290 Congress St., Boston, bsaspace.org.

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Courtesy of Samsøñ

Alix Pearlstein 

In Pearlstein’s videos, performers move about, assemble into still tableaux, move again, and repeat. The results are curious, minimalist dances.

6/6–7/19, Samsøn, 450 Harrison Ave., Boston, samsonprojects.com.

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Happy—A World in the World, Photograph by Gene Pittman © Jim Hodges, Collection of Jeff, Mary, and Martha Rathmanner

Jim Hodges “Give More Than You Take”

This 25-year retrospective of Hodge’s art reveals that at its heart is transformation—glass shaped to resemble tree branches, chains becoming spider webs, denim cut up and rearranged as tumultuous cloudy skies.

6/5–9/1, Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave., Boston, icaboston.org.


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