Offerings by Art and Cultural Venues Just Keep Getting Better
This year, museums are seeing a flowering of art by women and of women—and sometimes both.
As MASS MoCA celebrates its 20th with a tribute to musician Annie Lennox, the museum will devote an expanse of its first floor to Cauleen Smith in “We Already Have What We Need.” Connecting with her exhibits at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Whitney Biennial in 2017, Smith will create a labyrinth with a core of celebration and change.
In drawings, textiles and film, she recognizes strong women and the systems they build, and she honors novels and memoirs that affirm them: Sula by Toni Morrison, Lose Your Mother by Saidiya Hartman, In the Wake: On Blackness and Being by Christina Sharpe, among others.
In June, in the same spirit, the museum opens “Still I Rise”—a title recognizing Maya Angelou—a group show of images of women, focusing on women of color.
Around the corner, Bahamian artist Anina Major re-creates tradition and ritual in weaving, mixed media and natural shapes in clay. MCLA Gallery 51 welcomes her in a solo show, “The Rhythm of Hybrid Interactions,” through June 22.
Pliant stems and the grain of wood gleam in metal at Berkshire Botanical Garden, as New York artist Nancy Lorenz presents “Shimmering Flowers” in the gallery of the Center House. An abstract artist, she has lived in Japan, and she incorporates lacquer and nacre in her gilt paintings and vessels landscapes in bronze.
Through the summer, the vessels will become a living exhibit of their own; Ikebana master Kan Asakura will give a demonstration at the opening on May 31, and through the summer designers will rotate displays of flowers in her vessels.
Bright and dark abstraction explore quantum fields at the Berkshire Museum, as Amy Myers translates large-scale drawings from particle physics in “The Opera Inside the Atom,” an exhibit of her drawings, on June 9. An abstract painter and mixed-media artist, she is the daughter of a particle physicist, says chief experience officer Craig Langlois, and she grew up in conversations about quarks and string theory, and the world from the perspective of an electron—where all atoms resonate on one frequency, and anyone who can match it can walk through walls.
The museum also will hold a solo show of glimmering and earthy landscapes in oils by the nationally known Berkshire artist John MacDonald, through July 28.
And abstraction shimmers at the Clark Art Institute—as the museum opens its centennial celebration of Renoir (see page 26), it also turns to urban Modernism with Ida Ten Eyck O’Keeffe, an artist known in her lifetime and all but unknown now, who was also Georgia O’Keeffe’s younger sister.
“Ida O’Keeffe: Escaping Georgia’s Shadow” brings together 35 paintings, prints and photographs. A series of Cape Cod lighthouses move from realism to abstraction, and she explores scenes from New York to Oregon to San Antonio, in vivid color and in monotypes, what she called, “in the half-shadow between painting and print-making.”
The Clark partners with the Dallas Museum of Art to present this show, curated by DMA’s Sue Canterbury.
She has created a catalogue, the first publication devoted to exploring Ida O’Keeffe’s life and work, according to the Clark. And as the museum opens a broad array of Renoir’s bright paintings of the nude, O’Keeffe offers her own vision of a young woman bathing in the moonlight.
Georgia O’Keeffe comes to Tanglewood on July 19, in a celebration of her brilliant sense of color and her courage—in composer Kevin Puts’s The Brightness of Light, a world premiere song cycle inspired by letters between O’Keeffe and her husband, the photographer Alfred Stieglitz. With humor and longing, Renée Fleming will sing the story of an artist who “turns from a painful marriage to embrace her work and the desert landscape she loves,” according to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Tanglewood Learning Institute (TLI)will build a weekend of events around the performance in its inaugural year at the new Linde Center. The BSO opens its first year-round facilities this summer (see page 19)—with a season of wide-ranging ideas.
Madeleine Albright, renown diplomat, winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the first woman to serve as United States Secretary of State, will open its first season of programming with a July 6 talk in nation-building in the 21st century, accompanied by Verdi’s Requiem.
As the classical summer season opens in early July, the BSO will celebrate Sir Andre Previn’s 90th birthday, also on July 6, with his violin concerto from Anne-Sophie—with Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman No. 1 and Dvorak’s Symphony No. 9 from the New World—and later in July, Fleming will return to sing Penelope, a BSO co-comission to Previn and playwright Tom Stoppard about the woman who loves Odysseus in Homer’s epic. Stoppard himself will come to the TLI to talk about the work.
Tanglewood begins the summer with popular music with British folk-rock musician Richard Thompson on June 21; he brings original songs and acoustic guitar from his new acoustic album, 13 Rivers, the low bass and rumbling percussion of The Storm Won’t Come. The Boston Pops and Marc Martel join for a celebration of the legendary rock band Queen on June 27, and James Taylor performs on July 3-4.
Acoustic and electric find a vertex at Solid Sound 2019. At MASS MoCA, Wilco curates a three-day weekend of music and comedy June 28 to 30, from more than 20 years at the heart of the Chicago indy rock scene. This year, they are including visual artists and writers, poster silk screening, Madlibs, tintype photography—and axe throwing.
And among their minimalist punk acts, some will hold a different note, acoustic and international. Lakou Mizik, a collective group of Haitian musicians from Port-au-Prince, spans generations from elders to young people in a warm blend of guitar and bass and voices propelled with joy.
Tuareg acoustic guitarist Mdou Moctar comes out of a contemporary musical tradition in Niger, and Rafiq Bhatia, an American son of Muslim parents, finds his own influences widely—Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, trips to the Great Rift Valley of Africa and the mosques of Istanbul.
Music continues at MASS MoCA through the summer, and a blend of influences will fill Hancock Shaker Village in a season-long sound installation, “While Mighty Thunders Roll: Popular Artists Sing the Shakers.” Williamstown producer Jeffrey Gaskill, nominated for a Grammy for his recent tribute album to Gospel and blues musician Blind Willie Johnson, has curated a summer exhibition of Shaker music performed by contemporary artists from Natalie Merchant to Yo-Yo Ma.
Shaker dance is also genre-bending this summer. Award-winning choreographer Reggie Wilson will bring a new work to Hancock Shaker Village, imagining black Shaker worship (see page 30), and he will premiere Power at Jacob’s Pillow International Dance Festival in July.
The Pillow will join the world in celebrating the man who danced the original role of the preacher in Martha Graham’s Appalachian spring—the work that gave the world Aaron Copland’s rendition of the song simple Gifts—when a global centennial celebration of Merce Cunningham comes to Becket with Compagnie CNDC.
The Pillow will charge into the summer with the energy and gusto of their third annual all-styles dance battle on June 30. Their early summer performers include contemporary Australian circus to live Bach and Phillip Glass.
Compañía Irene Rodríguez returns with contemporary Cuban flamenco to live music—voice, percussion and guitar—with a Pillow commission, Pena Negra, based on poetry by Federico García Lorca.
And Dance Theatre of Harlem celebrates 50 years with classics and contemporary work—George Balanchine, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s Balamouk, Darrell Grand Moultrie’s Harlem on My Mind, and more.
In music, comedy and drama, Berkshire stages are asking what stories get told, and how they get told—and what stories are hidden, silenced or changed.
Williamstown Theatre Festival (WTF) opens their main stage with A Raisin in the Sun.
When Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 classic opened in New York 60 years ago, she became the first black woman to have a play performed on Broadway. It went on to be nominated for four Tony awards and to tour the West End of London.
As a playwright and journalist, she knew and worked with Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson and W.E.B. Du Bois and became a close friend of Nina Simone. A Raisin in the Sun takes its name from Hughs’ poem, Dream Deferred, and tells the story of a family struggling to build a sustainable future in the hard years between World War II and the Freedom movements of the 1960s.
In June, WTF opens the Nikos Stage with contemporary works that seem to echo that spirit. A Human Being, of a Sort begins in 1906, at the Bronx Zoo, where an African-American convict named Smokey is guarding a controversial exhibit: Ota Benga, a Congolese pygmy, a man of the Mbuta people, who lived near the Kasai River.
Both plays, and in fact every play on the Nikos, are world premieres, and a season of contemporary works with contemporary families lead up to Uma Thurman in a new translation of Henrik Ibsen’s Ghosts.
Teacher, deep miner, seasonal farm worker, writer, firefighter—voices from many walks of American life come together in Working: A Musical at Berkshire Theatre Group in July, based on Studs Terkel’s 1974 book, Working.
The musical has been recently revised for the 21st century with new songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, composer and star of the record Tony award-winning musical Hamilton, and music by Stephen Schwartz, known for Wicked and Pippin, Craig Carnelia and James Taylor.
At Barrington Stage Company (BSC), Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods will set the tone on the Main Stage, weaving fairy tales together and turning them upside down, until even the narrator becomes human and flawed.
And on Stage II, Jeanne Sakata’s Hold These Truths opens the season: Gordon Hirabayashi, and American sociologist who refused to be confined to an internment camp with thousands of Japanese-American families in World War II.
Stacey Rose, the winner of the BSC’s first New Play Award, follows with a look into a world absurd, post apocalyptic and familiar. In America v. 2.1: The Sad Demise & Eventual Extinction of The American Negro—a troupe of Black actors are charged with performing a revised history, and the performance becomes a reckoning as it reveals truths that history has hidden. “This may be one of our most challenging plays this year,” says artistic director Julie Boyd.
At Shakespeare & Company, comedy and irony and pain interweave, as the summer begins at The Waverly Gallery—Gladys Green, a Greenwich Village activist and lawyer, has run an art gallery for decades and now faces the loss of her hearing and memory.
Shipwrecked Viola is trying to survive in a new country, in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. And the tension moves to a contemporary English coastline in Lucy Kirkwood’s The Children, as two retired physicists take shelter in a borrowed cottage after a nuclear power plant accident.
As summer unfolds, questions of power unfold with it. In Top Dog / Underdog, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Pulitzer Prize–winning play, two black brothers Lincoln and Booth wrestle with the legacy of Abraham Lincoln and the absurdities in their lives. n