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10 can’t-miss fall exhibits

"Still Life with Various Vessels on a Table," a circa 1610 work by Osias Beert, will be on view in "New Galleries of Dutch and Flemish Art," which opens Nov. 20 at the Museum of Fine Arts.Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

WALKER EVANS: AMERICAN PHOTOGRAPHS Evans first came to acclaim for his work with James Agee on poor southern sharecroppers during the Great Depression with the now-iconic book “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.” Many of those pictures were presented in a landmark exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1938, offering a window into the era’s devastation in the country’s rural regions. This show is a partial reprise of the original in a new time of suffering, where the gap between urban and rural, rich and poor, has radically expanded. Through Dec. 5, the Portland Museum of Art, 7 Congress Square, Portland, Maine. 207-775-6148, portlandmuseum.org

SALEM WITCH TRIALS: RECKONING AND RECLAIMING With its evergreen subject always guaranteed to pack the galleries, this thoughtful exhibition explores what motivated the persecutors, the people who defended the persecuted, and the radioactive half-life of a moment more than 300 years ago that lives on in contemporary culture today. Sept. 18 to March 20, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem. 978-745-9500, www.pem.org


BY HER HAND: ARTEMISIA GENTILESCHI AND WOMEN ARTISTS IN ITALY 1500-1800 Gentileshci, the first woman ever admitted to Florence’s Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, produced one of the most arresting and singular artworks of her era: “Judith Slaying Holofernes,” circa 1614, a wildly violent scene of two women murdering a man with a knife. In the Renaissance, when depicting violence against women was hardly uncommon, the piece was an outlier, to say the least. But so was Gentileschi: Raped around two years before by the painter Agostino Tassi, Gentileschi had radical intention for her work, given the times — female empowerment. This show draws a line from her defiance through centuries of women artists demanding their seat at the table, against the odds. Sept. 30 to Jan. 9, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, 600 Main St., Hartford. 860-278-2670, www.thewadsworth.org

JOANA VASCONCELOS: VALKYRIE MUMBET Less an opening than a do-over, MassArt’s brand-new museum opened in late February of last year and shut down days later with the pandemic rumbling ever closer. So, for practical purposes, its October reopening feels very much like a first try, with everything from the grand opening kept in mothballs all that time. Certainly the most imposing is Vasconcelos’s colossal soft sculpture, several stories high, that feels like a plush version of a multi-limbed, interdimensional invader. Honoring Elizabeth “Mumbet” Freeman, an enslaved woman who in 1781 won a court battle for her freedom that helped make slavery illegal in Massachusetts, the piece is monumental, glittering liberation. It’s been waiting for you for a long time — the least you can do is show up. Oct. 9 to Dec. 31, MassArt Art Museum. 621 Huntington Ave. 617-879-7333, maam.massart.edu


FABRIC OF A NATION: AMERICAN QUILT STORIES A loosely chronological display of quilts, this show subverts the notion of fusty craftwork with pieces that empower marginalized people from an array of multiracial and LGBTQIA+ communities. It spans eras, showing that quilting has always had urgent narrative purpose, from the Underground Railroad of years past to the stories of Indigenous people and their struggle to thrive today. Oct. 10 to Jan. 17, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. 465 Huntington Ave. 617-267-9300, www.mfa.org

JEFFREY GIBSON: INFINITE INDIGENOUS QUEER LOVE Gibson’s career survey at the Brooklyn Museum in 2020 fell victim to on-again, off-again pandemic closures, so this admittedly much-smaller show is a timely second chance. Gibson, whose work blends the aesthetics and motifs of his Choctaw-Cherokee heritage with his identity as a queer man, champions resistance on both fronts, making space for his twice-marginalized self with provocative, often-spectacular pieces that span traditional fabric and textiles, sculpture, and video. Oct. 15 to March 13, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, 51 Sandy Pond Road, Lincoln. 781-259-8355, thetrustees.org/place/decordova


CERAMICS IN THE EXPANDED FIELD Old boundaries between what used to be defined as “art” and “craft” have been eroding for at least a couple of decades now (the 2010 Whitney Biennial was a big coming-out party), and this exhibition looks to push a message through the medium: To showcase work grounded “in regional and national cultures . . . [and] its relationship to colonialism and globalization,” to help “speak to other histories that have been buried and devalued.” Oct. 16 to April 2. Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams. 413-662-2111, www.massmoca.org

DEANA LAWSON “I photograph family, friends, and strangers,” Lawson once said, “and I operate on the belief that my own being is found in union with those I take pictures of.” In this first museum survey of the Brooklyn-based artist, intimate connection is a given: between Lawson and her subjects — and, disarmingly, you. Nov. 3 to Feb. 27, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 25 Harbor Shore Drive. 617-478-3100, www.icaboston.org


NEW GALLERIES OF DUTCH AND FLEMISH ART Maybe the single largest initiative undertaken by the Museum of Fine Arts since it opened its new Art of the Americas wing in 2010, the all-new home for the museum’s collection of Dutch and Flemish art — greatly enhanced by a historic gift of 114 paintings from the van Otterloo and Weatherbie families in 2017 — is the outward expression of the museum’s brand-new Center for Netherlandish Art, established as part of that gift. Things have shifted in those few years, prompting a different view, perhaps, than initially planned. The galleries (seven in all) and the center, a state-of-the-art research institute, will explore such themes as “the unexpected connection between still life paintings, the sugar trade, and slavery” alongside the more standard study of Netherlandish culture and art. Opens Nov. 20, Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave. 617-267-9300, www.mfa.org

YTO BARRADA: WAYS TO BAFFLE THE WIND Humanity’s quixotic urge to bend nature to its will has yielded no end of absurdity and disaster, some of it fictional, and, increasingly, plenty of it not. Losing control, in fact, feels like the general overlay of the 21st century, as the climate crisis accelerates and the planet spins more and more wildly. This is all familiar turf for Yto Barrada, who explores those absurdities — and those dangers — in this new show. Nov. 20, 2021 through Dec. 2023, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 1040 Mass MoCA Way, North Adams. 413-662-2111, www.massmoca.org



Murray Whyte can be reached at murray.whyte@globe.com. Follow him @TheMurrayWhyte.