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Summer Arts Preview 2019

Art picks: Close to the sea, after Stonewall, at war

John Akomfrah’s multichannel video project “Purple” will be at the ICA’s Watershed May 26-Sept. 2.Smoking Dog Films/Courtesy Lisson Gallery

JOHN AKOMFRAH: PURPLE Six large screens will fill the ICA’s Watershed for its second season, unfurling this engrossing epic multichannel video project by the British-Ghanian artist John Akomfrah. With its poetic collage of image and sound, the piece’s subject, climate change, will have resonance for a city uncomfortably close to the sea. May 26-Sept. 2. Watershed, Institute of Contemporary Art, 256 Marginal St., East Boston. 617-478-3100,

RENOIR: THE BODY, THE SENSES The title more or less says it all, as this exhibition focuses on the Impressionist master’s fascination with the sensuality of the flesh. While the body is a constant, the style is not, as the show charts an artist’s evolution through a favorite subject: the female form. June 8-Sept. 22. Clark Art Institute, 225 South St., Williamstown.413-458 2303,


WINSLOW HOMER: EYEWITNESS and HOMER AT THE BEACH: A MARINE PAINTER’S JOURNEY A double dose this summer of the beloved New England painter, at Harvard Art Museums and at the Cape Ann Museum, respectively, shows the artist’s early work as a war artist during the civil war — all muddy browns and dun greys, eyewitness accounts of a harrowing time — and his bucolic scenes of New England coastlines back home. The artist led many pictorial lives, and these are two at opposite poles. Aug. 31-Jan. 5.Harvard Art Museums, 32 Quincy St., Cambridge. 617-495-9400, Aug. 3-Dec. 1, Cape Ann Museum, 27 Pleasant St., Gloucester. 978-283-0455,

MURAL: JACKSON POLLOCK | KATHARINA GROSSE “Mural” (1943) is Jackson’s Pollock’s largest-ever work, at 8 feet by 20 feet, and a departure point for an artist emerging from Surrealist representation and into pure abstraction. Alongside him, contemporary German artist Grosse boldly matches his scale in a piece commissioned for just this moment, challenging hierarchy, hegemony, and what we think we know about the canon of abstraction all at once. July 1-Feb. 23. Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave. 617-267-9300,


ANNIE LENNOX: NOW I LET YOU GO One of the most daring and memorable musicians of the ’80s takes a turn into installation with an exhibition of hundreds of objects cobbled from a lifetime of collecting, all embedded in a mound of earth. Big questions — about mortality, about accumulation, about identity formed from material things — seem certain to ensue. May 25-TBA. Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams. 413-662-2111,

HYMAN BLOOM: MATTERS OF LIFE AND DEATH Bloom, a Boston painter, made visceral images of bodies post-autopsy and denuded trees at a time during the 1940s and ’50s when American art became narrowly defined by the cognsocenti as being exclusively an enterprise of gestural abstraction. Thus Bloom, despite the rigor of his project, drifted to the margins, a problem the Museum of Fine Arts looks to rectify with 40 paintings that reinsert him into a prominent place in art history. July 13-Feb. 23. Museum of Fine Arts, 465 Huntington Ave. 617-267-9300,

BIG PLANS: PICTURING SOCIAL REFORM A buffet of photographs, urban planning documents, video, and maps, this exhibit looks to show how the Boston of today was formed by the vocal advocacy of socially progressive design more than a century ago. Did it work? That’s a question that’s still being answered, to no one’s satisfaction. June 20-Sept. 15, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, 25 Evans Way. 617-566-1401,


KIMSOOJA: ARCHIVE OF THE MINDA soothing summer’s pursuit, this participatory project entreats mindfulness and produces organic, collaborative beauty as viewers mold a lump of clay in a low-lit gallery space and add it to a collective table of works by others. It’s a show where you’re invited to leave a footprint, and join the crowd. June 22-Jan. 19. Peabody Essex Museum, East India Square, Salem. 978-745-9500,

BE SEEN: PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY SINCE STONEWALL The 1969 Stonewall riots in New York’s West Village served as the genesis of LGBTQ rights in the public sphere. This show examines 50 years of “after” — how LGBTQ identity, no longer hidden, evolved to be performed in public and for the camera. June 22-Sept. 15. Wadsworth Atheneum, 600 Main St., Hartford. 860-278-2670,

CAULEEN SMITH: WE ALREADY HAVE WHAT WE NEED Smith describes the broad subjects of her work as “the fragile, the forgotten, the flawed, and the fugitive,” and she represents them in as broad an array of media as you can imagine. Using science fiction, poetry, film and object-making, Smith’s exploration of African-American life creates a visceral fantasy realm with social justice at its core. May 25-TBA. Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, 1040 Mass MOCA Way, North Adams. 413-662-2111,

Murray Whyte can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @TheMurrayWhyte.