Upcoming Exhibitions and Galleries
|Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Old Edgefield, South Carolina||March 4–July 9, 2023|
|Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence||March 26–July 16, 2023|
|Strong Women in Renaissance Italy||September 9, 2023–January 7, 2024|
|Styled by Sargent||October 8, 2023–January 15, 2024|
|The Stillness of Things: Photographs from the Lane Collection||through February 27, 2023|
|Weng Family Collection of Chinese Painting: Art Rocks||through March 27, 2023|
|Body Awareness: Maria Lassnig's Experimental Films||through April 2, 2023|
|Frank Bowling's Americas||through April 9, 2023|
|Making Past Present: Cy Twombly||through May 7, 2023|
|Touching Roots: Black Ancestral Legacies in the Americas||through May 21, 2023|
|Who Holds Up the Sky?||through May 21, 2023|
|The Banner Project: Diedrick Brackens||through June 9, 2023|
|Michaelina Wautier and the Five Senses: Innovation in 17th-Century Flemish Painting||Opened November 2022|
|French Salon Gallery||Opened August 2022|
|Art of the Italian Renaissance Galleries||Opened August 2022|
|Stories Artists Tell: Art of the Americas, the 20th Century||Ongoing|
|Jess T. Dugan: Coupled||Ongoing|
|Sally Mann and Cy Twombly: Remembered Light||Ongoing|
|Hank Willis Thomas: Remember Me||Ongoing|
|Otherworldly Realms of Wu Junyong||Ongoing|
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Upcoming Exhibitions and New Galleries
Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery
March 4–July 9, 2023
Focusing on the work of Black potters in the 19th-century American South, this landmark exhibition presents nearly 60 ceramic objects from Old Edgefield District, South Carolina, a center of stoneware production in the decades before the Civil War, together with contemporary responses.
Hear Me Now tells a story about art and enslavement—and about the joy, struggle, creative ambition, and lived experience of African Americans in the decades before the Civil War. The exhibition features many objects never before seen outside of the South, bringing together monumental storage jars by the enslaved and literate potter and poet Dave or David Drake (about 1800–about 1870) with rare examples of the region’s utilitarian wares and enigmatic face vessels by unrecorded makers.
It also links past to present, in part by including the work of leading contemporary Black artists who have responded to or whose practice resonates with the Edgefield story. Established figures like Theaster Gates and Simone Leigh, as well as younger, emerging artists like Adebunmi Gbadebo, Woody De Othello and Robert Pruitt have contributed to the show. Working primarily in clay, these artists respond to the legacy of the Edgefield potters and consider the resonance of this history for audiences today.
Focusing on enslaved artists and the American South, Hear Me Now shines a light on an untold chapter in American art, and on one of the most brutal periods in American history. Co-organized with The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition is accompanied by a scholarly publication and informed by new scientific research. The show will additionally travel to the University of Michigan Museum of Art, Ann Arbor and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta.
“Hear Me Now: The Black Potters of Edgefield, South Carolina” is generously supported by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support from the Wyeth Foundation for American Art, The Bruce and Laura Monrad Fund for Exhibitions, the Dr. Lawrence H. and Roberta Cohn Exhibition Fund, the Eugenie Prendergast Memorial Fund, and an anonymous funder.
Ann and Graham Gund Gallery
March 26–July 23, 2023
Thanks to the popularity of the instantly recognizable Great Wave—cited everywhere from book covers and Lego sets to anime and emoji—Katsushika Hokusai (1760–1849) has become one of the most famous and influential artists in the world. This major exhibition takes a new approach to the work of the versatile master, pairing more than 100 of his woodblock prints, paintings, and illustrated books from the MFA’s renowned collection with more than 200 works by his teachers, students, rivals, and admirers. These unique juxtapositions demonstrate Hokusai’s impact through the centuries and around the globe—seen in works by, among others, his daughter Katsushika Ōi, his contemporaries Utagawa Hiroshige and Utagawa Kuniyoshi, the 19th-century French Japonistes, and modern and contemporary artists including Loïs Mailou Jones, John Cederquist and Yoshitomo Nara.
“Hokusai: Inspiration and Influence” is sponsored by UNIQLO USA. Generously supported by the MFA Associates / MFA Senior Associates. Additional support from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Exhibition Fund, the Museum Council Artist in Residency Program Fund, the Dr. Terry Satsuki Milhaupt Fund for Japanese Textiles, the MFA Associates / MFA Senior Associates Exhibition Endowment Fund, the Patricia B. Jacoby Exhibition Fund, and the Alexander M. Levine and Dr. Rosemarie D. Bria-Levine Exhibition Fund.
Strong Women in Renaissance Italy
Lois B. and Michael K. Torf Gallery
September 9, 2023–January 7, 2024
This exhibition explores female experience and agency in Renaissance Italy, bringing together approximately 100 works of art—mostly from the MFA’s own collection but including several key loans—that illuminate various facets of women’s lives, from the domestic and civic spheres to religious experience and devotional practice. Women were artists, patrons, collectors, writers, musicians, apothecaries, and active members of the workforce in many areas—for example, in convents, they participated in textile and manuscript production, education, medicine and botany. The exhibition highlights individual women such as the painter Sofonisba Anguissola, who served at the court of King Phillip II of Spain and painted more self-portraits than any other Italian Renaissance artist, male or female; and Isabella d’Este, one of the most influential patrons and collectors of her time. Representations of women in historical, religious and mythological contexts are explored as well, including images of the biblical heroine Judith, the saint Mary Magdalene and the sorceress Medea. Grouped in thematic sections, the objects on view include sculpture, paintings, maiolica vessels and plates, prints, manuscripts, printed books and textiles.
Styled by Sargent
Ann and Graham Gund Gallery
October 8, 2023–January 15, 2024
John Singer Sargent (1856–1925), admired on both sides of the Atlantic for his luxurious portraits, often chose clothing for his sitters that would both reflect their identities and fulfill his own aesthetic goals. This major exhibition, organized with Tate Britain, brings together about 50 paintings alongside a dozen period garments, shedding new light on the role of fashion and dress in this beloved painter’s creative practice. Styled by Sargent challenges the idea that Sargent was a passive employee to his affluent sitters and invites visitors to explore the idea of curating one’s image—examining the liberties Sargent sometimes took in depicting clothing and the ways in which he used sartorial choices to reveal his sitters’ distinctive personalities and attributes.
Herb Ritts Gallery and Clementine Brown Gallery
through February 27, 2023
This exhibition presents nearly 60 innovative photographs—all departures from the traditional still life—drawn from the MFA’s Lane Collection. Grouped thematically, the works on view span the entire history of photography, from its first introduction in England during the 1840s by William Henry Fox Talbot to the work of contemporary artists such as Adam Fuss, David Hilliard, Kenro Izu, Abelardo Morell and Olivia Parker. Works by American modernists are prominently featured, with unexpected takes on the still life by Ansel Adams, Imogen Cunningham, Charles Sheeler and Edward Weston—photographers better known for capturing vast landscapes and portraits of people. One of the largest gifts in the MFA's history, the Lane Collection was promised to the Museum in 2012. This exhibition is the latest in a series that has celebrated the single most important donation to the Museum's photography holdings.
“The Stillness of Things: Photographs from the Lane Collection” is supported by the Shelly and Michael Kassen Fund.
Asian Paintings Gallery
through March 27, 2023
In China, rocks in their natural form are objects of great aesthetic appreciation. As far back as 1,000 years ago, serious art collectors and critics acquired and competed for rocks with the same passion they afforded great works of painting and calligraphy. Rather than celebrating superficial beauty, collectors exalted imperfection for its expressive possibilities and sought rocks that were not symmetrical or smooth or pretty. They used terms like strange, weird and awkward as complimentary descriptions of the rocks they most preferred. The humble rock became, like an abstract sculpture, a medium to explore forms and textures, and to express one’s inner being. In the minds of serious connoisseurs, rocks, as microcosms of mountains—or even the entire universe—were meditations on life itself.
In 2018 and 2019, Wan-go H. C. Weng (1918–2020) made the largest gift of Chinese paintings and calligraphy to the MFA in the institution’s history, comprising more than 230 objects acquired and passed down through six generations of his family. Rocks were integral to the Weng family’s art collection, as subjects of paintings and as art objects themselves. This exhibition features more than 25 works from the gift that explore how rock aesthetics have permeated architecture, landscape design and painting styles in China for a millennium. Visitors can envision themselves in paintings of gardens where colossal rocks loom over a scholar’s studio, or scenes of fantastical caves where artists gaze in awe at mysterious rock formations. And rocks of all kind—large and small, weird and imperfect—are on view throughout the gallery, welcoming viewers to ponder, explore or, like the ancient poets, venerate.
This is the third in a series of three exhibitions celebrating the landmark donation made by Wan-go H. C. Weng, a longtime supporter of the MFA who, until he passed away in 2020 at the age of 102, devoted his life to the preservation, study, and promotion of China’s cultural heritage.
Generously supported by the Tan Family Education Foundation.
Lizbeth and George Krupp Gallery
through April 2, 2023
Although best known as a painter, Maria Lassnig (1919–2014) began to experiment with film in 1970. From that point on, she created animations using felt-tip pen drawings, stencils, spray paint, and collaged magazine cutouts as well as live-action scenes featuring protagonists and settings drawn from friends and everyday encounters. In one way or another, all of Lassnig’s films investigate what the artist termed “body awareness,” an ambitious artistic desire to express the complex and often slippery subjective qualities of internal sensory experience and self-perception.
This exhibition celebrates Lassnig’s pioneering work on film, featuring 16 pieces that explore physical sensation, autobiography, friendship, and New York City, where the artist lived in the 1970s. Reproductions of ephemera—texts and images from the Maria Lassnig Foundation in Vienna, Austria—give visitors a glimpse into the artist’s practice and document the evolution of her ideas. With candid and unsparing interrogations of identity that eschew the contemporary fascination with spectacular imagery, Lassnig’s films remain strongly relevant to—and an antidotal critique of—art and life today.
With gratitude to the Maria Lassnig Foundation, the Austrian Film Museum, and sixpackfilm for their kind and warm collaboration which has made this exhibition possible.
Charlotte F. and Irving W. Rabb Gallery and Henry and Lois Foster Gallery
through April 9, 2023
“Modernism belonged to me also.” So resolved British Guiana-born artist Frank Bowling in 1966, when he moved from London to New York City, impelled by ambition to make his mark on modern painting. Organized by the MFA, Frank Bowling’s Americas is the first exhibition dedicated to the transformative years Bowling spent in the U.S., and the first major survey of the artist’s work by an American institution in more than four decades.
Bowling’s time in New York, from 1966 to 1975, calls for deeper exploration. His decisive relocation brought him into contact with a vibrant and tumultuous art scene, with abstract painting on an explosive rise, heated debates unfolding around Black cultural identity and artistic practice, and Stokely Carmichael’s slogan “Black Power” emanating from the South. Over the course of the next decade, Bowling wrote copiously for art magazines, held several teaching positions (including at Massachusetts College of Art), exhibited widely (including a solo show at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1971), and in 1969 curated 5+1: an exhibition of five leading African American abstract artists (Melvin Edwards, Daniel LaRue Johnson, Al Loving, Jack Whitten and William T. Williams) plus Bowling himself at Stony Brook University, New York. His experiences in the U.S. catalyzed profound shifts in his painting, explored here through more than 30 works. The exhibition brings together a range of Bowling’s powerful works in the country of their making—from Pop-inflected paintings from the early 1960s and monumental, color-soaked canvases that evoke oceanic expanses to little-seen examples of the artist’s technically pioneering paintings rooted in abstraction. Providing for the first time a nuanced encounter with this pivotal chapter of Bowling’s career, Frank Bowling’s Americas offers an essential contribution to a more cross-cultural and global understanding of modern art.
The exhibition, which travels to the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) after its debut at the MFA, is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue, Frank Bowling’s Americas: New York 1966–75, produced by MFA Publications.
“Frank Bowling’s Americas” is generously supported by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation and the Henry and Lois Foster Fund for Contemporary Exhibitions. Additional support from the Robert and Jane Burke Fund for Exhibitions, the Barbara Jane Anderson Fund, The Museum Council Special Exhibition Fund and The Amy and Jonathan Poorvu Fund for the Exhibition of Contemporary Art and Sculpture.
Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art (multiple galleries)
through May 7, 2023
Throughout the course of his career, Cy Twombly (1928–2011) produced thousands of artworks inspired in large part by art and literature from the classical world, which he encountered through his travels, reading and collecting. This exhibition is the first in the U.S. to explore the artist’s sustained engagement with antiquity and the first to focus on Twombly—an alumnus of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University—in Boston. Making Past Present: Cy Twombly brings together more than 60 works by Twombly (including paintings, sculptures, drawings, photographs and prints) with ancient Greek, Roman, Egyptian and Near Eastern art from the MFA’s collection, as well as a selection from the artist’s personal collection of ancient sculptures, on public display for the first time. The exhibition explores the influence of classical cultures on Twombly’s artistic vision through various themes: the integration of language, the significance of place and journey, mythology, poetry, war and memorials. Highlights of works by Twombly include several pieces that have never been seen in the U.S. before.
“Cy Twombly: Making Past Present” is sponsored by the Cy Twombly Foundation. Generously supported by the Carl and Ruth Shapiro Family Foundation, Amy and David Abrams, the Bafflin Foundation, and Lisa and Tom Blumenthal.
through May 21, 2023
Africa is at once a point of origin and the source of multiple associations—real and imagined—for many Black artists working in the Americas. In the 20th century, some artists self-consciously responded to writer and philosopher Alain LeRoy Locke’s call to engage with “those ancestral arts,” while others had been practicing African artistic traditions passed down through generations. Touching Roots: Black Ancestral Legacies in the Americas traces narratives of Blackness across the Atlantic world by bringing together work by artists who absorbed and reinterpreted African artistic practices, sacred customs and cultural expressions. The exhibition features works from the MFA’s collection by Loïs Mailou Jones, James Richmond Barthé, Wifredo Lam, Kofi Bailey and Allan Rohan Crite in addition to loans by New England-based artists Napoleon Jones-Henderson, Ifé Franklin, Bryan Mcfarlane, Karen Hampton and Stephen Hamilton.
Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Visitor Center
through May 21, 2023
Since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, attacks have continued endlessly in different regions of the country, and ordinary citizens have been forced to pick up arms and fight back. Organized in partnership with The Wartime Art Archive at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) NGO in Kyiv, this exhibition presents the work of artists who have been documenting the war—providing testimony of Russia’s crimes and a glimpse into many Ukrainian citizens’ lives.
Reportage photographs from Vadym Belikov capture Russian missile launches targeting Kharkiv, one of Ukraine’s largest cities. War correspondent Efrem Lukatsky films missiles striking fields where farmers still reap their grain harvests, awaited by trading partners around the world. Yana Kononova documents destruction in the northern region of Kyiv in her series of abstract X-Scapes, and Kostiantyn Polishchuk’s The Night Watch portrays his fellow soldiers on the front lines of the Ukrainian defense. Inga Levi’s graphic series Double exposure juxtaposes news from the warfront with sketches of civilians’ everyday routines.
The exhibition also highlights Behind Blue Eyes, a project started by Dima Zubkov and Artem Skorohodko, volunteers who distribute food and supplies to residents in liberated Ukrainian villages. The pair provided disposable cameras to children and teens in Lukashivka, in the Chernihiv region, asking them to document their lives for a week. Paired with interviews about the children’s dreams and hopes for the future, the resulting images—of family and friends, bombed houses, flowers still blooming amid destruction, and selfies on tanks—capture the many facets of their complex reality. The title of the project, taken from a Limp Bizkit cover of a song by The Who, refers to hiding internal negative emotions, worries, and rage under a completely normal appearance and condition; the color blue signifies the sky.
Together, all of these works create a collective portrait of the wartime experience—paying tribute to those who, in the curators’ words, are “holding up the sky over Ukraine.”
Eunice and Julian Cohen Galleria
through June 9, 2023
Through dreamlike woven tapestries, Texas-born artist Diedrick Brackens (born 1989) explores African American and queer identity, his own life, and broader American history. He usually begins his colorful textiles by hand-dyeing cotton, a material that is cheap and ubiquitous, but for his Banner Project Brackens chose a different process. Working with Designtex on a commercial loom, Brackens foregrounds the fraught connections between hand and machine labor in the U.S.—specifically the cotton industry’s brutal reliance on enslaved people (including Brackens’ own forebears), who were forced to pick cotton by hand and enjoyed no profit when it was sent to the mills.
The tapestry depicts catfish swimming in water among reeds, watched closely by a solitary figure. Catfish, which thrive in muddy riverbeds in the American South, are often derided as common. But Brackens sees them as a symbol of his geographic and cultural roots, and throughout his work he frames them as worthy of consideration “in the way that the tapestries of the Middle Ages exalted unicorns, lions, dragons and stags.”
Brackens’ banner responds to a tapestry in the MFA’s collection by John Henry Dearle (1860–1932), an artist who also looked back to the medieval period. As mechanization and factory production became more prevalent at the turn of the 20th century, Dearle and his peers from the British Arts and Crafts movement reacted to the perceived decline of art, craft and even life itself by promoting the dignity of labor done by hand.
Commissioned for this exhibition, Brackens’ banner asks visitors to consider the extensive textile history in New England, where mills proliferated, often built on violent labor conditions for those who picked and processed their raw materials. But the motif of the catfish refuses any singular reading, offering the artist a way to reflect on “sustenance, my ancestors, and myself; it functions as a spirit linking the living and dead.”
Supported by the Trust Family Contemporary Exhibition Fund. With gratitude to Designtex.
William A. Coolidge Gallery (The Center for Netherlandish Art’s Gallery for Innovative Scholarship)
Opened November 2022
Centered around her rare series The Five Senses (1650), this is the first exhibition in the Americas dedicated to the art of Michaelina Wautier (1614–1689), a painter from Brussels all but forgotten until the recent rediscovery of her work. The set of five pictures was virtually unknown until it was acquired by Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and lent to the MFA in 2020. Here, it is joined by Wautier’s remarkable Self-Portrait (1645), on loan from a private collection and on public view in the U.S. for the first time.
Wautier’s technique, process and training are mysterious. Few records about her life exist, due in part to her gender. This exhibition, organized by the MFA’s Center for Netherlandish Art in collaboration with a professor and six doctoral students from Brown University, presents new scholarship about the artist and her unusual career as a female painter working in mid-17th-century Brussels. The Five Senses and Self-Portrait, all of which have only been attributed to Wautier in recent years, are among fewer than 40 known works by the artist. Wautier focuses on boys—a different model in each painting—performing everyday activities in her detailed portrayals of Sight, Hearing, Smell, Taste, and Touch. Accompanying prints by her predecessors and contemporaries, including Cornelis Cort (1533–1578) and Johannes Gillisz. van Vliet (about 1610–about 1640), demonstrate Wautier’s originality, showcasing how she defied a convention at the time of depicting the senses as experienced by idealized women. In her Self-Portrait, Wautier presents herself both in a formal aristocratic setting and as a professional artist, facing an easel and holding painting tools. Together, these extraordinary pictures are exemplary of Wautier’s unique style and brushwork. The exhibition also features a print after a now lost portrait by Wautier from the MFA's collection that has never been on view.
The exhibition is accompanied by the first volume of the digital publication series CNA Studies, edited by Professor Jeffrey Muller and with essays by the six organizing students: Yannick Etoundi, Sophie Higgerson, Emily Hirsch, Regina Noto, Mohadeseh Salari Sardari and Dandan Xu.
Elizabeth Parke Firestone and Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. Memorial Room
Opened August 2022
The newly renovated French Salon provides an opulent setting for nearly 100 highlights from the MFA’s Elizabeth Parke Firestone and Harvey S. Firestone, Jr. Collection of French silver. This “period room” cannot in fact be pinned down to one specific period—an in-depth restoration campaign that began in 2018 yielded a stunning finding that half of the space dates to 18th-century France and the other half to early 20th-century New York. Installed in thematic groupings throughout the room, the silver objects on view include works made for royal, domestic and ecclesiastical purposes—showcasing the craftsmanship of silversmiths who worked in Paris and provincial French cities from the late 16th through the early 19th centuries.
Perhaps even more than other decorative arts objects, silver works carry with them physical evidence of their creation and subsequent lives. The raw material of silver is evident, and the signs of the many hands that processed it still remain: stamped marks tell the story of the artists, the tax collectors who evaluated quality, and the town guild where the pieces were made. In some instances, subsequent owners have engraved their coats of arms, inventory numbers or initials. An in-gallery video explores one incredible object in particular—an exquisite sauceboat by the star Parisian silversmith in mid-18th century, François-Thomas Germain—tracing its fascinating history from the mining of raw material in South America to the creation of the piece in France.
The salon itself, which entered the MFA’s collection nearly 100 years ago, is also presented as a museum object. An in-gallery video traces its evolution from France, to New York, where it was part of a Fifth Avenue mansion owned by businessman William Salomon, to Boston.
With gratitude to Elizabeth Parke Willis-Leatherman for her generous support of the renovation of this gallery.
Opened August 2022
Two newly renovated, light-filled spaces present a new vision of the MFA’s collection of Italian Renaissance art, bringing together approximately 90 paintings, sculptures, ceramics, furniture and objects made for use in the home, including several recent acquisitions. The first gallery considers a variety of themes through object groupings: the meanings of antiquity for Renaissance artists, viewers and patrons; technical innovations and materials; the role of storytelling and the variety of narrative formats in Renaissance art; and the everyday lives of men and women. The second gallery explores the interweaving of religion and art, presenting works ranging from small-scale devotional paintings to larger-scale works including Rosso Fiorentino’s masterpiece The Dead Christ with Angels (about 1524–27). Together, these spaces convey the complexity, variety, creativity, spirituality, self-definition and curiosity that drove the making and appreciation of works during the Italian Renaissance—a period that continues to inspire and resonate with many today.
The renovation of these galleries is made possible with generous support from Emi M. and William G. Winterer, the Thompson Family Foundation, and an anonymous donor. Additional support from Tamara Petrosian Davis and Charles Howard Davis II.
A new reinstallation of the third floor of the Art of the Americas Wing presents modern art from North and South America beyond the standard boundaries of geography, time and artistic movements. Stories Artists Tell: Art of the Americas, the 20th Century takes the form of an anthology, with each room offering a short story on a different theme—from the perspectives of Native artists in the Southwest to the vibrant connections between art, design and jazz at midcentury. The works are primarily drawn from the MFA’s collection, with well-known icons appearing alongside new acquisitions and other objects on view for the first time. Stories Artists Tell comprises six galleries that also provide context for a rotating central space, which will feature a series of special exhibitions in the coming years. The first, Touching Roots: Black Ancestral Legacies in the Americas, brings together work by Black artists in the Americas who turned their gaze to Africa to find grounding, strength and guidance, and gained insight into their identities, aesthetics and artistic practices.
Jess T. Dugan (born 1968) is a queer, nonbinary artist who explores issues of identity, attraction, representation and community in their work. This exhibition highlights 10 works from their Coupled series—recently donated by Dugan to the MFA—which the artist made in Boston between 2006 and 2008, following the legalization of same-sex marriage in Massachusetts in 2004. Dugan created these striking portraits of LGBTQ couples with a large-format 20x24 Polaroid camera at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, where they were an undergraduate student. Shot against a deep red background with strong studio lighting, these works depict friends, acquaintances, lovers and family members, including Dugan’s mother and her wife. The couples share the shallow space and gesture or touch each other in emotionally subtle ways—drawing our attention both to their loving relationships and to each proud individual.
Sally Mann and Cy Twombly: Remembered Light
Lubin Family Gallery
Sally Mann (born 1951) and Cy Twombly (1928–2011) enjoyed many visits and walks together during the later years of Twombly’s life, when he was Mann’s neighbor in Lexington, Virginia. While their association may appear surprising—they were from different generations and made art in different media—both had grown up in Lexington and their artistic affinity ran long and deep.
Twombly spent much of his prodigious career in Italy and was fascinated with ancient art—a lifelong engagement that is the focus of the MFA’s exhibition Making Past Present: Cy Twombly. Organized as a companion exhibition, this installation brings together three sculptures by Twombly, on loan from the Cy Twombly Foundation, inside the MFA’s George D. and Behrakis Wing—within view of ancient statuary, vessels, funerary objects and architectural fragments that the artist would have seen when he was an art student at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. They appear alongside 13 photographs by Mann from Remembered Light, on loan from the Gagosian Gallery, New York.
Mann, known best for her photographs of family, children and the Southern landscape, was inspired to photograph Twombly’s Lexington home and studio from 1999 until after his passing in 2011. Through her lens, she sought to capture aspects of his life, his inner world and his appreciation for the past. Appearing alongside Twombly’s sculptures, the photographs—pervaded by the same themes of life, mortality and remembrance present in Mann’s other work—form a poetic dialogue between these two friends and their powerful artistic visions.
Linde Family Wing for Contemporary Art, Level 2
Hank Willis Thomas (born 1976) probes the visual culture of identity, history, social justice and popular media through conceptual art. His multimedia installations invite viewers to consider modes of systemic oppression and explore the depths of collective memory. These two installations, which source imagery from photography and archival materials, reframe historical iconography to resonate with contemporary audiences and propose constructive, collaborative, reparative futures.
Inspired by an antique postcard of a young Black man—possibly a World War I veteran—holding a rifle, Remember Me (2022) memorializes the strength, courage, and forgotten legacies of rural African Americans in the early 20th century. It replicates, as a large illuminated neon sign, the words handwritten on the back of the postcard: “Remember me.” Thomas encountered the source object at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut.
“…but by the content of their character” (Test pattern) (2020) also deals with memory, imagery and race. This work is one of several Thomas has made by placing a UV print on retroreflective vinyl, creating rainbow-hued vertical bands reminiscent of a TV test pattern. Viewers must move through space for the reflective photographic image to become visible. In this specific iteration of the series, Thomas spotlights an iconic image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivering his “I Have a Dream” speech at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Flash photography further activates the image—inviting visitors to participate in image making.
Where Remember Me memorializes an unidentified figure one would not expect to find in textbooks or in movies, “...but by the content of their character” (Test pattern) features an iconic image of a widely known civil rights activist at a key, defining moment. Both works prompt perspectival shifts, asking audiences to reflect on the process of storytelling and history’s biases in a call to action.
This installation is presented in conjunction with the unveiling of The Embrace, a new memorial in the Boston Common honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King’s commitment to racial equity. The Embrace was designed by Thomas and the MASS Design Group and commissioned by Embrace Boston, the Boston Foundation and the Collection of the City of Boston.
Gallery next to MFA Signature Shop
In Otherworldly Realms of Wu Junyong, heroes face off in mighty clashes with their enemies; charming animals growl at one another, vying for superiority; and monks retreat into murky caves, searching for inner peace. Artist Wu Junyong (born 1978) brings these scenes to life in joyous mixed-media works on paper, where, beneath playful imagery and riotous color, dark truths hide and serenity awaits in secluded haunts.
Wu grew up in a family of artisans who created sculptures and murals for local temples in their southern Chinese village. Immersed in China’s folklore throughout his childhood, he became fascinated with European painting and the heroes of ancient Greek mythology after arriving in art school. His work reflects all these influences, seamlessly blending diverse historical traditions with his contemporary experience to express human emotions, conflicts and aspirations that transcend time and borders.
Generously supported by Bonnie Huang. Additional support from Eva Hu, the Joel Alvord and Lisa Schmid Alvord Fund, the Diane Krane Family and Jonathan and Gina Krane Family Fund, and the Dr. Robert A. and Dr. Veronica Petersen Fund for Exhibitions.