Updated: Apr 1, 2020
Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
Three exhibitions opening this season—Elements of Me, Boston's Apollo and The Strange Taxi, Stretched. Each explore race and representation, while delving into Black and brown lived experiences to expand the story of American art.
THE STRANGE TAXI, STRETCHED
JANUARY 14 - MAY 19, 2020
ANNE H. FITZPATRICK FAÇADE
Lorraine O’Grady’s piece for the Anne H. Fitzpatrick Façade is an adaptation of one of two autobiographical photomontages made by O’Grady in 1991: The Strange Taxi: or From Africa to Jamaica to Boston in 200 Years and The Fir-Palm, to depict and clarify her New England and Caribbean heritages. In both the original and the stretched versions of The Strange Taxi, female members of O’Grady’s family—her mother, Lena, second from left, and three maternal and paternal aunts—emerge through the roof of a New England mansion to show black women escaping from the limitations placed on them in post-World War I Boston. In the stretched version of The Strange Taxi for the Gardner, O’Grady was able to double the height of the sky above them, metaphorically giving the women (and their descendants) expanded room to grow.
ELEMENTS OF ME
FEBRUARY 13 - SEPTEMBER 27, 2020
Adam Pendleton’s exhibition considers the relations between (geometric) abstraction, blackness, and languages of collectivity. Three basic shapes—square, triangle, and circle—are the refrains in this room-sized installation.
Pendleton is a New York-based artist known for work animated by what the artist calls “Black Dada,” a critical articulation of blackness, abstraction, and the avant-garde. Drawing from an archive of language and images, Pendleton makes conceptually rigorous and formally inventive paintings, collages, videos, and installations that insert his work into broader conversations about history and contemporary culture. His work is held in public collections including The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and Tate, London, among others.
THOMAS MCKELLER AND JOHN SINGER SARGENT
FEBRUARY 13 - MAY 17, 2020
In 1916, John Singer Sargent (1856–1925) met Thomas Eugene McKeller (1890–1962), a young Black elevator attendant, at Boston’s Hotel Vendome. McKeller posed for most of the figures—both male and female—in Sargent’s murals in the Museum of Fine Arts. The painter transformed McKeller into white gods and goddesses, creating soaring allegories of the liberal arts that celebrated the recent expansion of the city’s premier civic museum.
Sargent then gave the preparatory drawings of McKeller to Isabella Stewart Gardner, ensuring their preservation in perpetuity. Displayed together for the first time, the drawings provide a window into the metamorphoses of race, gender, and identity, and attest to a relationship between two men, artist and model, at a time of intense social upheaval. This exhibition brings together Sargent's drawings and related historical materials to tell the story of McKeller’s life. His central importance in Sargent’s major artistic commissions in the Boston area considers critical questions of race, class, and sexuality—as relevant today as they were in Gilded Age Boston.
An inclusive interpretation strategy and several community roundtable discussions for this exhibition have yielded multiple perspectives from local artists, scholars, community thought leaders, and Thomas McKeller’s descendants, whose responses form a powerful presence through wall texts, audio, an in-gallery video, and a rich program of public talks and performances. We invite you to experience this multifaceted exhibition that brings together our own voices with those of the past, and to click or swipe through the images below to learn more about the community collaborators.
Video Games & Contemporary Art
February 22–April 19, 2020
This group exhibition explores artists working at the confluence of contemporary art and video games. Whether highlighting under-explored narratives, pushing technological boundaries, or imagining alternative worlds through game aesthetics, the artists featured in Game Changers are discovering new possibilities for what game-related art can be and do.
Women of color on Display