Visionary New England Opens April 24 deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Date: 
01/22/2020

Boston & Lincoln, MA – January 22, 2020 – DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum announces its newest exhibition, Visionary New England, opening to the public on April 24, 2020 running through September 13, 2020. Inspired by New England’s history of visionary, mystical, and utopian leaders, the multi-disciplinary, group exhibition incorporates contemporary paintings, photography, sculpture, unique site-specific installations, and historical artifacts that highlights New England’s place as an incubator to alternative types of community and social reform.

All participating artists hold strong connections to the region and focus their work within the historical, spiritual, or cultural themes of the show. The exhibition is made up of over 80 contemporary works of art, 30 historic artifacts and books, and two new outdoor installations commissioned specifically for the show. 

"The contemporary artists in this exhibition offer fascinating updates on themes of spirituality, progressive reform, and community that continue to be highly relevant in today's world," says John B. Ravenal, Trustees’ Vice President for Arts & Culture and Artistic Director, deCordova. "We look forward to sharing their insights with our members and visitors this spring and believe the works will resonate with many different age and interest groups."

The participating artists, who range from internationally recognized figures to self-taught folk artists include: Gayleen Aiken, Caleb Charland, Anna Craycroft, Angela Dufresne, Sam Durant; 2018 winner of the Rappaport Prize, Josephine Halvorson, Paul Laffoley, Michael Madore, Candice Lin, and Kim Weston. The Media Gallery has been curated as a black box theater to display work by Erin Johnson and Tourmaline. The exhibition also features a Researcher-in-Residence, Diana Limbach Lempel, who asks the question “Where is a women’s imagination?” as she studies three generations of New England women writers and historians.

The exhibition is curated by Sarah Montross, Senior Curator, who has overseen all aspects of exhibition and publication planning. Montross has organized several highly regarded exhibitions and outdoor sculpture commissions at deCordova, including Screens: Virtual Material, deCordova New England Biennial 2019, and PLATFORM 19: Letha Wilson.

 

“Visionary New England explores the ways in which our region’s seekers of alternative ways of life often overlapped with the search for the Divine or expanded modes of consciousness and creativity,” adds Montross. “The show embraces a range of supernatural beliefs alongside empirical study of the natural world. When past and present are brought together, the exhibition reveals how pressing political, social, and environmental issues were and still are in the minds and hearts of visionary creators of this region.”

 

An accompanying 160-page catalog, co-published by MIT Press, and available for purchase at the deCordova Store, features essays that examine New England’s spiritualist and utopian practices, Transcendentalist writers’ conception of Nature as “Other,” and the social significance of spiritualism. Texts by exhibiting artists Anna Craycroft and Candice Lin address the pedagogy of Amos Bronson Alcott, cofounder of the utopian commune Fruitlands, and the effects of the opium trade in New England.

Major funding for the exhibition is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Visionary New England is grouped into the following four primary categories encompassing original commissions and existing artwork:

 

Teaching Utopia
Inspired by communal living experiments of the 19th century such as Brook Farm and Fruitlands, artworks address topics of imaginative world-building and experimental spaces for belonging, self-sufficiency, and learning.

Is Spiritualism True?
Contemporary artwork and historic artifacts in this section address the prominence of spiritualist practices and mediumship throughout New England, and traces how these beliefs evolve into experimental therapies of the 20th century that similarly sought transcendence for those dealing with loss or seeking self-improvement.

The Animistic Landscape
Animism involves the belief in unseen forces or energies that govern organic life, inanimate objects, and natural phenomena. Such views often appeared in Transcendentalists’ outlooks toward nature, in which plants, animals, and even stones carry a presence or “soul.” Artworks connected to this theme similarly express the agency of non-human entities.

Transcendental Modernism
Drawn largely from deCordova’s permanent collection will focus on artists active in Massachusetts between the 1940s-1990s whose work extends the legacies of nineteenth-century utopian and spiritual philosophies. The exhibition examines the spiritual commitments of the Boston Expressionists, the presence of Black Futurism in Boston, and utopian collaborations between artists and scientists. The exhibition is organized by Sam Adams, Koch Curatorial Fellow.

In conjunction with Visionary New England at deCordova, concurrent and related exhibitions are also on view at deCordova as well as at Fruitlands Museum, also a Trustees reservation located in Harvard, as well as the Fitchburg Art Museum. 

Recruiting for Utopia: Print and the Imagination
Fruitlands Museum | Harvard, MA | April 18, 2020 – March 21, 2021

Highlighting the cultural connection between 19th-century Utopian communities and 21st-century activists, Recruiting for Utopia: Print and the Imagination is made up of both contemporary and historical works showcasing the importance of print and the priorities of activism and community building. Two artists-in-residence will also create artwork that complements the historical printed pieces on view, including works on loan from the Hancock Shaker Village and the Communal Societies Collection of Hamilton College. 

 

After Spiritualism: Loss and Transcendence in Contemporary Art
Fitchburg Art Museum | Fitchburg, MA | February 8 – June 7, 2020

The group exhibition offers an occasion to reflect on personal and shared losses through varied contemporary art practices. The works on view focus on trauma and mourning and is inspired by Spiritualism’s aims to connect the living with the dead for comfort, guidance, and enlightenment.
 

Press Contact: Meaghan Flaherty Lawton | Marketing and Communications Manager, Arts & Culture
617.542.7696 ext 1898 | mlawton@thetrustees.org

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About deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum
Established in 1950 and located just twenty miles west of Boston, deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum is dedicated to fostering the creation and exploration of contemporary sculpture and art through a dynamic slate of rotation exhibitions, innovative learning opportunities, a constantly changing thirty-acre landscape of large-scale, outdoor, modern, and contemporary sculpture, and site-specific installations. DeCordova joined The Trustees in July of 2019. To learn more, visit www.decordova.org

About The Trustees
Founded in the city of Boston by landscape architect and open space visionary Charles Eliot in 1891, the Trustees is the nation’s first and the Commonwealth’s largest preservation and conservation non-profit. For more than 125 years, we have worked to preserve and protect dynamic natural and cultural sites – from beaches and community gardens to farms, historic homesteads, designed landscapes, and hiking trails – for public use and enjoyment. Today we are working to engage a larger constituency of Massachusetts residents, members, visitors, and public and private partners in our work to help protect our beloved and fragile natural, ecological, cultural, and coastal sites for current and future generations. To learn more, visit www.thetrustees.org