To acquire wisdom, one must observe

The Rose Art Museum’s ‘Off The Wall’ exhibit and beyond

The latest and only exhibition currently open for viewing at the Rose Art Museum is called “Off The Wall,” which is tied to the Rose’s 60th anniversary celebration. “We are thrilled we’ve been able to offer an in-person art experience for the Brandeis campus community this semester with our pop-up exhibition ‘Off The Wall,’ as we plan our 60th-anniversary show ‘re: collections, Six Decades at the Rose Art Museum,’” Assistant Director of Communications Chad Sirois wrote to The Brandeis Hoot in an email.

Although the pieces on display change every few weeks, the exhibition I visited was open between March 10 and 19 and featured two prints of photographs, two paintings and a mixed media drawing on vellum. Each set of pieces per rotation coincide with online discussions. Sirois mentions that “Off The Wall” and its virtual programming have generated excellent discussions and are extraordinary opportunities for Brandeis students to experience significant artworks in an intimate setting. Only two people can visit the museum at a time, so you really get to see these artworks up close and personal. 

The piece closest to the entrance is the Elle Perez print entitled “Nicole” (2018), which is a large frame of a woman laying down on a couch—but it’s the look in her eyes that is most captivating. It’s a look of inebriation, flippancy, rebelliousness and overall tiredness. She has surrendered, but she is not defeated. The adjacent piece, “Untitled” by Cindy Sherman, features a contrasting woman lying down with a defeated look in her eyes. There is a progression of moods that seem to mirror the progression of the pandemic. Hopeful optimism for a short quarantine turns to the year-spanning reality we live with now. Sherman’s “Untitled” also evokes the sense of “the morning after,” as the facial expression is contemplative as well as melancholic.

What seems to be the heavyweight of this exhibit is the René Magritte painting, “L’Atlantide,” which is an austere painting that exudes an eerie quietude. Next to it is a Kay Sage painting that evokes a similar sentiment. I admire the curator’s ability to tell a story from the emotions that these pieces evoke. The journey from the two prints of women lying down to the austere landscapes of the Magritte and Sage paintings suggests a melancholy and cynicism that comes with living in a pandemic.

I had the chance to ask Sirois what future exhibits may take up the entire space. He said that “[a]fter ‘Off The Wall’ closes, the museum will be in the throws [sic] of installing ‘re: collections.’ Organized in celebration of the Rose’s 60th anniversary, ‘re: collections, Six Decades at the Rose Art Museum’ will cast a critical eye: highlighting the museum’s radical roots and future transformations. Gannit Ankori, Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator, will curate the exhibition with Elyan J. Hill, Guest Curator of African and African Diaspora Art, and Caitlin Julia Rubin, Associate Curator and Director of Public Programs. The show will display well-known, iconic pieces from the Rose’s permanent collection alongside artworks created by emerging and historically underrepresented artists, uncovering new connections and inviting innovative interpretations of modern and contemporary art.”

According to Sirois, the next rotation of artwork in the “Off The Wall” exhibit will be on display between March 24 and April 2, including works by Palestinian Israeli artist Raida Adon, British Jamaican artist Ajamu, African American artists Nona Faustine and John Bankston and the French painter Yves Tanguy. He added that an open virtual group discussion will be held on April 1 over Zoom.

The Rose is open Wednesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is currently only open to Brandeis students, faculty and staff. All visitors need to reserve a ticket (admission is free) prior to their visit to make appointments for certain time slots as part of COVID-19 precautions. The crowning exhibit of the 60th anniversary, “re: collections,” will open in May and fill the museum’s galleries. It will feature works by Mark Bradford, Yoko Ono, Andy Warhol, Jack Whitten and many more.

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