A new semester means a new schedule of classes, but for the Rose Art Museum, it means a new lineup of exhibitions. On Thursday, Sept. 7, the Rose opened its sparkling glass doors for a campus-focused open house, inviting the Brandeis community to explore the Fall 2017 exhibits a day before they open to the public.
Two exhibitions in the lineup, “Body Talk” and “Buckdancer’s Choice,” exclusively showcase works from the Rose’s permanent collection. Little known to many students, the collection boasts over 8,000 objects, and so this semester is a chance for the Rose to reaffirm what an artistic resource it can be for the university.
Visitors’ first taste of the new shows is “Body Talk,” an exhibition fixated on the complexities of the body as an artistic subject. Located in the first gallery that visitors enter, the space forces museum goers to face representations of the nude body and themes of sexuality.
Through a combination of paintings, sculptures and video, “the body is revealed to be as much a source of agony as it is ecstasy,” according to a Rose press release. Comprised of new and old acquisitions, the show is the first in a series of exhibitions designed to explore thematic lines through the permanent collection.
The left side of the gallery highlights abstract representations of the body, such as Carrie Moyer’s “Vieni Qui Bella.” Fleshy reds bleed down the canvas, giving a sense of movement under the flat rib cage-like web painted over it. Across the room, more external images of the body are shown. Two female nudes, one painted by a man, the other by a woman, hang side by side, calling into question gendered interpretations of the human form. Whereas Mel Ramos paints in the style of a pin up shot with “You Get More Salami with Modigliani,” Joan Semmel’s “Horizon with Hands” positions the viewer as though she were the artist looking down on her own body.
More pieces from the Rose collection line the walls of the Lower Rose Gallery as part of “Buckdancer’s Choice: Joe Bradley Selects.” An eclectic selection of paintings and sculptures, the exhibit features masterworks such as Paul Cézanne’s “Nu de Jeune Baigneur” to lesser known pieces, such as Marisol’s “Cat” sculpture that starred in the open house’s programming. Save for a map of the space labeling the objects and describing Bradley’s selection process, the exhibit is free of extended text, allowing the pieces to speak for themselves, along with one another, and allowing visitors to build their own connections between the pieces.
The Mildred S. Lee Gallery features new work by Syrian artist Kevork Mourad in “Immortal City,” including “Strata of Memory” (2017), which dominates the space. The 3-D painting—created specifically for the exhibit—depicts Mourad’s beloved city of Aleppo as it’s ravaged by the war in Syria. Because of its suspended construction, the piece pops off of its sleek gallery wall and sways just enough to bring the city to life. This visual effect serves the artist’s intention for creating in the first place; for Mourad, art is a means of “mediating the experience of trauma through detailed yet abstracted imagery that both celebrates identity and mourns its loss,” according to the Rose’s description of the exhibit. Not to be overlooked is the smaller, 18th century etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, which hangs at the entrance of the gallery. The artwork mirrors Mourad’s raw and moving portrayal of a city in ruin in its overwhelmingly detailed and monochromatic sketching.
Mourad’s works face the entrance to Rose Video 11, John Akomfrah’s “Auto Da Fé” (2016). The piece, which translates to “Acts of Faith,” cycles through eight historic displacements forced by religious persecution. Each migration is introduced with a location, date and a line suggestive of the indicated tragedy. Viewers sit in a completely dark room facing parallel screens, with each screen focused on the character actors from different angles to create a surreal experience of their account.
The Lois Foster Gallery and the Foster Stairwell will open on Oct. 15 with Bradley’s solo exhibition and Tony Lewis’ mural, “Plunder,” respectively. Plunder will be on view until June 10. Rose Video 11 and “Immortal City” will be on view until Jan. 21. “Body Talk,” “Buckdancer’s Choice” and Joe Bradley’s solo exhibit will be on view until Jan. 28.