Alma Thomas: Moving Heaven & Earth, Paintings and Works on Paper, 1958–1978 Michael Rosenfeld Gallery 100 11th Avenue at 19th Street New York, New York Through May 16 Focusing on the two final decades of Alma Thomas’ life, this exhibition displays the late-blooming artist’s most vibrant paintings on the monumental canvases she became celebrated for in the 1960s and '70s. Inspired by nature, recent discoveries in the sciences, and her observation of earthly and celestial phenomena, Thomas’ experimentations with vigorous, rhythmic colors and abstraction resulted in modern art unencumbered by political and historical intentions, and vested merely in the enjoyment of art itself. This marks the second time Thomas’ work will be exhibited at the Michael Rosenfeld Gallery. Her first show, Alma Thomas: Phantasmagoria, Major Paintings from the 1970s, was held in 2001.
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Change is underway at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. At a press conference Friday MCA officials revealed that the institution is working on a new image, new programming and even a new master plan for the museum's space led by Los Angeles–based design firm Johnston Marklee. The announcement was timed to coincide with the last push of a major fundraising campaign. The museum has quietly raised $60 million in recent years, nearing a “vision campaign” goal of $64 million. Today they revealed their latest donation: $10 million from Kenneth Griffin, an MCA trustee who is also the richest man in Illinois. MCA's fourth floor galleries will now bear his name. “We've been thinking about what a 21st Century museum looks like,” said Madeleine Grynsztejn, MCA's director. Citing figures from the National Endowment for the Arts, Grynsztejn said the museum needs to become more “responsive” to the community—“a civic institution of local necessity and international distinction.” Part of that mission includes converting the cafe space into an “engagement zone” for public events, performances and education. Museum goers looking for a snack will have to find it on the first floor, where a new restaurant will front onto Pearson Street. Those and other changes to the 1996, Josef Paul Kleihues–designed building's programming are part of a new masterplan currently in development at the offices of architects Sharon Johnston and Mark Lee. Dutch designers Armand Mevis and Linda Van Deursen of the firm Mevis & Van Deursen also designed a new logo for the museum—part of a larger campaign to rebrand the museum and reengage with a public tempted to seek out art online or otherwise outside the Streeterville museum's walls. MCA has had some success reinvigorating popular conversation about contemporary art with its David Bowie Is exhibition, which recently wrapped up its run at the museum after drawing nearly 200,000 visitors—an MCA record, according to Grynsztejn. “The Bowie show challenged the MCA to raise our game,” she said. That could include expanding hours or more drastically reconsidering the museum's model, Grynsztejn wondered aloud Friday. But it will definitely include more shows for young artists on the cusp of a breakout, said curator Michael Darling, as well as more interactive exhibitions. Darling pointed to an upcoming residency by the Grammy-winning chamber group Eighth Blackbird, which he said would include unannounced and improvised performances throughout the museum, with the intent to connect the public with contemporary music and the process of creating it.
Building the Picture National Gallery London April 30 through September 2014 At the end of April, the National Gallery will present a new exhibit spotlighting the handling of architecture in various paintings by prominent Italian renaissance artists. Building The Picture will feature works by Duccio, Botticelli, Crivelli and others chosen from the museum's permanent collection along with paintings gathered from other institutions in the U.K. These 14th, 15th, and 16th century images will be complemented by a series of five films that offer contemporary ideas on the theme of real and imagined architecture from Peter Zumthor, filmmaker Martha Fiennes, art historian T. J. Clark, film historian John David Rhodes, and computer game cinematic director Peter Gornstein. The Renaissance bore witness to several breakthroughs in terms of realistic representation, particularly in the realm of architecture. Techniques like perspective enabled artists to depict increasingly life-like architectural compositions. Such skills were used towards the rendering of real structures or the creation of imagined and compelling architectural scenes that still maintained believable spatial qualities. Despite these developments, the period was still largely lacking in the concept of an architectural education, meaning that prominent figures like Brunelleschi and Michelangelo trained in other artistic fields before venturing into building design. Exhibit curators see a contemporary resurgence in these blurred boundaries between art and architecture, a fluidity that is reinforced by the diverse roster of figures contributing to the show's film program. Within Renaissance Art History, architectural compositions traditionally receive second billing to the human figures that populate them. Building the Picture hopes to show how in many cases, buildings acted as foundations for the resultant paintings, dictating the layout and direction of the remainder of the work. The exhibit opens in London on April 30. It will be accompanied by an online catalog permanently available on the National Gallery website.