This week, Arts Editor Jared Bowen reviews some of the most noteworthy exhibitions and installations currently on view in Massachusetts.

“Ancient Nubia Now,” on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston through Jan. 20, 2020

Ancient Nubia Now

Winged Isis pectoral, Napatan Period, reign of Amaninatakelebte, 538-518 B.C.E.

Harvard University—Boston Museum of Fine Arts Expedition/Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Discover a fresh perspective on the history and art of Nubia in “Ancient Nubia Now” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Drawn from the museum’s expansive collection of Nubian artifacts — the largest outside of the region itself — this exhibition traces the history of Nubia through its great civilizations. Historically overlooked as an outpost of adjacent Egypt, “Ancient Nubia Now” corrects decades of historic prejudice with a first-of-its-kind exhibition that recontextualizes Nubia as a region that thrived, created and conquered on its own terms.

“It is, at a personal level, a little bit like visiting how you imagine your great, great, great, great, great grandfathers and mothers,” said Edmund Barry Gaither, director of the Museum of the National Center for Afro-American Artists, an MFA partner. “At another level, it’s to enter a story of another of the great adventures in the human enterprise of civilization.”

“Andy Goldsworthy: Watershed,” permanently on view at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Andy Goldsworthy: Watershed

Andy Goldsworthy, Watershed, 2019, granite, Corten steel, spruce pine wood. Installation at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Clements Photography and Design, Boston/Courtesy of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Internationally acclaimed contemporary artist Andy Goldsworthy has created a new, permanent, site-specific installation at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum. Goldsworthy’s piece is a granite stone structure built in a New England vernacular style featuring a rear wall of concentric circles. Centered in the wall is a hole, which will pour water from the deCordova in times of heavy rain. Titled “Watershed,” the work is made to interact with the environment and showcase the power of water.

“Nature is his medium,” said deCordova curator Sarah Montross. “[Goldsworthy is] not trying to conflict with nature. He’s always using it.”

“Photosynthesis,” on view at deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum through March 29, 2020


Karl Blossfeldt, Urformen der Kunst (page 41), 1928/1929, photogravure, 10 1/4 x 8 inches (image); 12 1/4 x 9 3/4 inches (paper)

Karl Blossfeldt, courtesy of the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum

Inside the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, a museum-wide celebration of the institution’s photography collection is on view. Collectively titled “Photosythesis,” this initiative transforms all of the deCordova’s galleries into photography exhibition spaces that highlight a range of artists. Visionary teacher Karl Blossfeldt is a prompt. His series “Art Forms in Nature” used close-ups of the natural world to teach his readers about scale and abstraction.

“He is a figure who wasn’t, in his lifetime, thinking about fine art photography,” said curator Sarah Montross. “He was thinking about the translation of the natural world into design, into ornamentation.”

“In the Company of Artists: 25 Years of Artists-in-Residence,” on view at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum through Jan. 20, 2020

In the Company of Artists

Su-Mei Tse, Bleeding Tools, 2009. Steel, wood, paper, brushes

Jean-Lou Majerus, courtesy of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

A new exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum highlights work that has surfaced from its Artists-in-Residence program. “In the Company of Artists” showcases the last 25 years of the program, exhibiting work that was inspired by and created within the museum’s walls. Featured artists include Sophie Callie, Laura Owen, and Su-Mei Tse, and the program also features interactive and participatory works from artists like Lee Mingwei, Charmaine Wheatley, and Gcina Mhlophe.

“I always think of the museum a little bit like a labyrinth,” said curator Pieranna Cavalchini. “People come in and they pull the thread that takes them into a journey that is very specific to their own work and their own being in time now.”

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