A closer look at what's on gallery walls this fall

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With the work of some big names (Picasso, Warhol, Frankenthaler) on display, an historic expansion to one of its foremost institutions and a major controversy, the Berkshires art world provided locals and visitors alike with plenty to discuss this summer. What will the county's major art museums offer this fall to sustain the intrigue?

Early on, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) will encourage gallery-goers to lift their gaze above the foliage with an examination of celestial-summoning paintings by Barbara Takenaga, a Williams College professor whose mural, "Nebraska," has been a fixture at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art for more than two years. The survey, which opens on Oct. 5 and runs through Jan. 28, 2018, will feature about 60 works spanning two decades that exemplify Takenaga's use of dot patterns and dark colors to cosmic and psychedelic effect.

"Through her intricate patterns of dots, she has produced paintings that are both uplifting and transcendent as well as wacky and whimsical. There is great aesthetic pleasure to be had from her work," guest curator Debra Bricker Balken said in a press release.

WCMA's second major exhibition debuting in the fall will blend visual and performing art. "Active Ingredients: Prompts, Props, Performance" involves a theatrical show and a long-term gallery exhibition from Oct. 20 through Jan. 7, 2018, that features real opera house props alongside works inspiring movement. The tableau vivant theatrical event has the opposite intention, referencing photographic documentation of performance art to make the animate motionless.

"The whole thing is flipping between what's live and what's [an] object," WCMA Communications Manager Kim Hugo said.

Sandwiched by the WCMA shows, Liz Glynn's "The Archaeology of Another Possible Future" investigates our existence in an increasingly digital environment beginning on Oct. 7. Catwalks and caves square off in the Los Angeles-based sculptor and installation artist's presentation in Building 5, forcing visitors to consider how technology has changed the economy.

"Glynn is going to take us on a multi-level, multi-sensory, interactive journey that asks what happens to stuff and the people who make stuff in the age of ephemera," Susan Cross, the museum's curator of visual arts, told The Eagle in August.

Moving away from the contemporary sphere, the Clark Art Institute will follow up its individual summer homages to Pablo Picasso and Helen Frankenthaler (whose "As in Nature" paintings will remain on display through Oct. 9) by focusing on an artistic movement: Impressionism. "The Impressionist Line" opens Nov. 5; a draft of the exhibit's checklist features 40 works by 15 artists, including Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Edgar Degas and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. An earlier, 58-work version of the exhibition appeared at The Frick Collection in New York City in 2013. Not everyone was thrilled with its previous incarnation.

"The Impressionists made drawings aplenty, but linear elegance was neither their most compelling concern nor their strongest suit. 'The Impressionist Line' sounds like an oxymoron," Ken Johnson of The New York Times wrote back then.

Curator Jay A. Clarke said the goal this time was to show "works that would sort of tell a story." She acknowledges, for example, that Charles-Francois Daubigny's chalky farm landscape, "View of a Village," is not the work of an Impressionist.

"He was not an Impressionist, but he was very influential to the first generation of Impressionists," she said.

Clarke also mentioned Paul Gaugin's woodcut, "Nave Nave Fenua (Delightful Land)"; Toulouse-Lautrec's circus drawings; and Mary Cassatt's aquatint depiction of two women near a window, titled, "The Visitor," as exhibit highlights.

"It has a very strange light coming in through a curtain," Clarke said of Cassatt's work, noting that it's almost abstract expressionist.

While the northern part of the county may offer the most excitement during the beginning of fall, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge will make the southern Berkshires' presence felt toward the end of the season with the Nov. 11 start of "Never Abandon Imagination: The Fantastical Art of Tony DiTerlizzi." The Pioneer Valley-based author and illustrator is perhaps best known for co-authoring "The Spiderwick Chronicles," a middle-grade series that has since been turned into a feature film.

"We love to do exhibitions that really kind of appeal to a family audience in the fall and winter months and even through the spring," said Stephanie Plunkett, the museum's chief curator and deputy director.

Plunkett said that while the "Inventing America: Rockwell & Warhol" exhibit (which is on view through Oct. 29) is based in art historical themes, DiTerlizzi's work will offer a more accessible experience. Gallery-goers can expect monsters and goblins and dragons at the Stockbridge institution.

"This is really going to be an all-out celebration of the imagination," Plunkett said.


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