At the risk of beginning the New Year with a tired old expression, digging into the list of the season’s upcoming visual arts offerings is like opening a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get. However, as diverse as contemporary art is and as divergent as its local venues are, how can you not expect a sampler assortment?
As always, the larger institutions have some pretty sweet offerings. From February 8-May 10, Joslyn Art Museum opens the thematic, self-organized exhibition Fact and Fiction in Contemporary Photography. In the course of 180 years, photography has gone from being considered a soulless, dry document of reportage to highly fictive, aesthetic and context-driven proposition. This show, featuring imagery by 22 international artists working across a variety of photographic media, tests the slippery truth that “seeing is believing.”
Running concurrently in the Riley CAP Gallery is a solo show of Amy Cutler’s delicate drawings. Known for her spare yet highly detailed renderings, she creates visual mythologies in which female protagonists navigate familiar yet often psychologically dark and physically precarious worlds.
Though 6 months away, Joslyn’s big show of the season will feature the influential bronze god of modern sculpture, Auguste Rodin. It is melding two shows into one mega presentation, RODIN: TRUTH FORM LIFE and RODIN: MUSES SIRENS LOVERS / Selections from the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Collections, on view from June 6-September 6. It encompasses 66 bronzes, including such iconic works as “The Kiss,” “The Burghers of Calais” and “The Gates of Hell.” It would take a trip to either coast to see this volume of work by the renowned French artist.
The Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts continues its curator-in-residence’s thematic investigations of hospitality with an installation and episodic series of performances conceived by Paris-based artist Liv Schulman. The multi-channel video The Gobernment is described as a fictional historical revision of the lives of forgotten women artists, while the dramatic pieces The New Inflation center on the artist’s depiction of “a disenchanted economy founded on the principles of error and dependency.” This will be the first American presentation of Schulman’s work; it runs from March 19-June 13.
Concurrently, Bemis will feature the Bavarian artist Claudia Wieser. Her hand-painted sculpture, gold-leafed drawings and multimedia installations reflect her engagement with timeless, classical forms and their abstract geometric equivalents. Audiences should expect the artist’s distinctive reflections of antiquity through the aesthetic lens of the Bauhaus.
Gallery 1516 will be featuring work looking backward and forward this season as well. Abstract Expressionism is the stylistic overlay of their next exhibition, co-organized by Beverly Todd, which includes work by a regional cohort of ten artists who are known for pursuing gestural abstraction in painting. That show runs from February 28-May 24. In conjunction with Amplify Arts, they will be hosting an emerging artist exhibition opening June 5, the details of which were not available at press time. This will inject an edge to their programming, which has previously leaned more toward giving established artists their due.
Speaking of Amplify, they are also connecting with Petshop to present their first annual Work in Progressexhibition. In 2019, Travis Apel, Liz Boutin, Anne Dovali, Holly Kranker and Tyler Swain were selected to participate in Amplify’s new educational program aimed at providing professional education to artists outside of traditional MFA programs. This exhibition, February 7-March 27, will show the results of their year as a cohort.
Continuing the trend of thematic groupings, Modern Arts Midtown opens its season January 3 with a group show featuring GraceAnn Warn, Michael James and recent gallery addition, photographer Jason Papenfuss, as well as some new abstractions by Omaha artists (through February 28). The Michael Phipps Gallery at OPL will highlight the idiosyncratic narrative expressions of Shawnequa Linder, Derek Courtney and Joe Pankowski (March 6-April 26). Petshop follows with the Pro:Creation show curated by Abby Phoenix, Melynda Walsh and Alexia Madera, which explores the perspectives of artist-parents (April 3-May 29).
Perhaps the tastiest cluster of Omaha’s finest will be at the Roberta and Bob Rogers Gallery, which will be hosting the OEAA Visual Arts showcase from February 7-22. The annual exhibition provides a nice reminder of the best of the Omaha arts scene from 2019. That will be followed by an exhibition featuring the work of the late Wanda Ewing (March 13-April 4), a revival of the print fair (April 16-19), and a Luke Severson solo (May 8-30).
There are several other worthwhile solo shows to savor as well. The Art Gallery at UNO is highlighting Watie White’s ongoing 100 People Project from January 17-February 22. The Fred Simon Gallery will feature Tim Guthrie from February 14-April 9. Known for his immersive, collaborative and content-driven installations, Guthrie will instead return to his work in traditional media of drawing and painting.
John Dennison’s expressionistic ceramic art will fill the expansive Sunderland Gallery at the Cathedral Arts Project from March 8-April 12. And Metro’s Elkhorn campus Gallery of Art and Design will showcase the watercolors of Melissa Wilkinson, a Tennessee-based artist whose surrealistic nature-based compositions are filled with a collaged assortment of digitally-sourced images (March 11-April 7).
As the season expands, so too will the tantalizing visual treats offered by the area’s venues large and small. Sample them, and it’s the one 2020 resolution that will keep giving back all year round.