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    Friday, June 21, 2024

    Favorite exhibitions of 2023

    “Michael Jordan” by Barkley L. Hendricks, one of the works displayed in the “Barkley L. Hendricks in New London” exhibition at the Lyman Allyn Museum of Art. (Courtesy of the Estate of Barkley L. Hendricks and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)
    Bob Sober, “Scarab Beetle (Heterorrhina macleayi) green,” from “Small Wonders: Insect in Focus” at Lyman Allyn.
    “Highwayman,” Linden Frederick (Luanne Rice collection)
    Anna Held Audette (1938-2013), “Baltic Mills,” 2000, oil on canvas from a private collection. It is currently part of an exhibition at the Florence Griswold Museum.

    “Barkley L. Hendricks in New London”

    May 25-Sept. 3

    Lyman Allyn Museum of Art, New London

    Artistic pioneer Barkley Hendricks lived in New London for over four decades, making profound and reflective work across a variety of disciplines that reflected his own experiences as a Black man. Though his art resonated in national and international fashion and influence, it’s also true a lot of his efforts were grounded within the six-square-miles boundaries of New London. The latter efforts were the focus of this exhibit of paintings and photographs – but that narrow geographical focus only served to emphasize the bigger realities and ramifications of his observations. It’s worth noting that, through Jan. 7, 2024, an exhibition of Hendricks’ portraiture is on view at the Frick Collection in New York City; it’s the museum’s first-ever show by a Black artist.

    – Rick Koster

    “From Crisis to Color: Derrière Le Miroir (Behind the Mirror)”

    June 24-Oct. 8

    Mystic Museum of Art, Mystic

    Art is as much a casualty of war as people and property. This exhibition focused on a French gallery owner whose mission was to restore the arts in France after four years of Nazi rule during World War II. His free-form magazine, “Derrière le Mirror,” put lithographs by celebrated artists into the hands of ordinary people. The show brought original works by the likes of Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Marc Chagall and Alexander Calder to Mystic.

    – John Ruddy

    “Abandon in Place: The Worlds of Anna Audette”

    Sept. 30-Jan. 28, 2024

    Florence Griswold Museum, Old Lyme

    Beauty is where you find it, and painter Anna Audette saw it in unlikely places: junkyards, scrap piles and abandoned factories. Her fascination with decay and ruin drove her to produce large-scale works that chronicled the decline of American manufacturing. Her portrayals of disused aircraft, rusting rail cars and half-demolished buildings, always without human figures, evoke what she called “peculiar beauty created by massive neglect.”

    – John Ruddy

    “Small Wonders: Insects in Focus”

    April 6-July 23

    Lyman Allyn Art Museum, New London

    This exhibition was so intriguing because it was so different an offering for an art museum. It showcased large-scale photos that visual artist Bob Sober took of insects. The vivid color and up-close images of these creatures made for dazzling viewing.

    – Kristina Dorsey

    “Magic Hour: Art Between Waking and Dreams”

    May 5-June 4

    Mystic Museum of Art, Mystic

    Local bestselling author Luanne Rice has long collected and been bewitched by the haunting nightscape paintings of Linden Frederick. The show features many of his works from Rice’s collection along with thematically related precursors from the Old Lyme and Mystic art colonies. It was a powerfully evocatively exhibit with a delicious twist: In 2017, another literary fan of Frederick’s, Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Richard Russo, commissioned a number of writerly friends to each contribute a short story based on a favorite of the artist’s paintings. Rice was included and copies of the book, “Night Stories,” were available for purchase at the show.

    — Rick Koster

    “Joseph Gualtieri: The Artistry of Friendship”

    Oct. 15-Jan. 5

    Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich

    The art was excellent, yes, but what made this exhibition so special was the story it told about longtime Slater director Joseph Gualtieri and the late-in-life friendship he developed with former student Warren Canova. Canova had great artistic talent as a youngster but ended up in the military and then working at Electric Boat. He maintained his appreciation for art, though, and collected Gualtieri’s work. Canova’s sons were instrumental in bringing this exhibition — and this heartwarming tale — to light.

    – Kristina Dorsey

    “Prints and People Before Photography, 1490-1825”

    Aug. 29-Dec. 17

    The William Benton Museum of Art, Storrs

    The history of printmaking from the 15th century to the dawn of photography is a complicated story that includes the spread of knowledge, book illustration, celebrity worship, travelogue and propaganda. This show took in all of it, but the most interesting part was the relationship between prints and the paintings they sometimes reproduced for a wider audience. Some of the great masters were revealed as canny businessmen who oversaw the translation of their works to more basic media, with fame and fortune as the goal.

    – John Ruddy

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