Holiday With The Arts In America’s 10 Largest Cities

Robert G. Mull

Entertaining out of town guests? Going stir-crazy? In search of presents which don’t come wrapped in a box?

A nearby art museum or gallery can help turn a season of consumerism into a season of enlightenment.

Prior to visiting any of the locations listed across the 10 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, check their websites for holiday hours as well as up to date COVID-19 safety measures which will vary widely from place to place.

New York

Art and New York are synonymous, but before trodding the well-worn path back to The Met, MoMA, the Guggenheim or the Whitney, enjoy an adventure by visiting one of the city’s countless galleries.

Elizabeth Houston Gallery on the Lower East Side presents the challenging mixed-media artwork of Julie Green who spent the last 20 years of her life highlighting the cruelties of America’s carceral system. For something more joyful, Miles McEnery Gallery adjacent to the High Line in Chelsea offers Hans Hofmann’s vibrantly colored Chimbote Mural paintings.

In 1950 Hofmann was invited to collaborate in the making of a modernist site in the coastal town of Chimbote, Peru. Hofmann planned to paint nine large murals that would become a mosaic at the site, but the project was never realized. The resulting large-scale abstract panels—nearly 7 x 4 feet at their widest—provide significant insight into his energetic compositions and distinct theoretical approach to painting.

Consider stopping by fitting homage to Hofmann, a central figure in New York’s ascendance to the pinnacle of the art world as a revered teacher of Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Helen Frankenthaler and other stalwarts of the “New York School.”

The Jewish Museum at the north end of Museum Mile is always open on Christmas Day, Blaxploitation posters at Poster House entertain even non-art lovers, and if the weather cooperates, make a day of it by searching for art hiding in New York using this handy guide.

Los Angeles

The Obama Portraits remain on view at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through January 2, 2022. Perhaps overshadowing them there is a stunning exhibition of Black American portraits. With examples dating from the 1800s to present day and featuring many of the most important Black artists in history, “Black American Portraits” stands as one of the most significant art exhibitions of this or any year.

Sanford Biggers and LaToya Ruby Frazier at the California African American Museum next to the L.A. Coliseum are worth the trip.

Want to see what a $53 million painting looks like? That’s what the Getty Museum paid at auction this fall for Gustave Caillebotte’s Young Man at His Window which is now on view for the first time ever, only through January 9, 2022, before going in for conservation.

Chicago

Dubbed “New York’s most famous unknown artist,” Ray Johnson was a pioneer of mail art and an early Pop artist whose use of celebrity imagery heralded Andy Warhol’s own appropriation in the 1960s. Ray Johnson c/o at the Art Institute of Chicago introduces audiences to this unique, impossible to categorize artist.

Dallas

Twenty-four original van Gogh paintings drawn from public and private collections around the world can be seen through February 6, 2022 during this once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of his works devoted to Olive Groves at the Dallas Museum of Art.

Breathtaking.

Houston

“Afro-Atlantic Histories” at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston offers an unprecedented visual exploration of the history and legacy of the transatlantic slave trade. More than 130 artworks and documents made in Africa, the Americas, the Caribbean and Europe from the 17th to the 21st centuries recast the traditional telling of the colonial history of the Western Hemisphere.

Washington, D.C.

Hung Liu’s weeping canvases at the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.

James Van Der Zee’s remarkable photographs from the Harlem Renaissance at the National Gallery of Art.

The bold colors of Alma Thomas and David Driskell at The Phillips Collection.

Ignore the political dysfunction of our nation’s capital to appreciate the artwork it hosts.

Miami

Forget the ga-ga and excess of Art Basel Miami Beach, Betye Saar’s “Serious Moonlight” at ICA Miami is artwork with a purpose, artwork to sink your teeth into.

Rarely seen installations by Saar receive their first dedicated exhibition in more than three decades in this show spanning works created from 1980 to 1998, including Oasis (1984), a work that will be reconfigured for the first time in more than 30 years. Showcasing this lesser-known aspect of the artist’s practice, the survey provides new insights into Saar’s explorations of ritual, spirituality and cosmologies, as well as themes of the African diaspora.

Philadelphia

Emma Amos’ powerful, provocative, political artworks on view at the Philadelphia Museum of Art raise questions about why her career has been so shamefully overlooked by curators and historians. Her gender (female) and race (Black), not surprisingly, provide those answers.

Atlanta

Emma Amos was born in Atlanta, leaving to explore a wider world of opportunity. Nellie Mae Rowe was born in the area and lived out her life there. Atlanta’s High Museum of Art holds the largest collection of the self-taught artist’s work and has it on view now through January 9, 2022, during its presentation of “Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe.”

Rowe’s story follows a common narrative for self-taught artists in the 20th century, particularly Black artists. Late in life, freed from the obligations of manual labor to earn a living, Rowe rediscovered a passion for artmaking. Memories and personal experiences poured out of her in unique, rich expressions of creativity represented through the simplest of materials: crayons, cardboard, found objects.

Phoenix

Stunning landscapes, stunning architecture and stunning glass art are paired through exhibitions of Dale Chihuly’s artwork displayed at both the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix and at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West in neighboring Scottsdale.

“Chihuly in The Desert” showcases a remarkable confluence of American art and architecture set amid the magnificent backdrop of the Sonoran Desert.

The installations, which include a number of never-before-seen works developed in 2021, are featured across multiple settings–inside the buildings, on the lawns, in the water, and emerging from the desert itself–to emphasize the beauty and diversity of the environment.

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