The buzz about the National Gallery of Art’s “Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World” is exciting. The exhibition, which draws on the holdings of archaeological museums from around Europe and the United States, has been seen in Italy at the Palazzo Strozzi and in Los Angeles at the Getty Museum. Bronze is heavy and it doesn’t travel easily. The National Gallery, of course, has minimal ancient holdings and no particular focus in its permanent collection on the art of Greece, Rome and the larger Hellenistic world. So this exhibition, which opens Dec. 13 and includes about 50 works, is a rarity. As Christopher Knight, the art critic of the Los Angeles Times wrote upon the opening of the exhibition at the Getty: “Miss it at your peril. Nothing like this will come around again for a very long time.”
If you’re hungering for more bronze, a large Rodin exhibition at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond will be of interest. The exhibition, opening Nov. 21, will include almost 200 works, including bronzes, marble, plaster casts and photographs.
Two exhibitions will focus on the interaction of Native American artists with the currents of contemporary art and modernism over the past century. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian is devoting gallery space to the art of Kay WalkingStick, a member of the Cherokee Nation whose paintings include abstract landscape, diptychs that contrast landscape with symbolic figures and works that recall the history and culture of native peoples (Nov. 7). The Smithsonian American Art Museum devotes an exhibition to an earlier figure who also sought a personal and stylistic synthesis between contemporary art currents and his own Native artistic heritage (opened Sept. 4). Awa Tsireh, who died in 1955, found affinities between the designs on Native American pottery and the clean, linear language of art deco. The exhibition “The Modern Pueblo Painting of Awa Tsireh” brings together for the first time more than 50 of his watercolors, made between 1917 and 1930.
Commemoration of the Civil War’s 150th anniversary ended in April, with a focus on the events leading to Appomattox and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. But an exhibition of photographs by Alexander Gardner at the National Portrait Gallery extends the focus on what came after (Sept. 18). “Dark Fields of the Republic: Alexander Gardner Photographs 1859-1872” looks at the work of one of the leading Civil War photographers, who went on to become a leading photographer of the American West. It includes, among other treasures, perhaps the most famous portrait made of Lincoln, the often reproduced but rarely exhibited “cracked plate” photograph. The exhibition will feature portraits by Gardner, landscapes and Gardner’s images of Native Americans. As the exhibition title suggests, the darkness didn’t end with the Civil War; there were new chapters, new anxieties, new conflicts and new tragedies as the reunited Republic moved west.
Fields of a very different sort are explored by the National Building Museum’s exhibition devoted to the landscape architecture team of Oehme, van Sweden & Associates (Oct. 17). The Washington-based landscape designers helped Americans break with the usual planes of perfectly manicured grass, opting instead for more organic and lush designs using meadow grasses and plantings that didn’t require intensive management. They are responsible for the greenery surrounding some of Washington’s most noted memorials and office buildings.
For visitors willing to do a little work — reservations are required — an exhibition of sculpture by the conceptual artist Fred Sandback at Glenstone is likely to be a highlight of the season (Sept. 30). The Glenstone grounds, in Potomac, Md., are one of the loveliest places in the region to see art, and if the exhibition of Sandback’s minimalist sculpture is as well done as the museum’s last show, devoted to Peter Fischli and David Weiss, this will be well worth the trip.
Finally, the Phillips Collection will exhibit work from two major Swiss collections in a show called “Gauguin to Picasso: Masterworks From Switzerland” (Oct. 10). The exhibit will include about 60 works gathered by collectors Rudolf Staechelin and Karl Im Obersteg, both leading figures in the Basel art world, which remains a vibrant center for contemporary art.