13 Haunting Art Exhibitions to See Ahead of Halloween

  • September 25, 2019 12:22

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Coming to the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields on Oct. 4, "All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins" (detail shown), 2016 by Yayoi Kusama (Japanese, b. 1929). Wood, mirror, plastic, black glass, LED. Dallas Museum of Art collection.
Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo / Singapore, and Victoria Miro, London. © Yayoi Kusama

Spooky, fanciful or simply autumnal in feeling, here are ARTFIXdaily's picks for October art exhibitions that deliver heftily on Halloween spirit. These 13 shows span the globe, from Andrew Wyeth's witches in Maine to a "resin lady" ancient corpse on view in the UK.

On view at Munson William Proctor Arts Institute, Elihu Vedder, The Questioner of the Sphinx, 1863. Oil on canvas, 36 x 42. Bequest of Mrs. Martin Brimmer, 06.2430 Courtesy, Museum Fine Arts, Boston Reproduced with permission.© 2019 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All rights reserved

Mysterious, Marvelous, Malevolent: The Art of Elihu Vedder is on view now to December 29, 2019 at Munson William Proctor Arts Institute (Utica, NY). Since its first public appearance in 1863, Elihu Vedder’s The Questioner of the Sphinx, has been a mystery. It is the first of a group of bizarre and visionary paintings, drawings, and book illustrations that Vedder (1836 – 1923) began to create in New York City at the outset of the American Civil War. This exhibition explores Vedder’s journey into the realm of vision, nightmare, and dream. It considers Vedder’s fascination with ancient myths and legends of the monstrous and the terrible within the context of the horror, destruction, and alienation engendered by the national crisis of the American Civil War.

"Reality Reassembled: The Halloween Paintings of Peter Paone" at the Brandywine, includes Peter Paone's Mother and Son, 2015, acrylic on panel, 32 ½ 31 ½ in. Collection of the artist
Brandywine Museum of Art

Reality Reassembled: The Halloween Paintings of Peter Paone, on view now through November 3, 2019, and Cinderella & Co.—Three Fairy Tales Reimagined, on view October 5, 2019 through January 5, 2020, are worth a trip to the Brandywine River Museum of Art in Chadd's Ford, Penn. For those looking to get into the Halloween spirit, Reality Reassembled explores a haunting series of 29 imaginative works by renowned Philadelphia artist Peter Paone. Switching from Paone’s mesmerizing yet unsettling paintings to the enchanted world of fairy tales, the Brandywine’s Cinderella & Co. exhibition shows more than 100 illustrations for three well-known fairy tales created through time and across cultures. Continuing with the Halloween fun, the Brandywine’s Wicked Wyeth Walk on October 25 will feature ghost stories, an evening trail walk, and more.

Andrew Wyeth: Witches, Ghosts and Mischief is at the Farnsworth Art Museum in downtown Rockland, Maine, through March 1, 2020. At the end of each summer famed artist Andrew Wyeth engaged with Maine’s shifting seasons. Responding to the annual cycle of death and rebirth, Wyeth blended carefully observed details with his imagination and memory. Many of the resulting paintings of storms, wet leaves, and peculiar figures are infused with an eeriness that can leave viewers unsettled and questioning.

On view at Oxford's Ashmolean is "resin lady" from Pompeii, the body of a woman in her early-30s, preserved in transparent epoxy resin. AD 79, 190 x 120 cm max. Villa B, Oplontis Parco Archeologico di Pompeii.

LAST SUPPER IN POMPEII--on view at Oxford's Ashmolean (UK) through January 12, 2020--explores the ancient Roman love affair with food (and wine), with artifacts (and actual people!) frozen in time after volcanic ash covered Pompeii. The exhibition closes by reminding us that the diners of Pompeii were on borrowed time. The exhibit's final story is that of the now-famous ‘resin lady’ of Oplontis. She was found amongst 60 people who had taken refuge in one of the storerooms. To judge by their possessions, they included both the owners and the slaves and farm workers they employed. The ‘resin lady’ had with her gold and silver jewellery, a string of cheap beads (perhaps a memento) and a door key. She hoped to return home, but never did.

With its witch trials history and colonial architecture, Salem, Massachusetts, is a popular desination in the run up to Halloween. Adding to the allure this fall is the Peabody Essex Museum's incredible new 40,000-square-foot expansion. Now showing at PEM through Nov. 11, view the photographs of Olivia Parker, whose evocative and meditative compositions explore objects on the cusp of transformation—such as flowers on the edge of decay.

At Peabody Essex Museum, "Order of Imagination: The Photographs of Olivia Parker" includes "Child," 1980. Dye diffusion print. © Olivia Parker

Surprising and surreal, Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirror Rooms are all the rage following the 90-year-old Japanese artist's 2-year traveling blockbuster Infinity Mirrors. Museums worldwide have snapped up Rooms for their visual allure and innovation teamed with crowd-pleasing Instagrammability. This October debuts ICA Boston's Love Is Calling and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art'My Heart is Dancing into the Universe. Some Infinity Room environments produce mind-bending effects with flashing LED lights and a closed, dark setting. At The Broad in Los Angeles, Kusama's The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away is an immersive experience while Longing for Eternity offers a porthole view into a mysterious and sparkling chamber.

At The Broad is Yayoi Kusama's Infinity Mirrored Room – The Souls of Millions of Light Years Away, 2013. Wood, metal, glass mirrors, plastic, acrylic panel, rubber, LED lighting system, acrylic balls, and water, 287.7 × 415.3 × 415.3 cm.
Courtesy of David Zwirner, N.Y. © Yayoi Kusama

Kusama is also beloved for her over 70-year adoration of "humble" fall pumpkins, including her massive installations of stainless steel, mosaic and bronze gourd sculptures. Her recent All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (Dallas Museum of Art collection, not currently on view) will fill up a gallery with seemingly endless polka-dotted pumpkins at Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, from Oct. 4, 2019 to March 29, 2020. Next spring, the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx opens a huge participatory exhibition of her nature-themed work (including a monumental site-specific pumpkin sculpture). New York gallerist David Zwirner will also host a Kusama show in November.

Fenimore Art Museum has “Early American Face Jugs” on view such as this Harvest face jug attributed to Thomas Chandler (1810?–1854), Baltimore, Md., 1825–29. Earthenware with clear lead glaze and white painted details; height 10 inches.

Through October 14 at New York's Adirondack Experience, The Museum on Blue Mountain Lake (ADKX)Private Views: Collecting the Adirondacksfeatures 19th century Adirondack landscape paintings (many showing fall foliage) from private collections, a rare chance for the public to see works by important American artists from John Frederick Kensett to William Trost Richards, among others.

Installation view of "Alexandre Singh: A Gothic Tale" at the Legion of Honor, 2019.
Image courtesy of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Fanciful and fascinating, Early American Face Jugs are on now view at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY, (to Dec. 31). Approx. 70 pottery jugs from the Meyer collection, dating from the mid 19th century to before 1950, appear as disembodied heads that exude expression, while functioning as vessels. These early face jugs, while rooted in utilitarian pottery, are an important form of artistic expression, with some of their makers known potters, many of them African Americans.

At San Jose Museum of Art, Tony Oursler's Slip, 2003. Fiberglass sculpture, Sony VPL CS5 projector, DVD, DVD player, and speaker; Gift of the Lipman Family Foundation, in honor of the San Jose Museum of Art's 35th anniversary.

A Gothic Tale, a newly commissioned film and installation for San Francisco's Legion of Honor by Alexandre Singh, draws inspiration from the Gothic literary tradition of 19th century Europe, as well as San Francisco’s place in the cinematic history of film noir (such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, 1958). On view now through April 12, 2020, A Gothic Tale is staged in the Legion of Honor’s galleries of medieval artConceptualized and designed by Singh with art historian Natalie MusteataA Gothic Tale begins with a selection of works from the Fine Arts Museums’ encyclopedic collection that embody one of the key tropes of the Gothic tradition: the doppelgänger. The piece notes the founding and history of the Legion of Honor itself: a funerary structure, located atop a former cemetery that honors World War I soldiers.

And looking towards the future can be terrifying, too. Technologies developed in Silicon Valley have intrigued and inspired artistic experimentation for more than three decades. At San Jose Museum of Art, Tony Oursler's Slip is a sculpture lit with human eyes...and a giant mouth that "speaks." The exhibition Almost Human: Digital Art from the Permanent Collection highlights artists who use digital and emergent technologies from custom computer electronics and early robotics to virtual reality and artificial intelligence, sometimes to spine-tingling effect.

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