University Museum of Contemporary Art Announces Fall Exhibitions and Events

The University Museum of Contemporary Art (UMCA) at UMass Amherst will present three new exhibitions for the fall 2023 semester, on view from Sept. 22 - Dec. 10. An opening reception will be held Thursday, Sept. 21, from 5-7 p.m.

On deck for the UMCA fall season are “Displaced: Raina Adon’s Strangeness,” “Artists, Born Elsewhere — Selections From the UMCA’s Permanent Collection” and “Susan Yard Harris: Dialogue with a Collection.”

Additionally, the UMCA will offer a slate of public programs throughout the semester, an arts walk, artists’ discussions and poetry readings, the details of which can be found below.

The University Museum, located on the lower level of the Randolph W. Bromery Center for the Arts is open Tuesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.; and until 8 p.m. on first Thursday of each month when classes at UMass are in session. The public is always welcome, and admission is free.

“Displaced: Raida Adon’s Strangeness”

Exhibition curated by Gannit Ankori, Henry and Lois Foster Director and Chief Curator, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University

A woman in a blue dress holding a suitcase and surrounded by luggage and furniture stands alongside train tracks outside a crumbling station in a shot from Raida Adon’s immersive video “Strangeness”
A shot from “Displaced: Raina Adon’s Strangeness”

Raida Adon’s immersive video “Strangeness” (2018) invokes experiences of displacement and enduring journeys in search of home. A rich array of archetypal, historical and biographical threads inter-weaves riveting, audiovisual fabrics reflecting both human fragility and resilience, agony and hope.

Adon’s imagery deliberately references 20th and 21st century documentary photographs of Jewish, Palestinian, Syrian and European refugees. Prominent scenes from the video draw inspiration from diverse cultural sources, including Lewis Caroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” Catholic rituals and imagery and Shakespeare’s drowning Ophelia.

The carefully chosen soundtrack amplifies the themes captured by the visual images. A Romanian lullaby slowly crescendos, an opening gateway to Strangeness that expresses the deep sorrow of an uprooted and unsettling nomadic existence. Another aural component integrated into the film is a song by the Egyptian singer Laila Murad. Born in 1918 to a well-known Jewish family, the singer converted to Islam in 1947. Murad’s religious transitions seem to have resonated with Adon, who was born in 1972 in the bi-national city of Acre, Israel, to a Palestinian family that includes Jewish, Muslim and Christian kin.

Rather than using professional actors in her video work, Adon casts and directs members of her own family as well as friends and neighbors. A prominent film, theater, and television actress starring in the Netflix original series The Girl from Oslo (2022), Adon herself also appears as the main protagonist of Strangeness.

In contrast with her acting projects, Adon’s video productions do not employ scripts, texts, and dialogues, nor do they narrate linear plots. Rather, the artist entices her audience to enter an alternative universe of sights and sounds; arid and lush landscapes; lit and shadowy skies. Re-configuring the elements, she creates a visionary new terrain of earth, wind, water, and fire. Strangeness unveils harsh truths about our broken world through the prism of Raida Adon’s unique, unbridled imagination.

“Artists, Born Elsewhere — Selections From the UMCA's Permanent Collection”

A work by Javiera Benavente that will be presented as part of the exhibition Artists, Born Elsewhere — Selections From the UMCA's Permanent Collection
“We Remember,” by Javiera Benavente

This exhibition features works from the UMCA’s permanent collection by artists who immigrated to the United States and have had a lasting impact on American culture: Julie Mehretu; Avital Sagalyn; George Trakas; Josef Albers; Mark di Suvero; Reuben Tam; Paolo Soleri; Lydia Dona; Esteban Vincente; Hanlyn Davies; Vija Celmins; Lucio Pozzi; Bilgé Friedlander; André Kertész; An-My Lê; Yun-fei Ji; Diana al-Hadid; Nari Ward; Nicole Eisenman; Marina Abramović; Nam June Paik; Hans Haacke; Agnes Denes; Y.Z. Kami; Procheta Mukherjee Olson; Imo Nse Imeh; Javiera Benavente, among others.

These artists, some of whom arrived as refugees in search of safe haven, carried their ideas and talents with them. The issue of immigration to this country has become ever more central to public discourse, often cast in terms of potential threat. Yet the flow of ideas and people with varied backgrounds and experiences is a consistent source of innovation and creativity. American culture has flourished through the contributions of artists from around the world.

The title of this exhibition derives from cataloging standards indicating the birthplace of an artist.

“Susan Yard Harris: Dialogue with a Collection”

“Susan Yard Harris: Dialogue with a Collection” is part of an ongoing exhibition series at the UMCA, where work by local artists is juxtaposed with works from the museum’s works-on-paper collection of more than 3,800 contemporary prints, drawings, and photographs. This year, drawings by Susan Yard Harris are installed alongside prints by Edda Renouf from the UMCA’s collection. The exhibition explores the formal and conceptual concerns that parallel both artists’ work, exploring texture, structures and the very process of making art.

Sylvie's Fur. For Mordicai, by Susan Yard Harris
“Sylvie’s Fur. For Mordicai.” by Susan Yard Harris

Yard Harris creates rhythmic, all-over compositions from which larger forms appear to emerge — testing both the limits of our perception and our expectations about abstraction. The hand-drawn gestures suggest particles, matter, energy or simply marks on a white surface as obsessively rendered visible traces. Her drawings are atomized marks gathered into subtle, atmospheric fields and texture. Seen together, her drawings equate macrostructure and microstructure — metaphors for very large, very small or remote environments, with titles often evoking nature or alluding to personal events. This will be the Westhampton artist’s first museum exhibition.

Edda Renouf’s meditative tactile work is based on a deep engagement with her materials. Attention is drawn to chromatic subtlety and pared down markings, the lyricism of her forms, and her exploration of process. Her five prints from the portfolio “Overtones” in this exhibition are examples of sharp incisive imagery with variations and combinations of an overall tonality. In each instance the technique is appropriate to the effect desired. Engraving and hard ground etching produce the sharp biting angular incisions, while aquatint produces the soft over all ground color. The richness and deep saturation of color show an ability to create a subtle wholeness in which the minute detail as well as the totality are immeasurable.

Renouf was born in Mexico and resides in the U.S. Her work is held in numerous collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art; Museum of Modern Art; Whitney Museum; Art Institute of Chicago; Centre Pompidou; and the British Museum. Major museum exhibitions have included a 1997 retrospective at the Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe in Karlsruhe, Germany, and “Revealed Structures,” a 2004 exhibit at the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C. She is represented by Barbara Mathes Gallery, New York.

Public Programs

Displaced: A Poetry Reading and Conversation with Faraday Press and University Museum of Contemporary Art
Saturday, Sept. 30, 3:30-5 p.m. – UMCA

A special evening of poetry at the UMCA, in collaboration with the Emily Dickinson Museum’s Tell It Slant Poetry Festival with poets Enzo Silon Surin and Sami Miranda

Fine Arts Center Fall Art Walk
Friday, Oct. 13 UMCA, 3-6 p.m. – UMCA, August Savage Gallery, Hampden Gallery

Local Artists’ Discussion
Tuesday, Oct. 24, 5:30-6:30 p.m. – Randolph W. Bromery Center for the Arts Lobby

A discussion with local artists Imo Imeh, Procheta Mukherjee Olson and Javiera Benavente, moderated by graduate student Elise Barnett.

Vote for Art / Collecting 101
Tuesday, Nov. 14, 5-6 p.m. – Randolph W. Bromery Center for the Arts Lobby

Help the UMCA decide which artwork to buy for the permanent collection

Video Screening: “Looking Back/Looking Forward: How Loretta Yarlow Shaped the University Museum of Contemporary Art”
Monday, Dec. 4, 4:30-6:30 p.m. – Old Chapel