WCMA to Reopen Friday, Sept. 6, With Full Slate of Exhibitions

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) will reopen for the fall in Lawrence Hall on Friday, Sept. 6, with an exciting lineup featuring the critically exclaimed exhibition Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A.

A celebration to mark the reopening of Lawrence Hall and the opening of Axis Mundo will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 6. A season celebration to mark the entire fall lineup of exhibitions will be held Thursday, Oct. 3, from 5 to 8 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to reopen the museum this September with a dynamic suite of exhibitions and collaborations with faculty, many of which dig into our collection in new and innovative ways,” said WCMA Director Pamela Franks. “We look forward to welcoming visitors back in Lawrence Hall this fall for a rich array of bold and ambitious exhibitions, powerful art and exhilarating conversations.”

The museum has been closed for the summer for renovations that included improving accessibility, public space and collection security, replacing and updating mechanical equipment, and updating staff work areas. During this time, WCMA has been operating a space on at 76 Spring St. that featured the museum shop as well as an exhibition of works in the WALLS collection, a special collection of original artworks that are loaned to Williams students every semester. That space will remain open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Monday, Sept. 2.

After Sept. 2, the space will continue to be operated by WCMA and will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. starting Friday, Sept. 6. It will house the museum’s shop, which offers art and design-inspired books and zines, home goods, jewelry, and gifts for all ages with an emphasis on contemporary design and local makers, as well as offer programming in conjunction with the museum.

“We’ve had a wonderful summer in the heart of downtown Williamstown, and we’re excited to remain there in tandem with our main galleries in Lawrence Hall,” Franks said. “Our hope is to spark synergy between our two physical spaces with creative programming and events.”

Reopening Lawrence Hall is Axis Mundo: Queer Networks in Chicano L.A., which explores the intersections among a network of more than 50 artists. This exhibition is the first of its kind to excavate histories of experimental art practice, collaboration, and exchange by a group of Los Angeles-based queer Chicanx artists between the late 1960s and early 1990s. It presents painting, performance ephemera, print material, video, music, fashion, and photography in the context of significant artistic and cultural movements, including mail art; the rise of Chicanx, LGBTQ, and feminist print media; the formation of alternative spaces; fashion culture; punk music and performance; and artistic responses to the AIDS crisis.

Axis Mundo is organized by C. Ondine Chavoya, professor of art and Latina/o Studies at Williams College, and David Evans Frantz, associate curator at the Palm Springs Art Museum, as part of Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, an initiative of the Getty to encourage ambitious research and exhibitions at Southern California cultural institutions. The exhibition is organized by ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives at the USC Libraries in collaboration with The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and organized as a traveling exhibition by Independent Curators International (ICI). Lead support for Axis Mundo is provided through grants from the Getty Foundation.

Joining Axis Mundo in opening on Sept. 6 are several other exhibitions:

SHIFT: New Interpretations of American and European Art, an ongoing exhibition that opens on Sept. 6: WCMA’s collection of American and European art offers students and the Berkshire community access to key works of art. And yet, collections like ours that have been shaped by the Western canon undeniably present an incomplete history of artistic achievement that often obscures the contributions of women, queer folk, persons of color, artistic collectives, and makers we cannot identify. With this legacy in mind, this exhibition probes the question: How do we engage and critique historic collections of art in ways that respond to the questions and values of today? Presenting work from three centuries of artists who have borrowed from other cultures or found inspiration from community in places other than where they were born, this installation highlights WCMA’s shift toward multiple material and intercultural interpretations of works in our collection.

Candle (from Earth into a Black Hole), Sept. 6-Dec. 15: A white candle that burns down over 12 hours creates a journey through space via its scent. The layers of the candle, created by artist Katie Paterson, each contain a unique fragrance corresponding to a planet or place in the universe. Over the course of a series of two-hour activations in WCMA’s Reading Room, visitors will journey across the cosmos, traversing the invisible landscapes of the moon, the sun, Mars, Jupiter, and into a vacuum. Candle is accompanied by Paterson’s book a place that exists only in moonlight—printed with cosmic dust—that contains a series of artworks existing in the imagination. Candle unfolds over time during multiple activations over the course of its installation: Sept. 26; Oct. 10 and 24; and Nov. 7 and 21. At each, the candle will burn for two hours, releasing different layers of scent while poets, dancers, and musicians share original interventions inspired by the work. The candle will burn from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Interventions begin at 6 p.m.

Object Lab, Sept. 6-Dec. 15: Each semester, faculty across disciplines collaborate with museum staff to select works of art that relate to key course concepts. We display the artworks selected by participating professors in our hybrid gallery-classroom, offering access to students and the public throughout the semester. Students return to Object Labas they develop a tour, create weekly journal entries about form and original context, and write ekphrastic poetry in response to specific works. Courses this semester include Biology 311, History 203, Religion 108 and Russian 219.

All At Once,an ongoing exhibition that opens on Sept. 6: Studio TheGreenEyl, a design and research practice based in Berlin and New York, transforms the museum’s digitized collection into an immersive spatial experience on view in WCMA’s new multipurpose space. The interactive installation clusters objects by visual similarity, juxtaposing items that may be otherwise conceptually or historically distant. Using augmented reality (AR), viewers walk themselves through the collection in an installation that seeks to redefine the experience of visiting a museum building for the digital age. All At Once is an independent research project by Studio TheGreenEyl. This prototype installation uses the open access data and images that WCMA has developed as part of our ongoing work exploring new ways to digitize, share, and search the museum’s collection.

Three other exhibitions will open later in September, including:

Sonance for the Precession, Sept. 18-Dec. 22: Sonance for the Precession is a site-specific sound installation created by artist, musician and composer Neil Leonard for the Berkshire quad on the Williams College campus. The electroacoustic composition, played for 30 minutes each day for half an hour before sunset, explores ancient ideas connecting the precession, or movement, of the equinox with the harmonic series. The composition provides a context to reflect on how Hindu and Greek theories of astronomy and acoustics developed through intercultural exchange as far back as prehistoric times. The installation highlights the historic Hopkins Observatory, situated adjacent to the Williams College Museum of Art, and questions how astronomy can inform contemporary artistic practice. A special event with saxophone and live electronics celebrates the Autumnal Equinox from 6:15 to 6:45 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 23.

Sense and Suggestion, Sept. 20, 2019-Jan. 26, 2020: Art museums are usually hushed spaces where touch is rarely allowed and sight is privileged. But some artworks refuse to play by these rules. Through actual sound, movement, and heat—and the suggestion of these—this exhibition of contemporary works of art from WCMA’s collection leads us on a multi-sensory journey, asking us to take a leap of imagination and bring our bodies into a different relationship to the space and objects around us.

The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Room Z, Northwest Palace of Nimrud), Sept. 27, 2019-April 19, 2020: WCMA’s 1935 Gallery is transformed into the precise architectural layout of Room Z of King Ashurnasirpal II’s 9th century BCE palace, appearing as it stood since its 1854 excavation by British archaeologists until its destruction by ISIS in 2015. Working with a team of assistants, artist Michael Rakowitz reconstructed in 1:1 scale seven of the 13 monumental limestone reliefs that once lined the palace walls using contemporary Middle Eastern newspapers and packaging from northern Iraqi foods. The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist (Room Z, Northwest Palace of Nimrud) engages with the college’s complicated history of collecting, including a Williams alumnus’ acquisition of the two Assyrian reliefs now in the museum’s collection, posing urgent questions about where and to whom objects of cultural heritage belong. Rakowitz will give a talk on the exhibition at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 14.

Annual Plonsker Family Lecture

In addition, Kenturah Davis will be the featured speaker at the annual Plonsker Family Lecture in Contemporary Art at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 5. Davis is an artist working between Los Angeles, New Haven, Conn., and Accra (Ghana). Her work oscillates between various facets of portraiture and design. Using text as a point of departure, she explores the fundamental role that language has in shaping how we understand ourselves and the world around us. This manifests in a variety of forms, including drawings, sculptures, and performances.

Williams College Museum of Art

The Williams College Museum of Art makes dynamic art experiences to incite new thinking about art, museums, and the world. At the heart of the Williams College campus, the museum draws on the collaborative and multidisciplinary ethos of the surrounding college to enliven the more than 15,000 works in its growing collection. The museum and its collection are a catalyst for student learning and community engagement. WCMA is located on Main Street in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Beginning Sept. 6, 2019, the museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., and closed Wednesdays from September through May. In June, July, and August WCMA is open every day 10 a.m. to 5 pm and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursdays. WCMA is free and open to all. For more information, contact the museum at 413-597-2429 or visit