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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 01/27/2011

February arts preview: Paul Gauguin, Jem Cohen, Blinky Palermo

By Lavanya Ramanathan

Paul Gauguin's tropical visions (or, perhaps, creations) color "Gauguin: Maker of Myth" at the National Gallery. (Carmen Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection)

February is an excellent month to be an art lover: The area's museums and galleries will be swimming in exhibition openings, films, parties, even a live-art festival; one major closing should make your February bucket list as well.

The month begins with the opening of Arlington Arts Center's latest, "On the Road." Loaded with work created by American artists on sojourn to locales such as Mauritius, Norway and Bangalore, India, the show captures what the artists accomplish by working outside of traditional studio spaces. Check it out during its reception Feb. 4.

Decisions, decisions. Feb. 4 also marks the first festival of live art at the Fridge with the month-long Fresh Produce festival. It was inspired by the regular Sunday Circus shows hosted at the Capitol Hill gallery by magician/curious fellow David London, and the schedule does bear a strong resemblance to the produce section at Shopper's -- foreign, eclectic, full of strange and alluring fruit. Performances range from the Beltway Poetry Slam poets to electronic-pop musicians/gallery darlings Bluebrain to a drive-in movie night held indoors; also on tap are classes, including ukulele basics and love-song writing with the Sweater Set and Tuvan throat gurgling with Seattle-based Arrington De Dioynso.

Local-music fans will also want to know that the National Gallery of Art is spending two weekends screening the films of Jem Cohen, best known in these parts for capturing Fugazi in 1999's evocative documentary "Instrument." Cohen will be in the crowd for the kickoff Feb. 12, featuring screenings of Cohen's more recent and in-progress works, including a portrait of the late minimalist artist (and Washingtonian) Anne Truitt. On Feb. 27, members of Fugazi will be on hand for what's sure to be a nostalgic screening of "Instrument."

After more than three sometimes tumultuous, more often uplifting months at the National Portrait Gallery, the museum's first major examination of gay experience, "Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in Portraiture," is closing. If you haven't seen it, Feb. 13 is your last shot.

Your dream of spending every single weekend at a museum blowout also comes a smidge closer to fruition this month: The National Museum of African Art is launching its own soiree Feb. 18. Africa Underground, themed to celebrate the Afro-Brazilian collaboration in the new exhibit "Artists in Dialogue 2," will give guests a chance to go after-hours and check out the site-specific singed canvases of South African artist Sandile Zulu and the wood "tapumes" of Brazil's Henrique Oliveira. Of course, it wouldn't be a party without Brazilian cocktails, samba performances and Afrobeat courtesy of DJs Adrian Loving and Munch.

The Smithsonian Associates also kicks off a spring series of Mingle at the Museum cocktail parties Feb. 2, coinciding with the National Museum of Natural History's orchid show; the February bash is sold out, but it's a great reminder to get tickets now to the Mingle events on March 24 at African Art and April 9 at Natural History.

After last year's color-exploring Josef Albers show, and 2009's exhibit of the color-block monuments of Anne Truitt, the Hirshhorn's upcoming "Blinky Palermo: Retrospective 1964-1977" could feel a little like more of the same -- more bold colors, more rooms full of spare, cold, modernist forms. But taken together, all three tell the story of art of a certain era (Truitt and Palermo produced much of the work in the '60s and '70s; though Albers's career began sooner, that show included work from that era as well). It's worth a visit for anyone with an interest in contemporary art. It opens Feb. 24.

Rounding out the month is "Gauguin: Maker of Myth," featuring paintings, sculpture and drawings by 19th-century painter Paul Gauguin. London's Tate Modern organized the show, and its only U.S. stop will be in D.C. Opening at the National Gallery of Art on Feb. 27, the show explores Gauguin's fascination with the lost innocence of ancient Polynesian culture, which he traveled to Tahiti to capture. Failing to find it, he re-created it in brightly hued, sensuous paintings of Tahitian women.

And finally, a little morsel over at Artisphere: The small Bijou theater is screening a little film by award-winning director, artist and writer Miranda July ("Me, You & Everyone We Know"), who's stirring up quite a buzz again, thanks to her newest film, "The Future." In Arlington, you can see her four-minute docu-art film, ""Haysha Royko," made in 2003. The movie captures travelers at Portland International Airport and the way in which people's auras interact when in transit. It begins screening on a loop on Feb. 14.

By Lavanya Ramanathan  | January 27, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Museums  
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