Those looking for some post-holiday color on a post-holiday budget can take heart. Several free exhibitions that started in late fall are still on view over the next few weeks. Varying in topic and size, they provide either a passing thought or an eyeful.
#b#Princeton University Art Museum#/b#
First stop is the Princeton University campus, where the university art museum’s exhibition “Princeton’s Great Persian Book of Kings” — or the Shahnama (Book of Kings) — continues through Sunday, January 24.
Persian poet Firdausi composed the epic narrative more than 1,000 years ago. Its more than 50,000 verses and tales chronicle Persian history from its first stirrings to the seventh century. The book then became the inspiration for centuries of artistic interpretation.
While hundreds of illustrated copies were created, Princeton’s “Peck Shahnama” — named in honor of donor Clara Peck — is considered to be one of the finest volumes in the United States.
The book’s 50 illuminated and illustrated manuscripts fill the walls of two rooms. While some acquaintance with the story may be helpful, it is not essential to enjoy the exhibition. On the surface most pages have a narrative illustration with defined human and animal figures. Yet it is the arrangement of figures with geometric patterns, rich color, and flowing calligraphy that engage. It is easy to pause at a single work and let the eye wander deeper than the surface and sense that this writing is more than words.
Also on view — through Sunday, February 7 — are nine works at the museum’s entrance by the German-born contemporary American sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard. The works complement the artist’s recently completed commission for the university’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment on Olden Street.
Rydingsvard’s approach combines an interest in primordial or primitive art — and mainly organic materials such as cedar — with a minimalist approach to create large or monumental works.
Since the commissioned work reflects a development for Rydingsvard — the work uses thousands of small sheets of copper hand-hammered by Brooklyn-based metal artist Richard Webber from a foundation carved in cedar — the new work along with the small museum exhibition provides an overview of the artist’s career and work.
Do not forget to take a look at another new work: the Starn Brothers’ “(Any) Body Oddly Propped,” an interdependent free-standing stained glass work, in front of the museum. It was unveiled in November, 2015, by the New Jersey-raised twins (Doug and Mike) who become world-celebrated artists. Their 2010 installation on the roof of the Metropolitan Museum, “You Can’t, You Don’t and You Won’t Stop,” attracted 600,000 and has been replicated in Italy, Japan, and Israel. The two are currently working on a glass facade for the United States embassy in Moscow.
On display in the Marquand Library — which shares the foyer with the art museum — there is “Pitture scelte e dichiarate da Carla Caterina Patina, parigina accademica.” That is Charlotte Catherine Patin’s 1691 volume of art criticism, described by the library curators as “an unusual catalog, comprised of 40 works of art spanning more than two centuries, by artists of different nationalities, and located in various Italian and French collections and institutions.”
“Unusual” comes from the fact that the book is one of the earliest publications of art criticism by a female scholar. Patin was the French-born daughter of the physician father and moral philosopher mother who in addition to encouraging their daughters to become scholars needed to flee France for importing what were considered “seditious” books.
The slight exhibition remains on view to mid-January. For more information, go to library.princeton.edu/news/marquand/2015-11-09/seventeenth-century-art-historical-book-female-scholar-marquand-library.
Elsewhere on campus, the Bernstein Gallery at the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs continues “The Cuban Revolution” through Friday, January 29. The photography exhibition features familiar images of familiar politicians and revolutionaries of the era — including Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and Nikita Khrushchev — and images by Alberto Korda, Castro’s personal photographer.
Although the visuals reflect an event that occurred 50 years ago on an island 1,200-plus miles away, the exhibition has an immediate area connection: the works are part of the private collection of Hopewell resident and collector David Sellers and on exhibit for the first time. For more information, go to wws.princeton.edu/news-and-events/events/item/cuban-revolution#sthash.o88fug5Y.dpuf.
The D&R Greenway in Princeton offers an indoor connection to the great outdoors. “Earth/Fire,” a juried show that highlights two of life’s natural elements, is on view through Friday, January 22. The group show features a large number of artists connected to the region who use various interpretations and mediums. The artists include Marina Ahun, Priscilla Algava, Heather Barros, Carl Geisler, Tasha O’Neill, Dallas Piotrowski, Janet Purcell, and others.
The Greenway is housed in the Johnson Education Center, One Preservation Place, off Rosedale Road in Princeton. Open business hours daily. For more information, call 609-924-4646 or go to www.drgreenway.org/art_galleries.htm.
#b#Tulpehaking Nature Center#/b#
The Tulpehaking Nature Center in Hamilton also brings nature in for viewing, but it also presents an artful opportunity to get out. The Friends of the Abbott Marsh’s “The Quiet Months: An Exploration of Winter” runs through Wednesday, March 30. The exhibition features the work of regional photographers and explores water, winter, and nature’s various reactions to the phenomena. It looks at the special properties of water that make winter unique; how plants and animals survive the frigid season; and how we all can enjoy the marvels of nature in winter.
On Sunday, January 10, the exhibition becomes participatory with a free winter walk from 1 to 2:30 p.m., and a reception to meet photographers from 2:30 to 4 p.m. with hot chocolate, coffee, and tea. The exhibit and winter walk are sponsored by the Friends of the Abbott Marshlands.
The Tulpehaking Nature Center is located at 157 Westcott Avenue in Hamilton. It is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. For more information about the nature center, programs and schedule of events, go to www.mercercountyparks.org.
If the thought of being outside leaves you cold, the Zimmerli Museum at Rutgers University in New Brunswick is a free cultural destination that has several exhibitions on view.
In the upstairs area of the American wing “Vagabond Artist: ‘Pop’ Hart in Tahiti, Mexico, and the Caribbean” is on view through Sunday, February 7.
Hart (1868-1933) used travel as a source for his art. Less interested in the grand tour of Europe, the artist was more off-beat and, according to museum information, “preferred extended trips abroad to more exotic (and affordable) destinations, preferably in warm climates.” The artist is known “for his idiosyncratic style of realism executed in watercolor and drawing on paper, in addition to his adventurous handling of various printmaking techniques.”
This exhibition features more than 40 of Hart’s watercolors, drawings, and prints of daily life and rural landscapes he depicted of Tahiti and Samoa; Trinidad, Dominica, and Santo Domingo; and Mexico.
The images are just a few of the Zimmerli’s collection of almost 5,000 works by Hart, donated through a 1983 bequest from Jeanne Hart, the artist’s niece. And what about his name? He could thank the long old man’s beard he grew on one of his excursions.
Head downstairs to see “Vagrich Bakhchanyan: Accidental Absurdity,” on view through Sunday, March 6. Bakhchanyan, who lived from 1938 to 2009, was a Russian writer and conceptual artist whose specialty was capturing the absurdities of the Soviet regime before moving to New York City in 1974. He used mixed media objects and collages to reveal the fine line that separates “normality from madness, banality from absurdity, platitude from blasphemy. Through experimentation and the development of inventive artistic strategies, (the artist) broadened the range of expressive possibilities for other nonconformist artist.”
For those looking on the lighter side of art, there is “Donkey-donkey, Petunia, and Other Pals: Drawings by Roger Duvoisin,” on view through Sunday, June 26, in the Duvoisin Gallery, named for the Swiss-born artist who moved to and worked in New Jersey. Duvoisin was the illustrator of more than 140 children’s books — including “Little Boy Was Drawing,” “Donkey-donkey: The Troubles of a Silly Little Donkey” (1933), the Caldecott Medal-winning “White Snow, Bright Snow” (1947), “Petunia” (1950), “The Old Bullfrog” (1968), and “The Happy Lioness,” written by Duvoisin’s wife, Louise Fatio. The almost 40 drawings were selected from the more than 2,000 Duvoisin works in the Zimmerli’s collection of American prints and drawings.
The Zimmerli Art Museum is at 71 Hamilton Street, New Brunswick. Call 848-932-7237 or visit www.zimmerlimuseum.rutgers.edu.