Without question, the buzzword for 2016 in the visual arts scene in Kansas City is NCECA (en-SEE-kuh), for National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts. The council’s 50th anniversary conference will be March 16-19, to be accompanied by an estimated 100 exhibitions around town.
In February, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art opens a Kansas Focus Gallery. It will present works by not just Kansas resident artists, but also by artists who were raised or educated in Kansas and went on to find success in other places, such as Gordon Parks and Buckminster Fuller.
In addition to the new space for rotating exhibitions, the museum has purchased works by important Kansas-associated artists for its permanent collection.
Here are some shows of note coming in 2016.
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Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art
“Reflecting Class in the Age of Rembrandt and Vermeer,” Feb. 24-May 29. This expansive show of 71 Dutch paintings from the 17th century promises to draw big crowds by hanging a Vermeer for the first time in Kansas City. “A Lady Writing” is coming from the National Gallery of Art, and museum director Julian Zugazagoitia calls it “their Mona Lisa.” In five years, the Nelson has increased its lending to other museums tenfold, and “Lady” is an example of how that pays off.
“Unconventional Clay: Engaged in Change,” Feb. 26-June. This NCECA invitational exhibition showcases leading large-scale ceramic art by established and emerging artists.
Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art
“A Whisper of Where It Came From,” March 11-July 24. Coinciding with the NCECA conference, this show features six national and international artists who integrate ceramics into their broader mixed-media artworks. The exhibition was awarded a $40,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.
“Siah Armajani: Bridge Builder,” Sept. 9-Jan. 22, 2017. Keying off a bridge motif in a 2000 Armajani painting purchased as a gift to the museum by the Sosland Foundation, works by the Iranian-born, Minneapolis-based painter will explore real and metaphorical bridges in the city and society and speak to the immigrant experience.
Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art
Kansas Focus Gallery grand opening, Feb. 4: A new glass-box gallery focusing on Kansas-associated artists launches with large-scale works by Brooklyn-based, Norton, Kan., native Lori Nix. Nix makes intricately detailed, fantastical dioramas in her studio and photographs them to create real-looking images of abandoned places. Her series “The City” includes a library, casino and laundromat.
Also on Feb. 4, the museum will debut four large-scale and a number of smaller-scale works by Kansas-associated artists the museum has acquired.
“Fritz Scholder: Super Indian,” June 23-Sept. 18: Curated by the Denver Art Museum, this show highlights paintings by one of the country’s most influential contemporary American Indian artists. Scholder’s paintings deal with perceptions of native people that were largely created by Hollywood. Some of his images are unflinching — of Wounded Knee and suicide, for example — but they enchant with beautiful colors.
“Scholder seduces with color so you are drawn in and then you realize this isn’t what you thought it was. His works are disturbing, compelling and poignant,” Nerman director Bruce Hartman said.
H&R Block Artspace at Kansas City Art Institute
“Simone Leigh: I Ran to the Rock to Hide My Face the Rock Cried Out No Hiding Place,” Feb. 5-March 26; opening reception, 4-6 p.m. Feb. 4: Brooklyn-based Leigh draws inspiration from African art and feminism in creating acclaimed works of sculpture, video and installation.
“Wendy Red Star: Parading Culture (Tokens, Gold, & Glory),” Jan. 8-Feb. 27: Portland-based Red Star’s work, which examines Native American culture and the stereotypes surrounding it, will be familiar to Kansas Citians who saw it in “The Plains Indians: Artists of Earth and Sky” at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.