Don’t Miss: Nina Chanel Abney, Tyler Mitchell and More at SCAD Museum of Art

Here’s a brief look at some of the institution’s current exhibitions—most of which are on through January.

Museum visits during the holiday season can be fraught, as major institutions tend to be significantly more crowded than usual with tourists and revelers of all ages, regardless of day or time. Art lovers willing to trek off the beaten path, however, can find equally enriching but much more relaxed cultural experiences at university museums around the U.S.

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Colorful larger than life paintings featuring modern people but in the style of famous works
“Night Walk” at SCAD Museum of Art. Courtesy of SCAD

According to Laurel Bradly, writing for the College Art Association, between 1942 and the early 2000s, “campus art museums increased dramatically in number” and were transformed by new professional standards that reshaped these institutions from research-focused resources into something more like independent art museums. Today, there are more than 170 college art museums scattered around the country, and chances are many of us are within driving distance of at least one of them.

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Some, because of collection quality or size or location, are worth planning a holiday trip around. SCAD Museum of Art in Savannah is one of them. Founded in 2002 as the Earle W. Newton Center for British American Studies, renamed SCAD MOA in 2006 and then expanded and revitalized in 2011, the museum of the Savannah College of Art and Design has a permanent collection of 4,500 works by artists such as Salvador Dalí, Nicholas Hlobo, Willem de Kooning, Robert Mapplethorpe, Wangechi Mutu, Pablo Picasso and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as one of the largest collections of African American art in the United States that includes works by Edward Mitchell Bannister, Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett and Robert S. Duncanson.

Items from the museum’s permanent collection aren’t always on view, however, because SCAD MOA hosts several exhibitions each year in its 19,943 square feet of gallery space organized by curators Daniel S. Palmer, Ben Tollefson, Haley Clouser and Brittany Richmond. Past featured artists have included Kehinde Wiley, Alfredo Jaar and Liza Lou. SCAD Museum of Art’s artists now on view include Erwin Wurm and Nina Chanel Abney, among others. Here’s a brief look at some of the institution’s current exhibitions—most of which are on through January.

Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, ‘Get Home Safe’

“Get Home Safe” in SCAD Museum of Art’s Experimental Gallery. Courtesy of SCAD

Through January 7

“GET HOME SAFE” is immersive, participatory and unabashedly discomfiting. In the installation, which includes text-based animations and a playable video game, viewers explore what it means to walk home at night in certain bodies—a potentially eye-opening journey for those with bodies that allow for nighttime strolling with no baggage attached. “The first games came out of universities and they were on computers that didn’t have graphics systems, just text, and developers started making graphics out of the text,” the artist told Observer. “For me, there’s something amazing about that—to use language and conversation in a way that it’s not necessarily meant to be used. I built a system that converted 3D images into text, and everything kind of snowballed from there into this text-based world built around getting home safe.”

Nina Chanel Abney, ‘Big Butch Energy/Synergy’

An exhibition of colorful collage-like paintings of larger than life people in collegiate scenes
“Big Butch Energy/Synergy” at SCAD Museum of Art. Courtesy of SCAD

Through January 29

In “Big Butch Energy/Synergy” in the Walter O. Evans Center for African American Studies gallery space, Nina Chanel Abney’s scenes of Black identity and queerness are presented through a lens of coming-of-age narratives—particularly the hyper-masculine storylines in iconic college movies like Animal House—in layered (literally and figuratively) large-scale works. She flips the storyline, swapping white hetero characters with Black masculine women rendered in her signature bold, colorful style and infusing the classic scenes with modern symbolism.

M. Florine Démosthène, ‘Mastering the Dream’

A colorful collage in blues, greens and yellows of a human form
“Mastering the Dream” at SCAD Museum of Art. Courtesy of SCAD

Through January 8

Démosthène’s work has been exhibited extensively in solo and group shows in the U.S. At SCAD Museum of Art, the artist is showing mixed media works exploring the human form as well as a selection of experimental 3D-printed sculpture that reference shrines of the Fon people of Benin and Ewe people of Ghana. In the former, Démosthène unpacks topics of identity by splitting and segmenting herself visually and cosmologically in what becomes a spiritual investigation. “I express the idea that we as human beings contain multitudes,” the artist explained in a Joan Mitchell Foundation profile. “Using ink, glitter, and pigment, I form figures that are at once earthly, yet suggestive of the cosmos.”

Yu Hong, ‘Night Walk’

Colorful larger than life paintings featuring modern people but in the style of famous works
“Night Walk” at SCAD Museum of Art’s Poetter Gallery. Courtesy of SCAD

Through January 29

Hong’s mammoth paintings draw on classical motifs and traditional Chinese painting tropes to tell stories that feel equally real and surreal, portraying uncertainty and hope in dramatic tableaux that are indebted to works like Théodore Géricault’s The Raft of the Medusa, Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Blind Leading the Blind and El Greco’s The Crucifixion. “The disquieting nature of her groupings evokes human fragility and the ever-present social tensions between isolation and togetherness,” read the exhibition notes. “Yet they also speak to an insistent resilience and the eternal hope that can be found in a landscape of the imagination.”

Tyler Mitchell, ‘Domestic Imaginaries’

A print of a Black man in a tank top hanging on a laundry line
“Domestic Imaginaries” at SCAD Museum of Art. Courtesy of SCAD

Through December 31

Many people know Atlanta-born, Brooklyn-based photographer and artist Tyler Mitchell as one of the youngest photographers to shoot a U.S. Vogue cover or for his work with Marc Jacobs, Givenchy, Converse, Calvin Klein, Prada and Nike. Or perhaps for his inclusion in Forbes’ 30 Under 30 Art & Style list in 2019. At SCAD MOA, Mitchell is showing his poetic and personal “altar” sculptures and “Threads of Memory”—an immersive hanging installation of photographs of pastoral scenes and Black bodies printed on immense swaying textiles. “The majority, if not all of these works, were actually photographed in London, and people are always surprised to hear that,” assistant curator Haley Clouser said. “He’s able to capture what the Southern landscape looks like and this idea of nostalgia, which just shows how successful he is as a photographer and as an artist.”

Erwin Wurm, ‘Hot’

A bright and open gallery space with photographs hanging on the walls and black sculptures displayed on white boxes on the floor
“Hot” at SCAD Museum of Art. Courtesy of SCAD

Through January 15

In two galleries, Erwin Wurm turns fashion and sculpture upside down in works that invite the viewer to consider art’s and their own relationships with elegance, permanence, form and function. The museum’s André Leon Talley Gallery showcases the artist’s collaborations with luxury fashion brands in images and his sculptures that use clothes and the body as an unconventional canvas and distort the human form for effect. The adjacent gallery showcases works from Wurm’s “Flat Sculptures” series and his famed One Minute Sculptures, which integrate the viewer into the artwork. “There’s an absurdity to it,” chief curator Daniel S. Palmer explained. “The drawings present on the pedestals, the invitations to viewers—instructions, really—are a very intentional response to the grandiosity of art and the grandiosity of the experience of art. Historically, art is supposed to inspire and transform and make us better people. Here, equally important are the ways of seeing the other side of the discussion: the potential for frustration and failure.”

Xiwen Zhu, ‘Soft Shell’

A collage of photos and nature in hues of red and orange mounted on a black wall
“Soft Shell” in the SCAD Museum of Art Alumni Gallery. Courtesy of SCAD

Through December 26

In “Soft Shell,” SCAD MOA presents a selection of works from Xiwen Zhu’s “Casual Territory” series, which explores concepts like privacy, urban encroachment on nature, safety and vulnerability. Zhu, a Savannah College of Art and Design alumnus, staged the images in her studio in Shanghai using original and stock photos and found objects. “A lot of her work references her experience living in China and dealing with the surveillance while working there,” according to Clouser.

Don’t Miss: Nina Chanel Abney, Tyler Mitchell and More at SCAD Museum of Art