Trio of Shows Usher in New Standard at Reinvigorated Rose

Visitors walk across Beshy's mirror floor in front of the recently acquired "Father, You Have Murdered Me" (at left).
Mike Lovett
Visitors walk across Beshy's mirror floor in front of the recently acquired "Father, You Have Murdered Me" (at left).

Three exhibitions at the Rose Art Museum are kicking off what Christopher Bedford, the museum’s Henry and Lois Foster Director, describes as an “exciting period of creativity and energy” for the museum.

The first, “Ed Ruscha: Standard,” features work in a variety of media by Ruscha, a Los Angeles-based art-world icon, revealing different facets of his 60-year career.

Another show, “Walead Beshty: On the Matter of Abstraction (figs. A & B),” is a multi-artist exhibition Beshty co-curated with Bedford, which includes an untitled glass-floor installation created by Beshty himself.

Finally, “Sam Jury: Coerced Nature” offers a set of painterly video installations that appear not only in the museum but around campus as well.

The Ruscha show, on display in the Lois Foster Gallery, is the artist’s first large-scale solo exhibition in the Boston area. “Ruscha is a major American artist whose work has been definitive in the modern art world for six decades, which really parallels the Rose’s history,” says Dabney Hailey, director of the museum’s academic programs. The 70-piece exhibition comes largely from the collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

Ruscha’s work often depicts everyday objects — gas stations, street signs, billboards — or words that trigger philosophical reflections on the relationship between language, objects and ideas. “Standard,” the company name emblazoned on a gas station sign, for instance, may lead viewers to think “heraldic banner” or “archetype.”

“On the Matter of Abstraction,” located in the Fineberg galleries, assembles pieces from the Rose’s permanent collection, including Bedford’s first acquisitions as director. Artists represented include Ellsworth Kelly, Sol LeWitt, Judy Chicago and Helen Frankenthaler.

Mark Bradford’s “Father, You Have Murdered Me” (2012), a mixed-media collage, is one of Bedford’s recent acquisitions. The director, who first saw the canvas in the artist’s Los Angeles studio before it went on display in a New York gallery, calls it an “incredibly intelligent” work.

In addition to co-curating the exhibition, Beshty created a mirror-and-glass floor that runs throughout both levels of the Rose building. The thin top layer of glass breaks as visitors walk through the museum.

“The glass actually cracks under pressure, so you participate in the production of art,” Bedford says. “The marks made by our various visitors will become a permanent record.”

Jury’s “Coerced Nature” prompts reflection on how people relate to their environments, both natural and architectural, and creates a sense of suspended drama. Her video installations are on view in the Lee Gallery, the Shapiro Campus Center and the main library.

The exhibitions will be on display until June 9.

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