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Andrea Ray: Désire

Nina Felshin, curator

May 2, 2008 marks the 40th anniversary of the student uprising in Paris. Six months later a presidential election will be held in the United States. Andrea Ray’s three-part installation, Désire revisits that historic moment to pose a question, longingly and perhaps romantically, about the present: could the Paris model of social and political agency be employed in this country at a time when deepening crisis is coupled with fear and apathy? It reflects on this against a backdrop of French writer and activist Marguerite Duras’ plays and the dinners she often hosted. The three components of Désire include Occupied, a series of photographs of now empty intersections of Paris streets once blocked by students; The Gift, a sculptural installation consisting of a dinner table, embedded with speakers, chairs and a “conceptual soup”; and Rehearse, a theatrical space with an audio component of an abortive rehearsal of a play based on Duras&rsquo. Hiroshima Mon Amour. Together the three pieces reflect a repetitive search for things seemingly unattainable—a complete understanding of war, an experience of productive social change through protest, and an association with an effective community. As its title might suggest, Ray’s work ruminates on desire, on the state of wanting and lack.

Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. Tuesday–Sunday, Noon–4 p.m. Friday, Noon–8 p.m.

Little Frog Jumps the Connecticut: Paintings by Charles Chu

Patrick Dowdey, curator

Charles Chu catches the sweep of the Connecticut River from the Vermont mountains to Old Saybrook in the monumental landscape scroll that is the highlight of this exhibition of his works from the past 25 years. Both Chu’s mastery of Chinese landscape painting and his familiarity with New England are evident in the great luminous washes of his mountains and the delicate quick strokes of his forests and towns, all caught in the richly poetic vocabulary of Chinese painting. One of the most distinguished Chinese painters in the United States, Charles Chu’s rugged New England landscapes, his charming and simple animals, and his stunning flowers are known throughout the world.

Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies. Tuesday–Sunday, Noon–4 p.m.

Music and Modernism in the Graphic Arts, 1860–1910

Clare P. Rogan, curator

In the second half of the 19th century, visual artists in Europe looked to poetry and music as models for modern art, an art of increasing ambiguity and abstraction. This exhibition examines the concept of synaesthesia (the connections between color, sound and the other senses) and the Gesamtkunstwerk (total art work) in British, French, and German art from 1860 to 1910. Drawn from the Davison Art Center Collection and Special Collections, Olin Library, the exhibition presents more than 40 works by James Abbott McNeill Whistler, Max Klinger, Odilon Redon, Henri Fantin-Latour, and others.

Davison Art Center Tuesday–Sunday, Noon–4 p.m.

Wilbur Olin Atwater, 1844–1907

Among the best-known scientists of his day, Wilbur Olin Atwater, Class of 1865, was Wesleyan’s first professor of chemistry and the founder of the first U.S. Agricultural Experiment Station. A key figure in nutrition science, Atwater is considered the “father of the calorie.” Despite his prominence, Atwater was vilified by the Methodist church for his research showing that alcohol has nutritional value.

Olin Memorial Library. On view in Olin Library, 1st floor, east corridor, during regular library hours.