Out of the Box 

Galleries and visual artists step out of their comfort zones.

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In a never-ending effort to expand their audiences, many Richmond galleries and museums are taking their programming beyond their walls. They're creating exhibitions with one another, designing community events to entice new visitors and annexing unlikely spaces for exhibitions. Most of the fall's best art offerings emerge from this trend.

Photographer Sally Mann, whose intimate images of her young children endeared her to the art world some 20 years ago, has since become a superstar while exploring other subjects, most notably the physical and psychological terrain of the American South. While Mann's imagery has progressively loosened — the result of the 19th-century photographic process she employs — an earthy sensuousness has intensified. “Sally Mann: The Flesh and The Spirit,” at Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (Nov. 13-Jan. 23) presents the artist's photographs involving the human figure, while Reynolds Gallery's companion exhibition (Nov. 13-Dec. 18) features images from a variety of series and includes new images printed especially for this exhibition.

There may be no better method of describing the effects of social and political upheaval than using photographic documentation. In the '80s, images taken by South African activists documenting the realities of apartheid not only exposed the conditions of the oppressed to the rest of the world, but also helped to bring an end to those conditions. With this history fresh in the minds of South Africans, it's no wonder that so many of the country's artists and photographers remain involved in the political currents of their country. “Darkroom: Photography and New Media in South Africa Since 1950,” a joint exhibition at the Virginia Museum and the Visual Arts Center, features 18 South African photographers and video artists from the apartheid and post apartheid eras. It runs until Oct. 24. Several of the participating artists have merited worldwide attention, including Zwelethu Mthethwa, whose portraits of South Africans set against the vivid colors and textures of their native surroundings were recently published by Aperture, and William Kentridge, whose work in varied disciplines, including drawing and animation, was exhibited by the Museum of Modern Art in New York last spring. 


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Siemon Allen's collection of record labels, stamps and other images from South Africa fill three stories at the Anderson Gallery.

Anderson Gallery's companion exhibition, “Imaging South Africa: Collection Projects by Siemon Allen” (until Oct. 31) will fill three floors with the collections of the South African artist who now lives in Richmond. Allen's collections of objects such as music recording labels illuminate changes occurring in his homeland and the complexity of South African identity. 

It's been only two years since its inception but word is quickly spreading of the annual phenomenon known as InLight, 1708 Gallery's one-night public exhibition and street celebration of light-inspired art. Jury-selected entries submitted by emerging and established artists from around the country will take over public spaces in Shockoe Slip on Oct. 22.

Another public event, this time lasting for the month of November at Gallery5, aims to involve the community in the observance of Dia de Los Muertos, a Mexican holiday honoring the dead. As well as holding music and other performances for the occasion, the gallery is inviting those wishing to honor loved ones who have died by contributing mementos to a large public alter located at the gallery. Gallery5 also hosts “Memento Mori,” an exhibition concerning death, renewal and the ephemeral that runs Nov. 5-Dec. 17).

Exhibiting at Russell/Projects, one of the newest galleries at Plant Zero, artist Priscila De Carvalho will create a streetscape installation inspired by the streets of her native Brazil, combining paintings with building components and telephone wires. De Carvalho was a 2009 recipient of the prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant, and her installation will be seen from Sept. 10-Oct. 16.


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