Picasso must have set a tone for the Richmond arts scene this year, because the fall brings several exhibitions that span the globe. Virginia Commonwealth University's Anderson Gallery will start things off with "Environment and Object" (Sept. 9-Dec. 11), an exhibition of multigenre, contemporary African art that explores the impact of environmental conditions on the lives of Africans as well as the use of appropriated materials in exploring their cultural identities. This selection of both well-known and emerging artists will showcase technical skill and perspectives rich with political and social immediacy.
Renowned Chinese artist Xu Bing will explore similar concepts of the environmental impact of industry — one that hits a little closer to home. "Xu Bing: Tobacco Project" (Sept. 10-Dec. 4) at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts includes works created for two previous exhibitions that took place at Duke University and in Shanghai, China, plus new work created from Bing's time spent in Richmond touring Philip Morris and researching Virginia's tobacco history. Two highlights will be an ambitious tiger-skin rug made from more than 500,000 cigarettes and a recreation of "Traveling Down the River," a long cigarette that will burn down the length of a 41-foot scroll.
The Atlanta-based South Korean painter, Jiha Moon, displays a unique skill at fusing cultural references with aesthetics. Her gestural paintings are executed in ink and acrylic on traditional Korean hanji paper over canvas, and have a vivid and playful palette. The paintings will be on view at Reynolds Gallery from Sept. 16 to Oct. 29. In conjunction, ADA Gallery will hold a simultaneous exhibition joining Jiha Moon's painting detail with the sculptural vision of Rachel Hayes, a graduate of VCU's master's degree in fine arts program. She and Moon met in 2007 at the Art Omi International Artists Residency, and since have been collaborating regularly, most recently at the Lab Gallery in New York. The dates for this joint show were being finalized at press time; for updates, visit adagallery.com.
And then there are mummies. Lots of them. "Mummy: Secrets of the Tomb," running Nov. 19 to March 11, will offer more than 100 artifacts, four human mummies and two animal mummies to view from the Egyptian collection at the British Museum in London. This extensive exhibition at VMFA seeks to explore rituals of death in ancient Egypt, beginning with an educational film meant to enrich the viewer's experience of the foreign objects. Tickets will be sold for a specific timed entry that will strongly discourage late arrivals.
Two other sculpture exhibitions will bring the globetrotting full circle. 1708 Gallery plays host to the work of Christian Benefiel (Oct. 28-Dec. 3), consisting of inflatable sculpture and installations made from reclaimed marine materials. Benefiel lives in Baltimore but is the 2011 artist in residence at the Academy of Fine Arts in Helsinki, Finland. And the Visual Arts Center will exhibit Jonathan Brilliant's "Stick Stack Show" from Nov. 4 to Dec. 18, continuing Brilliant's "Have Sticks Will Travel World Tour" that began in 2009 as a series of site-specific installations created in 13 galleries in three countries and on two continents.