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Big weekend for art in Philly: What to see in museums now, and what’s coming soon

Three big shows open this weekend: Elijah Pierce at the Barnes Foundation, a group show of Philly mid-century abstraction at Woodmere, and ICA’s multimedia Milford Graves exhibition.

Detail from an untitled work by Sam Feinstein from 1959.
Detail from an untitled work by Sam Feinstein from 1959.Read moreSamuel L. Feinstein Trust

With three shows opening this weekend at Philadelphia museums, it looks almost like the beginning of a normal fall art season.

The Barnes Foundation is opening “Elijah Pierce’s America,” the Institute of Contemporary Art has “Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal,” and Woodmere Art Museum opens “Group ’55: Midcentury Abstraction in Philadelphia.”

But there will be a lot fewer new shows than is usually the case. Since this is no time for crowds, museums have little incentive to mount expensive, logistically complicated, crowd-pleasing exhibitions. Blockbusters that were previously announced for this season — such as the Art Museum’s big Jasper Johns show — are going to wait.

And a few shows whose schedules were upset by the pandemic have been extended. Here are 10 of the season’s new and continuing shows. You’ll be expected to mask up, and most art museums require timed tickets that must be preordered online.

New shows and coming attractions

Elijah Pierce’s America (Sunday through Jan. 10, Barnes Foundation). The Barnes show is the first major retrospective of self-taught artist Pierce’s work to be presented outside his home city of Columbus, Ohio, for more than 25 years. Included are more than 100 autobiographical, religious, and political wood carvings by Pierce, born in Mississippi in 1892 and the son of a formerly enslaved couple. (215-278-7000,

Group 55: Midcentury Abstraction in Philadelphia (Saturday through Jan. 24 Woodmere Art Museum). In 1955 a group of Philadelphia painters, architects, musicians and other artists organized a series of exhibitions and forums to nudge a conservative city toward modernism. It is paired with Sam Feinstein: Immersive Abstraction, which shows the work of one of the movement’s leaders, also ending Jan. 4. (215-247-0476,

Milford Graves: A Mind-Body Deal (Friday through Jan. 24, Institute of Contemporary Art). Graves is best known as a musician, but this show, organized by Ars Nova Workshop, includes a full range of visual and media work. (215-898-7108,

Raúl Romero: Onomonopoetics of a Puerto Rican Landscape (Through Jan. 10, Taller Puertorriqueño). This is an immersive exhibit that transports viewers to Puerto Rico through sound. Sounds of the island’s tiny coquí frog can be heard throughout Fairhill’s El Centro de Oro, emanating from sculptures that celebrate Arecibo’s famous observatory that searches for signals from other planets. Inside the Taller galleries, through Nov. 21, is the exhibition “Apparent Spaces” by the Philadelphia-based Venezuelan photo artist Carlos Gil — his largest solo show to date. (215-426-3311

Syd Carpenter: Portraits of Our Places (Oct. 16-Feb. 28, Michener Art Museum). Sculptor, ceramicist, and Swarthmore professor Carpenter has investigated African American gardens in the rural South and created 10 free-standing ceramic and steel sculptures. They combine botanical imagery with tools, clothespins, and other things found in backyards. (215-340-9800,

Taking Space: Contemporary Women Artists and the Politics of Scale (Nov. 19-April 11, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts). This group exhibition, which includes many recent PAFA acquisitions, considers how a range of female artists, including Louise Nevelson, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, and Elizabeth Murray, have used size and repetition and space in their work. (215-972-7600,

Continuing exhibitions

Betsy James Wyeth: A Tribute (through Jan. 10, Brandywine River Museum of Art). Though his wife was more manager than muse, Andrew Wyeth painted her many times during their nearly seven-decade marriage. This selection of 20 works is a memorial, following her death in April. (610-388-2700,

Art of Care (through Jan. 3, Philadelphia Museum of Art). In response to the pandemic and protests over social justice, the Art Museum shows drawings, photographs, prints and paintings from its collection that focus on health care. (215-763-8100,

Samara Golden: Upstairs at Steve’s (Through Jan. 31, Fabric Workshop and Museum). Using mirrors on the floors and walls, the Los Angeles-based artist has transformed a space that’s about the size of a studio apartment into an impossibly large and lofty landscape, seemingly devastated by a hurricane and littered with domestic debris. Viewers stand on a platform to survey the grand illusion. (215-561-8888,

Rising Tides: Contemporary Art and the Ecology of Water (Through Jan. 10, Michener Art Museum). This intriguing show, originally timed to debut in observance of the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, showcases Philadelphia-area artists whose work considers the impact of global warming, climate change, pollution, and other threats to bodies of water and aquatic species. Ceramicist Marguerita Hagan steals the show. (215-340-9800,