Cincinnati Art Museum’s Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman, up through Jan. 2, celebrates the restoration of one of its proudest possessions, the 1760 “Ann Ford (Later Mrs. Philip Thickness),” by surrounding it with 15 of the master English painter’s other portraits of trend-setting woman of his day, borrowed from major museums around the world. Originally, the museum wanted to commission a new portrait of singer/model Grace Jones by the hot African-American artist Kehinde Wiley for the exhibit to emphasize the modernity in Gainsborough’s work. That fell through, but the museum has borrowed a Wiley from Louisville’s 21C Museum Hotel, which, of course, will soon have a branch in Cincinnati. The museum has also quietly — too quietly — put on display a new acquisition, a small but gorgeous 2009 painting by Gerhard Richter. And in a small second-floor gallery is one of the most ominously mysterious, broodingly powerful and generally fine paintings that George Bellows made, 1908’s “Excavation at Night,” which chronicles construction of the now-demolished Penn Station. It’s on extended loan from Arkansas’ not-yet-open Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, and the museum has put together a not-to-miss small show around it. Sorry for not commenting on Wedded Perfection, which is supposed to be terrific and is certainly popular, but I haven’t gotten there yet. (www.cincinnatiartmuseum.com)
The Taft Museum of Art’s annual Antique Christmas display — up through Jan.
9 — is maybe the finest art/museum-related Christmas tradition in the city. While there are various components to it, the collection of traditional German artificial trees (made of goose feathers and wire and decorated with all sorts of unusual ornaments) is fascinating. Opening Saturday and continuing through Jan. 30 is a show by one of history’s greatest artists, although not one usually associated with holiday cheer. Francisco Goya’s Los Caprichos features 80 etchings from a 1799 series by the painter who gazed deep into the human soul and found darkness, despair, foolishness and … more of the same. (www.taftmuseum.org)
Probably the finest site-related, one-person show I’ve seen at Contemporary Arts Center in the last four years is Shinji Turner-Yamamoto’s Disappearances, up through Jan. 30. The Cincinnati-based artist uses unusual and sometimes commonplace materials plus paintings to create a quietly reflective, meditative environment that features one extraordinary work — a miniature-size desert landscape that looks like Monument Valley — on the floor at the rear of the gallery. It’s a small show in comparison to the thoroughly invigorating, multi-artist Where Do We Go From Here? Selections From the Collecion Jumex, also up through Jan. 30. But don’t miss either one. (www.contemporaryartscenter.org)
Bruce Burris’ Welcome to the Lonely Mountain Community Center, one-half of the Rainy Day show at Northside’s Thunder-Sky Gallery (pictured above) through Dec. 31, works on all sorts of levels: as humor; as politics; as pop sociology; as visual art; as reading material; as a compassionately prickly portrait of Americana. He has created a world (an Appalachian community struggling with mountaintop mining) in part by imaging how its community bulletin board might read. (www.thunderskyinc.org)
And speaking of art as reading material, the always-interesting, Columbus-based Ann Hamilton has a show, reading, that explores the visual appeal of cutting up paperback book pages and binding/shaping them into new objects. The Solway Gallery show primarily has inkjet photographic images from her project, made by stacking the objects on a digital scanner, but there is a much smaller actual piece or two to study close-up. It’s up through Dec. 23. (www.solwaygallery.org)
CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: email@example.com