This week, WGBH News’ Arts Editor Jared Bowen reviews three free exhibitions in Massachusetts.

“John Akomfrah: Purple,” on view for free at the ICA Watershed through Sept. 2.

John Akomfrah, Purple, 2017
Courtesy of Lisson Gallery and the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston.

The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston reopens the ICA Watershed with the U.S. premiere of “Purple” by Ghanaian artist and filmmaker John Akomfrah. The six-channel video installation draws from archival imagery as well as original footage shot around the world to address the impact of global climate change.

“It's changed how I work basically forever,” says Akomfrah of the project. “I mean to stand, for instance, in Greenland and to see the changes. To see the ice, the permafrost literally moving, was a game changer for me.”

“Small Steps, Giant Leaps: Apollo 11 at Fifty,” on view for free at Harvard’s Houghton Library through Aug. 3.

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Galileo’s earliest observations of the moon through a telescope, as published in his groundbreaking work Sidereus Nuncius in 1610.
Courtesy of Houghton Library, Harvard University

Celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Lunar Mission with a deep dive through history. Drawing on their collection of rare books and manuscripts, the Houghton Library at Harvard University presents a unique exhibition of science fiction and lunar studies from as far back as the 13th century alongside one-of-a-kind artifacts from the Apollo 11 mission.

“We couldn't have hoped to reach the moon without Copernicus showing us how the solar system works, or Newton explaining the laws of gravity and planetary orbits, or Galileo's observations of the lunar surface through a telescope for the first time,” says curator John Overholt. “All those things were crucial steps in making spaceflight possible in the 20th century.”

“Harlem: In Situ,” on view for free at the Addison Gallery of American Art through July 31.

Lucien Aigner, Three Little Girls Eating Ice Cream Cones, 1936.
Lucien Aigner, courtesy of the Addison Gallery of American Art

Discover a century of artmaking in one of America’s most iconic neighborhoods with “Harlem: In Situ.” On view at the Addison Gallery of American Art, this exhibition explores the painting, photography, and poetry created in the New York community of Harlem. Drawing primarily from the Addison Gallery’s own photographic holdings, “Harlem: In Situ” captures both the place and the people of this neighborhood as they evolved from the Harlem Renaissance through the Great Depression into the rapidly changing – and gentrifying – landscape of today.

“You have an outpouring of all cultural forms,” says curator Stephanie Sparling Williams. “I think the art was important then in creating a new visual lexicon for African-Americans against histories of dehumanizing and degrading stereotypes and imagery in the American popular imagination.”

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