This week, Jared Bowen takes us to a once-in-a-lifetime exhibition of Jacob Lawrence’s “Struggle” series. Plus, an exhibition addressing climate change in the Indian Ocean at the McMullen Museum and a review of the play “Bright Half Life.”

“Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle,” on view at the Peabody Essex Museum through April 26

Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle
Jacob Lawrence, We crossed the River at McKonkey’s Ferry 9 miles above Trenton . . . the night was excessively severe . . . which the men bore without the least murmur . . . —Tench Tilghman, 27 December 1776, Panel 10, 1954, from Struggle: From the History of the American People, 1954–56. Egg tempera on hardboard.
Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, and the Peabody Essex Museum

During the launch of the civil rights movement, the artist Jacob Lawrence — one of the most famous black American artists of the 20th century — painted a series of panels depicting pivotal moments in American history. He titled the series “Struggle…From the History of the American People.” Ultimately, the 30 works were sold off to collectors and museums across the country.

Now, they have been reunited for the first time in more than 60 years at the Peabody Essex Museum alongside contemporary works by artists Bethany Collins, Derrick Adams, and Hank Willis Thomas.

“He looked for the voices of founding fathers,” says curator Austen Barron Bailly of Lawrence. “He looked for these actions that people took in the struggle to build our democracy, and he offers it up as a way through these incredible paintings to draw you in.”

“Indian Ocean Current: Six Artistic Narratives,” on view for free at the McMullen Museum of Art through May 31

Indian Ocean Current: Six Artistic Narratives
Wangechi Mutu (b. 1972), I’m too Misty, 2015. Collage painting on linoleum, 40 x 33 in.
Courtesy of the artist and Gladstone Gallery, New York and Brussels, and the McMullen Museum of Art

A new exhibition at the McMullen Museum of Art examines the history, environment and culture of the Indian Ocean and its territories in “Indian Ocean Current: Six Artistic Narratives.” As climate change causes the Indian Ocean to rise, six artists address what that means for the people who live there.

The exhibition features more than 80 works crafted in media including painting, sculpture, and video by artists Hajra Waheed, Nicholas Hlobo, Penny Siopis, Shilpa Gupta, Shiraz Bayjoo, and Wangechi Mutu.

“Scientists can help us understand what's going on in the world,” says Boston College Professor of Modern South Asian History Prasannan Parthasarathi. “But, they can't tell us how to live in the world. And this is where the artists are so critical.”

“Bright Half Life,” presented by Actor’s Shakespeare Project at The Plaza Theatre through February 16

Bright Half Life
Lyndsay Allyn Cox and Kelly Chick star in "Bright Half Life"
Nile Scott Studios, courtesy of Actorss Shakespeare Project

Experience the highs and lows of a 40-year relationship in just over an hour at The Plaza Theatre with “Bright Half Life.” Written by Tanya Barfield, this tight, contemporary play focuses on an interracial, lesbian couple as they navigate from the innocence of flirting and flying kites to raising children and coping with death.

"Jarring, jolting, often as jubilant as it is sad, Bright Half Life delivers a surprisingly resonant life in tiny punctuations,' says Jared. "You'll marvel at it's depth and how quickly you arrive there.

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