Leon Battista Alberti instructed painters to consider the frame of a painting as an open window. A new exhibition at the Springfield Art Museum revisits that concept in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The exhibition, titled “The Open Window,” opens at 10 a.m. April 9 and runs through July 10 in the museum’s Armstrong Gallery. The Open Window features 18 works from the Springfield Art Museum’s permanent collection.
“The exhibit takes as its premise this Renaissance theory called ‘Alberti’s Window,’” said Joshua Best, museum affairs officer. “He was a teacher who taught painters to think of a canvas of an open window they’re looking through and then to paint what they see through the window.”
That theory, laid out in Alberti’s book “De Pictura,” served as a defining concept for theories of painting, architecture and moving pictures. It has been challenged by modern artists through movements including Cubism, photographic collage and avant-garde film.
“All the works relate to that in some way, but they either follow ‘Alberti’s Window’ or challenge it in some way,” Best said. “The reason we think this is relevant right now is as we appear to be transitioning out of this pandemic period — even though it’s still going on — we’ve been forced to look at the world through a variety of screens over the last two years in ways that maybe we weren’t before. During the shelter-at-home order, it was through our windows at home. But there are a lot of people working from home now and everything they’re referencing or viewing is through a screen, a window or a pane of glass.
“This is a look at a whole range of artists who are dealing with this concept of how we view the world, through what perspective we’re looking at things. So our hope is that people will engage with that idea and think about what lens they’re looking through, what they’re focusing on and how they’re framing their perspective of the world.”
Exhibit includes kid-friendly take-home project
“The Open Window” exhibit includes a free Take-Home Project Bag, with art-making activities related to viewing and creating perspective on flat surfaces. These bags can be reserved on the Springfield Art Museum’s website and picked up in the museum’s lobby. Completed projects can be shared on social media using the hashtag #sgfprojectbag and tagging the museum, @sgfmusuem.
“You’re creating landscapes and then dropping them into plastic sheet cover, like you might put a report in,” Best said. “Then you’re creating window frames out of that with Washi Tape, creating a windowpane. … The project bags really kind of focus on children, but we definitely have adults who sign up for them and do the projects themselves, too.”
There are plenty of new things to see at the Springfield Art Museum right now. Also opening April 9 is “Mend Piece,” a concept exhibition by Yoko Ono.
“The first three galleries were all a one-person exhibition most recently, and now it’s broken up into three different experiences for patrons,” Best said. “That’s the great thing about the flexibility of the museum space. You can have one overarching experience or you can have smaller-focused things.”
The Springfield Art Museum is located at 1111 E. Brookside Drive. Its hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday and 1-5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free.