Of the powerhouse exhibitions headed our way this season, “Murillo: From Heaven to Earth” at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth (Sept. 18-Jan. 29) heads my list for its title alone. Given the state of our combusting, war-racked planet, we could use some outside help, and in the painterly cosmos of the 17th-century Spanish Baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo it’s there: Angels and saints beam down to succor ordinary folk, and everyone looks touched by grace. A popular art of immense sophistication in a one-stop-only show.
Divine protection and healing will also be the dual dynamic of “Bamigboye: A Master Sculptor of the Yoruba Tradition” at the Yale University Art Gallery (Sept. 9-Jan. 8). Harvested from international collections, the show will feature the monumental and fantastically intricate ritual sculptures and masks carved by the Nigerian artist Moshood Olusomo Bamigboye (circa 1885-1975) and his workshop. We get museum solos devoted to Western “masters” all the time; ones devoted to African artists, almost never. Not to be missed.
More modest in scale but of comparable spiritual utility is the work in “Ibrahim El-Salahi: Pain Relief Drawings” at the Drawing Center in Manhattan (Oct. 7-Jan. 15). Produced during the past few years by the 91-year-old, Sudanese-born, British-based artist, the drawings have been his way of coping, psychologically, with late-life chronic pain. All were done on near-at-hand scraps of paper, including the backs of medication labels. El-Salahi’s majestic 2013 London retrospective didn’t make it across the Atlantic, but we’ll get a chance to sample him in depth, if not breadth, here.