New year, new exhibits: a preview to Richmond’s upcoming and current art exhibits

Illustration by Rachel Brown

Iman Mekonen, Spectrum Editor

The new year means new things to see with new galleries on display. Here’s a preview of what the local art museums and galleries have planned for their upcoming and current projects.


Candela Books and Gallery

Candela’s current galleries, “The Golden Age” by Alanna Airitam and “Domestic Ballads” by Patty Carroll highlight woman artists who are reframing narratives involving identity. 

“The Golden Age” features portraits of black men and women in vintage dress surrounded with fruit and flowers in order to place African Americans in a different context and narrative through art history.

“Domestic Ballads” displays two pieces of Caroll’s work, “Anonymous Women,” which displays traditional portraits of women paired with “Flora and Fauxna,” a collection of colorful, still-lives to look at the relationship between women and home through layers of household objects while being delivered in a light-hearted tone.

Candela associate director Ashby Nickerson said that since the gallery is interested in process, quality and inclusivity, it can be hard to showcase portraiture.

“It’s especially exciting when we can exhibit something that might seem like straight portraiture but under the surface carries such great conceptual weight that starts a broader conversation,” Nickerson said.

Going forward, Candela aims to focus on programming and collaborations in the near future through continuing their summer project, Unbound, which allows interested photographers to reach out to apply to have their work exhibited. 

“The Golden Age” and “Domestic Ballads” are on display at Candela Books and Gallery (214 W. Broad St.) until Feb. 22. To learn more about Candela and the upcoming events and exhibits, visit



Following the “Great Force” exhibit that left at the beginning of this month, comes the Institute for Contemporary Art’s newest exhibition, titled “Otolith Group: The Xenogenesis,” which explores the history of colonial and race relations.

“Presenting ‘Xenogenesis’ here enables us to pursue those concerns in many new and thought-provoking directions,” said ICA chief curator Stephanie Smith. 

The exhibit is in partnership with the Van Abbemuseum in the Netherlands and marks the ICA’s largest show dedicated to a single artist. It’s also its first collaboration with a museum outside the United States. 

“I hope to see more international partnerships and exchanges in the years to come,” said ICA executive director Dominic Willsdon. 

In the future, the museum will continue their monthly ICA talks and ICA cinema events. 

“While exhibitions will continue to be a huge part of what we do, other kinds of programming will grow alongside,” Willsdon said.

Along with these ongoing events, the museum plans to roll out more projects focused on audio production and musical performances, expanding the museum shop with nods to design and publication, and the museum cafe in order to engage the community while becoming multi-disciplinary.

“The next few years will be about establishing our identity and showing what we can contribute,” Willsdon said.

“Otolith Group: The Xenogenesis” will be on display at the Institute for Contemporary Art (601 W. Broad St.) from Feb. 22 to May 10. To learn more about the specific events, visit 


Rump Gallery 

The gallery’s upcoming exhibition is an installation of text, imagery, and textiles titled “I Wore Her All Around Me,” by VCUarts MFA alum Trish J. Gibson.

Gibson is the Rump’s first faculty member to be featured in the gallery.

“Our 2020 lineup of artists is a wide-ranging group, working within many different mediums, processes, and concepts,” said Rump gallery co-founder Kim Peters. “We accepted the artists we thought were proposing the most exciting ideas — the ones pushing either the limits of their work or the Rump itself.” 

The Rump will also feature artists outside of the VCU community, including some from New York City, with hopes of reaching new audiences.

Along with these changes, the gallery run by alumni is welcoming several changes for the new year. The Rump will be relocating this year to a new creative space and is hopeful for what the new space brings. 

“While we love the current space, we have our eye out for something just or possibly more exciting,” said Rump gallery co-founder Noah Hook. “We hope that moving into a new space will allow us to create an experience that is more beneficial to our artists, and give us the ability to have a more diverse set of shows.”

For more information about the Rump Gallery (2320 5th Ave.,) visit



The Visual Arts Center of Richmond is hosting an exhibition by Lily Cox-Richard and Michael Jevon Demps titled “walking with,” which tackles themes such as value, attention and care in relation to honoring places.

“Walking with” represents an ongoing relationship between the two artists and the everyday ground they walk on. The materials, such as clay, river water, stones, gravel and fabric, resemble the natural appearances of the environment and river setting.

One aspect of “walking with” is focused around a rock tumbler sculpture that resembles the James River’s waves in connection with the large rocks present in the body of water. The exhibit prompts viewers to think of their sense of belonging and their own lives.

The exhibit is on display at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond (1812 W. Main St.) until Feb. 2. For more information, visit



The VMFA’s current exhibit profiles the photography of D.C. photographer Robert McNeill through his three-week journey of capturing American life by profiling members of the working class in the late 1930s. 

In addition to “Robert McNeill: 1938,” the VMFA will be opening another exhibit representing African American photography in February titled, “Working Together: Louis Draper and the Kamoinge Workshop.” 

“It is very interesting to see this young photographer [Draper] at work grappling with all of the complications that faced Virginia’s black population in the throes of the Great Depression,” said VMFA curator Christopher Oliver.

The exhibit will highlight the work of the Richmond native and other New York photographers and will differ from the focused examination of McNeill’s work. 

“I think this decade will be the most dynamic in the museum’s history in terms of the type of exhibitions VMFA is able to offer,” Oliver said.

The VMFA is also expecting some physical changes in the new year, with a new expansion project that will create more gallery space for permanent and special exhibits.

“We hope to add more gallery space, especially for the collection of 21st century art as we continue to collect in this area, where more art is constantly being produced.”

“Robert McNeill 1938: A Collective Portrait of African American Life in Virginia” is on display at the VMFA (200 N. Arthur Ashe Blvd.) until May 26. To learn more about the upcoming exhibits, visit

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