United States

12 Exhibitions to Visit in Pennsylvania this Winter

by Paul Joseph  |  Published November 14, 2022

From Andy Warhol to Robert Fulton, Pennsylvania’s roster of winter exhibitions will celebrate some of the state’s favourite sons.

(Photo: Lawrence Lebduska (American, 1894–1966), Untitled (Horses and Rattlesnakes) , 1946, oil on canvas, Collection of Carl and Marian Mullis)

Boasting a rich artistic and cultural heritage combined with a long industrial legacy centred around coal, steel and railroads, there’s certainly plenty to commemorate in Pennsylvania. Both of these themes can be found in the many exhibitions taking place in museums across the state throughout this winter. If you’re planning a visit  over the coming months and would like to check out an exhibition during your stay, we’ve picked out 12 of the best.

Gatecrashers: The Rise of the Self-Taught Artist in America

Featuring 60 works from leading collections across the country, this exhibition illuminates how artists, including John Kane, Horace Pippin, and Anna Mary Robertson Moses (Grandma Moses), overcame obstacles and “crashed the gates” of major museums in the United States, diversifying the art world across lines of race, ethnicity, class, ability, and gender. This is the first exhibition to focus on how self-taught artists gained their cultural power in this country thanks to evolving ideas about American identity, inclusion, and national character in art.

Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Greensburg / Through 5 February 2023

Pittsburgh’s John Kane: The Life & Art of an American Workman

Crossing the Junction, by John Kane, oil on canvas, 1933. Gift of H.J. Heinz Company.

Grounded in new scholarship from Louise Lippincott and Maxwell King, authors of the new book “American Workman: The Life and Art of John Kane,” this exhibition features 37 works of art and dozens of artifacts that showcase the world of Kane – a turn-of-the-century Scottish immigrant who succeeded as a painter after toiling for more than 40 years as a laborer in industrial-age Pittsburgh. It showcases Kane’s art from America’s most prestigious museums and collectors, including The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Carnegie Museum of Art, American Folk Art Museum, and others.

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia / Through 8 January 2023

Robert Fulton: Industrious Revolutionary

(Photo: National Museum of Industrial History)

Fascinated by art, steam engines, canal engineering, and military technology, Robert Fulton pushed the limitations of mechanical engineering, establishing a pattern of technological innovation that would leave an immeasurable legacy. His innovations sparked the American Industrial Revolution, opened up new trade routes, and helped usher in a major wave of globalised trade on a scale never seen before. This exhibition invites visitors to immerse themselves in the world he created. Take an up-close look at painted miniatures, power a steam engine, learn how a submarine works, flip through Fulton’s personal papers, and get inside the mind of this Industrious Revolutionary.

National Museum of Industrial History, Bethlehem / Through 13 August 2023

Rhythms of Nature: The Art & Design of DRIFT

(Photo: Courtesy of DRIFT)

Amsterdam studio DRIFT creates sculptures and other concepts that offer striking commentaries on humanity’s relationships with nature and technology. The centrepiece of this exhibition is an installation of Fragile Future, one of the studio’s most influential works, which features LEDs covered in dandelion seeds – painstakingly hand-glued to mimic the natural shape of the flowerheads – caught within a web of delicate bronze circuitry. The exhibition also explores how the studio’s artworks come to life. Drawings, models, prototypes, and other documents of the studio’s experiments offer glimpses of the research and engineering that lie behind the apparent effortlessness of DRIFT’s experiential creations.

Philadelphia Museum of Art / Through 23 April 2023

Fragile Earth: The Naturalist Impulse in Contemporary Art

Photo: Courtney Mattison / Courtesy Brandywine Museum of Art)

Spanning two galleries, this exhibition highlights the diverse approaches taken by four leading contemporary artists – Jennifer Angus, Mark Dion, Courtney Mattison and James Prosek – who have gained widespread acclaim for their work that engages thoughtfully with a variety of environmental themes. Produced using a range of media forms, the works on display were created to reflect on the vulnerability of the environment. Highlights include a sculpture by Mark Dion called Still Life in Black in White, which alludes to the threat that oil spills pose to penguins.

Brandywine Museum of Art, Chadds Ford / Through 8 January 2023

Evade or Ensnare: Decorative Illusionism in Historic and Contemporary Painting

Illusionistic painting in the US thrived in the early nineteenth century, with discussions about the artistic form linking political agency with skills in looking. By the time Rembrand Peale painted George Washington, Patriae Pater in 1824, however, the functions of pictorial illusions were more diverse. Rather than providing an opportunity to test one’s keen perception, the masonry porthole and mourning cloth in this painting were meant to absorb the viewer in a miraculous scene of George Washington’s resurrection. By evading attention, these decorative details focused the vision of spectators on the spiritual presence of the former president. This exhibition highlights a selection of contemporary artists who similarly use illusions to redirect the viewer’s gaze into an active form of looking

Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia / Through 8 January 2023

Neapolitan Presepio

(Photo: Bryan Conley / Courtesy Carnegie Museum of Art)

Since 1957, the Carnegie Museum of Art has marked the holiday season with the Neapolitan presepio. A centuries-old tradition in Naples and southern Italy, the presepio is an elaborate nativity scene recreated with miniature figures arranged in a detailed panorama of 18th-century life in Naples. Handmade by artists in the Royal Court of Naples between 1700 and 1830, the presepio includes superbly modeled humans, animals, angelic figures, and architectural elements. Sharing a gallery with Pre-Raphaelite masterpieces such as The Nativity and The King and the Shepherd (1888) by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, visitors are invited to enjoy and reflect on the presepio in an inspiring and new context.

Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh / Through 8 January 2023

Indigenous Identities: Portraits of Native Americans in the Civil War Era

The nineteenth century was a period of immense growth and change for the United States. After the end of the Civil War in 1865, westward expansion accelerated as settlers went in search of new land and financial prosperity. Tasked with exploring these new lands was geologist Dr. Ferdinand V. Hayden, who led expeditions to survey the new territories of Nebraska, Wyoming, and Colorado from the 1860s to the 1880s. Accompanying Hayden on his tours of the West was photographer William Henry Jackson, who documented their travels through photographs. The information gathered from this and other surveys would eventually aid government efforts to claim lands in the West.  This exhibition aims to tell the story of Indigenous people in the American West through 49 photographic portraits of Native Americans taken in the Civil War Era.

Reading Public Museum, Reading / Through 8 January 2023

David Brumbach: Fields of Vision

(Photo: David Brumbach / Courtesy The Demuth Museum)

This special exhibition commemorates the 30th anniversary of beloved Lancaster artist David Brumbach’s death. It also serves to recognise and raise awareness of National Diabetes Month, providing a glimpse into Brumbach’s later years and how the effects of diabetes impacted his artwork and life. Highlights include several of Brumbach’s Star Barn paintings and works from his Masks series, along with interpretation and ephemera that explores the artist’s experiences with what can often be a debilitating disease.

The Demuth Museum, Lancaster / Through 23 December 2022

Andy Warhol’s Social Network: Interview, Television and Portraits

Many people have wondered how Andy Warhol would operate in our contemporary world of social media. This exhibition explores the question by positioning Warhol as a keen businessman with an eye to the future and a clever strategy for cultivating and expanding his social network. It does so by examining the intersections between iconic artist Andy Warhol’s longest-running project, Interview magazine; his ventures in television with his original series FashionWarhol TV, and Warhol’s Fifteen Minutes; and his portrait commissions of the 1970s and 1980s

The Andy Warhol Museum, Pittsburgh / Through 20 February 2023

The Lion Guard: The Exhibit

(Photo: Please Touch Museum)

Inspired by Disney Junior’s “The Lion Guard” (a sequel and spin-off to The Lion King), and created for kids aged 2-7 and their families, this one-of-a-kind exhibition has been designed to communicate positive lessons about teamwork, community, and diversity. The exhibit brings the popular show’s story to life, taking young children and their families on an adventure through the African savanna to defend the Pride Lands and protect the Circle of Life through hands-on activities and interactive imaginative play.

Please Touch Museum, Philadelphia/ Through 8 January 2023

Everyday Rhythms: Music at the Mercer

Humans have always organised random sounds into something more meaningful – music. In addition to expressing ourselves, and entertaining each other, we’ve created, played and adapted instruments to send signals, tell stories, convey power, and give order to community life. This exhibition explores some of these common uses – shared across many regions, people and cultures. Instruments featured include not only European-American forms, but also those from areas of Africa and Asia (acquired by museum founder Henry Mercer during the 1920s), as well as instruments used for military purposes and to accompany religious rituals. Finally, there are instruments crafted in Bucks County, or in the nearby Delaware Valley, along with some tools employed by regional instrument makers.

Mercer Museum, Doylestown / Through 31 December 2023