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Albuquerque Museum’s coming attractions

Jim Henson with David Bowie and Jennifer Connelly on the set of “Labyrinth.” (Courtesy of The Jim Henson Co.)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

Albuquerque is getting the Muppets for Christmas.

On Tuesday, the Albuquerque Museum announced an eclectic lineup of upcoming exhibitions through 2021 that includes “The Jim Henson Experience: Imagination Unlimited,” “Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera and Mexican Modernism,” “30 Americans: The Rubell Family Collection,” the “Dreams Unreal” psychedelic poster collection and “Art of the Bomb.”

Diego Rivera’s “Sunflowers,” 1943, oil on canvas.

“The Jim Henson Experience” will open Nov. 23 and run through April 19, 2020. The show includes a “Sesame Street” menagerie (Kermit the Frog, Oscar the Grouch and Baby Miss Piggy), Henson’s high school films and objects from the Henson-helmed 1986 film “Labyrinth,” including David Bowie’s tights.

Henson filmed a scene in Albuquerque for “The Great Muppet Caper” in 1981.

“It’s so much more than the Muppets,” museum director Andrew Connors said. “The Muppets were the culmination of his career. He made TV commercials in the 1950s. You can hear some of the early voices of the Muppets. Something as simple and stupid as a sock puppet comes alive.”

A 1974 “Sesame Street” episode took the Muppets to New Mexico to help a friend build an adobe house. Henson knew the state well; his father retired here.

“There’s this great scene where Oscar tries his first chile,” Connors said.

The Kahlo/Rivera exhibition will open on Feb. 6, 2021. On loan from a private collector who bought paintings directly from the artists, the show includes classic Kahlo works. Acclaimed for his Mexican murals, Rivera also produced paintings, Connors said.

Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait with Monkeys,” 1943, oil on canvas.

Today manufacturers splash Kahlo’s image across backpacks, T-shirts and underwear. There’s even a Frida Barbie. A recent photo of Angela Merkel revealed a Frida bracelet circling the German prime minister’s wrist. But the merchandising skirts the legacy of this feminist and LGBT champion.

“I think she has one of the highest followings of anyone,” Connors said. Kahlo’s determination to create during suffering likely contributed to that popularity, he added.

A horrific traffic accident left Kahlo in lifelong pain from the age of 18. Inspired by her country’s popular culture, she employed a naïve folk art style to explore questions of identity, post-colonialism, gender, class and race in Mexican society.

The museum will kick off the new year with the psychedelic posters of “Dreams Unreal” on Jan. 11.

David Byrd’s “Jimi Hendrix Experience; May 10, Fillmore East 1968,” offset lithograph on paper. Albuquerque Museum, gift of Dr. James Gunn.

Truth of Consequences’ Dr. James Gunn, who attended medical school in the Bay Area, donated about 300 posters trumpeting concerts by everyone from Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors, the Grateful Dead and more.

Poster artists such as Victor Moscoso and Stanley Morse turned to the then-unfashionable Art Nouveau movement and post-impressionist Toulouse Lautrec for inspiration.

“They took color theory classes and they did everything the professors told them not to do,” Connors said. “They broke all the rules.”

Opening on Oct. 3, 2020, “30 Americans” features the contemporary work by artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Nick Cave and Obama portrait painter Kehinde Wiley. The works come from the collection of the Rubell Family of Miami, one of the largest of its kind. In 2017, a Basquiat painting of a black skull fetched a record $110.5 million for an American artist at auction. He moved from graffiti artist to neo-expressionism when the dichotomy of punk rock and Studio 54 ruled New York. He befriended Andy Warhol and most famously dated Madonna.

Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Bird On Money,” 1981, acrylic and oil on canvas, 66 x 90 in. (167.6 x 228.6 cm), Rubell Family Collection, acquired in 1981. (Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection)

The works in the collection confront issues of race, identity, cultural expressions, gender and sexuality, Connors said.

“It’s not afraid to ask audiences to deal with issues beyond their comfort zones,” he added.

To mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bomb, the museum will open “Art of the Bomb” on May 16, 2020. A photograph by former military pilot Anne Noggle shows a red missile aimed between the legs of a woman in blue cowboy boots.

“History like that is so difficult to tell without poking everybody’s sore spots,” Connors said. “Artists can approach that history and make comments about history with a freedom with which historians are forbidden.”

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