A long yellow line traverses four panels in Obiora Udechukwu’s “Our Journey,” writhing a bit on the way as it passes over a surface of bold color and emerging shapes, turning in on itself in a spiral in the fourth canvas.
“It is drop-dead beautiful,” said John Stomberg, director of the Hood Museum of Art, noting that Udechukwu, a Nigerian artist whose career included teaching at St. Lawrence College, “brings together contemporary art and traditional forms from Nigerian people,” in this piece painted in 1993, a tumultuous year in Nigeria.
“Our Journey,” which may evoke reflection on post-colonial Nigeria or perhaps the human journey, was selected for the arrival point at the remodeled and expanded Hood Museum for its beauty and power and because it speaks eloquently to the experience offered at the museum.
“A visit to the Hood is not meant to reinforce prior knowledge, but rather to open the door to fresh insights,” Stomberg said.
The Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, reopens today, Jan. 26, after a 30-month $50 million expansion and renovation. This major project was driven by Dartmouth’s need for students and faculty to have greater access to the objects in the Hood’s collections — nearly 70,000 in all. Now, with 16 galleries and three state-of-the-art object study classrooms, the Hood enters a new era as model teaching museum and extraordinary cultural resource welcoming the public.
“The Hood is open, free, and you are welcome — really and truly that means everybody,” Stomberg said.
He noted that the new Hood has a prominent and welcoming connection to the Dartmouth Green and indoor spaces that invite a leisurely approach to the galleries. The airy atrium serves as a kind of indoor green where visitors can pause and mingle.
The Hood Museum opened in 1985, bringing art collections that were previously scattered through many Dartmouth departments under a single roof. That roof was a landmark postmodern building designed by Charles Moore, celebrated for offering unfolding experiences of art. In the three-plus decades since the Hood opened, its collections have burgeoned, and so has the need for object study teaching spaces.
For the expansion, Dartmouth selected a plan by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects that features a new L-shaped building that wraps around and flows into the Moore building.
When the Hood reopens, with events scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, visitors will not only see the new building, but an impressive breadth of exhibitions, all drawn from the Hood’s permanent collections. Several major recent acquisitions are featured, including Udechukwu’s “Our Journey,” Antonio Susini’s early 17th-century bronze “Flying Mercury,” Thomas Cole’s 1826 “View on Lake George,” and Jeffrey Gibson, American/Choctaw/Cherokee, “WHAT DO YOU WANT? WHEN DO YOU WANT IT?” (2016).
“Our overall goal is surprise and delight. Often when we go to a museum, our own knowledge is confirmed in a comforting way. We’ve moved things around to offer up the delight of new art experiences and to make new discoveries,” Stomberg said.
“One of my axioms is that not all great art is familiar,” he said. “Here we focus on providing moments of joy of discovery.”
In the new Hood, Stomberg said, “Throughout the museum, each gallery is an episode in art. We did not try to string them together. Each stands on its own as its own story.”
Contemporary global art, ancient art, and art from centuries in between are well represented and explored through compelling themes.
Native American art is presented in two galleries. “Portrait of the Artist as an Indian/Portrait of the Indian as an Artist” features portraits and focuses on identity. In the adjacent gallery, “Native Ecologies: Recycle, Resist, Protect, Sustain” considers relationships with land and community.
“Global Cultures, Ancient and Pre-Modern” features the Hood’s Assyrian reliefs, Hindu bronzes of celestial deities, Egyptian stone figures and more.
Upstairs “Cubism and Its Aftershocks” features innovative artworks of the early 20th century including Pablo Picasso’s early cubist, “Guitar on a Table.” “The Expanding Universe of Postwar Art,” with works including Japanese-American Yayoi Kusama’s “Accumulation II,” considers the excitement and exchanges of ideas in the mid-20th century.
The opening exhibitions feature artwork of six continents, exploring themes in depth — “A World of Relations” in Aboriginal Australian art, Shikō Munakata’s Japanese calligraphy, religion and traditional societies of Melanesia. “Global Contemporary: A Focus on Africa,” with 15 artworks including El Anatsui’s 2003 “Hovor,” explores themes from the challenges of nation- building to feminism to globalization.