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Fall Guide: Editor’s picks for must-see art exhibits

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Grom the Ackland in Chapel Hill and the Nasher in Durham to the Gregg and NCMA in Raleigh, renovation has been the watchword for the area's museums lately. For administrators and curators, it means new challenges and opportunities. But for you, it simply means new chances to see great art in improved facilities this fall.

If, like me, you've written off the space-bending lithography of dorm-poster and coffee-table-book mainstay M.C. Escher as jejune teenage kicks, the time is nigh to reassess his trippy tessellations and mathematical draftsmanship. Do so at NCMA in THE WORLDS OF M.C. ESCHER: NATURE, SCIENCE, AND IMAGINATION (Oct. 17–Jan. 17, www.ncartmuseum.org), which surveys the Dutch artist's entire career through more than 130 works.

The exhibit pairs nicely with another NCMA blockbuster focused on someone who blurred art and science, LEONARDO DA VINCI'S CODEX LEICESTER AND THE CREATIVE MIND (Oct. 31–Jan. 17). The centerpiece is a 500-year-old, 72-page manuscript, mirror-written in da Vinci's hand, where he documents his interests, theories and discoveries with relentless enthusiasm and curiosity.

Not that NCMA is strictly honoring the dead this fall—for something contemporary, check out ROBIN RHODE (Sept. 26–Jan. 31). The South African artist's playful videos show actors interacting with drawn objects in a liminal space between the second and third dimensions.

Speaking of impossible spaces, don't miss SARAH CAIN: THE IMAGINARY ARCHITECTURE OF LOVE at CAM Raleigh (Oct. 2–Jan. 3, www.camraleigh.org). The artist's large-scale abstract paintings, applied directly to the museum's walls and floors and embedded with objects found on site, turn the place into the art—or vice versa?

At the Nasher, the renovation of Wilson Pavilion is just the tip of the spear. The Duke museum's fall is dominated by a variety of 10th-anniversary exhibits and events, which we'll be taking a closer look at soon. For now, mark you calendars for the unveiling of new murals by world-renowned artist ODILI DONALD ODITA at the museum's Nasher10 Homecoming (Oct. 4, www.nasher.duke.edu) and the downtown Durham YMCA (Oct. 10).

As the Nasher turns 10, Raleigh gallery and collective Lump turns a staggering 20. Team Lump celebrates with a season dubbed Lumpxx, and the highlight looks to be DRESS/SHIELD (October, www.teamlump.org), a group exhibit by women and feminist artists who have shown at Lump, including Laura Sharp Wilson, Tory Wright, Leah Bailis and Lydia Moyer.

Elsewhere in team spirit, the member artists at Durham's Pleiades Gallery spent several months passing around a still-life arrangement including everything from oyster shells to paint brushes. In STILL LIFE (Oct. 15–Nov. 14, www.pleiadesartdurham.com), they display their interpretations in glass, metal, paint and more. Cool idea, though I'd have titled it 13 Ways of Looking at a Junk Pile.

Raleigh's Flanders Gallery has a fall exhibit of new work by an INDY favorite in STACY LYNN WADDELL: LVHM (Sept. 3–27, www.flandersartgallery.com). The local artist's gold-leaf portraiture, often branded with abstract patterns of her own initials, is ravishing and one-of-a-kind.

The ongoing Click! Triangle Photography Festival (www.clicktrianglephoto.org) has some potent offerings framed up. They include QUESTION BRIDGE: BLACK MALES (Sept. 8–Nov. 21, Power Plant Gallery, www.powerplantgallery.org), a video-art installation where black men from diverse places and backgrounds discuss critical issues of race, and THE SCANNERS (Oct. 13–24, The Carrack, www.thecarrack.org), where John Gallagher, Tama Hochbaum, Jim Lee and Leah Sobsey explore the fine-art possibilities of the scanner as a capture device.

All this barely scratches the surface at what will be on view at galleries this fall. Your city's monthly Friday art walk, when galleries and studios are open and full of life, remains the best way to discover new passions and then return for solitary contemplation.

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