The Year in Art
Painted Prints at Baltimore Museum of Art Judging from the exhibit's subtitle--The Revelation of Color in Northern Renaissance and Baroque Engravings, Etchings and Woodcuts--you might expect something primarily of academic interest. Stifle that yawn. There's definitely scholarly value to be had as BMA curator of prints, drawings, and photographs Susan Dackerman showcases black-and-white prints and the less well-known hand-colored versions of those same prints. But there are also fascinating presentations of the materials, methods, and popular tastes of that era. You're encouraged to share in the curators' detective work, and also to just plain enjoy seeing so many enduring prints. With Albrecht Dürer as its star, this exhibit is itself starry in an understated way.
The Age of Impressionism: European Masterpieces From Ordrupgaard, Copenhagen at the Walters Art Museum Not many Americans get to visit this museum outside Copenhagen, so it was nice to have this first-rate collection of Impressionist paintings handsomely presented at the Walters. The familiar names--Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Gauguin, Cézanne, and company--were on view, but so too were some underappreciated Impressionists. Supplementing these works was a survey of 19th- and early-20th-century Danish paintings, including the hauntingly near-empty domestic scenes done by Vilhelm Hammershoi.
High on Life: Transcending Addiction at the American Visionary Art Museum Not every mega-show thematically coheres at AVAM, but this exhibit induced a genuine high, as it zestfully chronicled the frequent horrors and occasionally blissful reveries of artists with drugs on their résumé. The most intriguing work includes the tiny embroidered scenes Raymond Materson made with the thread of unraveled socks that he collected from his fellow inmates during his drug-related jail term. It proved to be a great rehab strategy for him, and the show has therapeutic value for all of us.
J.M.W. Turner at the Baltimore Museum of Art Despite problems with a somewhat confusing layout, a paucity of paintings, and a general sense that it aspired to but couldn't deliver on its blockbuster pretensions, this exhibit still featured an impressive selection of J.M.W. Turner's work culled from London's Tate Gallery. Of particular interest was the ways in which the early- to mid-19th-century English artist used highly expressive brushwork to make sea, land, and sky blend together. He pushed to the edge of abstraction, and thus served as a prophetic proto-modernist.
The Book of Kings at the Walters Art Museum When a 13th-century French Bible belonging to New York's Morgan Library was temporarily taken apart for research purposes, the conditions existed for the Walters to borrow 26 of its magnificently painted pages. The scenes they depict include such ever-popular dramatic couples as Samson and Delilah and David and Goliath. Because this Bible's history of ownership includes Christians, Muslims, and Jews, their inscriptions in the margins around the images amount to an ecumenical conference. The Walters fills out the exhibit with manuscripts, armor, and other medieval goodies from its own collection. Walk into this show and enter that 13th-century world.
Soledad Salame at Gomez Gallery The Chilean-born, Baltimore-based artist Soledad Salame makes ecologically themed paintings and sculptures with a mix of materials including watercolor, resin, glass microbubbles, graphite, and beeswax. When she presents things like light-suffused quartz crystals and translucent, amber-hued resin panels in which actual branches and moths are embedded, you realize her artwork could be presented in a natural history museum as readily as in an art gallery. Of particular note here are landscape paintings that owe a lot to the style of J.M.W. Turner. Who knew he'd turn out to have such a good year in Baltimore?
The "Pencil of Nature" in Our Digital Age at School 33 Art Center This was an especially powerful year for photography exhibits, with some of them demonstrating how photographers increasingly make rather than take photos. The artists in this group show relied on such tactics as carefully stage-managing the people and props appearing in the picture, digital effects, and mixing photographic chemicals with other media. Bruce McKaig featured a photograph, for instance, in which he placed photographic chemicals on paper, exposed it to light, and then exhibited what resembled an Abstract Expressionist painting.
John Waters: Straight to Video at C. Grimaldis Gallery Film director John Waters also has been exhibiting his photographs for the past decade, but only this fall did he exhibit his still photos in his hometown. Typically shooting old movies off a TV screen, he takes the resulting photos and arranges them in sequences that resemble movie storyboards. In artspeak, he's engaging in the recontextualizing that's so hot in today's art world; but in plain English, he's having his usual naughty fun. Just let your eyes move across the 10 color shots comprising "Puke in the Cinema" and you'll find yourself moved to giggle, though hopefully not let loose in another way.
Serious Humorists at Maryland Art Place This smartly selected and installed three-artist exhibit presented distinctive bodies of work: Bruce Charlesworth's lurid cibachrome photos evoked the characters and look of 1940s film noir, but with more ambiguous narratives; Pamela de Marris offered studio-concocted images in which small plastic figurines inhabit a dollhouse universe for amusing if overly obvious spoofing of the bourgeoisie; and (City Paper contributing photographer) Michael E. Northrup's digital photography relied on outdoor scenes around Baltimore in which his placement of figures and objects made things seem a little off.
Clarina Bezzola: Skin and Structure at Gallery International This exhibit by the Swiss-born, New York-based Bezzola tackled feminist body art with ferocious literalism. Her fabric constructions were worn in performance, but also performed on their own in terms of gallery display. Consider her wall-mounted "Wound," a fleshy-seeming white leather object with an opening that revealed a plush pink interior. You were invited to reach in and feel around. I did and lived to write this sentence, and also to welcome a promising new gallery to the Baltimore scene.
The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
. . . just in the case the album really is dead.
The Year in News (12/9/2009)
The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)
Paul Darmafall (11/5/2003)
Home Turf (7/23/2003)
Artscape's Exhibitions Have the City Covered, Inside and Out
Lorry Salcedo (6/4/2003)
Photographs of Peruvian Mummies at the Gomez Gallery through June 21
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201