The Year in Art
Baltimore Museum of Art's Cone Wing reopens Construction crews were also busy up at the Baltimore Museum of Art, where reinstalling the Cone Collection amounted to reconstructing the galleries that house this world-famous collection of Post-Impressionist and early modern art. For a powerful sense of how well the new space works, stand in the Cone Wing's central rotunda and let the primitive power of Henri Matisse's "The Blue Nude" hit you all over again. From this spot you can look into adjacent galleries and make thematic connections between Matisse and other artists. As if that weren't enough, the paintings are once again matched with their original ornate frames (a 1986 Cone Wing renovation had placed them in thin metal frames). I'm sure the spirits of Claribel and Etta Cone are smiling.
Maryland Art Place moves The city's two largest museum's weren't the only ones rethinking their galleries. If the Walters and the BMA fixed up their present homes, Maryland Art Place took a big step by moving from its longtime home at 218 W. Saratoga St., where it enjoyed little art-loving pedestrian traffic, and relocating to the Power Plant Live! entertainment complex, where it hopes to lure some of those meandering Inner Harbor tourists. It still strikes me as a bit weird to find this art gallery amid happy-hour hangouts, piano bars, and the Port Discovery children's museum, but on balance I think of it as missionary work on behalf of contemporary art. Also, the gallery itself is an appealing blend of rough and finished surfaces; especially nice is how its three rooms give MAP installational flexibility for individual and group shows.
Manet: The Still-Life Paintings, Walters Art Museum Édouard Manet brought great restraint to his still-life paintings. The compositions are spare and the palette tends to be monochromatic save for bursts of color. But what life there is in the asparagus, oysters, apples, flowers, and other goodies he arranged atop the table! Influenced by the Old Masters and pointing the way toward Impressionism, Manet ranks as one of the most important 19th-century artists. By focusing on his still-life paintings, this exhibit enabled one to see why, brushstroke by brushstroke.
The Art of War and Peace Toward an End to Hatred, American Visionary Art Museum Journalists have a vested reason to love art exhibits that play off the headlines of the day, but the current exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum is almost frightening in its topicality. Scheduled long before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and opening just a few weeks after them, this sprawling exhibit (which runs through Sept. 1, 2002) is full of images of war and peace. The apocalyptic images pack even more punch in light of recent events.
Bodyspace, Baltimore Museum of Art The tactile qualities of contemporary art got a real workout in a group show that included some hands-on pieces. The most hands-on of all was Ernesto Neto's enormous "Sister Naves," a womblike environmental installation primarily made out of Lycra, Styrofoam, and sand. Other artists in the show also prompted you to reconsider basic notions about the relationship between an art object, the space it occupies. and the viewer entering that space. A neat experience.
Antioch: The Lost Ancient City, Baltimore Museum of Art There's still time to dig this show (it's open through Dec. 30), which is akin to taking an archaeological expedition to the ancient city of Antioch. This mosaic-mad culture decorated its walls and floors with depictions of natural imagery and domestic life in this near-Eastern outpost of the Roman empire. The exhibit also has enough glassware, statuary, gladiatorial helmets, carved limestone funerary reliefs, and other material remnants to make their day-to-day existence seem familiar to us.
Fred Wilson: Objects and Installations, 1979- 2000, Fine Arts Gallery, University of Maryland, Baltimore County This is the sort of provocatively themed, handsomely installed show that one has come to expect from the Fine Arts Gallery. Wilpon's installations (most famously his Mining the Museum at the Maryland Historical Society in 1992) question how African-Americans have been treated, mistreated, and most often simply ignored in conventional museum displays. Although this retrospective (which runs until Jan. 12) isn't always successful in partially reconstructing some of the site-specific installations Wilson has done around the country, he's an artist who's made major contributions to the cultural debates of recent years.
Amalie Rothschild Year-in-review tabulations prompt one to think about gains and losses. Certainly a major loss was the death at age 85 of Amalie Rothschild, a 1934 graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art who enjoyed a distinguished career as a sculptor, painter, teacher, institutional board member, and philanthropist. Generations of younger artists inspired by her art, but also by her integrity and candor.
Caleb O'Connor, School 33 Art Center As elderly artists pass from the scene, newcomers announce themselves. One of the most exciting gallery debuts in ages was by Caleb O'Connor, who was still a month away from receiving his bachelor's degree from MICA when he had an exhibit of figurative paintings at School 33. These allegorical paintings feature the medieval armor-clad artist and his friends encountering mythological creatures. The mix of modern and mythic references is intriguing, if a tad facile. What really impresses, though, is that this guy can paint. Here's looking forward to whatever he decides to exhibit next year.
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
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