The Year in Art
Sculpture at Evergreen, Evergreen House The 26 well-manicured acres surrounding the elegant 19th-century mansion Evergreen House served as the site for an outdoor exhibit by 10 contemporary sculptors. Responding to the site's architectural and natural attributes, the artists came up with bracingly witty works. Most striking of all were John Ruppert's four large, orblike vessels, whose construction out of chain-link metal enabled viewers to look through them as much as at them. Looking at Evergreen House's Corinthian columns through chain-link fencing on the mansion's front lawn is something you don't forget.
James Welling: Photographs 1974-1999, Baltimore Museum of Art Hardly a household name (except in households that subscribe to art magazines), this American photographer has worked on diverse series that are united by his masterful sense of composition and lighting. Welling's subject matter may not seem promising--ordinary buildings, trees, and other mundane objects--but his close-ups encourage you to take a closer look. This retrospective brought out the aesthetic vision unifying his other eclectic body of work, which ranges from nearly abstract shots of crumpled pieces of aluminum foil to documentary shots of railroads. Mostly shooting in black and white at a time when other photographers had turned to color, Welling goes his own way.
The Triumph of French Painting, Baltimore Museum of Art Although the BMA was the sole venue for this exhibit, the museum combined its holdings in 19th- and early-20th-century French art with that of the Walters. Finally, you could see paintings you knew from one museum installed next to paintings you recognized from the other. Pretty instructive as well as pretty, the show offered a quick course in French art from this period. It also served as a fine example of the increasing cooperation between Baltimore's art museums, which are starting to act more like neighbors and less like competitors.
Amalie, Adrien, and Amalie R. Rothschild, Gomez Gallery In a very Baltimore way, the city has produced artists who remain rooted here. Amalie Rothschild has been a fixture on the city's art scene since the 1930s, and she regularly exhibits her rigorously thoughtful work here. This show featured her abstract paintings, works on paper, and sculpture, as well as art by her two daughters--quilts by Adrien and photographs of 1960s-era musicians by Amalie R.--who have had sporadic exposure on the local scene. Specifically, it was pleasing to see the stylistic affinities between the mother's hard-edged geometric abstractions and Adrien's quilt designs; overall, it was nice to see a family's talent so handsomely showcased.
Grace Hartigan: Aspects of the Far East, C. Grimaldis Gallery Another fixture on the Baltimore art scene, painter Grace Hartigan, continues to keep herself fresh by taking on new subject matter every few years. She also continues to maintain a lively interplay between representation and abstraction. For her latest show, she looked to the Far East for inspiration. The costumes and gestures of kabuki theater proved to be highly suitable subjects for Hartigan's paintings and watercolors, which rely on strongly outlined figures, masklike faces, and assertive colors.
Snaphot: An Exhibition of 1,000 Artists, Contemporary Museum For this cleverly conceived show, the Contemporary asked artists and other art-world figures to submit snapshots. Did they ever! The 1,300 snaps from 24 countries are arranged alphabetically by contributor, without any curatorial intervention by way of installation or interpretation. You're prompted to ask questions about what distinctions exist between snapshots and art photography; for that matter, you're likely to find yourself thinking about all sorts of art-related issues. With so many private lives placed on public display, you're also likely to be a happy voyeur. (At the Contemporary through Jan. 14.)
Still (and all): Eileen Cowin, Work 1971-1998, University of Maryland, Baltimore County's Fine Arts Gallery Eileen Cowin was one of the photographers who gained recognition in the 1980s for challenging assumptions about photography's supposedly inherent documentary quality. Her pictures are obvious setups in which the posed models, bright lighting, and shallow spaces are very theatrical. Because she often relies on gridlike groupings of photos, you're encouraged to make narrative connections. This retrospective does a concise job of presenting almost 30 years of Cowin's visual storytelling. (At the UMBC Fine Arts Gallery through Dec. 31.)
Sculpture by Jon Isherwood, C. Grimaldis Gallery A geologist would have reason to love Jon Isherwood's columnlike sculptures, because they're made from different types of marble and granite. Isherwood also varies the surface treatment, so that a single piece typically will have some sides that are smoothly polished and others that are more roughly finished. The lofty shapes of his sculptures and the openings cut into them give his work an architectural quality. Besides these familiar-looking Isherwoods, the show also featured three bulbous sculptures with some metaphorical associations of their own.
Photographs by Alberto Korda and Jose Figueroa, C. Grimaldis Gallery Our fascination with Fidel Castro's Cuba helped make this exhibit a winner. Cuban photographer Alberto Korda documented Castro's rise to power in the late 1950s and his rule since, capturing iconic images of the revolution: Castro in the mountains, crowds assembled for massive rallies in the cities, a famed portrait of Che Guevara. A younger photographer, Jose Figueroa, depicts everyday life in the streets of today's Cuba. The exhibit made clear that both photographers are artful documentarians. While there certainly have been local shows that blend art and politics, it's not often that they offer a perspective on such things from outside the United States.
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