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Top Ten

The Year in Art

"Work Ethic" at the BMA, "Imperfect Innocence" at the Contemporary, Performance Video at UMBC, and Other Remarkable Shows

Drop Zone: Hi Red Center's dropping event from 1964 is just one of the actions-as-art featured in Work Ethic at the BMA.

Top Ten 2003

The Year in News O'Malley vs. Ehrlich, Public Housing Segregation Trial, Computer Voting, Baltimore's Primary Election, and More

The Year in Quotes Bon Mots by Joy Martin, Martin O'Malley, Keiffer Mitchell, Miss Maryland and Others

The Year in Film Another year, another intro essay bitching about the past 12 months of cinema...

The Year on Television So now it's official, there are two kinds of television: the kind you watch, and the kind you gawk at...

The Year in Music Jay-Z, Little Brother, OutKast, Stephen Malkmus, The White Stripes and more

The Year in Local Music Urban Ave 31, DJ Debonair, Misery Index, Lungfish, Richard Chartier and more

The Year in Art "Work Ethic" at the BMA, "Imperfect Innocence" at the Contemporary, Performance Video at UMBC, and Other Remarkable Shows

The Year in Books The Cadaver Industry; a Meditation on Race, Music, Family and Postwar America; Growing Up in the Bronx, and More

The Year on Stage Hedda Gabler, Dickens of a Carol, Misalliance, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Great Performances

The Year in Food Grilled Sardines, She-Crab Soup, Spicy Tuna Tartare, Pierogi and Other Memorable Morsels

Posted 12/17/2003


Work Ethic, Baltimore Museum of Art It could easily have been another lope-along show built around a shopworn theme--is artwork really "work?"--but instead, Work Ethic chose to use that dim idea only as a gimlet to open up much more compelling ones, launching a discussion that is by turns subtle, witty, and subversive. The work it brings together plays out like the greatest hits of the late 20th century--minimalist constructions by Donald Judd, site painting by Sol LeWitt, Fluxus art by John Cage, painting by Frank Stella, conceptual work by Felix Gonzalez-Torres, feminist performance art by Yoko Ono and Valie Export. And yet, Work Ethic isn't shrill in presenting these pieces, not concerned with pleading their worthiness in the false economy between art and work. Rather, it shrugs off concerns about labels and weight and trends and forces you to consider the really, really big picture--if this isn't art, then what is, and why?--without drawing any conclusions for you. We went up to Felix Gonzalez-Torres' famous pile of giveaway candy and, yeah, we took one. But we refuse to eat it. Is it art yet? You be the judge. (Blake de Pastino)


Imperfect Innocence, Contem- porary Museum Long before the Contempo went on its indefinite hiatus this fall, some people complained to us that Imperfect Innocence augured poorly for the museum, that it had the feel of a museum exec calling one of his collector friends to phone in a quick exhibition. To our eyes, though, the show was a bellwether for nothing less than the future of photography. No matter what their connection to the museum, Florida collectors Dennis and Debra Scholl have amassed a mighty portfolio of work from many of the key (or soon to be key) figures in contemporary photography: Andreas Gursky, Rineke Dijkstra, Hellen van Meene, Anna Gaskell, Gabriel Orozco, and Maryland Institute College of Art alumna Naomi Fisher, to name a fraction of them. A show of any one of these artists would've been a lucky break for Baltimore; that they were all convened into one class-action viewing was one of this year's highlights, even if some among us were too cynical to appreciate its pleasures. (BdP)


Some Kind of Love: Performance Video 1989-2000 by Nayland Blake, Center for Art and Visual Culture, University of Maryland, Baltimore County Playful, tender, funny, intense, scary, bewildering, daring, witty, irreverent, and hilarious--rare is the work able to conjure such a potpourri of descriptions, much less so when the work is of the notoriously navel-gazing video/installation variety "about" such cul-de-sac hot topics as queerness and race. Yet the Some Kind of Love's collection of works by Nayland Blake--a gay artist of African-American descent--provides just such a fecund, sublime response, by daring to focus on the perfectly imperfect human side of the queer, the African-American, the HIV-positive, and the submissive, rather than turn the person into fodder for the ideology. (Bret McCabe)


Grace Hartigan: Painting Art History, Decker Gallery, MICA, and Grace Hartigan: New Paintings, C. Grimaldis Gallery Best viewed as a survey spanning two venues, several stylistic evolutions, and 50 years of prominence on the international art scene, Painting Art History and New Paintings eloquently explored local Abstract Expressionist Grace Hartigan's past, present, and future. The MICA exhibit collected "art history paintings" from various points throughout Hartigan's career--an approach allowing viewers to sample the painter's wildly varying influences, which range from Italian masterpieces to museum gift-shop coloring books. Meanwhile, Grimaldis gave fans a first look at Hartigan's latest, with new works that name- and style-check Mexican souvenir masks and the roomscapes of Henri Matisse, among other recent obsessions. Combined, the two exhibits provided a comprehensive portrait of Hartigan's life and work, made even more delightful by the vibrancy of her new paintings. (J. Bowers)


Matthew McConville and Brian McCutcheon, Rosenberg Gallery, Goucher College It's the very rare exhibit that combines conceptual sophistication with dazzling craftsmanship. Matthew McConville's paintings of naked middle-aged men wrestling, relaxing, and generally rolling around together in a lush fairy-tale setting were absolutely mesmerizing, both in their meticulous rendering and in the artistic daring of turning the pudgy guy next door into an object of pure sublimity. Meanwhile, Brian McCutcheon's shiny sculptures of delicately decorated man-toys--a Weber grill dolled up like a Pontiac Firebird, a sparkly green 2-by-4 wood beam titled "Stud"--served as an effectively ironic counterpoint to McConville's stunning thesis of male beauty. (Gadi Dechter)


Hello World: A Life in Ham Radio, Spur Propaganda Gallery Baltimore's only gallery dedicated to typography and commercial art outdid itself with Hello World, a Smithsonian-worthy historical romp through the wild world of ham-radio calling cards, or QSLs. Interesting more for its cultural resonance than its visual appeal, Hello World provided an educational glimpse into an oft-ignored communication subculture. In an age where contacting someone in Papua New Guinea is as easy as reading her blog, there's something sweetly affective about the amateur, small-print-run charm of old QSL cards, with their friendly handwritten notes and family photographs. (JB)


Lisa Dillin, Ming-Yi Sung, and Tabatha Tucker, Maryland Art Place Combining Bill Davenport's non sequitur drollness with Mike Kelley's conceptual curve balls, this mischievous Maryland Art Place three-person show nearly reddened the cheeks with its cheeky verve. Sung's sculptural installation--lively forms of ceramic, crochet, and papier-mâché--was an inspired tweaking of her ongoing exploration of an androgynous world, and Tucker's downy floor-installed pieces were quick-wit zingers. But it was Dillin's "Cotton Candy Cell" that really tickled the tingly, naughty parts of the brain. A playfully adult riff on infancy's trappings, "Cell" seared the face with the laughable unease of a precocious 3-year-old girl who simply can't stop lifting up her dress to show off her undies. (BM)


Mobtown, Creative Alliance One of the year's most engaging drawings was also one of the largest, as Cornel Rubino transformed the walls of the Creative Alliance's newish Patterson digs into a monumental line-drawing love letter to Mobtown, replete with voluptuous Matisse-esque nudes, Fred Wolfish climbing vines, and guns pointed at people's nipples. Despite looking a little bit like poet/artist Vachel Lindsay's Village Improvement Parade gone horribly wrong, there was something very right about Rubino's sense of space, shading, and gargantuan proportion, and the ephemeral, erasable nature of his freewheeling pencil lines. Sweet, sweet revenge for any former toddler who was ever punished for drawing on the wall. (JB)


Territories of Anonymity, Gallery International Baltimore finally got a taste of two things Miami, San Antonio, and San Diego have known for some time: 1) Some of most daring media- and idea-straddling contemporary art comes out of Latin America, and 2) Contemporary Latin American art doesn't begin and end with Miguel Calderon. The group show Territories of Anonymity corralled a hodgepodge of Hispanic artists united only by their unconventional esprit. Though the exhibition hit as often as it missed--Sergio Fernandez's paintings feel a little too much like unpopulated Calderon, obnoxious, lacking bite--but Anonymity's gift was the reminder that if you're going to miss, do so ecstatically, passionately, and with conviction. (BM)


Declaring Space: Recent Drawings by Baltimore Artists, School 33 Art Center School 33's Artscape 2003 entry found Brian Ralph's giant cartoon fish sharing space with the bedroom-floor scribblings of William Downs, Kay Hwang's multicolored drafting table creations, Michelle La Perriere's trash-as-treasure ruminations, Ann Rentschler's curlicue-heavy charcoal works, James Rieck's visual ode to the sameness of wedding rings, and a set of burnt lemon juice self-portraits that would have made Mr. Wizard proud, courtesy of Claudia McDonough. This all-star combination platter plumbed the depths of Baltimore's drawing talent pool, while showcasing a wide variety of approaches to the form. (JB)

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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)

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