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Top Ten

The Year in Art

SEEING IS BELIEVING: James Kerry Marshall's "Dyptich (Color Blind Test)" was just one of the arresting pieces in his one true thing; meditations on black aesthetics at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

Top Ten 2004

The Year in News “There’s a myth that emanates around some floors in Annapolis,” Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley told... | By Van Smith

The Year in Quotes 1 “The First Amendment doesn’t say you have to be good.” — street-performance advocate Stephen Bair...

The Year in Sports Suffice it to say that 2004 will not go down as a banner year in the annals of Baltimore sports. ... | By Gabriel Wardell

The Year in Film Cheer up: 2004 was a good year—at least for film. While the past 12 months didn’t produce a film as ...

The Year in Television The “moral values” referendum surprised and rebuked lefties in Hollywood and elsewhere. The post-Nip...

The Year in Music Run down the list of recent heavyweights that released albums in 2004 which have moved units but los...

The Year in Local Music Only one local music story really percolated around Baltimore newsrooms this year: Paula Campbell. T... | By Bret McCabe

The Year in Art Sure, 2004 was the year of Baltimore’s very own public art controversy, in the guise of Jonathan Bor...

The Year in Books Yeah, publishers keep telling us that the book business these days really belongs to nonfiction, tha...

The Year on Stage The vamping post-op transsexual of our No. 1 selection notwithstanding, this year’s roster of Baltim...

Posted 12/15/2004

Sure, 2004 was the year of Baltimore’s very own public art controversy, in the guise of Jonathan Borofsky’s giant, glowing hermaphroditic “Male/Female,” but Mobtown’s myriad museums, commercial galleries, and private spaces made their own noise, hosting national touring exhibits and showcasing local talent.

It was a year of change and innovation for local art venues. Goya Contemporary and the C. Grimaldis Gallery stepped into the contemporary art void that was left when the Gomez Gallery closed its doors last year. Grassroots upstarts Cubicle 10 and Seed/Vector proved that opening your own gallery space in a warehouse is almost as cool as opening your own independent record store. And MICA, UMBC, and other area colleges and universities consistently stepped up to the plate, going beyond predictable student shows to bring art lovers some genuinely compelling ensemble exhibits.

But, as always, some curators, institutions, and artists deserve more props than most, and we’ve narrowed it down to 10 you-shouldn’t-have-missed-it-but-you-probably-did shows that injected some serious mojo into the Baltimore art scene over the past year. (J. Bowers)

1

Kerry James Marshall, One True Thing: Meditations on Black Aesthetics, Baltimore Museum of Art

Chicago artist Kerry James Marshall turned to a wide berth of media to ball up the conflicts inherent in such commonly tossed around ideas as “politics,” “race,” “aesthetics,” and “history” into a defiant fist for this monumental exhibition. Marshall played cheeky with the first half of his show’s title—the show rebelliously argued that if there are any things we can call truths, they are many and subjective—but he was dead serious with latter half. You left One True Thing drunk on his simple emphasis that whatever is called the “black aesthetic” has to be rooted in black people. It’s an astonishingly obvious point to make—where else would it come from?—but Marshall’s charged works (viz., “Heirlooms and Accessories,” a triptych of a 1920s lynching photograph emphasizing the bemused expressions of white women in the background) demand that African-American art needs to confront and deal with the violence that has afflicted the African-American community in both the past and the present, and that silently assimilating into identity-less abstraction is categorically unacceptable. You can chose to agree or disagree with this claim, but ignoring One True Thing: Meditations on Black Aesthetics was impossible. (Bret McCabe)

2

Sculpture at Evergreen, Evergreen House

The Evergreen House’s third annual outdoor showcase took the phrase “site-specific” to new extremes, as 10 sculptors used the mansion’s 19th century architecture as a foil for their decidedly 21st century work. Laure Drogoul expressed her political views by constructing a giant illuminated devil’s head in the front yard. Renée Rendine enveloped several of the estate’s aged trees in parasitic nets made out of plastic cups. Allison Wiese reintroduced livestock to the land by “installing” four 4-H sheep, and Anthony Cervino riffed on the grounds’ permanent classical statuary by tucking a cache of weapons and garden tools between Apollo and Athena’s garden territory. The best site-specific art enhances its surroundings, and this year, Evergreen House looked fabulous. (JB)

3

Paradise Now: Picturing the Genetic Revolution, UMBC’s Center for Art and Visual Culture

Just when you thought Anthony Goicolea was the only artist with anything to say about the rising freakiness of genetic manipulation, along came Paradise Now to make you shiver and think. Co-curators Marvin Heiferman and Carol Kismaric and organizer Exit Art corralled 39 artists whose work tackled the uncharted world of genetics’ microscopic, biotechnological universe—the formerly impossible having become possible, the peripheral effects which engineered mutations of nature could hold in store for human life—and turned science fact and fiction into a fecund forum for artistic discussion. (BM)

4

Splotches @ Creative Alliance, Creative Alliance at the Patterson

We salute the pluck of a some local artists banding together to explore the boundless exhibition space on the Internet via splotches.org, but what really got our pulse racing was Marc Fanberg’s blood-splattered, digitally-mediated “Bite” photographs; Fanberg’s work had us exposing our necks and scooting over to the Creative Alliance to see what the Splotches’ work looked like in real space. There we discovered Anastasia Wong’s understated and vaguely creepy watercolors of female nudes and Adeye Deresse’s borderline pathological OCD quasi-repeated motif drawings, in which you could get lost for weeks. (BM)

5

Comics on the Verge, MICA

We’re not the sort who ever wonders when or if Dylan Horrocks’ next graphic novel is going to come out, but we do like to give credit where it’s due. MICA’s sprawling (and, with satellite exhibitions, city-wide) Comics on the Verge worked as both a historical overview of the underground art form that has phoenix-risen since the early 1980s and as a survey of the artists shaping it today, from its punky pioneers (Art Spiegelman, Gary Panter, Gilbert and Jamie Hernandez, Peter Bagge, and Lynda Barry), through its next generations (Tony Millionaire, Debbie Drechsler, Renée French), to the art form’s near-geniuses (Chris Ware, Brian Ralph). (BM)

6

Holy H20: Fluid Universe, American Visionary Art Museum

Another year, another spectacularly themed mega-exhibit from the Visionary—this one made particularly impressive by the fact that the museum was undergoing major expansions throughout installation, and crammed the entire show onto the building’s second floor. This time, water’s in the hot seat, and Holy H20: Fluid Universe combines automata, spirit painting, a giant beaded shrine to the voodoo mermaid goddess La Siren, and countless other wonders to present a fitting, fabulous homage to two-thirds of the human body. (JB)

7

Don Griffin, Sub-Basement Artist Studios

It’s hard to pinpoint just what made the mixed-media assemblages Don Griffin exhibited at Sub-Basement Artist Studios during the Open Studio Tour so interesting as they sparked, concatenating a series of brain activity. Griffin’s large-scale collages of materials and ideas opened up series of associations like Matryoshka dolls. Every time you think you’ve got a handle on them—Joseph Cornell materials boxes as imagistic snapshot? A Jean Tinguely ingenious use of materials? Lending the lyrical to a collage strategy that 40 years ago would’ve been called junk art?—you discover another layer of meaning, and have to start over. (BM)

8

Sugar and Snails, The Park School

In a gutsy move for a K-12 institution—even a private one—Park School curator Peter Bruun and collaborator Laura Burns tackled gender and sexuality head-on, combining innovative works by Matthew McConville, Albert Schweitzer, John Coplans, Catherine Opie, Samantha Salzinger, Cindy Sherman, and Nikki S. Lee with carefully thought-out labels and activities that encouraged students and visitors alike to challenge what it means to be male or female, straight or gay, and exploited or exposed. Sure, the art was terrific, but the real triumph was the exhibit’s timeliness and no-punches-pulled exploration of theme. In a society where anti-homosexual hate crimes plague high schools and junior high students are giving each other blow jobs, it’s crucial to break down the taboos that surround gender and sexuality. Bruun and Burns’ collection did just that. (JB)

9

Tony Shore, C. Grimaldis Gallery

Pigtown’s Tony Shore brought the goods home in high style this year, with a selection of new acrylic-on-velvet works that were oh-so-Baltimore. Shore’s low-rent choice of medium is the perfect foil for his instantly recognizable scenes of local life, capturing the city’s endlessly celebrated kitsch and quirkiness with serious draftsmanship and style. It was a genuine delight to see Shore’s velvet underground draped around the walls of Charles Street’s sometimes snobbish C. Grimaldis Gallery, and a fitting homecoming for an artist who hasn’t presented a solo exhibit locally since 2000. For anyone who loves Baltimore, Shore’s work just feels like home. (JB)

10

Jack Eisenberg, Resurgam Gallery

For going on 40 years, Jack Eisenberg has proved himself to be perhaps Baltimore’s most intuitive photojournalist, as well as one of its most prolific. Few linchpin scenes in local history or tidy vignettes of everyday life seem to have missed his attention, and this summer’s retrospective of his work at Resurgam Gallery was noteworthy mainly for its struggle to do justice to this point. In Resurgam’s long and modest shotgun gallery, some Eisenberg prints found themselves tacked to walls with pushpins—with uncounted others left standing in stacks in the back room, no room having been found for them. For those that did make the cut, though, little more than titles were offered, and this ended up being key. True, Eisenberg has produced prodigious work over these decades, but no single shot seemed like a one-off or whim. Whether the scene was a family on a stoop in East Baltimore or children on the run in the West Bank, each of Eisenberg’s photographs holds a narrative richness, and Resurgam’s less-is-more presentation, it turns out, allowed his images to speak for themselves. (Blake de Pastino)

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The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
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The Year in News (12/9/2009)

The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)

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