Juried and Invitational Exhibitions at the BMA

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First Annual Exhibition of Maryland Painters, Sculptors, and Printmakers exhibition, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1933

As the recently announced 2015 Janet & Walter Sondheim Artscape Prize finalists prepare for their exhibition at the BMA this summer, I am working with the Archives’ Juried and Invitational Exhibitions Records and giving much thought to the incredible creative output of Maryland’s artists over the past century and the BMA’s role in displaying it.  From the moment the BMA opened its doors in 1923, opportunities for local artists to exhibit their work were a part of each year’s schedule of exhibitions.  With the opening of the John Russell Pope building in 1929, the BMA was able to develop its own exhibitions and expand its relationship with local artists.  The records I am processing as part of the Library and Archives’ NHPRC grant project document group exhibitions such as the BMA’s Maryland and Regional Artists Exhibitions, the Baltimore International Salon of Photography, and annual exhibitions of the work of members of the Baltimore Water Color Club and the Artists’ Union of Baltimore.

This week I am nearing the end of arranging and describing the largest part of the records, the Maryland and Regional Artists Exhibitions files (21 boxes of material).  The files document a long-running series of exhibitions of the work of local and regional artists organized by the BMA beginning in 1933.  Following a highly successful series of solo exhibitions at the Museum in 1930 to 1932, space considerations and the number of artists in the state interested in exhibiting work led to the decision to instead hold a major group exhibition for Maryland artists.  Although it wasn’t long before the solo exhibitions started up again, the Maryland and Regional Artists exhibitions continued for nearly 60 years.

Exhibition catalog, Maryland Artists Twentieth Annual Exhibition, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1952

Exhibition catalog, Maryland Artists Twentieth Annual Exhibition, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1952

The contents of the files for each exhibition vary, but most contain material about the logistics of bringing artwork into the BMA and hanging it on the walls, facilitating purchases, and returning the work that remained after the exhibition.  Cards or lists of entries provide information about the work each artist entered.  Some files also contain correspondence with artists, jurors, and museum visitors–complaints and praise for the most part.  Through these letters, it has been interesting to note how each year the challenges of coordinating the exhibitions shifted as the BMA’s staff worked to weather difficulties such as World War II and changes in artistic influences as new art movements made their way to Baltimore.

Perhaps surprising to those who aren’t from Maryland is the number of nationally-known artists who worked in the area between 1933 and 1992: Grace Hartigan, Morris Louis, Lowell Nesbitt, Martin Puryear, Amalie Rothschild, Anne Truitt, and May Wilson, to name a few.  All submitted work to the Maryland and Regional Artists Exhibitions at least once.  Jurors for the exhibitions also included influential artists, critics, and curators such as Max Weber, Betty Parsons, Richard Tuttle, Sam Hunter, and Dore Ashton.

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Grace Hartigan, Maryland Artists Invitational exhibition, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1968

In an effort to please artists and visitors and to support its small staff, the BMA revised the format of the exhibitions several times.  A separate exhibition for Maryland crafts was held in 1952, 1953, and 1954.  Beginning in 1953, regional exhibitions including the works of artists from Washington, D.C. and Delaware alternated years with the strictly Maryland exhibitions.  An invitational was attempted in 1968, followed by a move to biennial exhibitions from 1974-1985.  The exhibitions ultimately ended with Maryland by Invitation in 1992 which featured the work of artists Jeff Gates and Lisa Lewenz, but the commitment to Maryland artists lives on through the Sondheim exhibitions, the Baker Artists’ Prize exhibitions, and the Front Room exhibitions in the Contemporary Wing—Baltimore-born artist Sara VanDerBeek’s work is on view now!

Great News for Landmark Matisse/Diebenkorn Exhibition

Today’s grant announcement from the National Endowment of the Arts brings BMA Senior Curator Katy Rothkopf another step closer to realizing her dream of pairing the work of French artist Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and American artist Richard Diebenkorn (1922-1993).

Katy first conceived the idea for the exhibition many years ago as part of the BMA’s ongoing commitment to studying Matisse’s work. She saw two drawings of a reclining woman in the BMA’s collection by both artists and noticed an unmistakable similarity between the Frenchman’s and American’s work. Yet these images were created four decades and two continents apart. Since then, Katy has examined many artworks that show resonances between the two painters. She also made several trips to California to meet with the Diebenkorn family, including the artist’s widow before she passed this year, and even got to see the Diebenkorn’s extensive personal collection of books about Matisse.

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Henri Matisse. Reclining Model with a Flowered Robe, c. 1923. The Baltimore Museum of Art: The Cone Collection, BMA 1950.12.52

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Richard Diebenkorn. Woman Seated in a Chair, 1963. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Thomas E. Benesch Memorial Collection, BMA 1970.21.3

Diebenkorn was introduced to Matisse’s work in the early 1940s, then immersed himself in the French master’s work in 1952 when a major retrospective of the artist’s paintings came to Los Angeles. He was completely taken by the color and structure of the oil paintings and inspired by Matisse’s willingness to show evidence of his creative process, and began to seek out examples of his work whenever he could. The effect on his work was transformational. A subsequent Matisse exhibition in 1966 captivated Diebenkorn even further.

Matisse’s emphasis on geometric structure, spatial relationships, and a bold, colorful painting style was of great importance to Diebenkorn. Both artists loved to show both the inside and outside in their compositions, often focusing on windows or doorways that include views beyond. In Window, Diebenkorn pays homage to Matisse at his most radical, combining a subject that was a favorite of both artists with pared down detail and broad, geometric fields of color. The decorative wrought iron grille and solitary chair in Window further link the composition to Matisse, who made many paintings of his home and studio that included these elements, such as in Goldfish and Palette of 1914.

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Goldfish and Palette, 1914. The Museum of Modern Art, New York: Gift and bequest of Florene M. Schoenborn and Samual A. Marx, 507.1964

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Window, 1967. Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Diebenkorn and anonymous donors, 1969.125 CR1414

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fast-forward a decade later, the Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibition is now being co-organized by the BMA and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) for presentations on each coast in 2016-2017. This landmark exhibition will bring together more than 80 paintings and drawings by Matisse and Diebenkorn from museums and private collections around the world. Seeing these two great artist’s works paired side-by-side for the first time is an event everyone wants to be a part of.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a color catalogue with images of all of the works featured, as well as additional illustrations for the introduction by the distinguished Matisse scholar John Elderfield and essays by Katy Rothkopf and SFMOMA Curator Janet Bishop.

In addition to works from the BMA’s and SFMOMA’s collections, stellar examples of each artist’s work are being loaned by the Musée National d’Art Moderne Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris; the Statens Museum for Kunst in Copenhagen; The Art Institute of Chicago; the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; and The Museum of Modern Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Albright-Knox Art Gallery in New York.

Generous support for the exhibition has come from The Henry Luce Foundation and the Terra Foundation for American Art in addition to the National Endowment for the Arts.

Interview with traditional Yoruba carver Lukman Alade Fakeye

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Photo of Lukman Alade Fakeye in front of doors carved by his uncle Lamide Olonade Fakeye. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

Born into a famous family of West African master carvers, Lukman Alade Fakeye continues the legacy, creating traditional Yoruba wood carvings. His great grandfather’s Epa Society Mask is on view in the new presentation of the BMA’s African Art collection—one of the most important African collections in the United States.

Lukman recently spoke with museum educator Jessica Braiterman about growing up in his father’s studio and the Epa Ceremonial Mask that represents women’s reproductive and spiritual powers during Epa festivals.

JB: How would have the BMA’s Epa Society Mask by your great-grandfather been used?

LAF: It was a ceremonial mask worn during my great grandfather’s life time. When the time for the Epa festival arrives, the mask would be worn by one of the priests to dance and bless people with prayers. The carving of the mother depicted on the mask was used to acknowledge the important role of women in our community and to pay homage to our ancestors. The mask is always kept in a shrine when not in use for the festival and elders bring offerings for the mask and say prayers.

JB: Tell me about your training as a wood carver? When did you begin to learn wood carving and who taught you?

LAF: I spent my childhood playing with my late father, Akin Fakeye, in his workshop and at the same time studying him and my brothers, Sulaiman and Akeem, who were also working in the studio. As a young kid I didn’t realize that this was part of learning process for me. The more I stayed and played in the studio, the more I absorbed. It was like storing information in a computer memory. I used to play in the studio with abandoned tools and wood with some childhood friends and my father used to tell us stories about his grandfather and his father and other great carvers. All the stories he used to tell us inspired me to learn the family tradition.

Photo of Lukman's father Akin Fakeye. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

Photo of Lukman’s father Akin Fakeye. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

By the time I was 9-12 years old, I would head to the studio around 6 a.m. to sweep and clean the studio before going to school. After school, I would return to the studio to eat and study my father while carving. That was my daily routine as a young boy and I was determined to learn the family tradition. Over time, my father taught me how to use different kinds of carving tools and many other things about traditional Yoruba wood carving.

Photo of Lukman working in his studio. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

Photo of Lukman working in his studio. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

JB: What were some of the hardest things to learn?

LAF: As a beginner every aspect of learning is always hard. During this stage, everything is made by hand, we don’t use machine tools. For me [personally], the hardest thing to learn was to make the base balance on the floor.

JB: What’s it like being part of a prestigious wood carving family? Was there lots of pressure to carry on the family tradition?

LAF: I am very proud to be born into the Fakeye family and be one of the carvers of the Fakeye dynasty. I think there is some pressure to carry on the family tradition, because my brother and I need to take it to the next level and maintain the family legacy and tradition to the fullest.

JB: What piece are you most proud of?

I am very proud of every Fakeye carving, especially my father’s and my uncle Lamidi Fakeye’s work because they are all beautiful masterpieces. A few of my favorites are the 13’ statue of Oduduwa at Obafemi Awolowo University at Ile Ife, Nigeria and the carved doors by my father at the Catholic mission house in Ibadan, Nigeria. As for my work, I am most proud of the 7’ long carved dining table with 6 chairs.

Photo of Lukman's recent hand-carved dining room table and chairs. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

Photo of Lukman’s recent hand-carved dining room table and chairs. Courtesy of Lukman Alade Fakeye.

 

JB: What are your future aspirations?

LAF: To continue the family legacy and take it to the next level. I want to be able to teach youth and adults around the world about traditional Yoruba wood carving techniques and the Fakeye family history.

I would love to have a Fakeye Museum of Yoruba Art and an institute to teach Yoruba art and the Fakeye dynasty so that the family tradition continues.

The expanded and renovated African galleries debut on Sunday, April 26 during a free day-long celebration, with musical performances, art-making, gallery conversations that highlight the diversity of contemporary and traditional African art, and more. 

Slow Art Day at the BMA

Tomorrow is Slow Art Day, a day that encourages slow, detailed looking at art. You will find that when you spend more time with a work of art, you make discoveries that you would not otherwise experience. My colleague at the BMA Katie Bachler and I came up with some suggestions for exploring art slowly at the museum.

Explore art slowly
Allow yourself to look at only 3-5 works of art during your visit. With those 3-5 works, spend longer time with each work, as if they were old friends you are happy to see, and soak in their energy. As you spend time with each work, allow yourself to notice new details, subtle colors and textures, and even the space around the art.  Being with works of art in this way can be very relaxing. Resist temptations to overthink concepts and ideas and try to spend more time with the sensual qualities in each work of art.

Here are some selected works and some slow ways to enjoy being with them.

American Wing
Find William Picknell’s large painting Paysage (A Winter Day in Brittany) in the American Wing. (A Visitor Services Associate can point you to the central gallery on the east side of the Wing.)

William Lamb Picknell. Paysage (A Winter Day in Brittany). 1881. Oil on canvas. W. Clagett Emory Bequest Fund, in Memory of his Parents, William H. Emory of A and Martha B. Emory. BMA2011.44

William Lamb Picknell. Paysage (A Winter Day in Brittany). 1881. Oil on canvas. W. Clagett Emory Bequest Fund, in Memory of his Parents, William H. Emory of A and Martha B. Emory. BMA2011.44

As you look at the painting, take a breath. Breathe in for 4 counts and out for 8 counts. Notice the space around the person and the cool, crisp air. Imagine the sound of the horse trotting and the smell of the wet earth.

Take a second breath. Walk closer. Notice the myriad shades of vivid colors hidden in the brown and grey tones. Take a close up photograph of your favorite hidden colors.

Take a third breath. Just be with the painting. Where does your eye go? Where does your mind go?

European Galleries
Once in this contemplative space, head over to the European galleries. Find the still life by Dutch artist Abraham Mignon, Garland of Fruit and Flowers.

Abraham Mignon. Garland of Fruit and Flowers. Late 1660s. Oil on canvas. Gift of William A. Dickey, Jr. BMA1957.32

Abraham Mignon. Garland of Fruit and Flowers. Late 1660s. Oil on canvas. Gift of William A. Dickey, Jr. BMA1957.32

Notice the fruits and flowers brimming with life as they reach forward, out of the darkness.

Step closer. Imagine hearing the water droplets falling to the ground. Listen closely to hear the fluttering wings of the moths and the sounds of the insects eating away at the foliage.

Take a deep breath. Imagine a time lapse. What will happen in 10 minutes, 11 days, 12 weeks, 13 months, 14 years?

Contemporary Wing
Meander over to the Contemporary Wing. Find the sculpture by John McCracken, Untitled (Light Chromium Yellow Plank).

John McCracken. Untitled (Light Chromium Yellow Plank). 1980. Polyresin and fiberglass on plywood. Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund. BMA1992.6

John McCracken. Untitled (Light Chromium Yellow Plank). 1980. Polyresin and fiberglass on plywood. Fanny B. Thalheimer Memorial Fund. BMA1992.6

Breathe in and imagine your body lengthening to the height of the piece.
Breathe out slowly and allow your body to relax. Stand comfortably like this for a little while, taking in the brilliant yellow shaft of sunlight embodied.

Take a few steps to the side of the piece and notice the gentle way it rests against the wall. Take in the subtle grey tones of the shadows that fan softly onto the wall.

Breathe in and step close to the surface of the sculpture. Breathe out and notice your reflection on the surface. Continue observing the surface and notice the space around you also reflected. Stand quietly feeling the space around you and between you and the sculpture.

These are just a few ways that you can explore the BMA slowly. Be sure to sit and relax while at the museum exploring the art. On Slow Art Day, you can also attend our 10 Chairs event. Reflect with 10 scholars on 10 iterations of the humble chair in the BMA’s collection.

Slow Art Day is April 11th, 2015. 10 Chairs is on at the BMA from 2pm-4pm.

A closer look at the BMA Archives

Through a grant from the National Historic Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), the BMA Archive is working to provide greater access to some of its most heavily-used collections. As part of my work as the Project Archivist on this grant, I’m processing the Archive’s Photographs Collection: more than 150 boxes (43 linear feet, in archivist-speak) of photographic material documenting exhibitions, events, people, and the BMA grounds from 1923 to the present. The collection provides a rich visual overview of the BMA’s history—and the people and works of art that have shaped the institution.

The BMA’s Archive holds some particular gems, but as with many archival collections, more value can be found in the sum of its parts.

Model of the Waterman house parlor of Warren, Rhode Island, circa 1820, 1943

For example, look at this photograph. At first glance it appears to be a 19th century parlor, or maybe collection of furniture in one of the BMA’s period rooms.

Model of the West Parlor, Mount Vernon, Fairfax County, Virginia, 1743-1799, 1943

But looking through other photographs from this exhibition, it quickly becomes apparent that something else is going on here. These images show the intricately decorated interiors of American Rooms in Miniature by Mrs. James Ward Thorne shown at the BMA in 1943.

Other photos demonstrate changes in the BMA’s history over time. The Photographs Collection includes images from many of the Maryland Annual Artist exhibitions throughout the 20th century. Even just a quick glance at the images of the exhibition judges provides an interesting look into the changing tastes and interests of the art world.

Xavier Gonzalez, Concetta Scaravaglione and William Calfee, judges for the Fifteen Annual Maryland Artists exhibition, 1947

Xavier Gonzalez, Concetta Scaravaglione and William Calfee, judges for the Fifteen Annual Maryland Artists exhibition, 1947

Charles Chetham, James Elliott, Richard Tuttle (Kynaston McShine, not pictured), jurors for the 1970 Maryland Annual exhibition, 1970

Charles Chetham, James Elliott, Richard Tuttle (Kynaston McShine, not pictured), jurors for the 1970 Maryland Annual exhibition, 1970

Finding aids for the Photographs Collection, along with the other collections whose processing is generously supported by the NHPRC, are currently being completed. Digital collections and other finding aids can be found on the BMA Archives site.

 

The American Wing : An Endless Dinner Party


Take a peek at The Baltimore Museum of Art’s newly renovated American Wing with Senior Curator of Decorative Arts and American Painting & Sculpture David Park Curry. In addition to beautiful images of the galleries and one of the finest collections of American Art on the East Coast, you’ll hear the candid perspectives of students from Lakeland Elementary School who tell us that visiting the BMA is “better than staying home and watching TV.”

Improving access to the BMA Archives holdings

This is the second of two posts introducing the BMA Archives. The first post covered what’s in the Archives, and how to find resources and materials.

Men viewing decoration near Museum entrance, The Art of Mary Cassatt exhibition, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1941

As you browse through the finding aids for the BMA’s institutional records, you may notice that sometimes there isn’t much information beyond series descriptions.  What if you are researching the work of Mary Cassatt and would like to see photographs of related exhibition installations? You wouldn’t be able to tell from the finding aid that the Archives does have photos of the 1941 exhibition The Art of Mary Cassatt.

Over the past decade, the Archives’ staff—along with volunteers, interns, and Work Study students—has been hard at work improving access to the holdings. This work was given a huge push forward with a 2011 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) that allowed staff to process the entire backlog of nearly 1,000 linear feet of records and create a records management program to manage the flow of material coming to the Archives.  Finding aids are now available for all institutional record groups and manuscripts both on the BMA’s website and via ArchiveGrid.  General descriptions are searchable on WorldCat and the BMA Library’s catalogue.

Baltimore Museum of Art Booth, Baltimore City Fair, 1973

In July of 2014, the BMA received a second grant from the NHPRC that will allow staff to improve upon the work already done and ensure that detailed information is available for the most heavily used materials. The project team will process at either the folder or item level five key collections:

We will also create a plan for the long term digital preservation of material we have already digitized and plan to digitize in the future.

Bianca Hand, Archives Intern, The Baltimore Museum of Art, 2014

Summer Internships with the BMA Archives

If you’re a library school student or recent grad, keep an eye on the BMA’s Employment page for information about the summer internship application process. The NHPRC generously provided funding for six interns to assist with the project. Two interns worked with us in fall 2014 and we hope to have more work with us this spring as well as over the summer. Along with the interns, grant-funded Project Archivist Alexanne Brown joined us in January 2015 and will be responsible for processing the majority of the collections listed above.  Alexanne and the rest of the project team are now hard at work processing the Photograph Collection, Audiovisual Collection, and Juried and Invitational Exhibitions Records.  Look for more posts about what we find in the coming months!

 

A moment of solitude

Kirsten Savage. Museum Solitude. 2015.

Kirsten Savage. Museum Solitude. 2015.

This painting of a familiar-looking museum interior caught our eye on Twitter recently, so we contacted the artist to find out more about it. Kirsten Savage lives in Colorado but grew up in Maryland and received her BFA from Maryland Institute College of Art. She told us, “Baltimore is still close to my heart and I have many fond memories of wandering the galleries and special exhibitions at the BMA with my family and friends.”

The sculpture in the painting is Aristide Maillol’s Torso of Summer, 1910-1911 (cast before 1960), from the Alan and Janet Wurtzburger Collection (BMA 1966.55.15). It is currently on view in Antioch Court.

We love seeing how people respond to the BMA. If you’ve been inspired by the collection or the building, let us know! 

Black Box: Sharon Hayes

Sharon Hayes. ‘Ricerche: three’, 2013. Single channel HD video. 38 minutes. Edition of 5 + 1 AP. (HAYES-2013-0089). HD video still. Participants (left to right): Jasmine Brown, Laakan McHardy, Paola Lopez, Anarkalee Perera, Zehra Ali Khan, Sara Amjad. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin

Sharon Hayes. ‘Ricerche: three’, 2013. Single channel HD video. 38 minutes. Edition of 5 + 1 AP. (HAYES-2013-0089). HD video still. Participants (left to right): Jasmine Brown, Laakan McHardy, Paola Lopez, Anarkalee Perera, Zehra Ali Khan, Sara Amjad. Courtesy of the artist and Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin

Do you think you’ll marry soon? Why did you come to an all-female college? Can you be more sexually free here than politically or intellectually?

Artist Sharon Hayes, acclaimed for her politically charged live performances and video works, asks these and other insightful questions to a group of college-aged women in the mesmerizing piece Ricerche: three, opening on Sunday March 15 in the BMA’s Robert and Ryda H. Levi Gallery.

The 38-minute video, which received a special mention from the Golden Lion award committee at the 2013 Venice Biennale, explores changing perspectives on gender and sexuality through the eyes of 36 students attending Mount Holyoke, an all women’s college in western Massachusetts.

Born and raised in Baltimore, Hayes returned to her hometown this past fall for the first portion of a residency at The Johns Hopkins University. She visits again in early April to continue her meetings with JHU students and to perform a live piece. The artist expects that her time in Baltimore will also inform another installment of what she intends to be an on-going series of works. Titled Ricerche (the Italian word for research or investigation) and inspired by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s 1964 film Comizi d’amore (Love Meetings). For that film, Pasolini, like Hayes, acted as both documentarian and interviewer, asking Italians to discuss their attitudes about sex.

This is the BMA’s third collaboration with JHU’s Center for Advanced Media Studies, which brings internationally recognized media artists to Baltimore. This year’s project includes a new partner—JHU’s Museums in Society program, extending the reach of the artist’s topical examination of collegiate sexual identity.

Black Box: Sharon Hayes is on at the BMA from March 15 – October 11, 2015.  It has been curated by Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman and presented in collaboration with The Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Advanced Media Studies and the Museums in Society program.


Interview with Sharon Hayes at the 55th International Art Exhibition, where she received a special mention from the Golden Lion award committee.