Category Archives: Events

At the intersection of art and mathematics

 

Photograph of Olafur Eliasson's Flower observatory courtesy Christopher Hartman, July 2014.

Photograph of Olafur Eliasson’s Flower observatory, 2004 courtesy Christopher Hartman, July 2014.

Mathematics and art at first seem worlds apart. But is it so? Might there be a relationship between these disciplines? And if so, can it be explored in the BMA’s collection? Are there works of art at the Museum that draw on mathematical ideas, processes, and overlapping notions of beauty?

A stroll through the BMA’s Contemporary Wing invites pause as I – do I dare – walk on top of Carl Andre’s Zinc-Magnesium Plain, 1969. I look down and take in the textures of the metal surfaces. I think about the shape of the squares and their imperfect alignment and how the grid that this zinc and magnesium surface represents extends out infinitely in all directions.

I look up and see an explosion of geometric shapes—this time in brilliant stainless steel. Olafur Eliasson’s Flower observatory 2004 bursts forth and lures a viewer inside and around the hulking form.  It is quite a complex structure. Each triangular spike that pierces the gallery air has curious openings of various sizes where the tips would be. I stretch up and try to see through them like tiny keyholes and spy intricate forms. I cross the threshold, feel the shadow of the large form darken the space and look up. It is a dazzling canopy of star-like shapes as if a new universe is unfolding. I am inside the observatory, observing, marvelling. I don’t rush this moment; the marvel has its pleasures.

As the wonder subsides, I catch myself thinking about shapes—the glittering diamonds and flower-like forms, the rhombuses, the pentagon that inscribes the invisible base of the sculpture, the hex screws that connect the steel planes. I wonder if this is what a mathematical imagination might feel and look like.

To try to understand these questions and ideas, I invited mathematician Susan Goldstine and architect Fred Scharmen to the Museum for a conversation about the intersection of mathematics and art in these pieces. Fred uses words like “striking and beautiful” to describe geometry and art.  Susan poignantly said that “the beauty of mathematics – and the mathematics of beauty – comes from the ways in which simple elements combine and intersect to form dazzling structures seemingly out of thin air.”

As soon as Susan walked under Flower observatory, she said that it was based on a rhombic triacontahedron – a convex polyhedron with 30 rhombic faces. I’d remembered reading that in my research but couldn’t see it. She helpfully explained it to me and offered to show me how to fold the shape with paper, so that I could understand it with my hands as well as with my mind’s eye.

This conversation about the relationship between art and mathematics will form the basis of the next Big Table Connections. Both Fred and Susan have a natural, deep connection to mathematical forms, and they will bring their knowledge to the BMA on Saturday August 2nd at 2 pm. We will also get the chance to fold rhombic triacontahedra and make mathematical drawings too. I hope you will join us! You can also join in the conversation online using the #BMABigTable hashtag on Twitter.

In the meantime, be sure to visit the Sondheim semi-finalist exhibition at MICA to see Fred’s large wall drawing inspired by his mathematical research. The exhibition is on view in the Decker, Meyerhoff, and Pinkard galleries at MICA through August 3rd.

Artscape Day 2 and clues to the #BMABigThinker scavenger hunt

The BMA Booth at Artscape.

The BMA Booth at Artscape.

It’s Artscape Day 2, and we are having a great festival. The free 3D face scanning – inspired by our recent partnership with Direct Dimensions to scan Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker has given us lots of opportunities to meet people and say hi to festival goers. It turns out that everyone loves 3D selfies.

Photo of Rodin's The Thinker with invitation to find the sculpture at the Artscape fair, July 18-20, 2014 in Baltimore MD.

Be a BMA Big Thinker!
Five replicas of the BMA’s beloved Thinker are waiting to be found
at Artscape. Post a picture of yourself with the introspective icon to Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter using #BMABigThinker for a chance to win a bust of yourself! The more replicas you find and post, the more chances you have to win.

Today, we’re dropping some clues to the #BMABigThinker Scavenger Hunt, so you have a chance to win a high resolution 3D bust of yourself (now that’s a cool selfie to get). There are five 3D Thinker replicas hidden around Artscape, and if you find one, take a photograph with it, and put it on social media with the #BMABigThinker hashtag, you’ll be entered into the draw to win.

So, where are the Thinkers? Here are some clues… You can them in the following locations:

1. Follow the bubbles. You can lower your heating costs when you find this Thinker.

2. There is something fishy about this Thinker’s location.

3. This Thinker will be easier to discover if you’ve got kids.

4. Obese felines and colored llamas guard this Thinker.

5. The final Thinker is found near an artist stall, with a bird keeping watch.

Win a 3D bust of yourself, by finding one of the 3D printed replicas of Auguste Rodin's The Thinker, photographing it, and putting it online with the #BMABigThinker hashtag.

Win a 3D bust of yourself, by finding one of the 3D printed replicas of Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, photographing it, and putting it online with the #BMABigThinker hashtag.

Artscape is on in the Mt. Royal area of Baltimore City from Friday, July 18 through Sunday, July 20. You can find the BMA’s booth located on the plaza next to MICA’s Brown Center (1301 Mt. Royal Ave.

BMA and Direct Dimensions – bringing 3D technology to Artscape

A 3D replica of The Thinker, on the steps of the BMA. Find these around Artscape for your opportunity to win a high-resolution bust of yourself created by Direct Dimensions.

A 3D replica of The Thinker, on the steps of the BMA. Find these around Artscape for your opportunity to win a high-resolution bust of yourself created by Direct Dimensions.

Today is the first day of Artscape – America’s largest free arts festival. Always a major feature on the Baltimore cultural landscape, the annual event includes theater, dance, and opera performances; classical, a cappella, and experimental music; street theater, fine art and crafts; film; and children’s activities. This year, The BMA is offering multiple opportunities for visitors to Artscape to interact with us.

Inspired by our recent partnership with Direct Dimensions to scan Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, the BMA has three activities at the festival:

    • BMA Biggest Thinkers – Tell us your best memories, biggest ideas, and burning questions at the booth, on social media, or at blog.artbma.org.  In appreciation, the top 100 participants will receive a mini replica of The Thinker created from Direct Dimensions’ high-resolution scan of the BMA’s sculpture.
  • Thinker Scavenger Hunt – Search for any or all of the five 9-inch 3D replicas of The Thinker placed around the festival, take your photo with it, and post it on Twitter or Instagram with #bmabigthinker for a chance to win a high-resolution bust of yourself created by Direct Dimensions.  The winner will be announced Monday, July 21.
  • Free 3D Face Scanning – Stop by the BMA booth to receive a free 3D face scan from Direct Dimensions with the option to purchase your likeness as a 3D selfie, Lego piece, bracelet charm, mug or other products from ShapeShot.com.

We look forward to seeing you at Artscape! Drop by the BMA’s booth and get a fan or a face scan, and tell your stories of the BMA via social media using the #BMABigThinker hashtag. We’d love to hear from you.

Artscape is on in the Mt. Royal area of Baltimore City from Friday, July 18 through Sunday, July 20. You can find the BMA’s booth located on the plaza next to MICA’s Brown Center (1301 Mt. Royal Ave.)

 

What are your big thoughts for the BMA in its next 100 years?

In 2014, the BMA is commemorating its 100th anniversary, and we’re spending a lot of time thinking about what it means to be a museum turning 100 in the 21st century. How has the BMA changed in the past century, and how might we change into the future, to better serve the needs of our communities? What should our Museum look like and do in the coming 100 years?

Be a #BMAbigthinker

Be a #BMAbigthinker

The answers to such questions won’t be found only inside the Museum, of course. So we’re turning to you! As the BMA celebrates its 100th, we want to get to know you: your memories of the BMA, and your hopes, dreams, and your vision for its future. We also want to help you get to know us. What do you want to know about the BMA? Ask us anything!

Tomorrow at Artscape, we’ll be launching the #BMABigThinker campaign, inspired by Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, which we recently 3D scanned, we want you to:

  1. Share your best memory of the BMA.
  2. Give us your big idea for the BMA’s next century.
  3. Ask a burning question about the BMA.
  4. Send a message to the BMA’s Director in 2114.

We’ll use these memories, ideas, and questions, to help envision the BMA of the future. In appreciation, the people who come up with the top 100 ideas or memories will receive a mini replica of The Thinker created from Direct Dimensionshigh-resolution scan of the BMA’s sculpture.

Get involved! Drop by the booth at Artscape tomorrow or let us know using the #BMAbigthinker hashtag on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, comment on the blog, or get in touch! What are your best memories, your biggest ideas, and burning questions for the BMA? We’d love to hear from you.

Light Play–Musing on Dan Flavin’s Untitled (To Barnett Newman for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”)

Visitors observing Dan Flavin’s Untitled (To Barnett Newman for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf").

Visitors observing Dan Flavin’s Untitled (To Barnett Newman for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”).

The tower of fluorescent lights looms large at a tight triangular junction where the old building meets the new. On a quiet day at the museum, you can literally hear it hum.

Flavin’s signature use of ordinary fluorescent tubes gives the work both a straightforward familiarity and a strange magic. Up close, you can see the screws, the wires, the ordinariness of the fixtures. But stay a while—the colors start to work on your eyes. The red, yellow, and blue bulbs mix—sunset raspberry and a delicate melon sorbet splash on the walls. The entire room is noticeably flooded with a lavender glow.

The sensory experience beckons. I slowly look up and linger longer than usual on the exit sign which glows a gorgeous green. I look left and notice a dramatic yellow cast in the adjacent gallery which my intellect knows is a crisp white. My eyes have shifted. The world has become a complex tapestry of colored light. Experiencing Flavin’s piece is also about following the light out into the space occupied by the light. It is expansive and also quite mysterious.

One of the pleasures of sitting with light art is all the questions surrounding light—how does Flavin’s skillful work with light seduce the senses and alter one’s perception? What is causing my eyes to see a white room as yellow? Why does colored light create such suggestive moods and alter the character of space?

It is these questions and more that we’ll explore in the BMA’s Big Table Connections program on Saturday July 5, when light artist and lighting designer Glenn Shrum joins us for a session on Dan Flavin’s piece and the inner workings of light.

Shrum is the owner and founder of Flux Studio. He is an active member of the international lighting design and lighting education community and Assistant Professor of Lighting Design at Parsons The New School for Design. We invited him to lead a session of the BMA’s Big Table Connections program. Thankfully, Glenn very generously agreed. In June, he came to the museum for a fascinating planning session and developed a clever in-gallery project with his colored light tables. Participants will get to try their hand at color mixing with light. How might you mix light and reshape space. What marvelous effects will you generate? Be sure to bring your cameras or devices to document your experiments.

What do you think? Have you experienced Flavin’s work? How did it impact your senses? What other special experiences with light have you had?

The BMA’s Big Table Connections program is a great opportunity to unpack complex ideas in contemporary art from multiple perspectives. This year we have been presenting sessions on Minimalism and its offshoots. We could not finish the season in August without looking closely at the work of Dan Flavin in our Contemporary Wing.

Join us on Saturday, July 5 at 2 p.m., to hear Glenn discuss light art and lighting design, and provide valuable context for Flavin’s work. After Glenn’s talk, we’ll move into the galleries and try our hand at mixing colored light. Hope to see you there!

 

On W-120301 – Sarah Oppenheimer’s radical architectural intervention into space and time

Sarah Oppenheimer. W‑120301. 2012. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Nathan L. and Suzanne F. Cohen Contemporary Art Endowment; and gift of the Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art, BMA 2012.1. © Sarah Oppenheimer. Photo by James Ewing

Sarah Oppenheimer. W‑120301. 2012. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Nathan L. and Suzanne F. Cohen Contemporary Art Endowment; and gift of the Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art, BMA 2012.1. © Sarah Oppenheimer. Photo by James Ewing

The BMA’s Big Table Connections program brings together experts —from neuroscientists and engineers to choreographers and product designers— to explore ideas related to works of art in the Contemporary Wing. On June 7, Goucher College philosophy professor John Rose joined Baltimore-based artist Leah Cooper to discuss Sarah Oppenheimer’s W-120301, a radical architectural intervention that uses mirrors to provoke new experiences of space and time. Here are some of his thoughts:

Sarah Oppenheimer, Architectural Intervention W-120301 beckons to us from the open region of the timing of time and the spacing of space, from the open region of possibility.  This open region is the site of interaction of our conscious intentions and the resonances of the worlding objects around us.  The openness of the world is space/time where our consciousness and the world intertwine and meaning arises. Meanings have already arisen in that opening, and those meanings are our tradition and our history.  That tradition and history is often taken for the “truth” of the world.  The questions then arise, “How can we both engage and disrupt that tradition? How can we see the meaning arising in an opening of space and time, yet also step into other possibilities in that opening?”  Oppenheimer’s intervention achieves a rare opportunity to experience that opening by playing and subverting the ways in which we usually step into the meaningful space of a museum.

We know from Husserl’s Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness that perception is always perspectival and temporal. We have to walk around an object to see it from various perspectives. We have to retain the previous perspectives and anticipate future perspectives as we weave together those perspectives in time into a meaningful object.  Opening the space between two floors and the stairwell, W-120301 plays with our spatial intentions towards objects by unfolding multiple perspectives.

When we first see it upon entering the third floor gallery, it appears as another two dimensional painting in a room of paintings of abstract, yet colored, geometrical space.  We see a black parallelogram on a wall; its four sides with opposite equal acute angles, opposite equal obtuse angles are an already familiar shape.  “Might it be a rhombus?” we might ask ourselves, if we were to bother.  We might not even bother to have a look at it right away, as we glance around the room.  Without fore-knowledge of the intervention, we might not wander closer.  But when we do, we realize that we can see into its space.

We get a question!  “What is there in here?”  But the “in here” of its space takes us elsewhere.  We are not sure where we are looking.  Usually, we move around an object to pick up further perspectives that we weave into the story we tell ourselves about that object.  Paintings on the wall don’t allow us to do that so much, but this is no longer a painting on a wall.  It is an inviting space, a hole in the wall, a rabbit hole to jump down?  The guard keeps us back from leaning over into and looking down.  But we see something: more geometric shapes, glimpses into other rooms.  But where are we looking?  The questions grow.

Oppenheimer’s wormhole reminds us it is impossible to take in an object all at once.  But here, to have an intention towards this space, you have to be two or more people.  We send our friend out to find the other ways into this space.  Is it above?  We are on the top floor.  Below?  How far?  It cannot be viewed all in one “space” or in one “time,” which perhaps reminds us that no object can be viewed in an exhaustive way from all perspectives all in one time and space.   As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “Truth can surely stand on one leg, but with two it will be able to walk and get around.”

We find ourselves doing what we never do in a museum: playing, engaging the space/time of the exhibit.  To a degree, we become ek-static; we are outside ourselves.  Both the object itself as space/time whose properties elude us and the gestural movement through it to the larger space/time it reveals in this musing space it makes manifest, takes us away from our usual modes of gathering of intentional experiences and make sense of objects.  It gives us the opportunity to do what we rarely get to do afresh: participate with the opening of the world in letting meaning arise.

John M. Rose, Professor of Philosophy, Goucher College
13 June 2014

What do you think? Have you seen Oppenheimer’s work at the BMA or other institutions? How did you react to it? Are there other works of art that you’ve encountered that have left you thinking about time and space in new ways? Tell us about them below.

The Big Table Connections takes place on the first Saturday of every month at 2 p.m. Meet experts in related fields as they share their insights in the galleries, then participate in art-making activities that delve into the ideas behind the artwork. Join us on July 5th as master lighting designer Glenn Shrum addresses Dan Flavin’s Untitled (To Barnett Newman for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”). Participate in a hands-on exploration of color mixing with light.  

Illuminating Bruce Nauman’s Career and Influence

Bruce Nauman Violins Violence Silence (Exterior Version) 1981-82   © 2014 Bruce Nauman/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Bruce Nauman. Violins Violence Silence (Exterior Version). 1981‑1982. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Gift of Leo Castelli Gallery, New York, and Sperone Westwater Fischer Gallery, New York, BMA 1984.2. © 2014 Bruce Nauman / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

In Fall 2013, one of the BMA’s most iconic works – Bruce Nauman’s Violins Violence Silence – was removed from its place on the BMA’s East Wing. Over time, natural wear and tear had begun to take their toll on the piece, so in consultation with the Bruce Nauman studio and the BMA’s conservation and curatorial staff, the sculpture was removed from its normal location, in order that it could be refabricated with more up-to-date and durable neon technology.

Deinstalling Nauman's Violins Violence Silence November 5, 2013

Deinstalling Nauman’s Violins Violence Silence November 5, 2013

Deinstalling Nauman's Violins Violence Silence November 5, 2013

Deinstalling Nauman’s Violins Violence Silence November 5, 2013

The large piece was Nauman’s first public neon work, and it came to the BMA as a gift of the artist’s galleries, in recognition of the Museum’s pioneering 1982 exhibition Bruce Nauman: Neons – the first survey of the artist’s works in that medium. Wrapped around a corner of the BMA’s façade, the words Violins Violence Silence share letters and form a poetic string of similar sounds. The meanings of the individual words appear unrelated, suggesting that the physical structure behind verbal communication can be surprisingly arbitrary. Alternatively, read as a sequence describing cause and effect, the work relates an aggressive act against art and beauty, and the somber consequence.

To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the gift of Violins Violence Silence and the 100th anniversary of the Museum in 2014, the BMA’s Friends of Modern and Contemporary Art (FoMaCA) organized a series of events to raise the $120,000 needed to restore the beacon-like presence of this 20th-century masterpiece to the BMA and the city of Baltimore.

This summer, the newly refabricated Violins Violence Silence will be restored to its former home on the East Wing of the BMA. See more shots of the deinstallation on Flickr.

To mark the occasion, the BMA is tonight hosting Illuminating Bruce Nauman’s Career and Influence, a special event moderated by Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman. The lively discussion will bring together Juliet Myers, Bruce Nauman Studio Manager for the past three decades; Paul Schimmel, former Chief Curator of The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles and Vice President and Partner of Hauser Wirth & Schimmel gallery whose essay Pay Attention appeared in the 1994 Nauman retrospective catalog; and Peter Plagens, celebrated art critic, Newsweek Contributing Editor, and author of the new biography, Bruce Nauman: The True Artist. Plagens currently contributes to The Washington Post, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times among several other prominent publications.

Illuminating Bruce Nauman’s Career and Influence is on tonight, Thursday, June 12, 6 p.m. The event will be held at Notre Dame of Maryland University’s Knott Auditorium, 4701 N. Charles Street, Baltimore. Use campus entrance on Homeland Avenue for easier access to parking. Entry is $15 FoMaCA Members, $20 general admission. Free at the door for students with ID.