Tag Archives: Baltimore

Exhibiting Black Art at the BMA and Beyond

In February of 1939, the Baltimore Museum of Art exhibited 116 works by 29 black artists. Contemporary Negro Art, co-organized by Harlem Renaissance philosopher Alain Locke and the Harmon Foundation, became one of the first exhibitions at a major American art institution to exclusively display the work of black artists, including Hale Woodruff, Jacob Lawrence, and Dox Thrash.

The BMA revisited the landmark exhibition this summer with 1939: Exhibiting Black Art at the BMA, showcasing work by seven of the 29 artists included in the original show. While the exhibition is indeed a celebration, the BMA isn’t historically immune to racial discrimination. Morgan Dowty, BMA Curatorial Assistant for Prints, Drawings and Photographs—and the exhibition’s curator—will sit down with Dr. Bridget Cooks, author of Exhibiting Blackness: African Americans and the American Art Museum, to dive into the story behind 1939 and examine contemporary representations of black art.

Exhibiting Black Art at the BMA and Beyond takes place Thursday, September 6 at 6pm. Here, Dowty shares her thoughts on the upcoming conversation.

What are you most looking forward to addressing?

I’m excited to talk with Dr. Bridget Cooks because she’s really put Contemporary Negro Art in the context of a larger history of predominately white institutions exhibiting black artists from the 1930s to the present day. Her book, Exhibiting Blackness, delves into several instances when black artists have been positioned in terms of their identity, and highlights key problems with this model of exhibition. Some of the issues that came up in 1939 are the same that we consider today when artists are grouped in exhibition based on race. Having done deep digging myself into this very local history at the BMA, I’m curious to discuss how the show fits into a larger trajectory of American institutions.

What do you hope visitors will take away from this conversation?

I think it is important to consider the BMA’s Contemporary Negro Art within a national context and an expanded sense of time—not just in the 1930s when these exhibitions of black artists are situated in segregation-era America and just starting to enter white institutions. I hope to examine how institutions and individuals play a role in telling these stories, who’s given a platform, and when. It’s also important to consider how this exhibition history carries forward, or how it doesn’t when there are gaps in representation at the BMA and at other institutions. Let’s not make it just a celebration of the fact that the show happened, but really take a critical look at the context. Contemporary Negro Art was an important exhibition, but we need to complicate the narrative, and I think that’s something we’ll do during the discussion.

Exhibiting Black Art at the BMA and Beyond happens Thursday, September 6 from 6pm-7:15pm at the BMA. This conversation is free and open to the public. Learn more.

1939: Exhibiting Black Art at the BMA is on view through October 28, 2018.

Behind the Dust: Conservation of a Gitenga Mask

When the Gitenga Mask (Fig. 1 and 2) came to the conservation lab for treatment it caused great excitement.  It was impressive in size at 33 ½ x 35 ½ x 19 inches, and had great presence.

Fig 1 and 2 Before Treatment. Photos of the Gitenga Mask by Senior Photographer Mitro Hood.

As one took a closer look it became apparent that the majority of the feathers, especially in the back, were deformed and covered in layers of dust (Fig. 3 and 4) and insect remains. Some feathers were bent, broken, and in many cases the “tip” (rachis and barbs) was missing especially around the base on the back and left-hand side. It was a very intimidating treatment prospect and one that would take hundreds of hours to complete. When the exhibition date was set for the fall of 2017, there was no turning back.

Fig 3 and Fig 4 Lab photographs showing the dust and deformed feathers.

Below are some of the interesting discoveries that emerged before and during the conservation treatment of this remarkable object.

The slow removal of the dust on the back of the mask revealed layers of striking blue feathers as seen in the lab photograph taken during treatment (Fig. 5). Kevin Tervala, Associate Curator of African Art, researched the various birds that exist in the Pende region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where the mask originates, and discovered that the feathers are from the Great Blue Turaco Bird (Fig. 6).

Fig 5 A lab photograph of the back of the Gitenga Mask during treatment.

Fig 6 A Great Blue Turaco Bird.

The clever way the feathers were attached to the mask during its construction is illustrated in the photograph below. The feather “base” (calamus or hollow shaft) was bent and inserted into a woven twine support (Fig. 7). A second piece of twine was passed through the bent bases of several feathers to create a “string” of feathers. The “strings” of feathers were then sewn onto the fabric head cap in layers (Fig. 8).

Fig 7 and 8 Interior photographs illustrating how the strings of feathers were attached to the head cap.

The beautiful neckline of the mask and a section of the back (Fig. 9 and 10) also illustrates the method in which the feathers are secured to the head cap. Notice all the missing feather “tips!”

Fig 9 and 10 Lab photographs of the neckline and a back section of the mask before treatment.

Fig 11 Preening the feathers one at a time.

Fig 12 and 13 After Treatment. Photos of the Gitenga Mask by Senior Photographer Mitro Hood.

One of the most satisfying discoveries a conservator can make is finding old repairs. In this case I wasn’t disappointed. Someone had carefully taken the top (vane) of a broken feather and adhered it to the remaining base (calamus or hollow shaft) of another broken feather that was missing its tip (rachis and barbs). So, this was not the first conservation treatment campaign for the mask, and will certainly not be the last.

Please note that in the case of ethnographic works with organic parts, it’s important to determine if there’s any evidence the piece has been treated with pesticides, some of which containe heavy metals (e.g. mercury) which can pose health risks. This was done in good faith by museums and collectors in the past to try and stop insect infestations.  In the case of this mask, there was no visual evidence of pesticide use. We are fortunate at the BMA to have a handheld Bruker X-Ray Fluorescence spectrometer (XRF), which can detect heavy metals. The XRF readings at the various sampling locations supported the visual observation that there were no heavy metals present.

A conservation treatment like the one of this Gitenga mask involves more than just the objects conservator. Shannen Hill, former BMA Associate Curator of African Art, encouraged me to take this treatment on and Kevin Tervala, BMA Associate Curator of African Art, encouraged me to finish it. Local objects conservators Angie Elliot, Diane Fullick, and Lara Kaplan, gave me valuable input along the way. Objects conservator Cheryl Podsiki, known for her work with handheld XRF pesticide analysis of ethnographic objects, was also a valuable resource. Senior photographer Mitro Hood and the BMA installation team helped show the mask to its best advantage, and the BMA conservation members were cheerleaders throughout the treatment. Many thanks to all!

The mask is on view in Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art through June 17, 2018.

 

Top 20 #HeartsForArt Picks

This year, we celebrated Valentine’s Day by joining museums across the country to spread love for #HeartsForArt. This is the fourth year visitors, staff, and volunteers wandered the galleries, leaving colorful paper hearts in front of their favorite works of art. More than 1,600 hearts were distributed and nearly 400 works received some love.

The votes are in! Here are this year’s top 20 picks:

  1. Tomás Saraceno, Entangled Orbits
  2. Phaan Howng, The Succession of Nature
  3. Tomás Saraceno, 80SW iridescent/Flying Garden/Air Port City
  4. Tomás Saraceno, Hybrid solitary semi social semi social SAO 90734 built by: a solo Nephila senegalensis one week, a duet of Cyrtophora citricola three weeks, a quartet Cyrtophora citricola juvenile two weeks
  5. Auguste Rodin, The Thinker
  6. Water-Moon Guanyin (Shuiyue Guanyin)Hebei province, China,
  7. Al Loving, Barbara in Spiral Heaven
  8. Jack Whitten, 9.11.01
  9. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dwell: Aso Ebi
  10. Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Dwell: Me, We
  11. Elizabeth Catlett, My right is a future of equality with other Americans
  12. Dave Eggers, Issue 16
  13. Eugene Kupjack, Domestic Interior in a Shaker Community, 1820-1860
  14. Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled” (Water
  15. Auguste Rodin, The Kiss
  16. Emile-Antoine Bourdelle, Head of Medusa (Door Knocker)
  17. Annet Couwenberg, Heritage
  18. Annet Couwenberg, Backstitch
  19. Olafur Eliasson, Flower Observatory
  20. Sam Gilliam, Blue Edge

Thanks for playing along!

Timelapse video shows Tomás Saraceno’s Entangled Orbits

Watch as the brilliant colors in “Tomás Saraceno: Entangled Orbits” transform our East Lobby throughout the day in this time-lapse video captured by Mitro Hood. These iridescent-paneled modules suspended by a net of strings reminiscent of a spider web will be on view at the BMA through July 8, 2018.

Have you seen Entangled Orbits yet?

Pleased to Meet You! Caroline Lampinen joins BMA staff

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Caroline Lampinen: Community Engagement Coordinator

The BMA is excited to introduce the newest member of the Education team, Caroline Lampinen, who joins us as the Community Engagement Coordinator. She works closely with the Manager of Community Engagement, Dave Eassa, to facilitate programming with the BMA Outpost across Baltimore.

What is the BMA Outpost?

The BMA Outpost is a community initiative of the Baltimore Museum of Art, acting as a nomadic and flexible mobile museum that collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders across the city of Baltimore for periods of three months at a time. The Outpost engages communities through artmaking, conversations, and visual connections to the BMA’s physical collection. The Outpost’s democratic and collaborative programming is guided by the overarching theme of “home” and the diverse representations and emotions that each individual can bring to the conversations around home. The BMA Outpost encourages residents to contribute drawings, paintings, ideas, and conversations to build a museum about their community by the community. It becomes a space where the unrecorded conversations and dialogue are just as important as the ideas documented and contributed through visual art.

Who is Caroline?

Caroline grew up in metro-Detroit with a musician father and nurse mother. After earning a BFA in Graphic Design from Western Michigan University, she moved to rural Arkansas where she taught literacy for four years and coached novice teachers for three, earning a Master’s in Educational Leadership along the way. From there she spent a year as an Education Pioneers Fellow at Denver Public Schools. Her passions include building, fostering, and teaching inclusive and equitable practices for all people in all industries; running; spending time with her rescue dog, Blue; and art making.

Visit the Outpost!

Starting Jan. 23, the BMA Outpost will begin its next three-month collaborations with the Loch Raven VA Clinic working with veterans, and at the Cherry Hill Town Center working with the residents of Cherry Hill.

Caroline will be facilitating programming at Cherry Hill Town Center, collaborating with Catholic Charities to turn an unused store front into a dynamic arts and community space for the next three months.

Come visit any time during our open hours! Be sure to check our website, Instagram, and our Facebook and Twitter pages for any changes, or to find out about any of our other amazing programs!

Cherry Hill Town Center Hours:

Tuesday: 3pm-7pm
Wednesday: 4-8pm
Thursday: 3pm-7pm

Explore the beauty of birds in Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art

Need an art break? Take a quick tour of the new exhibition, Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art with Associate Curator of African Art Kevin Tervala.

Watch Below:

Beyond Flight presents approximately 20 works from sub-Saharan artists who drew inspiration from the birds that occupied their world. This exhibition explores the varied roles of birds across 19th and 20th-century African states, societies, and cultures. From the largest ostrich to the smallest warbler, the works on view highlight the symbolic meaning and aesthetic appreciation of birds in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, and Uganda.

Which work is your favorite?

Beyond Flight: Birds in African Art is on view at the BMA through June 17, 2018.

Art After Hours: Future/Nature at the BMA

Did you make it to Art After Hours this fall?

The party on Friday, Nov. 3, was inspired by the work in four amazing exhibitions: iridescent spheres and spider webs in Tomás Saraceno: Entangled Orbits; colorful, swirling collages in Spiral Play: Loving in the ‘80s; digitally produced textiles and sculptures in Annet Couwenberg: From Digital to Damask; and the intense, immersive environment of Phaan Howng: The Succession of Nature.

There were so many things to do! Visitors stopped by to:

•Build a giant inflatable futurist sculpture with architecture students from Maryland Institute College of Art and Morgan State University
•Make a wearable rope spiral with Clare Nichols
•Watch a performance by Baltimore-based artist Phaan Howng in the immersive environment she created with unnatural colors inspired by toxic waste
•Chat with artist Annet Couwenberg about her new work inspired by the biology of fish and her passion for digital and traditional fabrication processes
•Browse a carnivorous plant demo and sale with the Mid-Atlantic Carnivorous Plant Society
•Make a miniature laser-cut sculpture with Open Works
•Enjoy music by DJ Dubble8 and drinks and light bites by City Seeds

Click through our photo gallery below, and share with your friends. The next Art After Hours takes place Friday, March 23. Save the date!

Art After Hours: November 2017

(Photos by Maximilian Franz)

WATCH: Njideka Akunyili Crosby discusses new exhibition at The Baltimore Museum of Art

Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby invited art enthusiasts inside her creative process the same day her new exhibition, Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby | Counterparts, opened at The Baltimore Museum of Art.

On the heels of being named a 2017 MacArthur Award winner, Crosby sat down with BMA Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman at The Maryland Institute College of Art to discuss culture, technique, and the beauty of breaking the rules.

WATCH BELOW:

Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby | Counterparts is on view through March 18, 2018. 

[Photo: Mitro Hood]

Artist Mark Bradford speaks at first Necessity of Tomorrow(s) event

How do you make a path to power where none exists? How do you assess a community’s needs and create access and opportunities for self-determination?

Artist Mark Bradford and BMA Director Christopher Bedford explored these topics and more during the first event of our new series, The Necessity of Tomorrow(s).

WATCH:

On Saturday, November 11th, guests filled the pews of Union Baptist Church to hear Bradford discuss his childhood experiences and lessons learned, his artistic practice, and commitment to community-based work. Doors opened with live performances curated by the Baltimore-based group SunSets with spoken word by Kondwani Fidel and jazz selections by Clarence Ward III & Dat Feel Good band.

The conversation, which was also streamed live at Morgan State University’s Turpin-Lamb Theater, touched on the launch of our upcoming partnership with Bradford, the Greenmount West Community Center (GWCC), and Noisy Tenants to provide skills-based training and equipment to begin a silk-screening project at the GWCC with Baltimore youth.

The Necessity of Tomorrow(s), invites nationally and internationally acclaimed artists and thinkers to Baltimore for conversations on art, race, and justice. The series borrows its title from an essay by science fiction author Samuel Delany who argues for the role of creative speculation in making a more just future. The BMA is encouraging communities throughout Baltimore to come together for these creative conversations.

What’s your tomorrow? How do we get there? Share your thoughts at bmatomorrows.org.

Top 6 Prints, Drawings, Photographs at The Baltimore Museum of Art

BMA Curatorial Assistant Morgan Dowty took over our Instagram feed this week to showcase some of her favorite images in our renowned Prints, Drawings & Photographs Collection.

In case you missed it, here’s a roundup of her top six picks from the BMA’s collection of 65,000 works on paper:

  1. Morgan Dowty, BMA Curatorial Assistant, signing on from the Department of Prints, Drawings & Photographs to bring you some of my favorite works on paper this week. With 65,000+ works on paper in the collection, there are plenty to choose from! I’ll begin with a favorite suite of engravings by Wenceslaus Hollar, “Diversa insectorum aligerorum,” c. 1646.

[Wenceslaus Hollar (Bohemian, 1607-1677) “Diversae insectorum aligerorum,” c. 1646. Eight etchings. Each approximately: 115 × 180 mm. (4 1/2 × 7 1/16 in.) Garrett Collection. BMA 1946.112.2413-20]

2. Tantalus, Icarus, Phaeton, and Ixion are four mythological figures whose hubris caused them to fall from Mount Olympia. In this suite of the “Four Disgracers,” Hendrick Golzius, master engraver of the 16th century, captures the falling body from all angles.

[Hendrick Goltzius (Dutch, 1558-1617) after Cornelis Cornelisz. van Haarlem (Dutch, 1562-1638). “The Four Disgracers,”1588. Four engravings. Gift of Ruth Cole Kainen, in Honor of Jay McKean Fisher, Senior Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, BMA 2005.47 / Gift of James and Leslie Billet, Baltimore, BMA 1983.11 / Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 2013.357 / Garrett Collection, BMA 1984.81.137]

3. This album by Charles Norman Sladen is a new one of my favorites. On each page, Sladen includes photographs from a family vacation in 1916 to Great Chebeague Island, which he expands through imaginative pen and ink drawings. Scroll right to see some detail shots!

[Charles Norman Sladen (American, 1858-1949). “Great Chebeague Island, Maine,” 1916. Album of black ink drawings and gelatin silver print collages, bound with leather and fabric cover. The William G. Baker, Jr. Memorial Fund. BMA 2001.289]

4. In this self-portrait, Käthe Kollwitz captures her own likeness in just a few precise marks.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.

This image is owned by The Baltimore Museum of Art; permission to reproduce this work of art must be granted in writing. Third party copyright may also be involved.

[Käthe Kollwitz (German, 1867-1945). “Self-portrait,” 1924. Woodcut. Blanche Adler Memorial Fund, BMA 1956.176]

5. Printmakers often pull working proofs, or test prints, as they develop an image to track their progress. Swipe to compare these two states of Felix Bracquemond’s portrait of the French literary critic Edmond de Goncourt.

[Félix Bracquemond (French, 1833-1914). “Edmond de Goncourt,” 1879-1882. Etching. Purchased as the gift of Mrs. Fenwick Keyser, Reisterstown, Maryland, BMA 1997.19 / Purchased as the gift of the Print & Drawing Society, BMA 1983.76]

6. It’s been a treat to share a few of my favorites this week! If you’re interested in exploring more works on paper, consider making an appointment to visit the Samuel H. Kress Foundation Study Room of Prints, Drawings & Photographs by emailing PDP@artbma.org.

[Arthur Wesley Dow (American, 1857-1922) “Group of Buildings, Dow’s Compound, Ipswich,” /”Garden, Dow’s Home, Ipswich,” / “City Island, New York,” c. 1885-1897. Three cyanotypes. Gift of Susan Ehrens, Oakland, California, in Honor of Jay McKean Fisher, BMA 2015.343-345]

Which image is your favorite? Follow us on Instagram at @BaltimoreMuseumOfArt.