Tag Archives: Contemporary Art

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.

BMA Voices: Good Night Good Morning.

Joan Jonas. Good Night Good Morning. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.37. © 2009 Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas. Good Night Good Morning. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.37. © 2009 Joan Jonas

In 1976, American artist Joan Jonas created the 11-minute video work titled “Good Night Good Morning”. In this piece, Bianca Biberaj, Contemporary Curatorial Intern, and Kristen Hileman, Curator & Dept. Head of Contemporary Art, discuss Jonas’ piece, her relationship with the viewer and the camera, and the concepts behind the piece.

 

Joan Jonas. Good Night Good Morning. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.37. © 2009 Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas. Good Night Good Morning. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.37. © 2009 Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas. Good Night Good Morning. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.37. © 2009 Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas. Good Night Good Morning. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.37. © 2009 Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas. Good Night Good Morning. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.37. © 2009 Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas. Good Night Good Morning. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.37. © 2009 Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas. Good Night Good Morning. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.37. © 2009 Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas. Good Night Good Morning. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.37. © 2009 Joan Jonas

Joan Jonas. My New Theatre VI, Good Night Good Morning. 2006. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.38. © Courtesy Wilkinson Gallery

Joan Jonas. My New Theatre VI, Good Night Good Morning. 2006. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.38. © Courtesy Wilkinson Gallery

Joan Jonas. My New Theatre VI, Good Night Good Morning. 2006. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.38. © Courtesy Wilkinson Gallery

Joan Jonas. My New Theatre VI, Good Night Good Morning. 2006. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.38. © Courtesy Wilkinson Gallery

Joan Jonas. My New Theatre VI, Good Night Good Morning. 2006. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.38. © Courtesy Wilkinson Gallery

Joan Jonas. My New Theatre VI, Good Night Good Morning. 2006. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Dr. Max Stern Trust Fund, BMA 2010.38. © Courtesy Wilkinson Gallery

Presenters: Kristen Hileman, Curator & Dept. Head of Contemporary Art
Bianca Biberaj, Contemporary Curatorial Intern
Audio recording and editing: Hannah Malloy
© The Baltimore Museum of Art 2014

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: Questions I have about “The Figure of Question”

James Lee Byars. The Figure of Question. 1989. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Bequest of Mabel Garrison Siemonn, in Memory of her Husband, George Siemonn; Bequest of Blanche Adler; Gift of Thomas A. Leahy; Gift of the Living Arts Foundation, Inc.; and Gift from the Estate of Felicia Meyer Marsh, BMA 1990.117. © Estate of James Lee Byars

James Lee Byars. The Figure of Question. 1989. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Bequest of Mabel Garrison Siemonn, in Memory of her Husband, George Siemonn; Bequest of Blanche Adler; Gift of Thomas A. Leahy; Gift of the Living Arts Foundation, Inc.; and Gift from the Estate of Felicia Meyer Marsh, BMA 1990.117. © Estate of James Lee Byars

Lauren Ross, Senior Conservation Technician

The Figure of Question by James Lee Byars is a totemic, gold form, which rests in the stairwell of the BMA’s West Wing for Contemporary Art. I have been taking care of this sculpture for a number of years now, and I always have these questions when I approach it:

#1. How can we keep people from touching this?
It must be irresistible, despite its proximity alarms. Visually, it is tempting, its form so appealing. Entirely covered in gold, so smooth and perfect, it must be a huge challenge for children and adults alike to keep themselves reigned in.

#2. How in the world did it get in here?
The sculpture weighs approximately 3 tons. Moving a piece like this requires riggers and a crane. The West Wing was literally built around the sculpture after its installation.

Installing The Figure of Question.

Installing The Figure of Question.

Installing The Figure of Question.

Installing The Figure of Question.

#3. Why did Byars love gold so much?
Why not something less heavy or valuable? Is it the idea of weight? Is it because gold leaf is made by being beaten on a stone like marble; the two media reunited in this single piece – an extravagant marriage that forms a luxurious object? I read an article about the artist by Dave Hickey published in Flash Art in 1994. Hickey writes of Byars’ objects of gold, fabric, and stone: “(he) presents them to us in the interrogative mode, as if to ask: What do you think? Do these things exist? Would we be better off without them? And is seeing enough?” In James Elliott’s book The Perfect Thought, there is another really great essay by Achille Bonito Oliva about Byars’ employment of gold: “a rare material that in a cultural sense refers to the alchemical process of its transformation from a base to a noble substance, brute material rising to the status of spiritual abstraction.”

Perhaps because it inspires so many questions, this object is one of my very favorite in the BMA’s permanent collection. I like the artist, I love gilded objects, and I get to take care of it.

We use soft brushes to remove loose dust that accumulates on its top, down the sides and near the base. It is satisfying to engage with it. Byars’ surface is intended to be pristine, showing only the marble’s texture beneath the gold leaf. Because there have been times the sculpture has been touched, it’s had to be regilded several times. Jim Brewster, a gilder in Baltimore, has worked with the Museum on this object, and I was fortunate to learn his method of applying the patent leaf to mimic the artist’s original crystalline, fractured pattern.

Gilding

Jim Brewster teaches me how to gild.

Gilding is a painstaking process, and costly. (The current standard of gold is about $1200/ounce.) It requires patience, precision, and a proper working environment: there should be no dust or breezes of any kind. During one gilding campaign, a plastic tent surrounded the object to minimize dust accumulation and wind. Intervention such as completely regilding a work of art is not undertaken lightly; in fact it was discussed as a predicted necessary maintenance when the object was purchased.

Before the West Wing Reinstallation in 2012, there were enough abrasions, scratches and disfiguring oil spots from people touching it that the work again needed to be ingilded in a few select places. 22-karat gold leaf sheets were attached to the surface with a very thin adhesive coating, placing them in a loose random fashion, so as to imitate the existing gilding scheme without appearing brand new. Sheets of gold are extremely thin, at “1/250,000” of an inch. You can imagine that such a very fine material would be easily marred by the oil in a hand or scratched by the slightest touching.

As an employee of the BMA and a person engaged in collections care, I mostly think about question #1. As a lover of art, I definitely linger on question #3.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: Finding an escape with Felix Gonzalez‑Torres

Felix Gonzalez Torres. "Untitled" (Water). 1995. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Bequest of Saidie A. May, BMA 1995.73. © The Felix Gonzalez Torres Foundation

Felix Gonzalez-Torres. “Untitled” (Water). 1995. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchase with exchange funds from Bequest of Saidie A. May, BMA 1995.73. © The Felix Gonzalez Torres Foundation

Helene Grabow, Contemporary Art Curatorial Assistant, finds an escape from the hectic pace of life in Felix Gonzalez‑Torres’ “Untitled” (Water), 1995.

To learn more about this piece, see The five artworks you can touch at the BMA!

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

BMA Voices: “What makes this art, rather than compost?”

Zoe Leonard. Untitled (detail). 1999-2000. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of Katherine Hardiman, Baltimore, BMA 2000.154a g. © Zoe Leonard

Zoe Leonard. Untitled (detail). 1999-2000. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of Katherine Hardiman, Baltimore, BMA 2000.154a g. © Zoe Leonard

Helene Grabow, Contemporary Art Curatorial Assistant, delves into art history to shed light on Zoe Leonard’s Untitled, 1999-2000.

Zoe Leonard. Untitled. 1999-2000. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of Katherine Hardiman, Baltimore, BMA 2000.154a g. © Zoe Leonard

Zoe Leonard. Untitled. 1999-2000. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased as the gift of Katherine Hardiman, Baltimore, BMA 2000.154a g. © Zoe Leonard

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

 

BMA Voices: The importance of looking beyond first impressions

Donald Judd. Untitled. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased in Honor of Edith Ferry Hooper, Trustee of The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1957 1995, and President of the Board of Trustees, 1973 1975, with funds contributed by her Friends, BMA 1976.49. Art © Judd Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Donald Judd. Untitled. 1976. The Baltimore Museum of Art: Purchased in Honor of Edith Ferry Hooper, Trustee of The Baltimore Museum of Art, 1957 1995, and President of the Board of Trustees, 1973 1975, with funds contributed by her Friends, BMA 1976.49. Art © Judd Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Helene Grabow, Contemporary Art Curatorial Assistant

“Which work of art do you believe least belongs in these galleries?” It was 1998, and I had just begun training to become a BMA docent when this question was posed to me. Before we had an introduction to the contemporary collection, my docent class was set free in the Contemporary Wing with the assignment of choosing the work of art that we felt least belonged in the Museum. After setting off to explore the galleries, the group reconvened to share our answers.

When my turn came, I told the group that I had selected Donald Judd’s Untitled, 1976. I cringe when I think of it, but I clearly recall saying that I felt his plywood box looked like something that belonged on a construction site or a playground but not in an art museum. After each of us had shared our opinion, the instructor turned the tables on us. The assignment for the week was to research our chosen object and prepare a five-minute presentation designed to convince our classmates of the importance of the artist and the object.

Once I began my research, I soon learned that Judd was a seminal artist in the development of Minimalist art and is considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century. Although he was trained as a painter during the peak of Abstract Expressionism, Judd was driven by a desire to create a new art form that was free of both illusion (images of things) and allusion (references to thoughts and feelings). Judd soon abandoned painting for the creation of non-referential, three-dimensional, geometric forms. “Actual space,” he wrote, “is intrinsically more powerful and specific than paint on a flat surface.”

In order to avoid any connotation associated with traditional sculptural materials such as bronze and marble and to eliminate any sign of the artist’s hand, he opted for industrial materials like plywood, anodized aluminum, and steel. He eventually took the step of turning to professional fabricators for production. This radical act shifted the emphasis of art-making from craft to concept. Finally, he placed the finished three-dimensional work directly on the floor or hung it on the wall and, in doing so, took the revolutionary act of freeing sculptures from pedestals and platforms. Judd believed his works defied the categories of painting and sculpture and referred to them as “specific objects.”

Through my research, I came to have great appreciation for the theoretical advances of Minimalism and the ground breaking role that Judd played in its development, both as an artist and critic. Approaching the Museum’s Untitled, 1976, with this new understanding, I became absorbed in the act of looking, and I was surprised to find that the plywood that had originally repelled me now mesmerized me with the beautiful waves of its wood grain. As I walked around the work, I was continually intrigued by the dynamic relationship between my body, the box, and the space around me.

I like to think that the presentation I made to my fellow docents helped open their minds to the power of Minimalism. (I even went so far as to have a carpenter build a miniature replica of the work.) Whatever the case, this assignment was the most important lesson of my docent training, not only because it prompted my profound appreciation of Judd’s work and the Museum’s remarkable collection of Minimalist art, but also because it serves as a reminder about the importance of looking beyond first impressions.

BMA Voices is an insider’s exploration of The Baltimore Museum of Art collection through the eyes of its curators, conservators, and registrars. Featuring a new object every day during the BMA’s 100 Day Celebration, the project will highlight some favorite, amusing, unusual, and obscure objects.

Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY