Review of the BMA’s exhibition of its newest additions to its collections -By Aidan Crank
The Baltimore Museum of Art, which celebrated it’s centennial in 2014 continues its fanfare with its New Arrivals: Gifts of Art for a New Century exhibition, showing its commitment to enhancing its collections and remaining in the vanguard of the art world. Taken alone the exhibition serves as a microcosm for the museum as a whole, with new additions in almost all facets of its’ collections. Pieces serve to enhance already well established collections as well as creating unique niches of themes and works.
A tightly presented exhibition, it’s strange and at times jarring to see such a mix of artists, mediums, and chronology in the same space. Pieces range from Matisse to the late minimalist Ellsworth Kelly and the Japanese designer Issey Miyake. On one wall viewers are greeted by large oversized abstract pieces by Kelly. Opposite are African sculptures artifacts of unknown origins. While this might be slightly unorthodox, as there is no unifying theme of the exhibition, the pieces when placed back in their respective places in will fall into sensible establishment. And, just as a reminder to visitors that the BMA has been constantly expanding, various works were denoted as a part of the collection still in place in the museum— the only clue to the fact that work in the gallery is a new piece is their colorful information placard.
The BMA’s long established connection to Matisse and his body of work is enhanced by the addition of sketches that show a different side of Matisse who was traditionally known for vivid coloration. These are works of unknown origin or inspiration as they did not serve as inspiration or rough drafts of later paintings. Instead they show parts of his artistic process in sketching. One sketch, “La Toilette” uncharacteristically features his niece in frame directing the model to stand, as well as many numbered sketches detailing facial forms.
Most of the works tend towards the modern and abstract, Some of the photography presents a nice change back to the representational. In a literal “life imitates art” metaphor Edward Burtynsky’s Silver Lake Operations #14, Lake Lefroy, Western Australia at first appears as a rich large abstract canvas of earthy tones, but upon close inspection reveals itself as a photograph of a massive mining operation. In it the earth we see appears alien until we register the scale of what we are seeing.
The show is thought provoking with the quality of the presentation which well examines work that spans centuries, forcing the viewer to consider them all in the same space and time, forming connections unthought of before. There are recognizable names and unknown artists, creating a blurred dichotomy between what is well established and what is unique and new, but the viewer can trace influences that connect the two. This exhibition is but another example that the BMA has aged well.
BMA’s New Arrivals: Gifts of Art for a New Century runs through May 8th, 2016.
Images courtesy of Baltimore Museum of Art
Aidan Crank is a writer from Baltimore with interests in design, architecture, and aesthetics.