One year after selling off part of its collection in order to acquire more works by women and artists of color, the Baltimore Museum of Art is showing off some of its purchases.
Directors this week unveiled a new exhibit in the museum’s contemporary wing, entitled “Every Day: Selections from the Collection.” Running until Jan. 5, the show required a complete re-installation of the contemporary collection galleries, the first since 2012, and features works by black artists from the 20th and 21st centuries, including many of the newly acquired pieces.
When the gallery lights go down, the party lights come up for Art After Hours, a lively series of evening events with activities, inspired by the BMA’s current exhibitions. Boost yourself with a beer & a bite, groove to music from house musician, Hans Berg, enjoy surreal games and pop-up performances and experience art in new ways.
Recognizable in the corrosive oranges and reds of “Europe After the Rain II” is the unforgiving desert landscape of Sedona, Arizona, where Max Ernst lived as a refugee for years after fleeing Nazi-occupied France. The 1942 painting, a bombed-out widescreen of radioactive rubble currently on display as part of the Baltimore Museum of Art’s “Monsters & Myths: Surrealism and War” exhibition, shows two mutated figures standing among a heap of coral-colored, crushed bones and gazing off into the horizon, frozen by the impossibility–and necessity–of imagining a future.
War is an insistent presence in the exhibit, which frames Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Andre Masson and Ernst as interpreters of a violent century, unable to forget what they saw. But it’s far from the only one. There’s also sadomasochism, cybernetic anxieties and at least one castration fantasy embedded in this slice of the surrealist canon, most of which flies under the radar of the BMA’s cataloging.
“She Shoulda Said ‘No!’“ was a 1949 exploitation film in the “Reefer Madness” mold, designed to warn red-blooded, young Americans about the moral rot, social deviancy and sexual degeneracy that comes with using drugs. In it, a young woman’s experiments with weed lead her into a wayward spiral of selling drugs, losing her job and promiscuity, her moral downfall pushing her brother to suicide. Only after cleaning up in jail and collaborating with authorities can she right her way in life.
Local artist Amy Sherald’s portrait of Michelle Obama attracted admirers and strong critics soon after it was unveiled. The latter group complained the portrait didn’t really look like the former first lady. But criticism is subjective, and the general public has been voting with its feet: In February, the National Portrait Gallery reported attendance was up 300 percent, with lines as long as 90 minutes to see the portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama.
Baltimore artist Amy Sherald, known for her life-sized, high-contrast portraits of African-Americans – most recently that of first lady Michelle Obama, to be unveiled next month – will be joining the Baltimore Museum of Art’s board of trustees in February.