The BMA Presents Major Exhibition Exploring Development of Abstract Art Through the Work of Black Artists

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The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) presents Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art, an exhibition that captures the significant contributions that black artists have made to the development of abstraction from the 1940s to the present. On view through January 19, 2020, Generations explores the multifaceted power of abstract art as experimental practice, personal exploration, and profound political choice for decades of black artists. The exhibition features nearly 80 paintings, sculptures, and mixed-media installations by such notable artists as Kevin Beasley, Mark Bradford, Sam Gilliam, Jennie C. Jones, Norman Lewis, Lorna Simpson, and Alma W. Thomas. The exhibition is curated by Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director, and Katy Siegel, BMA Senior Research & Programming Curator and Thaw Chair of Modern Art at Stony Brook University. The exhibition is co-organized by the BMA and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Drawing on the extensive collection of Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida, which is recognized for its unparalleled holdings of works by historic and contemporary black artists, Generations builds on the previously touring Solidary & Solitary exhibition, doubling the show’s scale and scope in the BMA’s expansive galleries with new works from The Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, as well as select objects from the museum’s contemporary collection. The exhibition highlights unexpected resonances and important distinctions between artists, across time and geographic contexts. In addition to in-depth presentations of work by Norman Lewis, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and Charles Gaines, Generations provides visitors with in-depth explorations of the work of Alma W. Thomas and Jack Whitten, as well as a broader selection of dialogues that juxtapose works between such artists as Gary Simmons and Lorna Simpson, Melvin Edwards and Leonardo Drew, and Kevin Beasley and Shinique Smith. These pairings are supported by thematic groupings with landmark works by Frank Bowling, Al Loving, Julie Mehretu, Joe Overstreet, and Virginia Jaramillo that emphasize the different processes and materials used in abstraction and how the definition of painting has expanded.

“We find ourselves today in an important moment of cultural reckoning—one in which it is imperative for institutions like the BMA to re-examine the histories of art and to tell a truer and more multidimensional story. In working with the visionary Joyner/Giuffrida Collection, as well as the BMA’s own growing collection, we have an extraordinary opportunity to expand perceptions of what contemporary art was and can be, and celebrate the spectrum and brilliance of artists who have redefined and given depth to abstract art into the present day,” said Siegel. “With this expanded version of the exhibition, we are excited to dive deeper into the material dialogues within and across the work of the featured artists, introducing new audiences to their visions and practices.”

The opening of Generations follows the BMA’s re-conceptualization of its contemporary galleries, in a presentation titled Every Day: Selections from the Collection. The reinstallation highlights major works and several new acquisitions by such visionary artists as Howardena Pindell, David Hammons, Kara Walker, Nari Ward, and Jack Whitten, placing black artistic achievement at the center of a thematic overview of modern and contemporary art. This initiative underscores the BMA’s commitment to collecting and presenting the work of artists that have typically been underrepresented in major institutions and exhibitions.

“The presentation of Generations is part of a broader vision to reshape the idea of the museum—who it belongs to and whom it represents. This effort occurs across our special exhibitions, collecting, and public programs. In this way, we can recognize historical shortcomings, and provide our audiences with a richer, more vibrant, and dynamic picture of art—one that speaks to different communities, perspectives, and realities,” said Christopher Bedford, BMA Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director. “We are very much looking forward to our upcoming exhibitions and to the important conversations they may spur.”

Exhibit Information

Dates: Through January 19, 2020

Visitor Information: General admission to the BMA is free. Special exhibitions, like Generations, may be ticketed. The BMA is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. The museum is closed Monday, Tuesday, New Year’s Day, July 4, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. The BMA is located at 10 Art Museum Drive, three miles north of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. For general museum information, call 443-573-1700 or visit artbma.org.

Tickets: Tickets are available through artbma.org and at the BMA Box Office. Prices are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors, $7 for groups of 10 or more, and $5 for students with ID and youth ages 7 and older. Free admission is offered on the weekend of November 23–24, sponsored by Bank of America. BMA Members and children age 6 and under are always admitted free. For more information, call 443-573-1701.

Organization and Sponsors: Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art is presented by The Helis Foundation and organized by The Baltimore Museum of Art and the Ogden Museum of Southern Art. Contributing sponsorship is provided by The Lambent Foundation and The Holt Family Foundation. The presentation in Baltimore is generously sponsored by The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Exhibition Endowment Fund, The Ford Foundation, Suzanne F. Cohen Exhibition Fund, The Dorman/Mazaroff Contemporary Endowment Fund, Bank of America, and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield.


THE BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF ART
Founded in 1914, The Baltimore Museum of Art is a major cultural destination recognized for engaging diverse audiences through dynamic exhibitions and innovative educational and community outreach programs. The BMA’s internationally renowned collection of 95,000 objects encompasses more than 1,000 works by Henri Matisse anchored by the famed Cone Collection of modern art, as well as one of the nation’s finest holdings of prints, drawings, and photographs. The galleries showcase an exceptional collection of art from Africa; important works by established and emerging contemporary artists; outstanding European and American paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts; significant artworks from China; ancient Antioch mosaics; and exquisite textiles from around the world. The 210,000- square-foot museum is also distinguished by a grand historic building designed in the 1920s by renowned American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of 20th-century sculpture. The BMA is located in Charles Village, three miles north of the Inner Harbor, and is adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University. General admission to the BMA is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

Exhibition Photography by Mitro Hood.

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