June 7, 2008

A day at the museum: The BMA, 6/7/08

It was stinking hot in the mid-Atlantic region yesterday, so I decided a visit to the Baltimore Museum of Art would be a great way to beat the heat. And the timing turned out to be right, as this was the last weekend of their Looking Through the Lens exhibit on photography of 1900-1960. The museum's an interesting mix of historical/cultural items, classical art, and modern, abstract works. Picked up a few cool quotes and some decent photos while wandering the sculpture garden and the exhibits.

This small building is located at the corner of the museum grounds along St. Paul Street. Interestingly, the interiors of the windows are covered with newspaper pages.

"The experiment lies with the spectator in his willingness to accept what his eye conveys to him.... The success of the experiment is in proportion to the desire to discover and enjoy."
Man Ray

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There was an entire room dedicated to Jim Dine, with the striking skull piece, A Side View in Florida, as the focal point upon entering the room. From a museum pamphlet--

"It is tempting to codify Dine's various symbols, and occasionally the artist has identified specific meanings: ...the raven as a friend and alter ego that first appeared in a dream, the skull as the artist's voice crying to come out..."

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The piece below was mesmerizing. It was almost like a giant, self-automated spirograph, scratching its eternal pattern on the white-washed wall. What's so unusual about it, though, is that there's a microphone attached somewhere on the thing, and the sound of its scratching is played through speakers mounted to the ceiling above it. Hearing as well as seeing the movement of it gives the thing a strange sort of inanimate life.

And from artificial life to organic death... For the untitled work below, Zoe Leonard ate 3 bananas, 3 oranges, and 1 grapefruit, then stitched the skins back together. The placard next to the piece explains that a museum's purpose is generally to preserve works of art for perpetuity, but Leonard specifically requested that the skins be left alone, exposed to the degrading effects of the air. Her intention is, apparently, to cause the observer to "reflect upon the desire for timelessness and to contemplate the processes of decay and disappearance".

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This painting was a surprise to me. I've been familiar for a long time with some of the works of Gustav Klimt, but this is very atypical to the pieces he's known for. It makes me think of so many of the forests I've hiked, serene and peaceful, yet darkly moody when the sun hits a certain position in the sky and only small glimpses of light penetrate the density of the trees.

"Irreverence is the champion of liberty and its one sure defense."
Mark Twain

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