Looking ahead in the arts: what you can expect to see and do around the city Despite recession, local arts scene promises variety


September 06, 1992|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

The first half of the 19th century is generally thought to be Baltimore's high point -- in growth, prosperity, and the creative arts. Next spring and summer we will get to see some of the finest of those arts, and how they compare with what people were doing elsewhere, when the Maryland Historical Society and the Baltimore Museum of Art open two complementary exhibits.

The MHS will have "Classical Maryland, 1815-1845: Fine anDecorative Arts from Our State's Golden Age" (opening April 17), bringing together 300 objects from the society's collection and 35 lenders nationally. Featured will be paintings, sculpture, architectural prints and drawings, furniture, silver and textiles by such masters as the Peales, Benjamin Latrobe, John Needles and Samuel Kirk. The names are familiar, but many of the objects are recent discoveries never before exhibited.

The BMA will have "Classical Taste in America 1800-1840" (opening June 27), with more than 225 works demonstrating America's fascination with the classical style. Both exhibits will run through next September, and they promise to constitute a major event.

Not the only one, of course, though the recession continues to affect the arts scene. State grants to arts institutions have been held up, and thus museums and galleries have scaled back. The BMA, for instance, is scheduling 13 shows for the year that began Sept. 1, whereas five years ago the shows numbered 23. This past year the Museum for Contemporary Arts brought us two major projects; for the coming year, it promises only one, a traveling folk-art sculpture and education program called "Catfish Dreamin' " (in April), plus an as yet unspecified observance of the annual Day Without Art.

The Walters

Despite bad times, however, what sound like some choice offerings are coming up. One of the most popular will surely be the Walters Art Gallery's "Sisley, Master Impressionist" (opening March 14). Co-organized with the Royal Academy in London (where it has already opened to favorable notices) and the Musee D'Orsay in Paris, it presents the work of the least known of the major impressionists, Alfred Sisley. He has always been underappreciated, except perhaps by other artists -- Pissarro called him "a great and beautiful artist."

Another first for the Walters will be "Ottocento: Romanticism and Revolution in 19th Century Italian Painting" (opening Nov. 15), billed as the first major international exhibition on the little-known subject.


Following its wildly successful Cone-Monet exchange last year, the BMA has arranged another one, this time with New York's Museum of Modern Art. Fifteen Matisse paintings and works on paper from the Cone collection are going to MOMA's huge Matisse retrospective, and in return seven landmark modern paintings and 10 related drawings are coming to the museum for a special exhibition with the corny title "Picture Perfect" (opening Nov. 22). The works include van Gogh's "The Starry Night," Henri Rousseau's "The Sleeping Gypsy," Cezanne's "The Bather," Picasso's "Two Nudes" and Jackson Pollock's "Number 1, 1948."

Also coming to the BMA is "Brice Marden: Prints 1961-1991" (opening Oct. 25). Organized by London's Tate Gallery, the show will present more than 100 prints by this major contemporary painter, plus a small selection of paintings.

The Maryland Institute

The Maryland Institute, College of Art will have a show of works by the widely respected fiber artist Lenore Tawney (opening Nov. 13), and a major show of some 70 paintings and other works by Elaine de Kooning (opening Jan. 22).

Local galleries

Around the galleries, the most promising-sounding shows include the C. Grimaldis Gallery's 15th anniversary exhibit (opening Nov. 3), in which Mr. Grimaldis hopes to include works by Willem de Kooning, Anthony Caro, Alice Neel, Grace Hartigan and Eugene Leake, among others. Leake will also have a solo show this season (opening Oct. 1), as will John Gossage, Joel Fisher and Mel Kendrick (all spring).

Nye Gomez highlights include the paintings of Salvador Bru (opening Oct. 17) and paintings and prints by Nefeli Massia (opening Nov. 21), a Greek artist whose work has been shown in a number of countries, including Yugoslavia, Russia and Bulgaria.

Galerie Francoise has just opened a show of new work by Holly L. Hofmann, and among coming shows is collaborative sculpture by Doug Hoagg and Betty Oliver (opening Jan. 7). Artshowcase will have Raoul Middleman landscapes (opening Oct. 1); Steven Scott will have Tom Miller painted furniture (opening May 6).

The National Museum of Ceramic Art will have "Contemporary Norwegian Ceramics" (opening Sept. 15) and "Contemporary American Teapots" (opening Jan. 20).

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