Menu this year features a multicultural smorgasbord FALL PREVIEW

September 05, 1993|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Art Critic

The most obvious conclusion to be drawn from a look at the coming art season is that we're unquestionably in a multicultural age. To what degree this is a positive function of a desire to reach out to other cultures and to what degree it's a consequence of hard times is impossible to tell. But whatever the cause, on the Baltimore horizon there are precious few European painting and sculpture shows -- which are always the most popular ones, but are also the most expensive to do.

Surveying the landscape of exhibitions coming to our major museums in the next year, one finds only a single such show, the William S. Paley Collection of modern art opening at the Baltimore Museum of Art Oct. 31. This promises works by Degas, Cezanne, Gauguin, Matisse, Picasso, etc., but, as an exhibition of works from a collection left by Mr. Paley to the Museum of Modern Art, it involves neither the cost nor the scholarship of a curated theme show drawn from many collections.

By stretching the category of painting and sculpture a little, one could also include the 30 Matisse cutouts (they were, after all, what Matisse did when he could no longer paint) coming from the Pompidou Center in Paris (May 25) as a thank-you for the loan this year of the BMA's Matisse masterpiece "The Blue Nude." But again the cutouts will be a selection of objects from one museum -- an inexpensive way to do a show, however grand the art may be.

The truth is that few museums can afford to do the major European painting and sculpture shows any more, and Baltimore's museums increasingly appear not to be in that category. To bring us what we do get, the BMA in recent seasons has resorted to creative swaps with other museums ("our Matisses for your Monets"); and last spring's "Sisley" at the Walters Art Gallery was a medium-sized show of an artist whose name is not among the biggest.

But the other part of the truth -- the good part of it -- is that as our horizons are ever widened by shows from other parts of the world we are coming to realize that neither the Western Tradition nor what are considered the traditional fine arts should have a monopoly on our attention. That will be brought home often in the coming year by the international smorgasbord of art offered to us from all over the world -- and right here at home.

At the Walters Art Gallery there will be "African Zion: The Sacred Art of Ethiopia" (Oct. 17), 100 objects dating from the 4th to the 18th century and tracing the religious history of Christian Ethiopia; then "River of Gold: Pre-Columbian Treasures From Sitio Conte" (Feb. 13), more than 200 artifacts dating from 700 to 1000 A.D. excavated at a Panamanian cemetery in 1940; then "Secrecy: African Art That Conceals and Reveals" (May 1), a theme show containing 100 works that show how art can use secrecy for purposes of power; then "Treasures in Heaven: Armenian Illuminated Manuscripts" (Aug. 28), an exhibit that explores the Armenian Gospel Book as a door to the history of Armenia and the role of Christianity in its history.

The Maryland Institute, College of Art, will present "Rejoining the Spiritual: The Land in Contemporary Latin American Art" (Feb. 15), focusing on seven Latin American artists whose work

reflects concerns with the land and the environment. And Morgan State University today opens an exhibit of "Ghanaian Art."

At the Baltimore Museum we will have "Northern Lights: Inuit Textile Art From the Canadian Arctic" (Nov. 17), featuring contemporary wall hangings by 12 contemporary Inuit women artists; and "Roni Horn: Iceland" (Feb. 23), focusing on an artist who depicts Iceland's landscape.

The Inuit show is only one of several that reveal the artistry of crafts from around the world. The National Museum of Ceramic Art will bring "Facets of the Same Nature" (Sept. 23), an exhibit of contemporary Dutch ceramics. The Contemporary, Baltimore's museum without walls, in collaboration with Baltimore Clayworks and the Maryland Institute, will present "Contemporary East European Ceramics" (Oct. 23), 100 works by 74 artists from 14 countries from the Czech Republic to Ukraine.

To show that we can hold our own in this category, the Maryland Historical Society will have "Lavish Legacies: Baltimore Album Quilts" (March 6), a show of the marvelously colorful and iconographically rich album quilts that enjoyed a very brief vogue in 19th-century Baltimore.

Maryland Art Place's "A Meeting of Hands" (Oct. 14) will be a collaboration with the Baltimore Clayworks to bring together five clay artists and five non-clay artists to create collaborative works. This is in celebration of the Year of American Craft. And at the Rosenberg Gallery at Goucher College we will have "Handkerchief Quilts by Pat Long Gardner" (Nov. 1), a Baltimore quilter who has revived the tradition of handkerchief quilts as well as written a book about them.

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