A year of Gauguin, bronzes, a modern wing

September 11, 1994|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,Sun Art Critic

Sometimes it's hard to tell what will make the biggest splash in a new season. But this year it's obvious.

Some big-time shows are coming -- especially the Walters Art Gallery's "Gauguin and the School of Pont-Aven" -- but unquestionably the biggest event of 1994-1995 will be the opening of the Baltimore Museum of Art's New Wing for Modern Art Oct. 16. The $10 million, 35,000-square-foot building has been designed specifically to hold the museum's collection of 20th-century art (except for the Cone Collection, which has its own wing in the museum's main building adjacent to the new wing).

Until now, the BMA has never had a home for its 20th-century collection. It has made do with galleries in the original building. The new wing, by Bower Lewis Thrower/Architects of Philadelphia, has an aluminum-clad exterior and 16 galleries, including a central gallery in which more than 30 works by Andy Warhol will be shown. Other leading names will also be featured, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, Jasper Johns, Robert Rauschenberg, Morris Louis, Kenneth Noland, Ellsworth Kelly, Frank Stella, Henry Moore, Helen Frankenthaler, Roy Lichtenstein and Mark Rothko.

The new wing may be the biggest attention-getter, but the season offers lots of other attractions, big and small. There's no single theme that runs through the season's museum shows, but it can be said that multiculturalism appears to be on the wane and the European-American tradition is making something of a comeback.

The BMA has a heavy concentration on American 20th-century art, with "Major Modern Drawings," "Richard Serra: Weight and Measure Drawings," "Sol LeWitt: Drawings 1958-1992" and "Photographs by Edward Weston and Robert Mapplethorpe."

It complements these with shows of African-American 20th-century art: "I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin" and "Alone in a Crowd: Prints by African-American Artists of the 1930s-1940s."

The Walters Art Gallery will have shows of art from Japan and Buddhist art, but its two largest shows are "Gauguin and the School of Pont-Aven," a sure crowd pleaser devoted to late 19th-century painting, and "Bronze," bringing together 60 bronzes, mostly European from Greece onward (though it includes bronzes from Asia).

This season the local museums are also drawing heavily on their own collections. BMA shows will include "Major Modern Drawings," "Quilts and Coverlets," "Abstract Photographs and Drawings" and "Masterworks on Paper from the Cone Collection." The Walters will show "19th Century American Genre Drawings," "Buddhist Art from the [recently bequeathed] Griswold Collection" and the bronze show.

The Maryland Historical Society continues to celebrate its 150th anniversary with two shows: "Celebrating a Collection: The Library of Maryland History, 1844-1994" and "Talking Treasures: Maryland History as Told by 15 Masterpieces From the Maryland Historical Society."

The City Life Museums continue their "Collecting Baltimore" show, in which they show their own works but also ask you to contribute objects that reflect the history and life of Baltimore.

On the gallery scene, several shows of unusual interest are coming up. In October, Grimaldis weighs in with recent work by Anthony Caro, one of the world's leading sculptors, and follows in November with landscapes by Baltimore's own, beloved Eugene Leake.

Two Baltimore artists will have dual shows this year. Steven Scott has just opened a show of Raoul Middleman's landscapes, portraits and still lifes; in December, Maryland Art Place will have a show of Middleman's narrative paintings. Tom Miller will be having a retrospective of his painted furniture at the Baltimore Museum of Art; in February, Maryland Art Place will have the show.

The photographs of Connie Imboden, whose work has won recognition on both sides of the Atlantic, will be on display at Gomez. For its juried spring show, School 33 is importing an assistant curator, Amada Cruz, from Washington's Hirshhorn Museum, as juror. And UMBC will have what looks to be another of its intellectually challenging exhibits with "Spero/Golub: Feminism/Masculinism," with site-specific installations exploring issues of gender.

Then there's the Maryland Institute, neither museum nor gallery, but its exhibit roster includes shows of unusual interest. This year it will have "The Artist as Native: Reinventing Regionalism," with works by artists who have a unusual relationships to the places they live. And The Contemporary, Baltimore's museum without walls, will have "Labor of Love," artist Willie Cole's sculpture and installation exhibit exploring the subject of birth.

Among the highlights of neighboring cities will be: "The Glory of Venice: Art in the Eighteenth Century," another one of the National Gallery's blockbusters, with more than 200 works by artists including Canaletto, Guardi and Piranesi. The National Museum of American Art has "Free Within Ourselves," featuring its own works by African-American artists.

In New York, the Metropolitan will have a sure crowd pleaser with "Origins of Impressionism," an exhibit exploring what led to one of the world's most loved art movements and including works by Manet, Renoir and Monet, among many others.

The Guggenheim will mount a major exhibit of Italian postwar art, "The Italian Metamorphosis, 1943-1968." And the Whitney will have its "Biennial" devoted to recent developments in contemporary American art. If history is any indication, all the critics will say the Whitney "Biennial" is a great idea but this one's terrible.

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