Climbing in search of a concrete definition

Exhibit: Hoping to play a greater role in the art world, the Walters Art Museum plans an elaborate display -- complete with a rock climber, four video cameras and 252 replicas of artifacts.

November 04, 2001|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

The looming concrete exterior that frames the Walters Art Museum contrasts grimly with the delicate Monets and other Impressionist art displayed inside. No one would call this bleak surface art.

But today, artist Dennis Adams and athlete Kalvin Evans are planning to stage an adventurous and ephemeral artistic event on that stark wall with the aim of turning the museum in Baltimore's Mount Vernon neighborhood inside out.

The Centre Street museum's facade has been transformed into a rock-climbing surface with orange grips molded from some of the museum's artifacts.

Evans, 29, will scale the surface with video cameras strapped to his arms and legs to record his every move. He will wear black shoes, black shorts and - depending on the weather - he might take off his shirt.

This is art - public art, more specifically.

The exhibit is part of "Facing Museums," an effort by the Walters and the Contemporary Museum that invites artists to respond to collections in hopes of reaching a wider audience and engaging the public in a dialogue about art.

"To be a significant museum in the national scene, we need to be involved in the process of defining what art is in the 21st century," said Gary Vikan, director of the Walters. "At the same time, I think that process of helping to clarify and define what art is, it will help us to understand what art was in the past."

Evans, of Columbia, will scale the Walters' 1974 fortress-like building at 2 p.m. today.

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