Curator to leave BMA for Ohio job

Molesworth taking Wexner Center post

October 02, 2002|By Glenn McNatt | Glenn McNatt,SUN ART CRITIC

Helen Molesworth, the Baltimore Museum of Art curator who reinterpreted the museum's contemporary art galleries and presented shows that provoked and challenged audiences, is leaving next month to become chief curator of exhibitions at the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio.

During her three-year tenure, Molesworth reinstalled the BMA's contemporary art wing and organized adventurous and imaginative exhibitions that included this year's Looking Forward/Looking Black, an examination of how African-Americans are portrayed in art and mass media, and last year's Body Space, an exploration of the body as a mode of understanding the world. In addition, she curated Work Ethic, a show about the changing character of artistic labor that will open at the BMA next fall.

"I have loved working with the collection at the BMA, and it has been an honor to make acquisitions and to get to know the community dedicated to contemporary art in Baltimore. I think they are a great community," Molesworth said. "The Wexner Center is unique in its support of contemporary culture across all media and, in particular, for its commitment to helping artists produce new work."

The 36-year-old curator will also leave her mark on the BMA's collections. As curator, she has overseen intriguing acquisitions ranging from Zoe Leonard's installation of rotting fruit to Marcel Duchamp's Boite en Valise, a miniature exhibition in a briefcase. Other artists whose work she acquired include David Hammons, Rachel Harrison, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems and Joseph Cornell.

"She has re-enlivened our west wing with her reinstallation and acquisitions, and we look forward to her Work Ethic exhibition in the fall of 2003," said BMA director Doreen Bolger. "I take great pride in what Helen has accomplished and in having helped launch her curatorial career at the BMA."

Part of Ohio State University, the Wexner Center is one of the nation's premier venues for contemporary art, with a strong commitment to living artists and film, video and performing arts departments that straddle traditional distinctions among different media. Its programs include exhibitions, screenings, performances, artist residencies and educational projects.

Molesworth will supervise the exhibitions department and be responsible for helping shape the center's programs by curating shows, producing catalogues and selecting exhibitions from other institutions.

"We look forward to the new perspectives and creative energy Helen will bring to the center," said Wexner Center Director Sherri Geldin. "Respected in the field as a curator, educator and critic, Helen will be a vibrant addition to the Wexner Center team."

The BMA will launch a national search for Molesworth's replacement, museum officials said.

"One of Helen's greatest talents has been her powers of communication and how she was able to communicate the controversial and sometimes difficult ideas of contemporary art in a very clear and engaging way," said BMA associate director Jay Fisher. "Helen's made an enormous impact on contemporary art at the BMA in the short time she's been here."

Constance R. Caplan, a former BMA board chairwoman who worked with Molesworth to expand the museum's collection of art by African-Americans, called her departure "a feather in her cap, but also a loss for the Baltimore community."

"I think she's going to be difficult to replace," Caplan said. "She has a great ability to communicate with the general public, and I'm sorry to see her go." After Molesworth's predecessor Brenda Richardson left the BMA in 1997, it took museum administrators more than a year to fill the curatorial vacancy.

Before coming to the BMA, Molesworth was director and curator of the Amelie A. Wallace Gallery at the State University of New York at Old Westbury. From 1991 to 1997, she worked in the education department of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Molesworth, who received a doctorate at Cornell University, has written for various publications. She is the founding editor of Documents, a magazine of contemporary visual culture, and a visiting instructor at the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in New York.

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