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BMA New Acquisitions Series Part 1: Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman on Sarah Sze’s Random Walk Drawing (Eye Chart)

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BMA New Acquisitions Series Part 2 – Sarah [...]

SARAH SZE
American, born 1969
Random Walk Drawing (Eye Chart)
2011
Mixed media

Contemporary Curator Kristen Hileman has been working on the Contemporary Wing project from the outset of her tenure at the BMA in November, 2009. “Knowing we had a major renovation and reinstallation ahead of us, from the moment I started at the museum I was assessing all the amazing strengths of the collection and thinking about how to build it in exciting ways,” says Hileman. The curator, who is a regular at local art galleries and openings, has taken numerous trips to New York, as well as Art Basel Miami, Art Basel Switzerland, and to the Venice Biennale for the Documenta exhibition in search of new aquisitions. Hileman also received a travel grant from the French government to research artwork in Paris in 2011.

“Whether abroad or within Baltimore, I’m looking not only at specific artworks, but also the overall practices and ideas of artists to see how they might grow the Museum’s collection and its exhibition program,” explains Hileman. Like a coach scouting for new team players, Hileman must build on the museum’s current strengths and fill in gaps where weakness is perceived to create an even, well-researched vision. Unlike art collectors who purchase art as an investment, a museum rarely sells works from its permanent collection. A significant part of a museum’s mission is to compile a rich and accurate record of contemporary art practices, essentialy creating the history of art in real time.

On Sarah Sze’s Random Walk Drawing (Eye Chart), Hileman is unequivocal. “The BMA has a strong collection of contemporary sculpture ranging from Carl Andre, James Lee Byars, Dan Flavin, Donald Judd, David Smith and Anne Truitt to Olafur Elliason, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Thomas Hirschhorn, Roni Horn, and Franz West.  It is important for the museum to continue to build on that strength and show different facets of contemporary sculptural practice,” explains the curator.

“I would argue that Sarah Sze is at the forefront of a very relevant and current form of art-making that brings together objects from contemporary everyday life and assembles them into a highly complex network of forms,” says Hileman. “There are fundamental sculptural considerations at work in her art—the balance of heavy and light forms, the play of volumes against line, the tension between positive and negative space, the physical connections between different types of materials, and the effects of gravity on those materials. However, she applies these considerations to an overall composition that reflects the complexity of living in today’s world; specifically, of encountering a remarkably varied array of color and shape in commercially available products, of the multiple layers of information that we navigate through on computer screens or other media outlets, and of technology giving life, and even personality, to what would otherwise be inanimate objects and tools.  I think her work also reflects a desire to return to studio-based art-making and hand construction that I see with many younger artists.”

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