This week: Precision and abstraction at Eubie Blake Cultural Arts Center, surreal shock in Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s BMA exhibition, and deconstructed publications with Homie House Press at Stevenson University.
The Friday Gallery Roundup is a curated compilation of three short reviews of three current exhibitions worth your time and consideration. There’s so much to see and do in this town every day—check out our calendar and weekly picks for even more options—but here’s a doable list of shows you can check out now.
Alma Roberts, “Metamorphosis”
Women Speaking Here, Women Speaking Hear, through March 29
Eubie Blake Cultural Arts Center, 847 N. Howard St., Baltimore, 21201
Hours: Wednesday–Friday 1 p.m.–6 p.m.; Saturday 11 a.m.–3 p.m.
As our lord and savior Rihanna once said, every day is International Women’s Day; Women’s History Month is technically almost over but I feel strongly that we follow Her suggestion and keep that going too. Through March, the Eubie Blake Cultural Arts Center is honoring Women’s History Month with the exhibition Women Speaking Here, Women Speaking Hear, featuring bold prints by Karen Y. Buster and abstract paintings by Alma Roberts, both Baltimore artists.
Buster uses black and white, positive and negative space to describe her subjects: a young person in a hoodie with a sharp, discerning brow, or the silhouetted profile of a pregnant woman whose triangular, dangling earring catches the light. Her most successful pieces rely on heavy, rhythmic patterns that swell and fill the image. In “Potentate,” the regal subject’s face is framed by thick braids and twisting jewelry and beads, which are offset by the person’s quiet, almost spiritual gaze. In “Senegal Woman,” the subject stands tall, all but swallowed by a complex geometric pattern of spirals, stripes, half-circles, and grids. Behind her a vertical, meditative chevron pattern, warbly but orderly, holds the figure in place.
Buster’s work is separated from Alma Roberts’ paintings by a narrow hallway, making the show feel more like two separate shows than one that tries to get two distinctive styles to converse. But where Buster’s prints are grounded in process and technical precision, Roberts’ paintings operate on more of a gut level. (The artist had never picked up a paintbrush until 2011, according to the Afro, intuitively motivated by her father who’d “set aside his talent as a painter in order to provide a good home for his family.”) In “Metamorphosis,” different types of mark-making—stamping, scratching, and all-over breathy brushing—compete with one another on the canvas, their loudness cooled by Roberts’ calm palette of blues and greens. A turquoise layer, possibly stamped on with bubble wrap, settles over the scene like a dense fog, and from the middle a small, golden, otherworldly ectoplasm emerges. (Rebekah Kirkman)
Nathalie Djurberg & Hans Berg: Delights of an Undirected Mind, through May 26
Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore, 21218
Hours: Wednesday–Sunday 10 a.m.–5 p.m.
I’d been perched in a corner, trying to take in Swedish artists Nathalie Djurberg and Hans Berg’s three looping stop-motion video shorts for at least 10 minutes by myself until a large family group came in, plopping down on the bean bag poof seats. It was the perfect time for them to come in, during “Delights of an Undirected Mind,” right as this little girl character takes a shit in her bed, while an orgiastic parade of wolves, crocodiles, giraffes, and ponies gallivant around her bedroom—the viewers all loudly expressed their disgust. But they stayed.
The most memorable animation, titled “Snake With a Mouth Sewn Shut, or, This Is a Celebration,” is a kind of psychological horror film. It all takes place in a room; a woman writhes around in a bed and on the floor, begins turning into a scaly-tailed monster, rapidly decomposes. A baby cries in its crib, and then, in some cuts, the woman seems to have changed places with the baby, or the woman’s wearing a diaper—some kind of circuitous, Freudian somersaulting is at work here. Meanwhile, frantic words from an unknown and unseen author cover the walls; the text suggests acts of terror or abuse, begging for both rescue and pleasure, wrestling with ego and inner demons.
It’s hard to make heads or tails of some of these pieces. In the exhibition’s accompanying text, the artists reference Surrealism’s stream of consciousness and, more broadly, the freedom that art-making engenders. Their installations and animations are technically impressive, immersive, and multitudinous, but their motivation winds up feeling thin in most of the exhibition. In “Gates of the Festival,” neon noodles hang above our heads while a stop-motion bird projection runs awkwardly from wall to wall around the room, Berg’s musical compositions twinkling in synch with the neon’s glow. In another room, giant donut and egg sculptures made of rubber foam and coated with bad Ab-Ex paint splotches crowd the floor and an all-encompassing projection spans the walls, animated viscous fluids and eggy substances dancing around, again in synch with Berg’s music. At some point the animated forms get enormously dramatic and planetary, pushing me closer to some void, but then I’m quickly pulled out of it, glancing down at the donuts and eggs that look looted from a playground. (RK)
The Shadow Means It’s Real, through April 2
Closing Reception and Catalog Release: April 1, 6:30–8 p.m.
School of Design Gallery, Stevenson University, 11100 Ted Herget Way, Owings Mills, 21117
Hours: Monday–Friday, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. and Saturday 11 a.m.–4 p.m. (Tell the guard at the gate you are there to visit the gallery)
Stevenson University’s newest gallery/student lounge is in the lobby of its north campus design center in Owings Mills, and typical to college campuses—full of great intentions and committed to using every square inch of available space—it feels like an afterthought. A busy intersection, the small space is comprised of three white walls, a purple wall, and a few tables and chairs. However, what exhibitions director and gallery curator Aden Weisel has done with international publishing house Homie House Press (HHP) and Chris Metzger, professor in the Art and Visual Communication Design department, is extraordinary given the spatial constraints.
HHP is comprised of Adriana Monsalve of Beltsville, Maryland and Catarina Ragg of Milano, Italy. The duo met at college in London and describe themselves in the forward from their recent booklet Beibi boi as “femmes creating a platform for us, by us, and about us,” adding that they make their work “with fear, but do it anyway.” Their mission to give voice to the marginalized, especially immigrant and queer populations, is the throughline among all their projects which typically take the form of printed books, pamphlets, and zines.
The gallery’s main three walls combine framed objects such as calling cards, handwritten notes, and Ragg’s digital photos of European borders with large photo wall stickers which are installed like a timeline along a red vinyl line representing the US-Mexico border. The work in this show is four printed pieces—Femme Frontera, First Frontera, Los Globos Artivistas, and an as-yet-untitled project about the rise of European nationalism—that have been deconstructed and reimagined into the publishing house’s first installation. There is also a small library containing HHP publications and those of their friends, including Baltimore’s own Press Press along with GenderFail, Horchata Zine, Luna Rio, One of My Kind, The Bettys, and Volve. The result is a clean, aesthetically pleasing explosion that feels like a deliberate book spread that ascends the college lobby gallery that contains it.
The show’s singular misstep is the inclusion of the purple wall that feels as overloaded as the rest of the show feels curated. Prior to mounting the show, HHP asked for public submissions and now welcomes the university community to continue adding to the display by writing on provided cards or bringing in their own work. A continuation of the publishing house’s efforts to engage their public, this wall would be better handled as its own show and its inclusion here, in an exhibit otherwise so deliberate, is like a roommate playing their music loudly in the next room while I’m trying to read. (Suzy Kopf)
Homie House Press exhibition images by Suzy Kopf; all others by Rebekah Kirkman.