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Gallery Roundup: Glenstone and Guarding the Art

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There’s so much wrong with the world right now. Good art is not a cure, but at least it offers an argument and a gleam of hope for a less bleak future.

In museums, none integrate architecture with visual art and natural light more seamlessly than Glenstone, located in Potomac, MD, where a new outdoor pavillion designed for and with Richard Serra investigates the weight (literally) of his vision and the excess of capitalistic masculinity. And in Baltimore, the Guarding the Art exhibit at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), which has garnered more TV, radio, and press coverage than Christopher Bedford himself, comes to a gentle close with the promise of a unionization vote.

This week’s Friday Gallery Roundup presents two succinct reviews of two regional exhibitions.

 

Four Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure, 2017, forged steel, dimensions variable at Glenstone

Glenstone Museum: Richard Serra’s new installation and building, Doris Salcedo, Arthur Jafa, and Simone Leigh

It’s impossible to describe the precious expansiveness of Glenstone to anyone who hasn’t visited. You have to experience it for yourself. The 300 acre sanctuary to modern and contemporary art, architecture, and natural landscape integrates all three to such an extent that they become virtually indistinguishable, offering an experience that is nothing short of sublime. The campus is a unique environment where giant outdoor sculptures by Jeff Koons and Michael Heizer interact with flocks of wild turkeys and meadows full of organic, regionally appropriate fauna.

Rather than offering one central museum, Glenstone is a warren of pavilions and outbuildings as well as outdoor art installations, so you need to wear walking shoes and be prepared to be outside (they provide white umbrellas at every stop in the case of rain). Their newest building was unveiled this past week: a concrete structure designed for and with artist Richard Serra by architect Thomas Phifer, to house the museum’s third monumental Serra work: “Four Rounds: Equal Weight, Unequal Measure,” 2017, which joins “Sylvester” 2001, a torqued spiral located at the front of the Gallery building and “Contour 290,” 2004, an arc of steel which bisects a meadow of clover and natural grasses situated at exactly 290 feet above sea level.

The new installation is comprised of four massive cylindrical forged steel forms, each weighing 82 tons, the heaviest form a foundry is able to forge, and functions as a meditation on capitalism, masculinity, and the staying power of human monuments. Situated evenly in a solid 4000 square foot concrete structure that is open to nature, this is the first new building erected on the sprawling property since opening the Pavillions (also designed by Phifer) in 2018.

With ample natural lighting and openings for air flow, the surface of each cylinder offers a luxuriant, scarred patina created through the forging process and also from sitting outdoors in a New Jersey field for the past few years, daring nature to make her mark. The Serra building is located along Glenstone’s Woodland Trail, dotted by several smaller structures hosting Andy Goldsworthy sculpture, and a meandering wooden boardwalk draws you in across a bubbling stream.

 

Doris Salcedo at Glenstone
Simone Leigh, Village Series, 2021, at Glenstone
Arthur Jafa at Glenstone

After a short talk with Phifer and Chief Curator Emily Wei Rales in the new space, we headed back to the main pavilion to experience an immersive Arthur Jafa installation of video, sculpture, and photography, as well as a quiet but intensely moving exhibit of sculptural works by Doris Salcedo. The Columbian artist uses articles of clothing and furniture, often pulverized and reassembled or encased in cement, to elucidate the physical realities of human violence. Other highlights include a new figurative sculpture by Simone Leigh, a room combining minimalist and figurative sculptures by Charles Ray, and two temptingly caressable glass pieces by Roni Horn. Designed to allow muted natural light into each gallery, the installation and sculpture benefit from a dramatic amount of clean architectural space which heightens the power of each individual work.

If you’re considering a visit, the museum is located about an hour’s drive from Baltimore and 15 minutes from DC. It’s free admission, but you have to RSVP for tickets on the first of each month–and they get reserved quickly, so this part can be intimidating. If you have a hard time securing a pass, we suggest you call and make a special request and their staff will do their best to accommodate. Glenstone’s timed entry system creates ample space for visitors to experience the art on almost a one-on-one basis, a worthwhile and extravagant balancing act.

Glenstone Museum
12100 Glen Road Potomac, Maryland 20854
Hours: Thursday-Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission is always free but a RSVP is required.
Web:glenstone.org

 

***

 

Guarding the Art at the Baltimore Museum of Art

It’s hard to judge whether this tightly packed exhibit featuring a contradictory range of objects from the BMA’s encyclopedic collection has amassed more press than the other global press-adoring initiatives the museum has announced over the past few years, but it’s highly possible.

The concept of museum guards, the stalwart blazer-and-tie-wearing sentinels, selecting the most meaningful objects from the permanent collection has proven irresistible to television, radio, and newspapers, both locally and nationally, presenting a charming narrative of hard won recognition and underutilized expertise. However, most of these segments have sidestepped the upcoming unionization vote these guards will soon undertake, now with official permission granted from museum leadership to do so.

Set into an intimate side gallery in the Cone Wing, situated between Matisse paintings and the lush Salmon Toor exhibit, Guarding the Art is a feel-good opportunity to cheer on museum employees who are often overlooked as “non-professional” workers. However, it’s also a chance to experience a distinct range of exquisite objects juxtaposed into one viewing space. The exhibit tells a multifaceted story about the permanent collection, which mirrors changing historic and contemporary values at the institution from the first-hand perspective of those who know it best.

 

Guarding the Art, 2022, BMA: Wall L-R: Philip Guston, The Oracle, 1974; Grace Hartigan, Pallas Athena—Fire, 1961; Max Ernst, Earthquake, Late Afternoon, 1948; Foreground: Louise Bourgeois, Spring, 1948–49/ 1984, Photo: Mitro Hood
Water bottle, Mono culture, Solomon Islands, early 20th century, coconut, bamboo, Parinarium nut paste, glass beads, pigment, 16 1⁄8 × 8 1⁄8 × 5 1⁄2"
Jeremy Alden, 50 Dozen, 2005/2008, graphite pencils, adhesive, 31 5⁄8 × 16 3⁄4 × 17"

Interestingly, this exhibit is dominated by the art market’s favorite currency: hefty paintings, like the recently acquired Mickalene Thomas “Resist #2,” 2021, a massive Rauchenbergian ode to protest adorned with glitter, police officers, and an ‘I can’t breathe’ protest sign overlaid the American flag.

The painting sits comfortably next to a moody red and black Rothko, a thick and violent Karel Appel scene, two muscular Grace Hartigan abstractions, and a fleshy pink Guston where cartoonesque Klan hoods lurk behind a protagonist figure contemplating a pile of shoes, a Holocaust reference. Viewed as a community, these works offer a commentary on modern painting, the contemporary art market, as well as the influence of Ab-Exer Hartigan as MICA’s most famous (and sometimes infamous) professor and a damn good painter.

The show is tempered with sculpture, where the slim and sensuous wooden Louise Bourgeois totem, “Spring,” 1948-49, calmly anchors the space, and the delicate, funny Jeremy Alden chair, “50 Dozen,” constructed of Ticonderoga graphite pencils and adhesive, taunts visitors and guards alike with an unattainable seat. In glass vitrines, a flamboyant Richard William Binns sculptural teapot from the early 1800s sits in conversation with solemn pre-Columbian ceramic sculpture, as well as an early 20th century functional vessel from Solomon Islands. Easy to overlook, the cases include one empty white plinth referencing Fred Wilson’s institutional critique, pointing to gaps in the current collection.

It is still relatively rare to see works from different cultures, time periods, and genres in one museum viewing space, suggesting conceptual and aesthetic cross-pollination across history and geography, rather than established historic hierarchies. For this reason, Guarding the Art is groundbreaking in its willingness to present spheres of influence and caste-like relationships which have certainly impacted the trajectory of Western art, but are rarely recognized.

To fully realize this vision, this exhibit would benefit from a more even balance of modern and historic, as well as double the amount of gallery space. With more room to breathe, this show could further highlight the individual achievements of each selected work and shepherd them into groupings which would more clearly delineate the influence of hereto historic “unknown” artists on “the known,” a direct reflection of the unique vantage point of the museum guard.

 

Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA)
10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore, MD 21218
Hours: Free admission, Open Weds – Sunday 10-5,
Thursday open until 9 pm

Exhibition dates: March 27, 2022 — July 10, 2022
Web: artbma.org

 

Header Image: Doris Salcedo at Glenstone Museum

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