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Seven Art Shows to See This Summer: June and July Exhibitions

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The Fruiting Tree: Reflect & Remix at the Walters

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BmoreArt’s Picks: June 18-24

Summer is the slowest season in the art world, a much-needed respite before fall blockbuster exhibitions. During our longest and most languid days, the art market contracts, patrons go on holiday and artists flock to their studios. However, there’s still a lot of great art to see in the region if you know where to look.

Personally, I love experimental summer exhibits where you can discover new artists, curators and venues. With nothing to lose, many galleries open themselves up to curatorial risks they can’t otherwise take during the rest of the year. Some bring in guest curators and others host crowded group shows with artists they’ve never shown before. Others host roving exhibits in new venues and in collaboration with new partners. Museums feel a little sleepy during the summer, but it’s luxurious to have these spaces almost all to yourself and the air conditioning is delightfully brisk.

In the spirit of discovery, relaxation, pleasure and experimentation, here are seven shows I am recommending you visit in the Baltimore region.

 

Megan Lewis, “Everything begins with a thought,” 2023, Oil and acrylic on canvas, 48 x 60 in, courtesy of Galerie Myrtis

Megan Lewis, ‘Moon in Scorpio’
Galerie Myrtis
2224 N. Charles St., Baltimore
Through July 20

I can think of no other Baltimore-based painter whose work conjures up the lush vibrancy of summer more than Megan Lewis. Her canvases host thick swashes of buttery oil paint in an impressionistic portrait style that is both traditional and innovative. Lewis employs the historic tradition of underpainting, where a contrasting color is laid onto the canvas first only to peek through the subjects depicted on top, adding unexpected pops of energy and depth. At times, she uses floral printed fabric or landscape photos as a substrate, painting on top of these images but also using them to add layers of complexity, alluding to specific Baltimore neighborhoods, as well as to domestic space (think: bedsheets and textiles) and nostalgia for family. 

In Lewis’s current solo show, “Moon in Scorpio” at Galerie Myrtis, she turns her intense focus onto the subject of Black men. In larger-than-life-sized depictions and color-saturated hues, Lewis’s portraits are tender and knowing, intimate but also universal. Lewis’s “Scorpio Moon” men are mysterious characters inspired by the artist’s own stories and people she has met while living in this city. Their intense, calm gaze and elegant poise presents each as an individual with a distinct personality, but Lewis’s energetic canvases elevate them to icon status.

 

Transmission at School 33 Works by Top L-R: Erick Benitez, LaToya Hobbs, Jackie Milad, Bottom L-R: Hoesy Corona, Elena Volkova, Jill Orlov, all photos by Cara Ober

Transmission,’ curated by Lou Joseph 
School 33 Art Center
1427 Light St., Baltimore
Through July 21

Each year, the Municipal Art Society of Baltimore City awards its Artist Travel Prizes, which offers creatives funding to visit specific places across the globe, conduct research and make new works of art to be exhibited back home.

Typically, each artist will exhibit their new body of work in a solo show, but “Transmission” features the 11 artists selected for this prize from 2017 to 2023. Curated by Lou Joseph, of the Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts at School 33 Art Center, the exhibit is a smorgasbord of many of Baltimore’s most successful artists (take notes, collectors!), including painting, sculpture, cut paper, assemblage, printmaking and photography by Nate Larson, Erin Fostel, Erick Antonio Benitez, LaToya M. Hobbs, J.M. Giordano, Hoesy Corona, Schroeder Cherry, Rosa Leff, Jackie Milad, Elena Volkova and Jill Orlov. 

The exhibition is not visually or thematically cohesive, but that’s not the point. It comes off as clean and professional, a sampling of a “who’s who” of contemporary artists whose ideas address definitions of place and the experience of travel in a variety of relevant ways. What’s on display are new discoveries in technique and subject matter, resolved through smart, well-crafted works of art. Each reflects the diverse excellence of Baltimore and the expansive influence of travel upon art.

 

Fragment(ed)ing at Zo Gallery featuring L-R: David and Eli Hess, Artemis Herber, Chidinma Dureke, and Jonna McKone, photos by Cara Ober

Fragment(ed)ing,’ curated by Liz Faust
Zo Gallery
3510 Ash St., Baltimore
Through June 29

Liz Faust is a Baltimore treasure. The independent curator and graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Curatorial Practice Master of Fine Arts program has served at a range of different galleries, but is now working directly with artists and curating exhibitions at a variety of locations. Faust’s exhibits always offer a combination of emerging and established artists; an emphasis on craftsmanship with unusual materials is paramount.

Her newest curatorial foray, “Fragment(ed)ing” is hosted at Zo Gallery in Hampden, a raw, industrial space and blank slate for all kinds of work that used to be the site of the Baltimore Free Farm.

In “Fragment(ed)ing,” Faust balances a dizzying array of opposite extremes, where large three-dimensional objects are countered with delicate sculpture, film and photography. The exhibit featuring works by Adam David Bencomo, Chidinma Dureke, Artemis Herber, David and Eli Hess, Sanzi Kermes, DS Mangus, Jonna McKone, Meg Rorison, Bria Sterling-Wilson and Jordan Tierney explores the concept of fragmentation, and specifically the ways that artists use the technique to complicate our everyday experiences and generate a depth of meaning by breaking things apart.

Whether your focus lies on tiny mixed-media assemblage, menacing hanging sculpture, color-saturated photography or industrially inspired paintings, this exhibition pulses with a raw and intelligent urban energy that reflects a multifaceted Baltimore experience.

 

Nick Wisniewski at Swann House, curated by Derrick Adams, photo by Cara Ober

‘Just Below the Surface,’ Nicholas Wisniewski, curated by Derrick Adams
Swann House, Hotel Ulysses
909 N. Charles St., Baltimore
Through July 7

I was fortunate to see Nick Wisniewski’s drywall relief sculptures in his studio a week before they were framed and hung at Swann House, a new venue associated with Hotel Ulysses in Mount Vernon. In each irregularly shaped chunk of salvaged drywall, the artist has incised exquisite architectural details that reference the structure it was taken from. When I hear myself saying these words out loud, the artwork sounds like a mess, but the truth is each are tiny gems brimming with geometrically precise detail that contrast meaningfully with the unpolished raw material substrate.

Wisniewski, one of the founders of The Compound, has been making work for over a decade, and Baltimore-born global art superstar Derrick Adams is one of the board members at the non-profit art space. Their close relationship enabled Adams, functioning as a curatorial partner for Swann House on an extended series of exhibits titled “Beautiful Decay,” to see the potential for Wisniewski’s works to visually converse with the peeling and faded walls currently in the soon-to-be-renovated space. (Swann House is also formerly the home of seven-term Baltimore Mayor Ferdinand Claiborne Latroble, and the building is named after Latrobe’s wife, Louisa Sherlock Swann, and their son, Swann, who carried on the family name.) 

The historic townhouse is set to become a social club and events space, and Adams sees the series of exhibitions as a way to make a statement about Baltimore’s historic and storied architectural patrimony. Wisniewski’s exhibit, titled “Just Below The Surface,” is a must-see not just for architects but for Zillow and Redfin addicts, and anyone who harbors a love for historic Baltimore real estate.

 

Works by Monsier Zohore and Soledad Salame at the Kreeger Museum, photo Cara Ober

‘Here in this little Bay: Celebrating 30 Years at the Kreeger,’ curated by Kristen Hileman
Kreeger Museum
2401 Foxhall Road NW, Washington, D.C.
Through Oct. 5

This is the one exhibit on my list not located in Baltimore, but it features several significant Baltimore-based and affiliated artists curated by Kristen Hileman, formerly a curator at the Baltimore Museum of Art and Hirshhorn Museum. 

For those not familiar with the Kreeger, the museum opened in 1994 in the former home of collectors David and Carmen Kreeger, where the couple had lived since the early 1960s. The modernist white travertine and glass building designed by Philip Johnson and Richard Foster has a vast green lawn scattered with sculptures and a significant collection of American and European modernism, as well as African and Asian art. 

Hileman, who was invited to guest-curate the exhibition celebrating the museum’s 30th anniversary, decided to select an intergenerational group of 14 artists originally from nine different countries who now reside in Maryland, Washington and Virginia. She specifically invited artists who make work about nature and landscape but view the topic through a contemporary lens. Nestled between the Kreeger’s permanent collection of paintings by Max Beckman, Pierre Bonnard, Claude Monet and others, the contemporary artists present assemblage, photography, video and sculpture that addresses environmental disruption and climate change, contrasting intentionally with the romantic landscapes of 19th-century painters. 

Using the Kreeger as a backdrop, the contemporary artists — including Shahla Arbabi, Chan Chao, Kei Ito, Jae Ko, Marty Koelsch, Juan Maidagan, linn meyers, Kristin Putchinski, Soledad Salamé, Jim Sanborn, Athena Tacha, Dolores Zinny and Monsieur Zohore — offer innovative ideas about the natural world, sustainable practices, environmental issues and the reality of living on the Chesapeake Bay in 2024.

 

Reflect & Remix gallery image featuring works by Roberto Lugo and Claude Monet, courtesy of the Walters Art Museum

‘Reflect & Remix: Art Inspiring Artists’
The Walters Art Museum
600 N. Charles St., Baltimore
Through Sept. 8

The best works of art remind us who we are right now, but place this understanding within a vast historical context. Although it’s not a hot topic in the art world right now, it’s a common practice for contemporary artists to make work directly inspired by — and in relationship with — great historic works of art. Who better to luxuriate in nuance and detail, or to offer a pointed critique of past assumptions and practices, than contemporary artists making objects that are visually stunning yet resonate with the power of the past?

In a traditional encyclopedic museum setting, historic objects are displayed according to time period, tradition and country of origin, with modern and contemporary art relegated to their own unique environs. However, museums are realizing that all art — whether historic, modern, craft or decorative — is Art (with a capital a!) and created in reaction to, and relationship with, the art of the past.

At the Walters, “Reflect & Remix” is a deep dive into the museum’s historic collection spanning 5,000 years, informed by the idea that all art is influenced by other works. Presenting paintings and mosaics, ceramics and jewelry, glass and historic books, calligraphy and metalwork all together, this exhibit explores the collaborative nature of inspiration. Curators Lynley Herbert and Earl Martin rely on paired objects to highlight the connections that occur naturally among artists and transcend time and place.

Each pairing posits artworks from completely different time periods and places to reinforce visual, conceptual and material-based relationships. It features more than 60 objects from the museum’s collection and includes new acquisitions from contemporary artists Kehinde Wiley, Herb Massie, Jessy DeSantis and Roberto Lugo.

 

Gallery view from Illustrating Agency, featuring art by T.C. Cannon (Kiowa/ Caddo), Allan Houser (Chiricahua Apache), Kay WalkingStick (Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), Rose B. Simpson (Santa Clara Pueblo), and Wendy Red Star (Apsáalooke (Crow) ), image courtesy of the BMA

‘Preoccupied: Indigenizing the Museum,’ curated by Dare Turner and Leila Grothe
Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore
Through Dec. 1

Placed mainly in the contemporary wing, this expansive survey includes the kinds of objects you expect to find there — contemporary paintings, video projections, short film, photography and assemblage sculptures made of pop cultural ephemera. But it also includes functional objects, tribal and crafts-based items — baskets, clothing, maps — as well as historical objects and documents. The project is actually three disparate but interrelated exhibitions: “Finding Home,” “Enduring Buffalo” and “Illustrating Agency,” all of which aim to explore historic and contemporary achievements of Native American artists. 

“These three thematic exhibitions address histories and concepts that we expect will be novel for many visitors to the museum — many of whom did not learn an accurate or complete history of Native experiences on our continent,” co-curators Dare Turner, of the Yurok tribe, and Leila Grothe said in a statement. “These exhibitions nurture an awareness of the resilience, joy, incisiveness, and brilliance of the first people of this land mass.”

The two curators worked in conjunction with Native communities from the region, and the three exhibits are spaced around the museum in conjunction with several solo projects onsite in order to present a multifaceted and comprehensive approach in which historically marginalized experiences are intentionally placed throughout the entire museum.  

 

This story is part of a partnership with The Baltimore Banner and BmoreArt that will provide monthly pieces focusing on the region’s artists, galleries and museums. For more stories like this, visit BaltimoreBanner.com.

Header Image: Kreeger Museum, photo by Joe Chrisman, via the museum's Instagram

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