When Hans Namuth captured Jackson Pollock in his studio in 1950, this set of five hundred photographs and two films of the artist at work transformed the relationship between the artist, the process of art-making, the art, the artist’s studio, and the public. For the first time, the audience gained access to the details in their cloudy imagination of the artist’s studios — which was once An Ivory Tower, with artists and art being the solitary existence. The foregrounded concept of studios provided flesh of context to the barebones of finished artworks, becoming an inseparable element in the making of an artist’s identity. With the age of 176 (as of 2024), AREA 405 has witnessed its transformation from a brewery to an infamous art hub in Baltimore, and then from the crisis of disappearance to new ownership and identity. AREA 405 Portrait Project by Theresa Robertson exhibits portraits of artists in the studios of AREA 405 in the hope of documenting the flux of “artistic practice, sites, and modes of production and expression” of this community. It celebrates the fluid identity of AREA 405 through the lens of artists and their studios.

AREA 405 was transformed from a brewery to a celebrated art hub in 2001 by 3 Square Feet LLC, a former artist business entity. Under the lead of Stewart Watson, the Executive Director Emeritus of AREA 405, this building fostered an exciting group of artists and produced numerous celebrated art activities and exhibitions in collaboration with the local community. Its preserved industrial characteristic also provided Baltimore with a non-conventional exhibition space, rebelling against the white-box-dominated exhibition circuit. The building faced the crisis of disappearing in 2021 when it was put on the market. The incident stirred uneasiness in the Baltimore art scene. Many resident artists left AREA 405 in fear of the uncertainty of losing their studio spaces. In 2022, through robust capital fundraising and a unique public/private partnership, Central Baltimore Partnership (CBP) and Baltimore-based real estate developer Ernst Valery together purchased AREA 405, with the main purpose of preserving its affordability and vitality, as well as improving the functionality of the building.

Theresa Robertson: AREA 405 Portrait Project is eventually an effort to reconnect with the 405 community under the new ownership, ushering into a new chapter while honoring its history and celebrating the new blood. AREA 405 has witnessed a major restructuring, with new and old artists and leaders working together in the building, forging a new community. This exhibition originated from a photography project proposed by artist Theresa Robertson, who also participated in the process of the transferral of ownership as a CBP employee. With intimate photoshoots and conversations, she hopes to capture the process as this new community of ARE 405 slowly revives. Despite not being able to capture all tenant artists, Theresa Robertson: AREA 405 Portrait Project serves as a testament to Robertson’s and the Central Baltimore Partnership team’s commitment to growing and learning alongside the building community. The 405 Portrait Project will be an ongoing photographic effort to archive the evolving identity of AREA 405 and the relationships among the artists, their studios, the 405 community, and the Central Baltimore Partnership team.

This exhibition is made possible by the generous support of T. Rowe Price and The Robert W. Deutsch Foundation.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Sjöholm, Jenny. “The Art Studio as Archive: Tracing the Geography of Artistic Potentiality, Progress and Production.” Cultural Geographies 21, no. 3 (2014): 505–14. http://www.jstor.org/stable/26168587.

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