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Contemporary Conceptions

Kristen Hileman, the BMA’s curator of contemporary art, brings new work to the collection

Photo: Sam Holden, License: N/A

Sam Holden

Doreen Bolger in the BMA’s renovated Contemporary Wing

Though the BMA’s Contemporary Wing has been closed for almost two years, the curator of contemporary art, Kristine Hileman, has been exceptionally busy adding to the museum’s collection, which already included masterworks by Andy Warhol, Anne Truitt, Donald Judd, Glenn Ligon, Bruce Nauman, Robert Rauschenberg, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, and Jasper Johns.

When the Contemporary Wing reopens on Nov. 18, viewers will find many of these older works paired with new acquisitions by even more contemporary artists in the completely reconfigured space, from which, notably, the pillars were removed in order to create better sightlines for the artwork. “We want to put the great works of the late 20th century beside those of the 21st,” Hileman says. “So, for instance, Guyton/Walker, who uses drywall to create colorful forms, will be paired with [Ed] Ruscha and Glenn Ligon’s ‘White 17’ will be paired [conceptually] with Bruce Nauman’s ‘Raw War.’”

Hileman says that she anchored the collection “with the great strength of our late-Warhol pieces that show how Warhol was looking inward and biographically. I’m taking Warhol as the lead, and organizing the galleries in either side of the Front Room Gallery, so that one side will be figurative and the other side abstraction and at times more process-based work,” she says.

Among the new acquisitions we find Jamaican artist Nari Ward, who created a regulation-height basketball goal by pushing hundreds of shoelaces into small holes in the wall in order to arrive at a surprisingly haunting image. Wolfgang Staehle’s “Eastpoint 2004” is a digital composite of 8,000 individual photographs on the Hudson River. Hileman explains that the work is set up so that, at any given time of day, the image the viewer sees will have been taken at that time of day on the Hudson in 2004. “If it’s 3:00 P.M. in the gallery, you’ll see what Staehle saw at 3:00 [P.M.] in the Hudson River Valley.”

Rikrit Tiravanija’s “Untitled (bicycle shower)” was created for more practical purposes. Tiravanija works on a location called “The Land,” in Thailand, which serves as both a laboratory for artists and a rice field, providing food to the surrounding communities, and it did not have a functioning shower.

Hileman is particularly excited about the work of Sarah Sze, who will represent the U.S. in the 2013 Venice Biennale. “She takes traditional composition and realizes it with a whole array of material of the contemporary world, much of it straight from Home Depot,” she says, acknowledging the nod to Marcel Duchamp’s “readymades.”

A site-specific installation by Sarah Oppenheimer, one of the most important and impressive works, is actually built into the museum, connecting the contemporary wing with the modern collection. “You look at a cut in the wall, and through this configuration of mirrors, you see what is going on below you,” Hileman says. “The museum is nothing without the people who populate it.”

In addition to the new acquisitions for the permanent collection, the new galleries will host a variety of exhibitions, including one by local street artist Gaia (Nov. 18) and Wham City’s Jimmy Joe Roche (summer, 2013).

The Contemporary Wing at the BMA will reopen on Nov. 18, with exhibitions by Gaia, South African artist Zwelethu Mthethwa, and the collaborative pair Allora and Calzadilla.

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