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The Year In Art

Cowboys and Engines, Jhana and the Rats of James Olds, Interior/Exterior, CART, DUOX, and more.

Photo: Michael Northrup, License: N/A

Michael Northrup

Dustin Carlson Cowboys and Engines

It’s been a year of flux and transition in Baltimore’s art world. Then again, maybe they all are in these heady days. A flurry of new arts groups and galleries sprouted up, adding to the already rich mix of opportunities here for emerging artists; Guest Spot, the Nomad Gallery, the EMP Collective, and the new photography collective (in parenthesis) come to mind. Meanwhile, several of the city’s more established operations prepared to renovate and expand. The Contemporary Museum has gone back to its peripatetic roots of late; while it waits for renovations on its Mount Vernon space—scheduled to be completed in early 2012—the museum has hosted numerous shows and events in other spaces throughout the city. And this year the Baltimore Museum of Art embarked on a $24 million, three-year renovation that will upgrade the Contemporary, American, and African galleries, among other improvements. Promising times ahead, folks. (Andrea Appleton)

1 Dustin Carlson, Cowboys and Engines (Gallery Four) Our arts contributors were nearly unanimous in choosing Cowboys and Engines for top billing this year. The Gallery Four co-founder held his first solo show in the space this year, after 11 years in operation. It was worth the wait. The five installations in the show all circled around the theme of the American Dream, especially as played out in the West. Carlson manufactured exquisite replicas of gas pumps, billboards, exhaust pipes, an ice machine, and oil rigs. The space was transformed into a clanging, whirring reminder of how voraciously our society is consuming resources. But the objects themselves retained a nostalgic, design-sensitive air, hinting at the dream that led us here. (AA)

2 Stephanie Barber, Jhana and the rats of James Olds or 31 days/31 videos (Baltimore Museum of Art) Though she wasn’t awarded the grand prize, filmmaker/poet Stephanie Barber’s entry into this year’s Sondheim Prize Exhibition still felt like a profound dose of ordinary magic. Part endurance piece (she made a video a day during the show’s run), part installation (she moved her studio into the BMA), part performance (yes, that’s the artist working right there), and thoroughly conceptual, Barber spotlighted how the museum isn’t the place we go to find out what art is; it’s the place we go to discuss it. She called it jhana and the rats of james olds or 31 days/31 videos. A suggestion for an alternate title: What We Talk About When We Talk About Art. (Bret McCabe)

3 Gary Kachadourian, Interior/Exterior (Baltimore Museum of Art) Gary Kachadourian’s Baker Artist Awards exhibit this September was simply magnificent. Known for his life-size wheat-pastes, Kachadourian transformed the gallery into a seamless and complete environment from floor to ceiling. Viewers were allowed to walk through and on photo-enlarged black-and-white drawings that had been printed out and adhered to walls and floor. The panels made up detailed interior and exterior spaces, which included a bathroom, sitting area, parking lot, and sidewalk. Trees, a Dumpster, a couch, and other objects populated the space. Joined together with both remarkable detail and deliberate exclusions, like the imperfection of memory, the personal nostalgia of the piece was made universally appealing through the artist’s jaw-dropping craftsmanship. (Alex Ebstein)

4 CART (Current Gallery) Tucked into a tiny room in Current Gallery, CART modeled itself after a locale we’re all pretty familiar with: the supermarket. But instead of frozen broccoli and bulk foods, the show sold art, all nicely packaged and arranged in neat rows. Nowadays, it seems that most expect their art and entertainment to come free, but CART demonstrated that artists provide a much-needed service which requires compensation. When the show opened last July, the place was packed. Crowds spilled out of the exhibit and into the next room, and the gallery buzzed with warm conversation while people lined up to purchase zines, tiny theremins, and other oddities. If only Safeway were this fun. (Erin Gleeson)

5 DUOX at Baltimore Liste (Contemporary Museum) Baltimore Liste—which brought local galleries together last spring to nominate artists for solo exhibitions—may have had a few kinks to work out, but ultimately did an amazing thing for the highlighted artists in challenging them to create museum-worthy work, quickly. Rising most notably to the occasion was the collaborative artist team DUOX, made up of Daniel Wickerham and Malcolm Lomax. With an installation that included new media and two large sculptures, the recent MICA graduates cleaned up their aesthetic act, producing a succinct and serious exhibition. On view for a total of five days, DUOX’s main piece, “Ice Purses,” featured two hunks of ice that dripped into a fish tank as they melted, releasing suspended objects frozen within the “purses”; over the course of the show, the ice gradually disappeared. (AE)

6 The Eighth Annual Transmodern Festival In toto only because singling one element out from the entire week’s worth of brainy mirth and glee would be disingenuous. The 2011 Transmodern Festival once again took over the H&H Building, this time spreading to Current Gallery and down Howard Street to 14Karat Cabaret, bringing with it a mix of inspired dance (Power Moves Forever Quest, Nicole Bindler), video installation (Kirsten Stoltmann, Xavier Leplae, Christine Ferrera), films (Martha Colburn, Nancy Andrews), and a whole slew of WTF? (Marsian, Mucca Pazza, Power Animals). As always, more fun than a bed full of puppies. (BM)

7 Print by Print (Baltimore Museum of Art) In these cash-strapped times, many museums are turning to their permanent collections. This can sometimes make for less than dazzling exhibitions, but that is not the case with the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Print by Print: Series From Durer to Lichtenstein. Composed of more than 350 prints from the museum’s permanent collection—many of which had never been shown before—the exhibition is an homage to prints made in a series. We love Yukinori Yanagi’s 1997 “Wandering Position,” in which the artist laboriously followed the trajectory of an ant as it wandered across a wax surface. And we are amazed anew by Albrecht Durer’s intricate, phantasmagorical work. The range of series in the exhibition elegantly demonstrates the possibilities of the medium. (AA)

8 Baltimore: Open City (Maryland Institute College of Art) Urban design thinker and art history professor Dan D’Oca chaperoned the 2010-’11 edition of curator George Ciscle’s forward-looking Exhibition Development Seminar, which sought to look at Baltimore’s urban problems and think about solving them through creative labor. No art exhibition is going to turn any city around, but Baltimore: Open City—a creative mix of installations, publications, actions, and interactive panels, tours, and activities—demonstrated the need for thinking about, understanding, and visualizing the urban predicament in radically different ways. A timely, incisive experiment. (BM)

9 Seeing Now: Photography Since 1960 (Baltimore Museum of Art) The artist David Hockney famously compared photography to “looking at the world from the point of view of a paralyzed Cyclops.” If the 50 years’ worth of work in the BMA’s Seeing Now: Photography Since 1960 is any indication, then the one-eyed man just might be king. It would have been a good show even if it had nothing but Larry Clark’s gritty “Tulsa” series. Instead, the perspectives of greats like Diane Arbus, Cindy Sherman, Garry Winogrand, and Dennis Oppenheim almost overwhelmed us with the vast variety of photographic possibility and accomplishment and made us look forward to the next half-century. (Baynard Woods)

10 This Heat (Penthouse Gallery) This August group show mounted by the Penthouse Gallery’s John Jones looked to the height of summer swelter for inspiration in organizing hot, abstract multimedia works by five regional artists. Justin Kelly’s clever installation, a red rectangle painted directly on the wall behind a set of vertical window blinds, best set the overall tone of the show, radiating a false source of the inescapable temperature. Located on the top floor of the Copycat building, the oven-like exhibition space was host to smart, warm-tone works in sweaty reds, oranges and parched neutrals, embracing the oppressive weather as a design element rather than a nuisance. (AE)


Guest List

Gary Kachadourian, artist, former visual arts coordinator at Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts

1 Dustin Carlson Cowboys and Engines (Gallery Four)

2 Strange Grip (Nudashank; co-run by City Paper contributor Alex Ebstein)

3 Seeing Now: Photography Since 1960 (Baltimore Museum of Art)

4 LOL: A Decade of Antic Art (Contemporary Museum)

5 Open City Challenge Exhibition (D center @ Maryland Art Place)

6 Fresh Coat Fest (Current Space)

7 Fields of Vision (Urbanite@case[werks])

8 Benjamin Kelley Riches and Ruin (Open Space)

9 Gunky’s Basement poster series

10 Mark Alice Durant,

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