Wednesday, September 10, 2008

bodymore mcmurderland art scene

(yellow brick road)

got back from baltimore a couple weeks ago, but haven't had the time to sit and process. i got to see a lot of amazing art while i was in the city. one of the first days that i was in b-more i stumbled upon the american museum of visionary art. i had planned on visiting but i was without the careful instructions that i'd left in my suitcase in falston. my friend patrick and i had just hit up the aquarium on the inner harbor, which was KILLER by the way, and he had to run to sound check at the 8x10 so i was left to my own devices in downtown bodymore mcmurderland. i love getting lost in a new city, its my favorite way to explore. i had my camera, a dead cell phone and my flip-flops so i was well equipped for an urban adventure. i took a stroll up  to federal hill and was taking a nice stalkerish binocular view of michael phelps' million dollar penthouse on the inner harbor and a looked off to the east and this caught my eye:

i saw that and i knew i had stumbled upon something worthy of my time. winding down the hill to covington street i saw giant whirly-gigs and what i thought, and later confirmed to be a psychedelic disco-ball Further style bus complete with rabid, bad-lsd-trip animals from some gory remake of snow white and the seven dwarfs. 

it turns out i had serendipitously found the american museum of visionary art, a stop my boss b had insisted on. the sculpture gardens were incredible and the first gallery that i walked into had some mind blowing sculptures made entirely of matchsticks. one was an eight foot long replica of an old ship ripped down the middle, in exact detail, built by a man of questionably sound mind. that was one of the things that i found very interesting about the style in which the museum was curated. though not exclusive, much of the art in the museum was done by artists battling mental illness (many of which you got the impression from the didactics were simply victims of the misunderstandings and judgements of their time). it certainly gave a specific tone to the word "visionary". one piece that i particularly loved was a carved self-portrait that was hewn from an apple tree. the man was an elderly mental patient who had never once in his life shown an inclination towards making art, but upon seeing a fallen apple tree dragged the refuge inside and craved an image of himself out of the trunk, complete with a concave chest due to years of exposure to tuberculosis. 

i had a wonderful visit with the staff of their amazing gift shop. i got a great original painting for b's birthday for a STEAL! if you're ever looking for a great source of original art in baltimore, visit the AMVA. after stumbling out of the museum in a bit of a crazy art daze i wandered back over federal hill to the 8x10 where my friend patrick was playing with his band, the bridge, who i've shown bloggy love to so many times i hesitate to stroke their ego any further, but for those who haven't been reading along they're fucking great. i had never been to the 8x10, but had heard many times about the memorable shows played there so i was very excited to see one of my favorite bands there. the venue was once two side by side row houses, and has a great balcony with nice views of the stage. it also has an amazing view of the city from the roof top, where i unsuccessfully tried to james bond my way over a few other roof tops in four inch heels only to end up wussing out at the last minute and deciding the view from my originating rooftop was sufficient. the bridge killed that night, and even treated us to a encore that included "smoke two joints" by sublime, "two hits and the joint turned brown" by yonder mountain string band, and the classic "don't bogart that joint". i danced until my feet felt like hamburger, and rewarded myself with a very late night stop for french toast and vanilla milkshakes. 

(dancing + mediocre digital camera = visual nonsense)

the last day of my trip i made it to two more museums. first we stopped by the walters art museum. i didn't really know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised with a decorative-art heavy collection that was both comprehensive and compelling. i was SUCH a nerd in the weapons hall, i'm surprised patrick didn't slip out the back door and turn off his phone. but what's a nerd to do? i turned a corner into a room hung floor to ceiling with broadswords, cross bows, and those awesome spiky-volley-ball things, and suddenly i WAS zelda. if it weren't for my natural reverence in art museums i probably would have challenged patrick to a duel. 

there was also a truly awe-inspiring room called "the hall of wonders" (i think, could be wrong, i was pretty overstimulated at this point). it was a great example of a baroque hang, where paintings are literally blanketed over every wall space and cabinets are crammed with goodies. there were tortoise shells, chalices, torture devices and a stuffed crocodile the size of your mom. my jaw was officially dropped. i also really enjoyed the far-east wing, the egyptian wing and the grecco-roman wing, which gave me the chance to look smart ;)

after that we cruised over to the baltimore museum of art. i hauled ass to the contemporary wing, patrick wearily in tow, pausing only to acknowledge that not everyone's a matisse fan. i was so blown away by the contemporary wing, its construction as well as the amazing curatorial practice exercised there. sometimes i get nervous when bringing someone new to a contemporary art exhibition. contemporary isn't an easy school to digest. lots of it is too highbrow and conceptual for its own good, and every once in awhile i catch my guest giving me a look that says "you don't get this either, do you? you just pretend to like it to look smart." i was tickled pink that one of the first piece that we stumbled on was from andy warhol's oxidation series. how can you not laugh when the first medium listed for a piece is urine? it was a great ice breaker. 

(andy warhol, 1978, oxidation series, that's right he pissed on it)

i saw some pieces in that museum that brought me to tears. i was talking about joseph indiana and was literally stopped mid-sentence, dead in my tracks by a morris louis piece that i silently tractor beamed over to while the end of a word trailed pathetically from my mouth, causing slight concern and certain confusion. i think i worried those around me that i was on the verge of having an epileptic episode. art does that to me, its a drug.

i had an unforgettable time in baltimore. i think the nickname bodymore mcmurderland is unfair and misleading, though i obviously find it funny or i wouldn't use it so much. i had a pretty lux visit to the city, i know there are armpits in the city that i don't want to smell, but i enjoyed the parts of the city that i saw and i commend baltimore for amassing impressive, diverse permanent collections at their major art institutions. i'd love to talk more about how much i appreciated the inclusion of lots of female artists, african-american artists and outsider art, but i've got to go get free food from the 'rents. more later. 


Anonymous said...

Warhol never actually pissed on the oxidation paintings. He hired an assistant to do so. This was done because it reinforced the idea that Warhol was the director and spectator of the process rather than the performer.


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