I have become an MFA hermit, added to which as soon as the fall semester was over I got sick (you may have noticed my inadvertent James Morris impersonations on the air!) but I finally got to the BMA on this lovely sunny Sunday to see the new contemporary wing. Full disclosure: I am not a huge fan of contemporary art. I am sure it is something lacking in my perception or sophistication but I have to say I fail to see the artistry in a rectangle painted black, or a square of paving stones. But I was intrigued by a photographic exhibition in the front room by my compatriot, Zwelethu Mthethwa (he first studied photography at my alma mater, the University of Cape Town, and then later in New York), for the simple reason that it conjured up some dormant but vivid memories of South Africa. The sense of design and color in his photography has been compared to Henri Matisse’s paintings, and his images of sugarcane workers in Kwa-Zulu-Natal are reminiscent of the simple peasant studies of Jean-Francois Millet, so there’s that interesting overlay of art history too.
What I truly loved today was the temporary exhibition of Matisse’s Dancers (on view until February 24th) dedicated to the memory of Matisse’s grandson and BMA National Trustee, Claude Duthuit. It is magical to stand in front of any one of the prints or drawings and follow the line as Matisse captured the movement of the dancer with his sure eye and fluid hand. I found myself trying to imagine where he began in each image, and how he traced out that sense of moving through space. The exhibition is beautifully laid out, and it is often possible to see the movement of the dancer transitioning from repose to attitude through a whole series of drawings. It is an intimate and absorbing exhibition, and makes one catch one’s breath all over again that we have these treasures right here in Baltimore.
Baltimore Museum of Art, Matisse