By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer
Two artists have exhibits that take on issues of violence, Black culture and identity in their own distinct ways at the Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive, Baltimore, MD.
Mark Bradford most known for his large abstract pieces brings forth a body of work that infuses Greek mythology, poetry, hair salons and questions of identity.
“‘Tomorrow Is Another Day’ recycles ordinary materials in an homage to a shared American experience, recalling memories of his mother’s hair salon or the streets of Los Angeles,” according to the description of the exhibit.
A piece serving as a memorial to children who are killed due to violent crimes, from Ebony G. Patterson’s “…for little whispers…” (Photo by George Kevin Jordan)
When you first enter the exhibit space you are confronted with “Spoiled Feet” a collage installment that literally takes up the entire room. Its vibrant colors are only outmatched by its size. The space seems claustrophobic in conjunction with the piece. You are holding the walls to get through it. The lighting which places emphasis on the edge of the work, creates large looming shadows and only work to make the piece larger than life.
Another stand out installment is literally the centerpiece of one of the rooms. “Medusa” is a heap of coils and curls made from Acrylic paint, paper, rope and chalk. Though the title pulls from Greek mythology, in Bradford’s hands it takes the myth and places it on top of more modern forms of pop culture.
“In many ways Medusa wasn’t Medusa without being turned into Medusa by a man,” Bradford stated in his explanation of the piece. “Biggie made Lil’ Kim. This idea of the monster, hypersexualized, huge-butt, claw-like, long-weaved Superwoman – that’s all a fabrication of popular-culture male fantasy.”
As you leave the exhibit one of the more subtle, yet no less moving pieces is the short film “Niagara.” It shows a Black man walking down the street. It seems simple but is working on so many different levels. Bradford explained that it pays homage to Marilyn Monroe walking in a similar fashion in a 1953 film with the same name. But it invokes conversation about who gets to walk the streets, and pulls at questions of identity, gentrification and urban areas. It’s a perfect end to a bewildering and stimulating exhibit. Bradford’s work is on display until March 3.
Just down the hall in the American Art section is another exhibit with a different feel but no less urgent.
Ebony G. Patterson’s “…for little whispers…” is an exhibit that might have you revisiting it several times. That’s because the subject matter and work unravel in your brain over time.
At first glance the space looks like your stereotypical idea of a little girls room, with pink polkadot wallpaper and bright Hello Kitty dolls and toys everywhere. As you circle around the space you notice the walls are a little too dark for pink. They resemble red. And the deeply hued floor lends to a room that feels grave and dire. As you look in the corner, a kaleidoscope of butterflies take over the intersection of two walls. They look beautiful and pretty as individuals, but clustered together it makes the room feel ominous.
On top of a tapestry filled with more toys are several pairs of glass shoes. The work is a memorial to children killed in violent crimes. The piece is stark and unsettling as toys hide the darker crimes committed by adults on children. Just down the hall, a smaller piece of Patterson’s shows 150 guns decorated and painted and embroidered. All the pieces are mixed media, but the message is vivid and unsettling. Patterson’s exhibit will be on display until April 7.
The BMA is free and open to the public. To learn more about the exhibits please visit the website.