Baltimore Exhibition Sheds Light on A Collector’s Non-Western Holdings

With the fourth exhibition in their “Art of the Collector” series, Baltimore’s Galerie Myrtis continues its mission to cultivate a community of artists and art collectors of local, regional, national, and international scope. The gallery has stated that the series intends to “[Explore] the role of the collector in preserving our visual heritage through works which connect us to our past and serve as a bridge to our future,” emphasizing African American and African fine arts and crafts. The show features more than a dozen artists, including some involved in the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s.

Painter and printmaker Jacob Lawrence grew up in Harlem and learned his craft from its great artists, including Charles Alston and Henry Bannarn. Lawrence said of his work, “I wanted to show …a peasant class in America. It was a great epic drama taking place in America.” His 1990 serigraph, Genesis Creation V, illustrates his populism and interest in people. It depicts God as a preacher standing at a podium in the foreground, watched by a congregation of heavenly attendants, dressed in colorful suits and dresses. Lawrence’s expressive conflation of divine action and its celebration in church beautifully encapsulates the mood, ideas, and sentiments of the people he sought to honor.

The Ethiopian-born Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian was known for his brilliant melding of Western modernism with decorative and artisan crafts of Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, sharing affinities with artists such as Roberto Matta and Lucas Grogan. In his paintings, Boghossian employs layers of diaphanous color and abstract forms that allude to figures and space, without depicting them naturalistically. Works such as Untitled (1976) resemble all-over Abstract Expressionist painting in many ways, but his interest in repetition and patterning is unique.

Ed Love’s sculptures refer to ceremonial objects and artisan crafts from non-Western cultures, but he treats them with contemporary techniques and ideas. Similar to Keith Sonnier’s flocked masks and “shield” sculptures, Love’s work uses new materials, such as welded steel, with forms that recall traditional artworks. The small figures that Love makes are all imbued with specific personalities and qualities. Although Bird V (1995) is made of hard, reflective metal, Love’s interest in music and dance permeates the sculpture’s form and gives it vibrancy.

Art of the Collector” is on view at Galerie Myrtis, Baltimore, June 29th–Aug. 2nd, 2014.

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