The most notable thing about this season of museum and gallery shows is that, for the first time in years, it seems, there's no blockbuster event in the offing to monopolize all the attention, interest and ticket sales to the public.
Instead, area museums will be putting on shows that challenge, entertain and educate - in short, the kind of focused, thoughtful shows that have a reason for being other than how many people they can lure through the box office. In February, local museums will coordinate exhibitions for Vivat! St. Petersburg, a celebration of 300 years of Russian art, music and culture in our historic sister city.
At the Baltimore Museum of Art, we can look forward to several fine smaller-scale shows. This month, the museum opens an intriguing retrospective on the late Tom Miller, a Baltimore native whose whimsical, brightly painted furniture and found objects created the style known as Afro-Deco.
As a lifelong city resident, Miller was powerfully influenced by two local arts institutions: the BMA, where he was fascinated by the Cone Collection of early modern art, especially its Matisses, and the Maryland Institute College of Art, where he earned both bachelor's and master's degrees.
Miller's signature work was a reflection of both the exuberant experimental atmosphere he encountered at MICA and the disciplined, formal control he so admired in Matisse. The BMA show promises a thoughtful essay on how these two threads came together in his work to produce art that was profoundly original, personal and imaginative.
Next month, the BMA puts on Painted Prints: Revelation of Color in Northern Renaissance and Baroque Engraving, Etching and Woodcuts. Yes, the title is a bit ponderous, but don't let that put you off; the works are quite wonderful, and they make the point better than any historical tome that knights and ladies of old loved colorful pictures every bit as much as we do in our media-saturated age.
At the Walters Art Museum, Art of the Ancient Americas opens this month with a stunning display of pre-Columbian artworks from Central and South America dating from 2500 B.C. to 1520 A.D.
The artworks are on 10-year loan to the Walters from the Austen-Stokes Ancient Americas Foundation in New York and include more than 120 objects, many of which will be on public view for the first time.
In October, the Walters will also present Book of Kings, an exhibition based on an illustrated medieval Bible believed to have been commissioned by Louis IX of France, the Christian monarch who took part in the Crusades in 1248. In November, the museum honors Maryland artist Joseph Shepard with an exhibition of 13 of his paintings of boxers in the Old Masters style.
Because the American Visionary Art Museum puts on only one big show each season, it has to be a doozy, and this year's is no exception. High on Life: Transcending Addiction presents some 300 pieces by 100 self-taught artists whose works grew out of their struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. This is heady, difficult stuff, but also awesome in its affirmation of the human spirit's capacity for transcendence.
In Washington this fall, the Corcoran Gallery of Art will present Here is New York, a compilation of 2,000 photographs on the theme of Sept. 11, plus shows on the painted sculpture of Joan Miro and aerial photographs by Emmet Gowin.
The Hirshhorn Museum offers a long-awaited exhibit of Arte Povera, the most important Italian art movement of the 1960s, as well as a hugely important retrospective of painting and photography by German artist Gerhard Richter.
Meanwhile, the Phillips Collection is presenting Pierre Bonnard: Early and Late, and the National Gallery presents shows of Willem de Kooning this month and a surefire crowd-pleasing exhibition of 500 years of trompe l'oeil painting, the art of making pictures look so real you can't tell they're just pictures.
Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive. 410-396-7100 Sept. 15-Feb. 16: Tom Miller: Changing Spaces. One-of-a-kind chairs, tables, desks, cabinets and screens reconstructed in the artist's signature "Afro-Deco" style. Oct. 6-Jan. 5: Painted Prints: The Revelation of Color. The first extensive exploration of hand-colored prints of the Renaissance and baroque periods, when the application of color to engravings, etchings and woodcuts was a common practice in print production. Nov. 27-May 25: Parallel Tracks: The History of Photography in Two Brief Installments. Fifty works chronicle the development of street photography and studio photography as distinct genres. Also, Common/Places: Contemporary Photography from Germany and Northern Europe. Large-scale works by Bernd and Hilla Becher, Rineke Dijkstra and Gerhard Richter. Feb. 12-May 4: Art of the Ballets Russes. Stage and costume designs created by Mates, Miro and others for the legendary Ballets Russes of Paris during the first decade of the 20th century. Also, as part of the Vivat! celebration: The Brilliance of Bakst: Theater and Textile Designs and Gregor Piatigorsky: Virtuoso as Collector. April 9-Sept. 20: William Morris: The Reactionary Revolutionary. Cotton prints and woven woolens created by Arts and Crafts movement founder William Morris, who extolled simple objects crafted by hand over cheap machine-made products.
The Walters Art Museum, 600 N. Charles St. 410-547-9000 Sept. 22 --September 2010: Art of the Ancient Americas. Surveys major cultures of the ancient Americas, including the Maya, Teotihuacan and Aztec from Mexico and the Valdivia, Tairona and Inca from South America. Oct. 27-Dec. 29: The Book of Kings: Art, War and the Morgan Library's Medieval Picture Bible. The exhibit focuses on the Crusader Bible, one of the greatest 13th-century French manuscripts. Nov. 10-March 9: Ringside: The Boxing Paintings of Joseph Shepard. Shepard gives new meaning to the term action painting in these works done in Old Masters style. Nov. 16-Feb. 16: The Artful Book: Selections From a Contemporary Collection of Books by Artists. Twentieth-century books designed by great modern book artists. Feb. 14-May 25: Origins of the Russian Avant-Garde. Part of the citywide Vivat! St. Petersburg festival, this exhibition presents 140 works by 20th-century Russian artists. Also, Faberge's Menagerie: The Animal Creations of the Faberge Workshops.
The American Visionary Art Museum, 800 Key Highway. 410-244-1900 Oct. 5-Sept. 1: High on Life: Transcending Addiction. Three hundred works by artists who have battled drug and alcohol addiction.
The Contemporary Museum, 100 W. Centre St. 410-783-5720 Sept. 5-Oct. 12: Hot Summer, Cool Media Lounge. Sound, video, film and computer works by artists who have made significant contributions to the development of new media art. Jan. 11-March 11: Imperfect Innocence: The Dennis & Debra Scholl Collection. Contemporary photography from one of the nation's premier collections. The show features works by Rineke Dijkstra, Hellen Van Meene, Mathew Barney, Catherine Opie, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Dan Graham, Cindy Sherman, John Baldessari and Barbara Kruger.
Beveled Edge, 5909 Falls Road. 410-366-6711 Through Oct 31: Life, Loss, Hope. Painting, sculpture and photography by R.G. Book, Gina Falcone Skelton, Janet Mishner, Tilghman and Ellen Pitts, John Hock. Nov. 7-Dec. 31: Nature's Bounty. Paintings by Joan Cox and Sheep Jones.
C. Grimaldis Gallery, 523 N. Charles St. 410-539-1080 Oct. 2-27: Eugene Leake: A Survey. Baltimore County landscapes from a Maryland master. Nov. 1-Dec 1: John Waters: Straight to Video. Dec. 5-Jan. 4: David Brewster: New Paintings, and Allegra Marquart: New Work in Cast Glass.
Estreya Gallery, 827-29 W. 36th St. 410-889-1226 Sept. 20-Oct. 12: Pinhole to Digital Photography. Domestic landscapes by Penny Harris. Oct. 17-Nov. 9: TBA. Nov. 16-Jan. 15: Group show of miniature paintings.
Fleckenstein Gallery, 29 Allegheny Ave., Towson. 410-296-8588 Through Oct. 12: Hidden Rooms, Distant Countries, Other Times. Mixed-media collage by Carmen Robb. Oct. 19-Nov. 30: New Work: Photographs by J.D. Talasek. Dec. 3-Jan. 4: Gallery Salon. Group show of gallery artists.
Galerie Francoise, Greenspring Station, 2360 W. Joppa Road. 410-337-2787 Sept. 21-Nov. 5: Baltimore Countryside. Paintings by Kostantinos Damalas. Nov. 6-Jan. 6: Paintings by Ruth Pettus. Dec. 6-Jan. 6: Sculpture by Harvey Peteron.
Gallery International, 523 N. Charles St. 410-230-0561 Through Oct. 6: The Skin and the Structure. Wearable sculpture by Clarina Bezzola. Oct. 10-Nov. 10: Jordi Fulla. Geometric paintings in oils and acrylics. Nov. 12-Dec. 24: Group show of various international artists.
Gomez Gallery, 3600 Clipper Mill Road. 410-662-9510 Sept. 14-Oct. 12: Australian Photography: Dunbar/Chiappin, Deborah Mooney and Tom McGhee. Oct. 19-Nov. 16: Two Abstract Painters. Margo Allman and Larry Spaid. Nov. 23-Dec. 21: Paintings by Soledad Salame and Susana Jaime-Mena.
Maryland Art Place, 8 Market Place, Suite 100. 410-962-8565 Sept. 14-Oct. 12: Serious Humorous. Photography by Bruce Charlesworth, Pamela de Marris and Michael E. Northrup. Oct. 29-Nov. 9: I Love MAP. Annual benefit exhibition. Nov. 23-Dec. 28: Just Paint. Paintings by Carolyn Case, Dan Randall and Gerald Ross.
Mission Space, 338 N. Charles St. 410-752-8950 Sept. 10-Oct. 26: Moon Age Daydream: The Life and Times of Ziggy Stardust and other Photographs. Works by Mick Rock. Nov. 2-30: Bask. Paintings by the Florida-based Czech artist. December: Group show TBA.
Montage Gallery, 925 S. Charles St. 410-752-1125 Through Oct. 12: A Slice of Poetry. Mixed-media on canvas and paper by Jeanne G. Keck. Oct. 16-Nov. 30: Visual Transparency. Mixed-media on wood by Jacqueline Jolles. Dec. 1-31: Group show of gallery artists.
St. Paul Art & Design, 2524 St. Paul St. 410-889-0921 Oct. 12-Nov. 2: Watercolors by Arin Mitchell. Nov. 15-Dec. 14: TBA.
School 33 Art Center, 1427 Light St. 410-396-4641 Through Oct. 4: New Work by Young W. Lee. Sculpture and drawing. Also, Cell, site-specific sculpture by Renee Rendine and Foon Sham; New Work by Albert Schweitzer; Imprint by Bonnie Crawford. Oct. 12-19: Lotta Art. Annual benefit exhibition. Nov. 2-Dec. 6: 2002 Annual Juried Exhibition. Also New Work by Youngmi Song; Prometheus in Baltimore by Timothy Lonergan. Dec. 12-Jan. 17: New Work by Brandon Morse and John Watson. Occidio by Tim Nohe.
Steven Scott Gallery, 515 N. Charles St. 410-752-6218 Through Sept. 28: The Long Hot Summer. Group show of gallery artists. Oct. 3-Dec. 21: Amy Lamb: Recent Photographs 1996-2002. Also, Atmospheric Conditions, group show by gallery artists.
Corcoran Gallery of Art, 500 17th St. N.W. 202-639-1700 Sept. 7-Nov. 11: Here Is New York. Two thousand amateur and professional photographs taken during and after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Sept. 21-Jan. 6: The Shape of Color: Joan Miro's Painted Sculpture. Eighty sculptures and works on paper created during the 1960s and 1970s, when the artist was at his most playful. Oct. 12-Dec. 30: Fashioning Art: Handbags by Judith Leiber. Every notable from Greta Garbo to Claudette Colbert to Hillary Rodham Clinton has carried Leiber's bejeweled creations, which are an art form in their own right. Oct. 26-Jan. 6: Emmet Gowin: Changing the Earth. Aerial views by one of the country's most renowned art photographers.
The Hirshhorn Museum, Independence Avenue at 7th Street Southwest. 202-357-2700 Oct. 24-Jan. 20: Zero to Infinity: Arte Povera 1962-1972. The Arte Povera movement, Europe's answer to minimalism and pop, propelled Italy to the center of the international art scene in the 1960s. Nov. 14-March 2: Directions - Cecily Brown. Recent landscape painting in which the artist reinterprets pictorial and thematic strategies invented by de Kooning and others. Feb. 27-May 18: Gerhard Richter: Forty Years of Painting. The most comprehensive retrospective of Richter's work ever seen in North America includes landscapes, portraits, photo-based paintings and gestural abstractions.
The National Gallery of Art, 4th Street and Constitution Avenue Northwest. 202-737-4215 Sept. 29-Jan. 5: Willem de Kooning: Tracing the Figure. Through nearly 70 works on paper executed between 1940 and 1955, this exhibition examines de Kooning's pioneering vision of the female form. Oct. 13-March 2: Deceptions and Illusions: Five Centuries of Trompe l'Oeil Painting. Trompe l'oeil - the depiction of objects so exactly that they appear real - has fascinated artists and viewers since antiquity. This show presents 115 paintings by masters of the genre. Jan. 19-April 20: Edouard Vuillard. Two hundred works reveal both the public and private sides of this quintessentially Parisian artist. Feb. 9-May 11: Thomas Gainsborough, 1727-1788. Seventy-five paintings and 30 works on paper by the 18th-century English landscape artist. March 2-June: Ernst Ludwig Kirchner. Kirchner (1880-1938) was the leader of Die BrM-|ck, Germany's most important avant-garde group of the early 20th century. This selection of 150 works is the first major exhibition in the United States of Kirchner's work in 30 years.
The National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. N.W. 202-783-5000 Oct. 11-Jan. 5: Judy Chicago. More than 90 works from the 1960s to the present chronicle the development of this pioneering American feminist artist.
The Phillips Collection, 1600 21st St. N.W. 202-387-2151 Sept. 22-Jan. 19: Pierre Bonnard: Early and Late. Recognized as a 20th-century master, Bonnard was a painter, illustrator, set designer, printmaker and photographer. The show presents 130 works that explore the vision that animated his work from the turn of the century to the late 1940s. Oct. 1-Jan. 31: Willem de Looper: A Birthday Celebration. Honoring the 70th birthday of Dutch-born artist Willem de Looper, a curator at the Phillips from 1972 through the 1980s, the museum presents an installation of his large-scale color-field paintings.