New BMA photo exhibit shows us the way

Since 1960, artists have used photography to influence the way people perceive the world and understand human experience. Advances in photographic technology, along with increased accessibility of film and video, have permitted artists to exploit the media in exciting, innovative, and sometimes shocking ways.

Beginning on Sunday, Feb. 20, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) presents “Seeing Now: Photography Since 1960.” This exhibition of more than 200 photographs from the museum’s collection showcases the work of more than 60 photographers, including some of the most important gay and lesbian photographers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The images, some of which have never been shown before, are organized around five themes. “Seeing Pictures” focuses on photography’s complex relationship with reality, including images from history and popular culture. In “Seeing People,” the camera creates an intimate connection between the photographer, the subject, and the viewer, while in “Seeing Places,” detailed images of natural and man-made environments seem alternately familiar and strange. The photographers featured in “Seeing Performance” explore and document ephemeral subjects; those in “Seeing Photography” examine the photographic medium itself.

The exhibition features some of the greatest photographers of the last 50 years, including Diane Arbus, William Eggleston, Lee Friedlander, and Cindy Sherman. The exhibition also features work by such gay and lesbian luminaries as and Felix Gonzales-Torres, Robert Mapplethorpe, Mickalene Thomas, Andy Warhol, and John Waters.

The BMA is offering a series of free public events to accompany this show, including an artist talk on Saturday, Feb. 26, featuring Philip-Lorca diCorcia and Robin Rhode. DiCorcia gained infamy in the late 1980s and early ’90s when he used funds from a National Endowment for the Arts grant to pay male hustlers to pose for his photographs. South African multimedia artist Rhode is known for photography sequences and digital animations based on his interactive performances with his own graffiti-like drawings. The event is free, but space is limited. Tickets are available at the BMA box office, one hour prior to the 2 p.m. start time.

DETAILS: “Seeing Now: Photography Since 1960” Feb 20-May 15, 2011. Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Dr. Open Weds-Fri, 10am-5pm; Sat-Sun, 11am-6pm. Closed Mondays and major holidays. Admission is FREE. Info: 443.573.1700 or artBMA.org.

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