The artists in “All Night Party” are fully present in the 21st century, though they echo some of the aesthetic and cultural concerns of the past.
On View August 28 - December 12, 2020
The visual arts act as a connecting thread between the significant historical events of the 20th century, and the daily experience of the people who lived through these eras, and between these events and those of the present moment. The works in this exhibition explore both the historical juxtapositions that complicate and make fascinating our recent past, and the myriad of connections we can find between those events and our present era, from national pandemics that upend daily life in the form of flu or Covid, to the Civil Rights and the Black Power Movements whose actions, lessons, aesthetics, and messages inform and echo Black Lives Matter. From McCarthyism to the ultra-patriotism of 9/11, Jim Crow to mass incarceration, history continues to find innovative ways of repeating itself, reminding us both how far we have come, and how much we have left to accomplish. These earlier movements and moments are a call to action in both celebration and resistance, inspiring and exhausting at the same time.
Yet set against the stark white walls of a gallery, art objects can feel surprisingly removed from the lived experience. In contrast, clothing is part of everyone’s daily life, and party clothing especially brings us back to significant moments and milestones in our own lives. By installing representative “party” garments in this exhibition — from an “exotic” flapper dress to a 1950s prom gown and a “far-out” psychedelic shift just right for a fashionable be-in — the clothing becomes a conduit between experience and memory, and between the body and the gallery itself. The dresses create a liminal experience, welcoming the viewer to find a personal connection, and in turn, to experience an individual aesthetic response to the artwork, linking viewers to then and now.
The artists in “All Night Party” are fully present in the 21st century, though they echo some of the aesthetic and cultural concerns of the past, calling backwards to Dada, early 20th-century modernism, Abstract Expressionism, Pop Art, The Studio Craft Movement, graffiti, 80s street art, and forwards towards protest murals and posters, installation, and a post-modern self-awareness. The immediacy of the work is heightened by objects from the Maryland historical clothing collection of Towson University, which provides a relatable conduit to the past and makes immediate the connection between personal celebrations and historical milestones. Each decade had its parties, and its funerals. There were moments of levity, entertainment, and celebration, but also of drudgery, tragedy, and mourning. Often these happened concurrently, becoming life altering events for some, and party gossip for others. Juxtapositions between historical periods and the contemporary establish a context for the unique voice of each artist in this exhibition. Tim, Alex, McKinley, Bobby, Dominie and Dennis aesthetically recall the past while engaging with the present, sometimes consciously, sometimes with carefree abandon. We as curators find that their work invites viewers to experience the now more fully through the lens of the past, in all of its messiness and complexities.
View individual artwork and learn more about the artists.
View information about the dresses here.
McKinley Wallace III, a local Baltimore artist, joins us as a special guest this week, hosted by Erin Lehman, director of galleries in the Department of Art + Design, Art History, Art Education. Wallace explores the history of systemic racism through illustrative mixed media.
Composed by Matthew Galinn and performed by Dr. Christopher Dillon.
Saxophonist and composer Matthew Galinn is currently pursuing his Master’s in Music Composition at Towson University.
He has composed original works for solo piano, piano and voice, saxophone quartet, brass quintet, piano trio, synthesizer, and found objects in addition to creating arrangements and transcriptions of famous works for saxophone quartet and symphony orchestra. His music has been performed by notable ensembles including Strata and the Balance Campaign.
Dr. Christopher Dillon is a Lecturer in Piano and Theory at Towson University. He is a graduate of Peabody Conservatory.
Click here for the Program Notes