Gifts from Nancy and Tom O’Neil Baltimore Museum of Art

Gifts from Nancy and Tom O’Neil

September 30, 2015 - March 27, 2016
The Baltimore Museum of Art, USA


participating artists:

Anderson & Low (Jonathan Anderson and Edwin Low), Dawoud Bey, Chan Chao, Naoya Hatakeyama, Thomas Kellner, Stefan Kirkeby, Nathan Lyons, Richard Misrach, Abelardo Morell, Matthew Pillsbury, Bryan Schutmaat, Larry Schwarm, George Tice, and Brian Ulrich.

New Arrivals - Photographs from the O’neil Collection

After several years collecting contemporary art in a range of mediums, Tom and Nancy O’Neil discovered their passion for photography. By the late 1990s, the Baltimore-based couple had focused their growing photographic holdings on two areas: portraits that reveal people’s struggles and achievements, and images that document the complex relationship between humans and the environment. In 2013, the O’Neils gave twenty-four of these works to the BMA. Their gift has substantially strengthened the array of photographic approaches and images that the Museum can share with its audiences. The majority of the photographs are on view here, with additional pieces featured in nearby Contemporary Wing collection galleries, as well as in the exhibition New Arrivals: Gifts for a New Century (opening February 7, 2016, in the Thalheimer galleries).
Beyond the poignant faces and riveting views of the earth’s changing ecology, the photographs are characterized by powerful visual qualities that are also found in paintings—luminous color, energetic lines, and an atmospheric, layered sense of space. An impressive variety of photographic techniques are represented, including uses of large-format cameras and a camera obscura; exceptionally-long and lightning-quick exposure times; and digital and darkroom printing. Although the photographs depict sites around the world, and the artists themselves hail from Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America, the O’Neils’ collection offers particularly affecting insights on the impact of American consumer culture on the country’s landscape, feelings of national pride, and one’s sense of individuality.

Walltext at the Baltimore Museum of Art

German, born 1966
41#05 Washington, Lincoln Memorial
Chromogenic color print
Thomas Kellner explores techniques such as pinhole photography and photograms that can distort familiar images of the world and challenge perception. In 1997, inspired by the fragmented viewpoint of early-20th-century cubism, Kellner devised a method for photographing the Eiffel Tower that has since become his signature approach to iconic landmarks around the world. He begins by sketching the chosen site from a single angle and dividing the sketch into a grid. The grid then becomes the blueprint with which he systematically photographs each monument, section by section, using 35-mm film. He prints each roll in sequential rows on a contact sheet,
cuts its miniature images into strips, and recombines them into a representation of the building as a whole.
Kellner’s exacting process results in surprisingly disorienting photographs. In many of these works, the attraction appears disjointed and askew, as if tumbling to the ground. This 2004 image of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC plays with our vision in more subtle ways. Its 624 frames nearly cohere, but their slightly off-kilter quality produces a flickering effect as if we were viewing the edifice in the rippling surface of the nearby Reflecting Pool or as dynamic frames projected on a movie screen.
gift of nancy and tom o’neil, baltimore, bma 2013.337