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Adjacent Meanings: Grimaldis Gallery exhibit

I decided to visit the C. Grimaldis Gallery—one of the oldest running contemporary art galleries in Baltimore— this past Friday to check out their newest exhibit. Recent Paintings by Markus Baldegger just opened on the first of the month. Baldegger is a Swiss-born artist, currently based in Belgium and Germany who’s been working since the eighties. His main medium is oil and tempera on canvas.

Artist Markus Baldegger’s pieces are controlled tempests in their own right. Some of the larger pieces loom above the viewer, overwhelming the eye with lines shooting in every direction. The smaller paintings, despite their diminutive size, lose none of the insanity of the larger. They seem to be simply condensed versions of the more expansive pieces, like his Triptych I or Saturnia III. There is no resting spot for your eyes on the smaller, thickly covered canvas.

Admiring Baldegger’s art is no job for the colorblind. While the main visual draw of his work is the heavy-handed circles and textured lines that run wild, the true thrust of most of the pieces can be found in the more subtle shifts in color underneath. While the movement of the surface lines is often hurried and disjointed, the color underneath provides a certain amount of emotion and direction for each individual piece. For instance, the wisps and whirls of Triptych I would be lost without the cool blues and greens seemingly lifted from Monet’s Water Lilies series. It gives an otherwise overwhelming piece some sort of calm security, as if we were indeed gazing upon one of Monet’s ponds—one that a three-year-old has gone over in gray and white crayon. But these soothing colors ground this otherwise very abstract piece in the observable world. It becomes a half-remembered image of nature rather than a lost maze of lines and circles running through one another.

The C. Grimaldis Gallery has just opened a new exhibit displaying the recent work of Markus Baldegger. The small gallery can be found right on North Charles, edging between downtown and Mt. Vernon. It’s only a few blocks from the Walters Art Museum, the closest major landmark. Unlike the monumental Walters, however, Grimaldis can be found in a renovated townhouse, which it shares with the Baltimore Theosophical Society. Because of this, the gallery isn’t exactly silent. It’s not the insulated fortress the Walters is. Buses and dump trucks can clearly be heard roaring their way up Baltimore’s backbone. They plow by fairly often. And, in a strange way, this really adds to the exhibit.

In this case at least, the venue is almost just as important as the art. The roar of vehicles from the road provides a very different viewing experience than if the Grimaldis was thoroughly sealed, as the Walters is. With cold silence, Baldegger’s paintings would have been left in peace to control their own meanings. But the cars give the exhibition a very different impression: looking up at Baldegger’s pieces and listening to the street noise seems to give each piece a voice. Whichever colors are providing the emotional push behind the spectacular lines are exaggerated by the momentary street-clamor of whatever vehicle is plowing by. The noise transforms the lines into a painted onomatopoeia, visual representations of the vroom vroom engines outside. The initial calm of Triptych I almost gets flipped on its head and instead seems violent.

I sit writing this article down the street, in the silence of the Walters Art Gallery. It is a stark contrast of serenity against the jarring noise of the Grimaldis. A stained glass piece depicting the life of Saint Vincent stands over me, muted. This placement almost feels backwards in a way. The saints, who are to give voices to the voiceless, have no voices themselves. But Baldegger’s lines that demand silence to convey their message receive none. These are two entirely different atmospheres, atmospheres which get a say in how the art they contain is perceived. All in all? Art is weird and I don’t understand it.

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Adjacent Meanings: Grimaldis Gallery exhibit