Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
June 16, 2024

BMA walking tour a dynamic experience

By AMANDA AUBLE | September 26, 2013

On Saturday, September 21, 2013, artist and Johns Hopkins Film and Media Studies faculty member Jimmy Joe Roche presented his two-person exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art. This guided tour allowed students to comprehend the purpose, motivation, and effort behind such an intriguing exhibit.

Browsing a contemporary collection at the Baltimore Museum of Art, some observers find difficulty understanding the abstract artwork. Why was this made? What is the significance? How was it constructed? With unlimited speculations, the true elucidation can only come from the artist himself.

Roche, 32, received his B.F.A in Film from SUNY Purchase and his MFA from MICA. His exhibition came to the Baltimore Museum of Art when Contemporary Curator Kristen Hileman visited Roche’s last solo show in New York City.

Starting at Hopkins’s Mattin Center, Roche began the walking tour by showing his humor and excitement. Seeing a discarded, green straw on the ground in the Sculpture Garden, Roche stopped.

“This is also one of my pieces. They just forgot the plaque,” Roche said.

The group laughed at this jab towards modern sculpture and continued up to the BMA. Once inside the collection that Roche shares with British artist Nathaniel Mellors, the group observed the different forms of expression.

“How would I describe the exhibit? Colorful. I think it’s fun, strange, disturbing, zany,” Roche said.

For his choice of medium, Roche contrasts digital video and photography with sculpture. This union may seem unusual, but according to the artist it was necessary for his aesthetic.

When asked which method he preferred, computers or paper construction, Roche responded with a nuanced opinion. He explained that sculpture construction has a grounding effect on him and provides tangible results after constantly using technology to produce digital art.

The two sculptures exhibited are “Greater Black Astral Dipper,” made from vinyl-painted aluminum and “Great Alaskan Meta Dripper,” constructed from paper cut with an Exacto knife. Roche takes flatness and pushes it to its limits with his precise paper contortions and abstract, metal design.

These works seem two-dimensional when directly observed, but Roche encourages viewers to take a different perspective in order to see the points of origin where the art extends from the wall.

Roche’s goal with his designs is to create a look of manifestation from a single point. The pieces appear abstract and complex, yet they maintain a harmonious symmetry reminiscent of inkblot tests.

Despite the successful play on perspectives, Roche’s ambitions are ever expanding. Even while presenting his fully completed sculptures, he visualizes colossal improvements. He hopes to fill the exhibition space further by making his pieces completely three-dimensional and incorporating lighting effects.

Emily Markert, a Hopkins senior and tour group member, commented on the collection’s space within the museum.

“With a museum studies minor, I look at this from a curatorial standpoint and see how he fits such monumental pieces into a small space,” Markert said.

Roche believes in making huge, awe-inspiring sculptures and plans to increase his designs in the future.

As for his videos, he uses dream-like imagery and audio. Three screens play footage of distorted faces and warped forms.

“I am a surrealist at heart,” Roche said.

The video “Peace Out,” showing a dazed and pink-hued Roche giving the peace sign among erupting fireworks, which symbolizes his studio process of inner contemplation until eventual epiphany. He spoke affectionately while explaining these clips.

His video, “Welcome Home” and two photographs, “Whoops” and “Baseball,” represent the pressures that modern society puts on happiness.

In these works, Roche violently distorts smiling faces to emphasize the tension and pain needed to appear pleasant to the outside world.

Roche emphasized that art expresses the ideas he finds difficult to articulate with words. However, during the tour he managed to enthusiastically communicate his design processes.

“The art runs through him,” senior Katelyn Hoff said. “It’s like he is a different person when talking about it.”

As Roche allowed the group to explore his exhibit and other contemporary pieces, the tour concluded.

Lovers of thought-provoking and colorful exhibits can visit Roche and Mellors’s exhibition until Sept. 29.

Although Roche will no longer guide visitors through his interactive tour, his captivating art is certainly worth a trip to the Charles Village’s Baltimore Art Museum.


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