My office oversees the hundreds of exhibitions and events that take place at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) each year. With this fast-paced turnover of activity, it can be challenging to find time to brainstorm, dream big and execute a major, thought-provoking exhibition, such as The Narcissism of Minor Differences, which opens today and runs through March 13, 2011.
The Narcissism of Minor Differences successfully takes a stab at presenting different types of intolerance by various groups. Example topics include South African apartheid, the Holocaust and the inability of same-sex couples to legally wed throughout the United States.
When seeking work for the exhibition, co-curator Chris Whittey and I cast a wide net, researching all types of artists. We discovered so many discussions, art objects and blogs regarding intolerance that it was difficult at times to find that real sublime effort – we really wanted to find meaningful, reflective work on multiple levels.
Putting together Narcissism has been one of the largest gallery projects of our careers. The idea took root in 2007 when MICA hosted Black Panther Rank and File, a traveling exhibition that looked at one of the 20th century’s most controversial organizations. The College hosted an exciting symposium with former Black Panther Party members. but, I remember wishing for a more balanced discourse – not simply one that supported the Panthers. This led Chris and I to consider presenting work that would showcase as many views as possible about intolerance, the flipside of tolerance, and perhaps work by artists created during war time, such as by Philip Guston. The exhibit took off from there.
Although I sometimes stayed awake at night this summer deliberating what to select, I’m very proud of the selections we made. And it has been particularly gratifying that, from the beginning, many of the artists personally expressed their excitement to participate in this exhibition because of its unique angle.
In the end, I believe this is the type of exhibition that people will experience on many different
levels, hopefully eliciting a reaction in visitors to reflect upon whether they’re culprits of
intolerance and to examine their complicity while raising some valuable questions for future
Chris explains, “at a certain point in my (early) professional life, I only considered cultural production in terms of what it should be. Later I realized that a more interesting analysis concerns itself with what art could be. Like this, I hope our exhibition brings other possibilities to light.”
Gerald Ross is the Director of Exhibitions at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), located in Baltimore. For more information about The Narcissism of Minor Differences, visit www.mica.edu. The exhibition takes place in Fox Building's Decker and Meyerhoff galleries, 1303 W. Mount Royal Ave. MICA's galleries, which are open Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. They are closed on major holidays. The exhibit is free and open to the public.