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Art department presents ‘Matthew Baumgardner: Grids and Glyphs’

Matthew Baumgardner in his Travelers Rest Studio, 2010. Photo by Tim Barnwell Photography © Estate of Matthew Baumgardner.

An exhibition celebrating the life and work of visual artist Matthew C. Baumgardner (1955-2018) will be presented by the Furman University Department of Art Jan. 19-Feb. 19 in Thompson Gallery of the Roe Art Building. Thompson Gallery hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Installation photo, Matthew Baumgardner exhibition
Installation photo, Matthew Baumgardner exhibition

As the campus remains closed to the public due to COVID-19 protocols, in-person viewing of the exhibition is limited to Furman students, faculty and staff. However, the online Zoom exhibition opening, which takes place Thursday, Jan. 28, 6:30-7:30 p.m., is free and open to the public and is part of Furman’s Cultural Life Program. RSVP by email to the Furman Department of Art at furmanart@furman.edu to obtain a Zoom link.

Curated and organized by Furman art students, the exhibition, “Matthew Baumgardner: Grids and Glyphs,” is the culmination of the Curatorial Issues and Practices class taught by Diane Fischer, adjunct professor of art history, and marks the second exhibition of Baumgardner’s work hosted at Furman.

The show explores Baumgardner’s creative process and inner spirit through a selection of works and ephemera spanning the artist’s career from 1977-2018, and includes 17 paintings, sculptures, notes, journals and materials from his Travelers Rest studio.

#134 “Song of Solomon, 8:6,” 1995, mixed media on birch plywood, 13.25 x 13.25 inches. © Estate of Matthew Baumgardner

Central to the exhibition are paintings rendered on birch plywood with Baumgardner’s signature medium – “mud” – a thick, paint-like paste created with gypsum and powdered pigments he applied to surfaces in multiple layers of grids and glyphs. This technique and the series of paintings born from it won him a Visual Arts Fellowship in Painting by the National Endowment for the Arts in 1993.

For the Jan. 28 Zoom opening, Furman’s Sarah Archino, associate professor of art history, and Fischer will give context for the exhibition, followed by students who appear in pre-recorded mini-presentations, including a video walk-through of the gallery, a chronological study of Baumgardner’s work, a discussion of a special display, and explanations of artifacts from the artist’s estate. A live Q&A will follow the student presentations.

One of the students integral to the exhibition is Furman senior Brandon Barney, an art major from Marietta, South Carolina. He said the hands-on experience of curating and organizing the exhibition never felt like a typical class, but rather, a vocation.

Brandon Barney '21
Brandon Barney ’21. Photo/Ericka Hernandez

“There wasn’t a cookie cutter format that you could expect from the work or the assignments during the course,” he said. “It forced you to be prepared to do anything at any time for the sake of the team. We all learned how to work with each other extremely well, and by the end of the whole process, we all seemed to move and work as one unit.”

Other student curators for “Grids and Glyphs” include Mercy Fisher ’21 (Pottsville, Pennsylvania), Rebecca Fulford ’21 (Miami Beach, Florida), Gracey Greco ’21 (Dublin, Ireland), Micaela Hogan ’21 (San Antonio, Texas), Lily Russell ’22 (Elon, North Carolina), Sophia Scheibeler ’21 (Port Washington, New York) and Adare Taylor ’22 (Berwyn, Pennsylvania).

Fischer, former chief curator of the Allentown Art Museum (Pennsylvania), joined the Furman faculty in August 2020. She said the class represented a “rare opportunity” for students to get a real-world understanding of the curatorial side of art and much more.

Matthew Baumgardner in his Travelers Rest studio, 2010. Photo by Tim Barnwell Photography courtesy of the Baumgardner Estate. © Estate of Matthew Baumgardner

“They learned teamwork and transferrable skills – not just how to organize an exhibition, but skills like project management, drafting and editing, connoisseurship, marketing, and creating presentations,” Fischer said. “This class has perhaps been the most amazing experience in teaching I’ve ever had.”

Born in Ohio in 1955, Baumgardner launched his professional career in the 1970s while studying under South Carolina artists Carl Blair, Emery Bopp and Darell Koons. In 1982, he earned his MFA in painting from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. A year later, he moved to New York City, where most of his work was created. During that time, he built a family and watched his career climb to new heights, exhibiting in 14 solo and 30 group shows. He relocated in 2006 to Travelers Rest where he designed and fashioned a home/work studio on an acre of land and worked until his death in November 2018.

Installation images and video of Baumgardner’s work in “Grids and Glyphs” will be available online at https://baumgardnerarchives.com/ by late January 2021. For more information, contact Diane Fischer at diane.fischer@furman.edu. Or contact the Furman News and Media Strategy office at 864-294-3107.

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