Art That Packs a Punch

February 27, 2009

Art enthusiasts who are visiting Baltimore will have two opportunities to view work by recent alumnus Matthew Freel (MFA 2008 Illustration as Visual Essay). The artist has contributed a new painting, History of the United States II, to “Involving Violence,” which collects work that addresses themes of violence and hostility in American life. “The piece takes its source material from photographs of lynchings in the American south in the early 20th century,” says Freel, who relocated to Baltimore after graduating from SVA. The show takes place at the School 33 Art Center, a converted public school at 1427 Light Street in Baltimore where Freel and several other local artists maintain studio space.

In addition to the “Involving Violence” exhibition, Freel also has a solo show on view: “Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson” collects Freel’s paintings and drawings of heavyweight boxer Jack Johnson, including several works that were part of his SVA thesis project. “He was the first African-American to break the color barrier in professional sports,” says Freel, who saw in Johnson a focal point for several themes that interested the artist. “A running theme in a lot of my work is the muscular male figure. The power and the presence that brings, and a type of failed masculinity. Jack Johnson provided a convergence of these themes.” The show brings together all of Freel’s work focused on Johnson, including a new piece, Jack Johnson: Invisible Man, which also weaves in ideas from Ralph Ellison’s novel Invisible Man.

“Invisible Champion: Jack Johnson” is showing at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson, 3134 Eastern Avenue in Baltimore, February 26 – March 14; “Involving Violence” is on view through Saturday, April 11.

Images: Matthew Freel, (top) History of the United States II, 2008; (bottom) Jack Johnson (Invisible Man), 2008.

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