The built environment shapes the way we experience the world around us by physically guiding our daily interactions. When we walk down the street, check out at the grocery store, or cross the thresholds of our homes, our journey is guided by human intervention in the environment. And yet these buildings often go unnoticed.
Ways of Seeing: Buildings and Monuments is an exhibition of nearly sixty objects from the Museum’s collection that will draw visitors’ attention to these unexamined spaces through the work of artists, designers, and architects. This exhibition brings together rarely seen works from storage and objects from across the Museum’s collection to consider how artists explore architecture and the built environment.
The exhibition reveals the longstanding, close relationship between artists and architects, and displays the work of the many creators who work between these professions. It also looks at representations of home, buildings encountered in daily life, and even building materials to encourage visitors to view Birmingham with new eyes. Finally, it asks visitors to consider how monuments are seen by and impact fellow Birminghamians.
This exhibition was slated to open to the public on Friday, April 10. Instead, April 10 marked one month of most of the Museum’s staff working from home, as the coronavirus began to shape our lives in ways large and small. Following cross country shelter in place orders, everyone has new ways of seeing. As plexiglass barriers and distance markers have sprung up across Birmingham’s public space, other changes reshaped the city’s built environment, and we became more mindful of the space around us as well as the space we occupy. These changes happened at the same time as protests asserting the value of Black lives across the country and in Birmingham, spurring the removal of the Confederate Soldiers and Sailors Monument from Birmingham’s centrally located park. These events prompted a revision of the exhibition, which now examines not only the relationship between artists and architects, but also the power and problems with seeing buildings and monuments, both within the BMA and just beyond the Museum’s front door.
Ways of Seeing: Buildings and Monuments is part of the BMA’s Ways of Seeing exhibition series that explores themes, perspectives, and ideas from across the Museum’s global art collections in the Bohorfoush Gallery. This initiative is made possible with support from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Ways of Seeing: Buildings and Monuments is presented by The Philip A. Morris Fund for the Design Arts, a fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, with additional support from bDot architecture.