Third Space: Birmingham Museum of Art presents first large exhibition of contemporary art

By Ariel Worthy

The Birmingham Times

Asia Rambo looks inside the "2x" (two by) sculpture in the BMA's new exhibition: Third Space. The materials for the sculpture will be used to build a new home for someone in Newbern, Alabama. (Ariel Worthy, Birmingham Times)
Asia Rambo looks inside the “2x” (two by) sculpture in the BMA’s new exhibition: Third Space. The materials for the sculpture will be used to build a new home for someone in Newbern, Alabama. (Ariel Worthy, Birmingham Times)

The Birmingham Museum of Art has torn down walls, literally, to give visitors a closer look at contemporary art in their new exhibition: Third Space.

Third Space is an exhibition of contemporary artwork – paintings, drawings, sculptures, audio and videos – from the BMA’s permanent collection that explores how the American South relates to the Global South.

“The Global South is an imagined space that ties together cultures through common experiences, and considers the voices of the people who are often unheard,” said Wassan Al-Khudhairi, Hugh Kaul Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

The BMA tore down a wall in the museum and replaced it with glass windows and doors, so when viewers arrive on the third floor, they can see the exhibition.

“A huge part of this exhibition is this idea that we want this space to be a conversation from the outside world,” she said. “We also want visitors to feel immediately drawn into the space.”

Having an exhibition like this in Birmingham is exciting because contemporary art “can really help us think about the way we navigate the world.”

“What I love about contemporary art is that there is no right or wrong way to look at it,” she said. “You don’t have to have a lot of background about art. What you bring to the work is how you interpret it.”

The exhibition, which opens to the public on Friday, January 27 at 7 p.m. has multiple sections, such as nature/landscape, representation, traditions, and migration/exile. Artists from all over – international, national and local – are featured in the two-year exhibition.

“There’s a misconception that contemporary art is ‘I don’t understand,’ ‘it’s too abstract,’ and I think this really challenges that,” Al-Khudhairi said.

The BMA will also provide access to a Smart Guide, which can be accessed through iPads or smart phones. The Smart Guide will allow visitors to view additional details about the works, including facts about the work and artist, and audio insight from Birmingham community members. The museum will provide iPads for visitors to access the Smart Guide.

One piece of art will have a further purpose after its time at the exhibition. The largest sculpture displayed in the exhibition “2x” (two by), was made by Rural Studio at Auburn University. Rural Studio has a project – 20K – where students help design and build durable and livable homes for people in the Black Belt areas of Alabama for $20,000. After the display is moved from the museum, the materials will be used to build a home in Newbern, Alabama.

“This idea of bringing affordable architecture to rural areas, and it’s serving as this vacuum in our society, and saying ‘we should be able to make something that people can afford to live in,” Al-Khudhairi said.