Best Museum Show: Abigail DeVille, “Only When It’s Dark Enough Can You See the Stars” via The Contemporary at the Peale Museum

This immersive and overwhelming installation in the former Peale Museum came together as a concert of collaboration, months-long research, and tireless ambition from the artist, the Contemporary, the city, and dozens of other groups and individuals. DeVille excavated and memorialized many aspects of history that we might’ve forgotten, or never knew—from this museum’s history (as the country’s first museum, the first school in this city for black students, the city’s first city hall, and much more) to parts of the city’s history (and thus also its present), as the site of much civil unrest including (but not limited to) civil rights marches and protests after Freddie Gray’s death. But maybe even saying that the show “came together” signifies that there was a visible “end product” at any point, when really the opposite was true: small things here and there might shift between visits, but also with each visit you’d notice something new or  be moved by a room you hadn’t spent much time in previously. Then there were the weekly Sunday Salons, featuring special guest performers such as Mecca Verdell, Tariq Touré, Joyce J. Scott, and many others. With this work, DeVille reminded us once again that the past and present are never clean or simple, and are continually bouncing off each other and being reset, rewritten, recontextualized.

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