Isaac Julien- Baltimore

Baltimore (2003)

11 mins, Black & White / Colour 16mm, DVD Transfer, Sound

Baltimore is rich in urban imagery and, like Julien’s earlier pieces Vagabondia and Three, uses museums as a key location and theme.

Inspired by blaxploitation movies while he was filming his documentary Baadasssss Cinema, Julien appropriates the styles, gestures, language and iconography of the genre to create a work that defies easy categorization. Starring veteran black actor and director Melvin Van Peebles, Baltimore was designed in part as homage to Van Peebles’ movies. It unites three Baltimore institutions – the Walters Art Museum, the Contemporary Museum and the Great Blacks in Wax Museum – with blaxploitation cinema, the tough talking, hard-living symbol of black empowerment that Van Peebles helped usher in with his 1971 movie Sweet Sweetback’s Baadasssss Song. Baltimore is ironic and funky, nostalgic and futuristic, rough and fine. It is characterized by oscillation and an insistent formal play with linear perspective which also pays homage to Piero della Francesca and more particularly, a painting of unknown authorship, c.1500 known as “View of an Ideal City” which features in the collection of the Walters Art Museum.

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