Thursday, April 30, 2009

The CAC responds

Following is the email I received responding to my questions about the the inclusion of Supply and Demand on the next season at the Contemporary Art Center:

Thank you for your note. It’s clear you have passion for contemporary art and the artists who produce it. And as you pointed out, you are not alone in your opinion. These types of debates are very important to the health of the art world. They should, and I'm sure will, continue. The CAC believes it is important to express and present the different viewpoints and opinions not only in art, but of the art as well. It's wonderful to know we have community members involved and engaged in this type of dialogue. There is no shortage of worthy issues to debate considering all the factors involved in all the forms contemporary art takes, and we hope you and others continue to express your concern, enjoyment and passion--it's a great contribution.


Molly O'Toole
Director of Communications and Community Engagement
Contemporary Arts Center
Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art

We'll see how the CAC plans to present "different viewpoints." For now, the only viewpoint on the season schedule is that of Shepard Fairey.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Is the CAC on the wrong side of art?

When I heard the rumor last week that Shepard Fairey’s Supply and Demand will be in Cincinnati next year, I contacted the CAC with my concerns regarding Fairey’s practice “appropriating” works by artists who he simply neglects to attribute. To date, the CAC has not responded to my inquiry.

I hope the CAC intends to address these issues. That Supply and Demand is scheduled to travel to the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh before arriving in Cincinnati will not wipe clean the problems Fairey brings. Warhol celebrated the copy. Fairey is no Warhol In fact, up to this point Fairey has cloaked himself in a willingness by the public be ignorant of his “lifting” of art. Is Raphaela Platow, Director of the CAC counting on the same kind of protection? Also, if the CAC plans to present him as a “street artists,” they should know there are a number of street artists who have issued challenges to Fairey and his work….challenges he has up to this point ignored. I presented this discussion in an earlier post.

Despite the loud cries of disdain for Fairey from much of the art world, Ms. Platow insists, “He has made a successful move into museums.” Successful? Really? As the Director of the CAC, Raphaela Platow should be the city’s leading advocate for contemporary art and artists. A blind eye to Fairey’s "lifting" of art and a deaf ear to the protest by artists puts her advocacy into question.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Coming Soon: Artist Interviews

In my interests to maintain and strengthen the regional artistic discussion, I am introducing a new element to my blog: ArtWord. ArtWord will be a regular (weekly or monthly) feature inviting artists to discuss their work. Rather than the interviews being about the artists as seen too much here in Cincinnati, my hope is to provide a space for artists to discuss the direction and goals of their work.

Ideally, artists will find this blog as a space not for mere promotion of their art, but will welcome and gain artistic critiques.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Cleveland Museum of Art to return Italian ancient art

AP reports that the director of The Cleveland Museum of Art says museum officials are prepared to hand over 14 art works to Italian authorities.

Timothy Rub says the transfer of the art, which includes ancient pieces looted or smuggled out of Italy, will take place Wednesday.

Rub and the Italian arts minister agreed to the handover in November. It was unclear which Italian agency would carry the objects back home.

As part of the agreement, Italy has promised to lend 13 objects comparable in quality to the returned antiquities and to cooperate on future exhibitions.

Rub says those works will go on view in Cleveland in 2010, when the museum reopens galleries devoted to ancient art after the completion of a $350 million expansion and renovation.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gray's Auctioneers Fine Art, Antiques, and Decorations Auction, May 2nd

Gray’s Auctioneers announced its 20th Fine Art, Antiques and Decorations auction to be held Saturday May 2nd at 1pm. Gray’s Auctioneers Llc has quickly established itself as the region’s premier auction house and appraisal facility, capitalizing on both its extensive industry experience as well as its strategic positioning in the upper Midwest region. The Cleveland area in particular provides an abundantly rich and varied source of fine art, antique and decorative pieces - due in part to the prosperous and thriving philanthropic community present here at the turn of the 20th century. While the age of the Rockefellers has past, the passion for extraordinary art works has not. The chance to obtain any number of unique art and decorative pieces at exceptional prices draws individuals not just from the upper Midwest, but all over the globe through our online, absentee and telephone bidding options.

Click here for more information.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Art Critic or P.R. Person

Years ago when I wrote an art column for a northern Ohio newspaper, I saw my role as one that not only announces local exhibitions, but also teaches and introduces an art historical context for many of the shows. It didn’t take me too long to discover the editorial line I was not allowed to cross. While my editor loved my writing, I had to remember that the goal of the newspaper was to bring people to the museums and galleries and there were certain shows that would be the lead story regardless of its strength. As an art historian and not a journalist, this was a real eye-opener for me. How could loyalty to certain artists, museums, and even private galleries supersede an allegiance to the discourse of art? Not only can this poisonous bias permeate throughout mainstream art criticism if not kept in check by writers, but it is the backbone of Cincinnati’s art community.

Last week while visiting a few shows at the Weston Art Gallery, I was asked by a few gallery employees if I knew personally the local artist whose photographs were being exhibited in one of the galleries. I didn’t and in fact had never heard of him. I know personally almost no local artists. What interested me were their claims to how long they’ve known him and very little comment about his work. Here we go. Another example of a Cincinnati gallery exhibiting the artist, not the art. When I saw the work, I understood why. The black and white photographs are not bad, they simply didn’t illicit any kind of response from me so I reviewed the other two exhibitions in the gallery. Perhaps in a few days after the images brewed for awhile, I would have something to say and post it on my blog. Unfortunately, the images simply faded. Until a couple of days ago when I noticed not one but two local publications, City Beat and Cincinnati Magazine included write-ups about this artist and the exhibition this month. Does this reflect an allegiance to the artist or to the gallery? I don’t know.

Two stories about this one show that ignore the other two shows in the same gallery seems a bit saturating until I remind myself this is Cincinnati. This city not only enjoys celebrating its community support of one of its own, but proudly exhibits the incestral core of the arts community. This is far more pervasive than the old adage, “it’s who you know, not what you know.” Many Cincinnati local art critics are themselves artists who have shown in a number of Cincinnati galleries or have worked or do work for any number of our city’s art organizations. Is there a conflict of interest here? I think most art critics would agree there is a blatant conflict. But here in Cincinnati’s art world, a community that literally resides in the shadow of P&G Headquarters, the symbols of successful p.r. marketing, this is business as usual. Marketing is in the interest of the arts. No matter the cost to the creative and intellectual art discussion.

Blogging about art instead of writing for a local publication helps keep the blood of a p.r. man off my hands. I maintain absolutely no allegiance to any artist or art organization here in Cincinnati or elsewhere. My loyalty is to art. Though I have to thank Cincinnati's local arts community for a wonderful irony. Its marketing strategies has made branding myself as Cincinnati’s Art Snob effortless.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Revealing the Grid

The Weston Art Gallery seems to welcome a preoccupation with the challenge of its street-level gallery space that is nearly dominated by windows looking out onto Cincinnati’s downtown streets of 7th and Walnut. Thomas Macaulay’s House Divided: SiteSpecific Environmental Installation currently on view is another such invitation. With its maze of cardboard boxes, nearly all of them white, The Weston almost begs comparison with the CAC’s Tara Donovan, but I’ll let someone else write that review.

Perhaps my most powerful revelation as an art history student occurred when I was introduced to the grid not just as a design principle in architecture and painting, but most impressive as a concept of our living space. As a professor of art history I always enjoyed most revealing this to my students. Forcing them to recognize the tiles on the walls, ceilings and floors of the classrooms as well as the inherent design of campus buildings as nearly uniform three-dimensional grids in which they spent their days, their lives. Watching their eyes get big, I knew from that moment many of them would never see the world the same way again. House Divided wonderfully forces a similar revelation not only of the gridded space that is The Weston Art Gallery, but of how we move and live within the grid. Despite the analytical clarity of a grid we tend to be blinded to it. And like all mazes, Macaulay’s cardboard box maze forces us to move blindly through this space and in doing so reveals our blindness to the forms around us.

Similarly, the photographs of Fredrik Marsh that make up Transitions: The Dresden Project also reveal the architectural grid that constructs our living spaces. Marsh took the photographs during a residency in Dresden, Germany in 2002 and over four subsequent summers. During this time he found himself drawn to buildings that seemed to be locked in the process of reconstruction but now abandoned. The title of the show either refers to the reconstruction of these buildings or more likely to the transition to a post-Communist world. Marsh notes this transition as one that combines a grandness with decay.

While the black and white and color photographs of decaying interiors seem to present a commentary on the collapse of Socialism, these images reveal too a layering of the grid that makes up our domestic spaces. Photographs like Abandoned Apartment near Bahnhof Neustadt, 2005 presents layers of wallpaper and geometrics that make up a space now abandoned, but clearly once celebrated as expressed in the number of applications of design. Many of the photographs include and sometimes focus on doors and windows further emphasizing the gridded domestic space. Like Macaulay’s maze, these photographs invite movement into these spaces. Again, it is this layering of the grid that forces us to recognize our willingness to abandon or overlook these spaces, thus revealing our blindness.

Both shows at The Weston Art Gallery work so well together to encourage the viewer to engage both the formal and social implications of the grid.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Ohio Arts Jobs Preservation Grants Applications

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act) recognizes that the non-profit arts industry is an important sector of the economy. The National Endowment for the Arts is uniquely positioned to fund arts projects and activities that preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn. As part of this important investment, the Arts Endowment is planning to expedite distribution of critical funds at the national, regional, state, and local levels for projects that focus on the preservation of jobs in the arts.

On the web page you will find the information and resources you need to apply for an Ohio Arts Jobs Preservation Grant award, including the OAC list of eligible applicants to the program, program guidelines, scoring criteria, FAQ, reporting requirements, and cash request instructions. Information will be added to the page as it becomes available, but guidelines, scoring criteria and the list of eligible applicants will be posted no later than April 17, 2009.