Monday, January 25, 2010

Yellow Springs Artist Featured at the Dayton Art Institute

Recent works of Yellow Springs painter and printmaker Katherine Kadish will be featured in the exhibition Katherine Kadish: Seasons, opening January 30 at The Dayton Art Institute. The exhibition will be on view through April 11, in the North and South Galleries of the museum’s lower level.
Her paintings and monotypes are concerned primarily with color and shape relationships, and with light and gesture. They are inspired, in part, by nature, by Japanese and Chinese calligraphy, and by the Fauve painters of France.
For Kadish, color itself is a medium and the emotion color evokes is the message. In creating her art, Kadish uses the visual world as a starting point and then simplifies the forms she sees, whether they are flowers or figures. Steeped in the world of nature, Kadish often leaves behind all reference to the known subject, and her pictures become a poetic dialogue of color and pattern. Using the primary colors of red, yellow and blue sparingly, Kadish emphasizes greens, oranges and violets and the infinite subtle variations possible.
Kadish was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She began attending Saturday art classes at the Carnegie Museum at age nine and later received her B.F.A. in painting and design from Carnegie Mellon University and her M.A. in art history from the University of Chicago.
Kadish has exhibited her work internationally, in addition to having been awarded a number of prestigious fellowships and residencies. She lives in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and maintains her studio in the nearby village of Clifton.
For more information on the exhibition and programming you can check out the Dayton Art Institute website.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cincinnati Sees Art's Path through African American History

Today, the National Underground Freedom Center in Cincinnati is opening Without Sanctuary: Lynching Photography in America. It is a brave and powerful exhibition with some of the most painful American images ever photographed. I should say, I've not yet seen the show, though as an art historian who specialized in Critical Race Theory, I am familiar with this visual history.
As current images of Haiti's destruction and death toll fill television and computer screens, people around the world are mobilizing and an international state of compassion swells. The destructive act of nature calls on us to help those in need. However, lynching images draw on a different source of pain. Shame. These photos rightly implicate the American viewer and our history. I expect tears of shame will be shed at the Freedom Center in response to Without Sanctuary. It is the powerful role of art to force us to face history and its lessons no matter how painful.

The Enquirer is reporting on yet another story about art as a tool of history. Here a 136 yr old sketch is used as a genealogical tool. With the help of a Kentucky mother and daughter, the sketch of a North Carolina slave cabin will soon find its way into the hands of the artist's family now in College Hill. Henry Wister Tate's family knew about his life as a minister and perhaps knew his was at one time a slave, but focused more on his life in the church. The sketch may prove at least momentarily to be a painful confirmation of Tate family history. But without a doubt, it is a history H.W. Tate intended to record for memory. Tate not only took the time to sketch the cabin, but also identified himself, the cabin, the location, and the date. It is with this wealth of information, he insures that anyone who sees the sketch, particularly his family, will know and remember their history.

As an art historian, I am passionate about reminding my students and anyone who reads my blog, the important role art has in teaching history. Understandably, it is too often the most painful histories we would rather forget. Thanks to The Underground Freedom Center and artists like H.W. Tate, we are called on to remember.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Toledo Museum of Art Unveils Guernico

Guernico, Lot and His Daughter, c. 1651-1652

It is a gap in its impressive collection of 17th-century masterworks that the Toledo Museum of Art (TMA) has been trying to fill for more than 50 years. A work by Bolognese master Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, commonly known as Guercino (“the squinter”), has been a long-sought-after addition to the TMA collection.
Guercino’s vibrant Lot and His Daughters (about 1651-1652) was acquired by the Museum in October of 2009. The large painting (176 x 231 cm / 69 ¼ x 90 7/8 inches) will be unveiled to Museum members and the general public on Friday, Jan. 22 during a 7 p.m. ceremony in the Museum’s Great Gallery. Lot and His Daughters will temporarily hang in the gallery’s most prominent location, normally reserved for Peter Paul Rubens’ Crowning of St. Catherine, which will be relocated to an adjacent wall. The move will result in several additional works being relocated within the gallery in order to show the new Guercino to its best advantage.
According to Lawrence Nichols, TMA’s William Hutton Curator of European and American painting and sculpture before 1900, Guercino is an Italian Baroque painter of the highest rank, and an appropriate example of his work has been sought for the Museum’s collection for decades.
Nichols has considered other Guercino paintings over the years but noted, “The quality of the composition and the story-telling power of his Lot and His Daughters is truly masterful. The preservation and condition of the canvas are remarkable; the picture radiates and commands one’s attention in the context of our Great Gallery.”
The painting was purchased with funds from the Edward Drummond Libbey Endowment, a fund that is restricted to the purchase of works of art. The painting had been in the hands of a private Italian collector for many years prior to it being offered to TMA earlier this year.
The last time the Museum acquired a work by an Italian baroque painter was 1983 when, coincidentally, the Museum acquired Artemisia Gentileschi’s Lot and His Daughters. Visitors will be able to compare the two canvasses, and how the scene is represented by both a female artist (Gentileschi) and a male (Guercino).
Toledo’s Guercino is actually the third full-length painting of Lot and his daughters that the artist painted over a two-year period. An Italian collector first commissioned the work from Guercino, but had to wait when the first two works were purchased for the Duke of Modena and the Duchess of Mantua. Those works now hang in the Dresden State Art Museum and the Louvre, Paris, respectively.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Shepard Fairey: Vandal or Artist?" You've Got the Wrong Guy

As the city waits for Fairey to return to the CAC next month, the typical questions about art and vandalism begin to surface. This is always an attractive debate about the definition of graffiti, street art, crime, tagging, freedom of speech, private vs public and the list goes on. There seems to be as many self-proclaimed professionals on this topic as well. It is not surprising then to see this story by Larry Shields on WCPO. The problem though is this is the wrong question to ask when discussing Shepard Fairey.

Last March, I first posted about the controversy surrounding Fairey's use of Mannie Garcia's photograph as a source for the Obama Hope poster. In that post I referenced the disdain by graffiti artists and the number of challenges these artists have issued to Fairey that have since gone unanswered. If you follow the argument of graffiti artists, Fairey is certainly not one of them. Maria Seda-Reeder's claim that street artists consider Shepard "one of the biggest in our country, if not the world" therefore begs clarification. Biggest what? He's certainly not a graffiti artist. Street artist, maybe. But what does that mean?

As explained in the news report as well as the call for sites by the CAC, the community-wide project is by definition not a graffiti project. The sites have been secured with permission. This project is no different from the MuralWorks projects successfully led by ArtWorks. And we don't consider those examples of vandalism. Instead, we rightfully celebrate the murals with formal openings and recognition of our local artists. To call into question the motivation of the CAC project and collaboration with Fairey risks criminalizing ArtWorks. Or worse, the line of the debate presented by Larry Shields, even if inadvertently, exploits MuralWorks, the work of our local artists teaching emerging artists, and engaging in civic pride, effectively stirring up controversy that is not there.

Linda Holterhoff of Keep Cincinnati Beautiful shouldn't wait for Fairey to speak up against local acts of vandalism. He is simply not the authority. If there is a rise in vandalism during Fairey's visit back to Cincinnati, it will be the result of stories like that of Larry Shields that confuse the issues by asking the wrong questions.

The "art vs vandalism" argument is reserved for graffiti artists. Fairey continues to straddle the fence between graffiti and art as a way to attract controversy. As with the use of Garcia's photograph, Fairey is simply riding on the backs of those artists who do the work. My hope still is that the upcoming CAC show and accompanying programming will be strong enough to begin asking relevant questions.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Is Cincinnati Really Vanishing?

Yesterday, there was lots of excitement over the essay Cincinnati Enquirer Editor Tom Callinan wrote about the fate of Over the Rhine. OTR is arguably the city's most culturally rich yet often least cherished communities. Like many, I was excited to see Callinan step up to call for saving of OTR's history, now, not later.

I was particularly impressed to see his willingness to accept the media's responsibility and promise to resist further perpetuating the negative perceptions of OTR. The essay is an introduction to steps towards erasing misconceptions on which much media reporting rests. The Enquirer has invited six civic and business leaders to begin discussing the preservation of Over the Rhine.

While it is certainly a good idea to begin and continue a discussion to help ensure the city's historical treatures, I was most troubled by the naming of this conversation, "Vanishing Cincinnati." Because the Enquirer is taking up the task of coordinating this important discussion, presumably, it will lead to a series of stories. If I am correct, we are looking at a year of our city disappearing. I'm not sure how words like "vanishing" or any threats of disappearing helps fight the negative perceptions of Cincinnati. These are negative terms. But most important, they do not accurately present the positive living that is happening in OTR.

Of course I understand and appreciate Callinan's concern. If we do not act now, there is a threat our cultural history will disappear with the destruction of these buildings. Callinan notes in his essay a problem that infects many cities throughout the country, absentee ownership. I've emailed Callinan asking to name the 6 leaders invited to participate in "Vanishing Cincinnati," but have not yet heard back. I hope all or at least most live in OTR. There are many living in OTR who honestly treasure these buildings as historical markers as well as elements of their backyard.

As an art historian, I see images as wonderful tools for telling history. The slide show that accompanies Callinan's essay is a nice celebration of the historical sites of OTR. It reminded me of the many slide shows that OTR graphic designer, Maya Drozdz of Visualingual presents on her blog. Following her blog will provide a growing album of the beautiful details of these historic OTR buildings Callinan seeks to help save. These buildings and the movement through the city streets are the inspiration of many artists like Cedric Cox. His geometric paintings are filled with the architectural elements he sees surrounding his studio in OTR. These are just two of so many examples proving that Cincinnati is not vanishing.

From the essay, it seems as though Callinan was also inspired by recent (not historic) photographs of Over the Rhine presented by Ken Jones of the Over the Rhine Conservation Board. Considering the visual as inspiration to the current conversation, perhaps instead of "Vanishing Cincinnati," a more positive and active title would be "Reframing Cincinnati."

Monday, January 11, 2010

Ohio Arts Council Listening Tour Coming to Cincinnati

The Ohio Arts Council (OAC) has been on the road to find out what Ohioans value about the arts, creativity and their communities. The OAC’s Listening Tour will travel to seven communities this fall discovering what creativity means to citizens of small and large communities across the state.

On Wednesday, February 10th, the OAC Listening Tour in Cincinnati will host three meetings:

For Business and Community Leaders- 8:30-10 a.m. at the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber, 300 Carew Tower, 441 Vine Street.

For Artists, Arts Administrators & Arts Educators-3:30-5 p.m. at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut Street, Green Room, Loge Level.

Town hall meeting (all are welcome)- 6-7:30 p.m. at the Aronoff Center for the Arts, 650 Walnut Street, Center Stage Room, adjacent to the Weston Art Gallery.

Click here for more information and to register.

There is no cost for this event.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

A Better Approach to Outsider Art

Ken Johnson of the NY Times reviews an exhibition a the American Folk Art Museum, Approaching Abstraction. He sees this exhibition as an example of a trend towards mainstreaming outsider art by not ghettoizing the artists. Engaging the works' formal qualities seems to help the viewer to resist the temptation to marginalize the artists.

Though according to Johnson, there may be a problem to this approach. He says, "It is very difficult — practically impossible — to separate the formal, nonrepresentational aspect from less tangible qualities." And he correctly argues, "There is not a single artist in the exhibition who tried to make something strictly nonrepresentational."

I agree that approaching these works formally is a good though difficult exercise, but not to the goal of making them "seem more 'normal.'" A formal approach to Outsider Art does not make it less fascinating, but adds to the fascination of the work of a self-taught or outsider artist. The viewer's tendency to ignore the formal elements is the challenge these artists face. As with all works of art, the formal approach is a wonderful first step to appreciating not mainstreaming Outsider Art. Approaching Abstraction is right to demand viewer to address the artwork first.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Cleveland Museum of Art Names New Associate Curator

The Cleveland Museum of Art announced today the appointment of Seunghye Sun as associate curator of Japanese and Korean art. She’ll be joining our team in Cleveland in July, upon completion of her doctorate in Japanese art at Tokyo University. In her new role, she will be responsible for all aspects of the care, presentation, and interpretation of the museum’s renowned holdings of Japanese and Korean art. She also will develop exhibitions and public programming, while continuing to acquire works that enrich and expand the museum’s collection.

See the museum blog for more about Seunghye Sun.

Cincinnati Art Snob Launches Tour Series with a Party at the CAM

Some of you have been following this blog for a year or more, so familiar with my advocacy for an elevated discussion of the arts, education, and of Greater Cincinnati's vibrant art scene. This blog has helped me to contribute to these discussions as well as invite many more to participate.

To expand this outreach and invitation to those interested in learning more about the arts in Greater Cincinnati, I am launching my custom tour series. The Cincinnati Art Snob tour series is made up of three 90-minute tours of different art venues (galleries, museums, private art studios, business or public spaces) revolving around a single theme. Each series will be designed according to the interests of the touring group. A tour series offers not only a more in-depth presentation of the chosen subject from a historical context, but also provides opportunities for patrons to meet with local artists in their studios and explore art spaces perhaps not yet visited.

I've always believed an intellectually engaging appreciation of art and culture should occur outside of the classroom. The Cincinnati Art Snob guided tours will provide such an opportunity for adults interested in learning about art and will complement well the continuing goals of the Cincinnati Art Snob blog.

You are invited to celebrate the launching of these tours on Saturday, February 6th in the Fountain Room/Cincinnati Wing of the Cincinnati Art Museum.

Click here for your invitation and rsvp information.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Call to Artists for Quarterly Publication, Visual Overture Magazine

I have been invited to serve as a guest juror for a "Featured Artists Competition" held by Visual Overture Magazine, a quarterly publication featuring emerging artists. The aim of the magazine is to introduce exceptional international emerging artists to galleries, curators, and art collectors worldwide with an emphasis on the Southern Atlantic region (VA, NC, SC, GA, FL).

Visual Overture Magazine selects 7 emerging artists for publication each quarter. Selected artists are featured on a two-page spread with images of their work, interview questions, artist statement and contact details.

Visual Overture currently has two competitions that both deadline on April 1, 2010. Please check here for more information and eligibility to see if you qualify.

Friday, January 1, 2010

2009 Lessons in Supporting Our Cultural Institutions

Steve Rosen of City Beat is reporting a good year for our local art museums reflected in strong exhibitions like Surrealism and Beyond and Tara Donovan resulting in high museum attendance. During this year of economic hardships felt be all, the arts continue to attract growing audiences and support. In the same issue of City Beat Matt Morris reviews a number of alternative spaces that have gained audiences. Alternative spaces growing audiences? Yes.

Such support for the arts and other cultural institutions is not specific to Greater Cincinnati. Nationally, museums and galleries have seen attendance grow. It is generally agreed that this growth is the result of people looking for entertainment and events that are not so expensive. Museums with free admission like the Cincinnati Art Museum as well as gallery openings you can find nearly every week (some with great spreads of food and drink) have enticed many who have been forced to cut their spending.

This support for our cultural institutions is not only reflected in attendance, but also at the polls. In 2009, a year of a struggling economy, Cincinnati saw the passage of two levies. One supporting the Cincinnati Public Library and another for The Museum Center.

At the end of a year that forced postponing building projects, cutting staff, and cancelling shows, further cutting library hours and staff we are reminded of the the importance of our cultural institutions. We can learn a lesson in management from these non-profit institutions. While corporations are still bleeding nationally, the arts and cultural institutions prove to be the true pillars of our community.

These lessons of 2009 should be remembered next time we consider national, state, and local budget cuts.