Friday, March 11, 2011

Creating The New Century

There have been a number of turn of the century exhibitions. Most I've seen seem to be noted for the varied ways video other multi-media approaches have found a way into the art museum. For example, Younger Than Jesus at the New Museum a few years ago was made up of works, of which nearly all, implemented some kind of video installation. I could count on one hand the number of paintings in this show of artists 33 years old or younger. I enjoyed the show (or perhaps I enjoyed hanging out with my sister in NYC), but I missed the paintings.

This week I was invited to see Creating The New Century at the Dayton Art Institute. This exhibition features works created since the year 2000 and includes 70 paintings, drawings and sculptures (no video art!) by artists who vary in age and career length. Grouping artists like Francesco Clemente, Philip Pearlstein, Sean Scully, with Mark Bradford, Jun Kaneko. and Marilyn Minter was what excitedly drew me to make my first visit (yes, first) to the DAI.

Admittedly, I was initially suspicious of this show as yet another exhibition of a private collection. James F. Dickie is the Chairman and CEO of his family business, Crown Equipment. As he notes in an essay on collecting in the exhibition catalog, Dickie has been collecting art since he was 10. Of course this claim as well as the rest of the essay doesn't necessarily convince me of the value of the collection or his collecting. That Dickie served as chairman of the board of trustees at The Dayton Art Institute and The Smithsonian American Art Museum was not the clincher either.

In 1997, the DAI opened a new expansion by hosting American art from the Dickie collection. So this is the second time in less than 15 years the DAI has featured works from this collector. I did not see the earlier show, but Creating The New Century is not so much a collector's collection as it is a painter's collection.

James F. Dickie II is a painter and the exhibition wonderfully explores painting (and sculpture) in this 21st century. I was excited by artists like John Alexander (he spoke with us during this media preview), who is inspired by great art in history. His Ship of Fools is a response to the contemporary through the influence of artists like Bosch, Homer, and Gericault. New painting processes like those employed by Linda Besemer are for a non-artist like myself reason enough to see this show. Her Fold #71 is a pure painting in that it is made exclusively of a sheet of paint.

I was immediately drawn to this collection. While in the gallery, I spoke with a fellow writer, a painter who teaches painting. He too was excited about the show and we talked about the possibility of creating a painting class based on Creating The New Century. I know I could create a pretty interesting art history seminar. Of course it would be a history of contemporary art without video art.

But I think I would be okay with that.


The accompanying catalog includes and excellent essay written by New York Art Critic Ellie Bronson on each of the artists featured in the exhibition.