Thursday, January 29, 2009

Art Sense

The NY Times is currently featuring a story about the economy forcing art galleries to close. This is resulting in fine art showing up in fashion boutiques or other retail shops. This is a practice that I’ve scorned as the norm here in Cincinnati.

Now before the Queen City tries to claim to be ahead of the game by pointing to a number of coffee shops, book stores, and the like, I think we should recognize this business model smells of economic desperation not art savviness. Art dealers can pardon themselves until their blue with “as long as (fill in the blank), why not?” the bottom admittedly line is money, not the promotion of art.

Also, the Cincinnati art scene needs to recognize cities like Chicago and NY celebrate institutions that honestly promote art so may be able to culturally afford moving art galleries into other retail spaces. While these cities seem to be adopting our art business sense, Cincinnati needs to adopt their cultural sense.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Shifting Moments.

Looking Through the Glass now on view at Manifest Gallery is another example of a show that explores the various and varying perspectives of an artist. Here, Tama Hochbaum explores this idea through composite digital photography. She makes her photographs of landscapes, trees, and magnolias by combining a series of shots taken of the subject in a gridded collage piecing together the scene. Hochbaum’s goal is not necessarily to recreate the scene exactly, but instead to call attention to the shifts in perspective.

The title of the show is a wonderfully fun play on the well known Lewis Carroll book during which Alice’s sense of reality is reversed. Hochbaum’s own reversal of the book title allows her to call on her viewer to look. The glass to which she refers is not a mirror but a window either implied or included in her pictures. It is this window I found most interesting in many of the works exhibited in this show.

While Hochbaum has included in her work windows typical to homes, the works in this show imply moving vehicles. Here, most of her pictures place the viewer in cars or planes. This seems to then emphasize the movement or shift of perspective. Furthermore, Hochbaum seems to double (or triple?) down on the mechanical nature of her work. Combined with the mechanics of digital photography and the grid composition, the vehicle adds to what seems to further emphasize the perspective shift; a celebration of moments caught.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Seeing and Being Seen in DC

Yes, this was my first visit to DC. Because of the occasion, there was no sure way to accurately plan my two days there. While there, I decided with a friend to visit one museum and let the events and the crowd determine the rest of the sights I would see.

As expected the National Gallery of Art opened shows particularly fitting for this inauguration. Robert Frank’s “The Americans” is always a great catch no matter the museum. I never tire of seeing this photo portrait of America so appreciated the NGA’s effort to make this show available during this weekend. Pompeii and the Roman Villa was also especially timely. After all, the discovery of Pompeii and Herculaneum in the 1700s not only sparked the Enlightenment, but also influenced Thomas Jefferson in establishing the Federalist architectural style that helped determine the design of many of the buildings and monuments in DC.

No doubt, walking through the Capitol last weekend was nothing Jefferson or perhaps even Frank could have ever imagined. The number of barricades, port-a-potties, and vendors selling Obama gear, and the millions of people visiting DC easily upstaged the architecture. Like many I was awestruck and consumed (many times literally!) by the masses. But most surprising was running into people I knew were there, but never believed I would see them. A good friend of mine and her family also visited from Cincinnati and were walking the mall at the precise time I was out there. Only a few moments later, the friend with whom I visited the museum also spotted someone she knew. I didn’t know which was more exciting, to witness the inauguration of Barack Obama or these chance meetings of friends. Was it the grandness of this historical event that captures the strength and pride of our country like the columns supporting the structures on The Mall, or these chance encounters with those we know as well as strangers like us that provide a more intimate profile of America? Idealism and Realism is a continuing dichotomy in the portrait of America. The NGA presents this well through the eyes of Jefferson and Frank

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Carl Solway Gallery: Cincinnati’s Place for Modern Art

Very seldom do I go to gallery openings to look at art. They are generally too crowded making it nearly impossible for me to see anything. Against my norm, I went to the Carl Solway Gallery opening last night. As expected, there was a nice large crowd, but because the gallery is wonderfully spacious, viewing the art was not a challenge. Furthermore, the exhibitions of well-known artists Solway regularly presents add to the ease of viewing the works.

Currently, the gallery is showing lithographs by Joan Miró paintings by Joan Snyder and Fred Tomaselli, and works by Hans Hofman. Because Solway shows big names, even if not always signature works, a visit during an opening is comfortable stroll through the gallery for me. Arriving to the show with a familiarity of these artists presents me with an opportunity to simply enjoy the works without fighting the crowd or the gallery space at every step trying to see everything. Yet more often than not, the Solway presents to me wonderful surprises; opportunities to see works I’ve not seen, and to rethink artists I think I know. For example, Miró's whimsical lithographs are a pleasant welcome to the gallery. Also, this is the first time I’ve considered comparing Snyder’s use of actual herbs in her paintings and Tomaselli’s medicinal images of pills in a grid.

By providing a space and the works of well known modern artists, Cincinnati’s Solway Gallery seems to achieve what the Cincinnati Art Museum has not yet mastered. Solway is a place to re-engage modern art. As the museum works to promote contemporary art, museum curators need to recognize the works hidden on that floor simply burden the gallery, the museum-goer, the collection. If the 3rd floor is a Contemporary Art gallery, then many of those works up there may need to be reconsidered. Until that happens the Cincinnati Art Museum may need to deferred to the Carl Solway Gallery for modern art.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Obama Chooses Ohio University Photojournalist

Pete Souza, Assistant Professor of Visual Communication at Ohio University has been named the Obama administration’s White House photographer. Souza has been covering Obama since 2005 and says his main goal is “to visually document the president and his life in the White House for the sake of history.”

Souza’s website has a number of slide shows. Some include photos taken during the election and may be familiar to you. Others, including those of the new first family during Obama’s rise, are not so well-known. Souza’s photographs present a photojournalistic style that is both intimate yet monumental.

Congratulations Pete Souza and Ohio University.