For art-museum lovers, one of the best things about hot summers in Cincinnati is the proximity to nearby cities whose museums and public galleries have exhibitions. This makes shows in Dayton, Columbus, Louisville, Lexington and Indianapolis easily reachable.
But before we set off on a two-hour drive to see another city’s work, let’s look at the shows local institutions have planned for the summer. Then we’ll hit the road.
Cincinnati Art Museum’s busy summer schedule includes three major shows: Women Are Beautiful, featuring 1960s-era street photography by the late Garry Winogrand (Saturday through Aug. 23); Outside the Ordinary: Contemporary Glass, Wood and Ceramics from the Wolf Collection (June 20-Sept. 13); and Bessie Potter Vonnoh: Sculptor of Women, spotlighting 35 bronze sculptures made between 1895-1930 (June 6-Sept. 6). (www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org)
Downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center will complete its strong 2008-2009 exhibition season with new drawings and paintings by Aya Uekawa, the New York-based Japanese painter, and Purchase Not by Moonlight, videos, photos and drawings by Albanian artist Anri Salas. Both shows are up Saturday through August. (www.contemporaryartscenter.org)
Weston Art Gallery at the Aronoff Center for the Arts presents a hot-summer-appropriate show by Columbus photographer Ardine Nelson, Green Spaces: Small Garden Communities of Dresden, Germany, as well as a site-specific installation by Cincinnati’s Thin Air Studio, a collaborative that uses organic material — especially tree branches — in its sculptural work. Both shows are up June 26-Aug. 30, along with Trace: Recent Sculpture and Drawings by Cincinnati’s Carmel Buckley. (www.westonartgallery.org)
Taft Museum of Art follows Fashion in Film, its most successful exhibition aside from the 2004 reopening show after being closed for renovations, with Together Again: Robert S. Duncanson and Nicholas Longworth, opening June 6 and continuing into the fall. In 1850, Longworth commissioned the African-American painter to create the museum’s celebrated landscape murals. This show features Duncanson paintings, including a portrait of Longworth. (www.taftmuseum.org)
Technically, the really hot regional art-museum destination this summer is outside the two-hour radius — the Art Institute of Chicago. (But it is conveniently and affordably reachable by Megabus.) This month, the institute opened its new and impressive Modern Wing, a 264,000square-foot building designed by Renzo Piano to house its 20th- and 21st-century art.
The graceful, almost classically modernist building orients the museum more toward adjacent Millennium Park and has long been eagerly awaited. Its first exhibition, of Cy Twombly’s demurely abstract canvases from 2000-2007, is up through Sept. 13. (www.aic.com)
One way to break up a drive to Chicago is to stop at Indianapolis Museum of Art, or you can just go there for a pleasant day trip. It has 152 acres of lovely gardens and grounds and is moving forward toward creating a major sculpture park on its land. Among the numerous shows that will be up for summer is European Design Since 1985: Shaping the New Century, which was organized by design curator R. Craig Miller and features 250 recent and noteworthy works of decorative and industrial design. It’s up through June 21. (www.imamusem.org)
IMA will also exhibit a collection of video installations by four artists, called Adaptation, in which artists “adapt” well-known works of art for video. Guy Ben-Ner turns Moby Dick into a short silent film shot in his kitchen, while Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation translates the Rubens painting “Rape of the Sabine Women” into a full-length feature. Artists Arturo Herrera and Catherine Sullivan are also in the show. It is up through Aug. 2.
The hot summer show that I’m most looking forward to is at Columbus Museum of Art now through Aug. 22: The Architecture of Painting: Charles Burchfield, 1920. The artist, who was born in Ohio but did much of his work in upstate New York, shared with close friend Edward Hopper an attraction to mysteriously eerie depictions of a quiet, often-lonely The Modern Gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago Americana. He lived from 1893- 1967 and is respected in art circles, if not as well-regarded by the general public as he should be. This show features pre-Modernist paintings of houses and industrial architecture done from 1918-1920. (www.columbusmuseum.org)
It’s always worth making a trip to Columbus’ Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, which has excellent and provocative contemporary art shows as well as progressive, arts-oriented popular-culture programming such as art-film screenings and alternative-music acts. There are three current gallery exhibitions through July 26: Catch Air, the first U.S. solo show by South African conceptualist Robin Rhode, who draws large outlines of everyday objects on building facades and streets and then builds and documents performances around them; Beyond the Blue, a retrospective of work by the Austrian post-modernist architectural firm Coop Himmelb(l)au, which designed the new Akron Art Museum building; and William Forsythe: Transfigurations, video and installation projects by an American dance choreographer with an international following. (www.wexarts.org)
At the Dayton Art Institute, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary, new chief curator Will South has organized his first show, 90 Treasures, a greatest-hits selection of work from the museum’s permanent collection. It’s a safe bet that Monet’s iconic Waterlilies 1903 will be there. It opens June 27 and is up for the rest of the year. (www.daytonartinstitute.org)
In Louisville, the Speed Art Museum — Kentucky’s largest and oldest — celebrates the bicentennial of Abraham Lincoln’s birth (in Kentucky) with two shows, both up June 28 through Sept. 6. Ed Hamilton’s Lincoln recounts the creation of a new Lincoln Memorial sculpture at the city’s Waterfront Park, depicting him as a young man on a rock reading a book. Beyond the Log Cabin: Kentucky’s Abraham Lincoln, which was organized by the Kentucky Historical Society, mixes art with history and uses multimedia in telling how Lincoln’s lifelong relationship with the Bluegrass State helped keep it in the Union during the Civil War. (www.speedmuseum.org)
Also in downtown Louisville, 21C Museum/Hotel is a unique cultural destination for its use of cutting-edge art — much of it multimedia and conceptual — as part of the lure for discerning hotel-goers. The art is everywhere, inside and out. Instead of a streetlight in front of the building, there is a brass chandelier hanging from a wooden gallows pole, designed by Werner Reiterer of Austria. There is even art in the public restrooms — the eyes of members of a blind dart throwing group stare out from tiny LED monitors in the mirror. It’s from a video-installation piece, “In the Absence of Voyeurism 6 and 7,” by Sean Bidic. 21C also has temporary exhibitions. (www.21cmuseum.org)
For lovers of Kentucky folk art, which is a proud tradition in a state with a long-established mountain population, a summer show at the Art Museum at the University of Kentucky in Lexington presents more than 80 pieces from state artists whose work is in the UK HealthCare Collection. The show, called Kentucky Folk, was assembled by the Kentucky Folk Art Center and is up July 11- Sept. 20. (www.uky.edu/artmuseum)