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Get Ready for FotoFocus 2012

By Steven Rosen · November 3rd, 2010 · The Big Picture
October 2012 might seem a long way off, but in the museum world that’s almost like tomorrow. And Cincinnati’s art museums, major galleries and related arts institutions are already at work planning for the city’s first FotoFocus.

The plan is to highlight photography as an art form in all sorts of innovative ways, from high-profile museum shows to temporary pop-up galleries. James Crump, chief curator and photography curator of Cincinnati Art Museum, and Raphaela Platow, director and chief curator of Contemporary Arts Center, are the co-chairs.

Many details have yet to be worked out — maybe the name will even change and some events might start before October 2012. But here’s what’s being discussed so far. “It’s a citywide celebration of photo-based and lens-based art,” Crump says. “The event would include organizations like the Taft Museum, Weston Art Gallery, the Carnegie (in Covington), the Mercantile Library, the Art Academy, as well as some commercial spaces and possibly some (temporary) pop-up-gallery installations. It’s very early and we’re in the process of trying to define what each venue will be showing.

“It comes out of our jump-starting photography programs since I joined the art museum in 2008,” Crump says. “It’s an outreach program. I think institutions locally, regionally and nationally are beginning to team up more frequently. Photography is the medium of our time, a very accessible medium and one we want to promote. This is one way of doing that.”

Crump says the art museum is looking at two special exhibitions, one featuring vintage photographs and another contemporary, with both coming from outside its collection.

He’s not ready to name them.

However, something really exciting could be brewing at the CAC. If it works out, the institution will be following this year’s high-profile Shepard Fairey show and next year’s Keith Haring one with the king of pop art, Andy Warhol. But wait a minute, you say. Warhol wasn’t a photographer, was he?

Yes and no. Warhol is known primarily for his paintings and silkscreen prints. But he took more than 100,000 photographs from 1977 until his death in 1987, most with a Polaroid SX70 camera. That information comes from Wright State University, one of 183 colleges nationwide to receive a combined 28,543 photographs from the Andy Warhol Foundation for Visual Arts in 2008. (Other Ohio colleges/universities receiving photos were Wooster College, Kent State, Oberlin and Akron.)

It is the CAC’s plan — and it could still fall through — to organize a groundbreaking museum exhibition devoted to those photographs.

“We’re pulling works from all kinds of different places,” Platow says. “We’re collaborating with another institution. It’s going to be a lot of photographs and also paintings.”

According to Tess Cortes, galleries coordinator for Wright State, Warhol used Polaroids like sketches, as preparations for his formal artwork. In the gift to Wright State are Polaroids of celebrities like O.J. Simpson, Sylvester Stallone and Joan Collins, which show careful preparation of their clothing and make-up. She says Warhol needed that to highlight contrasts. Wright State also received some black-and-white gelatin silver prints, which Cortes says served more like everyday photo-documentation in Warhol’s oeuvre.

Platow says a show of such photographs could be groundbreaking, revealing how his Polaroids influenced his primary art-making mediums, as well as to what extent they work as finished art in and of themselves.

And she doesn’t think Warhol is too well known or too often exhibited for another show.

“I think it’s important for institutions to attempt to unravel and rediscover figures that are so fully established and that everybody seems to know,” she says.

CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: srosen@citybeat.com



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