When does something become art?
One answer is when a museum shows it. Thus, the current show at the Cincinnati Art Museum, The Amazing American Circus Poster: The Strobridge Lithographing Company, qualifies as art.
And I doubt few of the visitors to this exhibit will quarrel with this claim. There’s appeal on a number of levels. The work is populist in nature, spectacularly colorful with finely rendered and detailed imagery and features excellent examples of the labor-intensive lithography process.
The exhibit tells fascinating stories and — since they date from 1879-1939 — it also sheds light on the way we once lived and entertained ourselves.
Also, since Strobridge was a Cincinnati-based printing company specializing in entertainment-related work, the show has local appeal. And because circus posters were posted (as their name implies) in public and vulnerable to the elements and wear-and-tear, a collection in as good a condition as this is rare.
The Amazing American Circus Poster: The Strobridge Lithographing Company continues at the Cincinnati Art Museum through July 20. Go here to read Steven Rosen's full review.