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Day Trippin' in the Midwest Art Museum Circuit

By Steven Rosen · August 21st, 2013 · Fall Arts Preview
fallarts_vafeature_bellowsGeorge Bellows' "Stag at Sharkey's."
One of the best things about being an art lover in Cincinnati is that you have good museums, with frequently changing special exhibitions, close enough for a day trip. Those are in addition, of course, to the three art museums here — the Cincinnati Art Museum, Contemporary Arts Center and Taft Museum of Art — that present special exhibitions.

Some of these regional museums, such as the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) and Columbus’ Wexner Center for the Arts, are quite ambitious in their scheduling, aiming for national attention with major retrospectives. Frequent visits to these shows are essential. Good examples of such past ones are IMA’s Thornton Dial and Ai Weiwei shows and Wexner’s Luc Tuymans and Mark Bradford shows. 

Those two museums have further benefits. IMA’s outdoor art park, The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres, is so good it’s worth a trip even if you don’t go inside the museum. And the Wexner has the best film, lecture and performance programming between New York and Chicago because of its Ohio State University connection. It’s crucial for keeping up with contemporary arts and ideas. 

One big national-level show this fall — the most important one in this region and a must-see in my book — is Matisse, Life in Color: Masterworks from The Baltimore Museum of Art at the IMA Oct. 13-Jan. 12. Drawn from Baltimore’s famous modern art Cone Collection, it features more than 100 paintings, sculptures, drawings and prints by that giant among color innovators, Henri Matisse. Baltimore’s Cone sisters traveled to France regularly in the early 20th Century to build their collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art and acquired some 500 works of Matisse. This brings many to the Midwest, at least temporarily (imamuseum.org). 

Here’s a selective look at what other area art museums are planning for fall, starting with ones here in town. 

The most anticipated is the idealistic TED prize-winning French street artist JR’s first museum exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Center (contemporaryartscenter.org) from Sept.

21-Feb. 2. His large-scale photos of everyday people worldwide have brought him fame, and he spoke to a standing room-only crowd at the CAC in 2011. One component of the upcoming CAC show will be a photo booth inside a van that roves around the city. On exhibit at the same time as JR, the CAC will give talented local artist Joey Versoza a show called Is This It, in which he pairs appropriated video clips with a score created from popular music tracks.

At the Taft Museum of Art (taftmuseum.org), the key fall show is Telling Tales: Stories and Legends in 19th-Century American Art, from Sept. 20-Jan. 12. Spanning from the colonial period through the Civil War, its 46 paintings and seven sculptures highlight American narrative art. From the collection of the New York Historical Society, the exhibition includes paintings by major names in early 19th-century American art such as Eastman Johnson, William Sidney Mount and Benjamin West as well as other artists being shown for the first time in decades.

The Cincinnati Art Museum (cincinnatiartmuseum.org), stressing its permanent collection this fall rather than exhibitions from outside, introduces Elizabeth Bell, its new curator of European Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture, with her first show — Degas, Renoir and Poetic Pastels, up Oct. 26-Jan. 19. It draws from the museum’s collection of pastels by Impressionists and other French artists working in the second half of the 19th century. 

What’s New: Fashion and Contemporary Craft, up Sept. 7-Jan. 19, features 26 post-1950 additions to the museum’s collection. And Realm of Immortals: Daoist Art in the Cincinnati Art Museum, Oct. 12-Jan. 5, offers items related to Chinese Daoism, many not previously exhibited. 

Outside Cincinnati, the Columbus Museum of Art (columbusmuseum.org) celebrates one of its greatest native sons with George Bellows and the American Experience, up Aug. 23-Jan. 4. While this is not the same excellent retrospective of the gritty early-20th century American realist painter that was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art last winter, it will have some overlapping paintings, including the masterful “Stag at Sharkey’s.” Overall, the show will feature more than 35 paintings and highlight the museum’s recent acquisition of a collection of Bellows’ lithographs.

For art and music lovers, the Wexner’s (wexarts.org) Blues for Smoke sounds extremely promising. On view Sept. 21-Dec. 29, this show, organized by L.A.’s Museum of Contemporary Art, looks at contemporary art through “Blues aesthetics.”  The entire gallery space will be devoted to work from more than 40 artists. And it will also feature material — especially music-related objects — that show how the Blues has affected culture-at-large. By the way, Jazz also has a place in this show — the title comes from a 1960 album by Jazz pianist Jaki Byard. 

The Kentucky Folk Art Center at Morehead State University (moreheadstate.edu/kfac) is an eminently worthwhile day trip for its permanent collection of fine Folk and “outsider” art from throughout the state. 

But it also has temporary exhibits, including photography. Highly recommended is Rough Road: Photographs by Bill Burke, Bob Hower and Ted Wathen, up Oct. 17-Dec. 31. Working from 1975-1977 in a bicentennial project, these three hard-working photographers documented life as they found it throughout the state’s 120 counties. It was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. This ambitious project, which ultimately involved more than 100,000 photographs, keeps growing in reputation — some call it a landmark in contemporary photo-documentation. 

Dayton Art Institute (daytonartinstitute.org) reaches out to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum for Object of Devotion: Medieval English Alabaster Sculpture, up Oct. 26-Jan. 5. It offers some 60 panels and freestanding sculptural works notable for their color, gilding and decoration. By the way, this show follows summer’s Andy Warhol: Athletes & the Art of Sport, up through Sept. 1, which just shows how varied the world of art museum exhibitions can be. ©



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