Sometimes you have to leave Ohio — and
Cincinnati — to discover how many interesting and unusual connections
there are between the Buckeye State and the larger world of
modern/contemporary arts and design.
Wexner Center for the Arts makes a bold statement in its current
retrospective of David Smith’s work: He’s the greatest American sculptor
of the 20th century. If Smith, who died in an auto accident in
1965 at age 59, is ahead of Alexander Calder, Isamu Noguchi or Richard
Serra, I’m not sure the general public knows it.
When Chuck Lohre and Janet Groeber
learned the innovative kitchen at Hyde Park’s landmark 1960 Corbett
House was being replaced by new owners, they shifted into action to save
it. They offered to take it and the owners agreed. They acquired the kitchen in 2010. Now,
no longer wanting to store the disassembled kitchen, they are trying to
find a new home for it.
Carl Solway, celebrating his 50th year as
a Cincinnati gallerist, was speaking recently to arts patrons in the
residence at Hamilton’s Pyramid Hill Sculpture Park about the milestone
that is his new show. He’s presenting a John Cage show, he said, because
Cage was the 20th Century’s greatest artist.
This year is the Taft Museum’s 80th
anniversary — it opened in 1932, five years after Charles Phelps Taft
and Anna Sinton Taft deeded their historic 1820 mansion and its 690
works of art to Cincinnati.
Other museums have also tried this in
order to get more of their collections on view. Now Cincinnati Art
Museum, which has 60,000 objects, is trying the approach. It’s
converting two important second-floor galleries — previously its prime
space for temporary exhibits — to open storage for the next two years,
when renovation of the old Art Academy building is complete.
It was about a year ago this time I was
climbing the steps of Notre Dame Cathedral to look beyond the famous
stone gargoyles and see Paris. I recently climbed the winding stairwell
of the usually closed-off, 145-foot-tall square tower at Clifton
Heights’ Hughes High School to view Cincinnati from the exposed landing
at the top. Not quite the same thing, but impressive.
Beginning Sunday with a 4-6 p.m.
reception, the Skirball Museum (3101 Clifton Ave., Clifton,
www.huc.edu/museums/) is opening a new exhibition: Jewish-related
fine-crafts objects, such as driedels, mezuzahs and shofars, made of
Venetian glass by Michael Gore, an Illinois artist.
There are two big reasons to be excited
about Vermont-born, singer-songwriter Sam Amidon’s show at 9 p.m.
tomorrow night in downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center (CAC). First is Amidon himself, whose records
combine beautifully rendered, hauntingly sung, traditionalist-minded
Folk songs with unusual arrangements.
Whatever else, it requires bravery for a
photographer to wander around abandoned buildings, subway stations, wave
pools and other derelict remnants of the built environment. Vince Geier
of Northside, who died in June at age 37, had it. His friend Cathy Heil, who accompanied
him (and others) into Detroit’s massive Michigan Central (Railroad)
Station, empty since 1988, can attest to that.
When I first started learning about
contemporary art, Pop ruled. There was a wicked humor in Pop that was
subversively accessible — taking the imagery of recognizable objects,
often consumer products, and liberating them from their “official”
meaning. It seemed both radical and fun in an ironic, distancing way.
At Carl Solway Gallery in the West End,
on a wall by a stairway leading up to his office, is a small but
heartfelt tribute to the British Pop Art pioneer Richard Hamilton, who
died last month at age 89. On the wall is one of Hamilton’s prints:
“Kent State,” based on a photographic image he snapped from his
television set during news coverage of the 1970 killing by Ohio National
Guard troops of four university students on their campus.
As a devotee of the kind of enigmatically mysterious,
ambitious conceptual art installations — sometimes minimalist, sometimes
abstracted or color-field — that can be called “spiritual,” I’ve made
pilgrimages to some pretty unusual places. The rationale behind such art
often is that remoteness adds to the intensity of the experience.
While University of Cincinnati’s
relocation and reinstallation of Dennis Oppenheim’s “Crystal Garden”
wasn’t meant as a memorial to the internationally renown sculptor, it
ends up being that. The decision to make the work a much more prominent
piece of UC’s itself-internationally-renowned campus landscape was
arrived at in November 2010, before Oppenheim’s January death from liver
cancer at age 72. The New York-based sculptor had even signed off on
the move at the end of December.
I have seen the future of art museums and it is fashion/costume design. That’s a paraphrase of a famous review Jon Landau wrote upon seeing an early Bruce Springsteen concert, but I felt as if I’d just discovered the art-museum-world equivalent — at the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s recent Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty exhibit.