Let it not be said (as you might have heard or read) that the Cincinnati subway never hosted a paying customer. In fact, visits to the abandoned tunnels under Central Parkway intended for the never-completed system have become a nice, if underground, funding source for Cincinnati Museum Center’s education programs. Who said mass transit can’t pay dividends for Cincinnati?
Jackie Brookner, a New York-based artist who creates “biospheres” by using storm runoff and other polluted waters as part of her outdoor, environmental earthworks, spoke at Xavier University this month about the ethical and spiritual dimensions to her work. One of her pieces, “Laughing Brook,” is in Cincinnati, along the struggling Mill Creek.
While I’ve waxed positively about Cincinnati Art Museum’s recent exhibitions and programming, I’d be guilty of hometown parochialism if I failed to mention activities at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. It seems on a fast track, under director Maxwell Anderson, to becoming a museum of consistent national significance.
I run into people who don’t like museums because they say they prefer nature’s beauty to art. That comment is wrong-headed and shortsighted on so many levels — and I say that as someone who likes nature. First of all, nature can operate so mysteriously that it needs an artist to express to us the poetic depths of both its complexity and simplicity. But art isn’t an alternative to nature. They’re not separate.
In recent weeks, there have been some thought-provoking guests at our art museums. I’ve attended talks by the French superstar street artist/photographer JR at Contemporary Arts Center and renowned architect Billie Tsien, who is designing the new Barnes Collection building in Philadelphia, at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Both offered ideas and comments worthy of further discussion.
Most people would say there’s a clear distinction between a library and a museum. A library circulates books and audio/visual materials to people who want to use them; a museum collects valuable objects in order to protect and preserve them. But, as it happens, major libraries have a museum-like function — they have special collections of all sorts of unusual and offbeat material, often of a local nature.
What I like best about the art that is often called “minimalist” is that when it’s done with commitment and devotion, intellect and compassion, there’s nothing simple about it. A painting that — to paraphrase Seinfeld — is about nothing becomes about so much more.
This week through Sunday, Carl Solway Gallery is one of just 139 prestigious galleries from 30 countries (and the only local representative) involved in an international experiment to see if virtual, online-only art fairs can sell contemporary work. Based on technical problems early this week, that experiment has some room for improvement.
The first part of this year is going to be a dynamic one for museum exhibits — so dynamic that you have to wonder if there will be enough patrons for all the high-profile shows. The biggest show (probably) is primarily a history exhibit, but one with incredibly good timing. Cleopatra: The Search for the Last Queen of Egypt, which comes to Cincinnati Museum Center on Feb. 17.
One of the prize paintings in the Taft Museum of Art's permanent collection is Francisco Goya's oil "Portrait of Queen Maria Luisa of Spain," circa 1800. It's the only painting by the Spanish master — one of art's greatest innovators — in Cincinnati. The face with its powerful gaze, the dark hair holding glittering jewelry and the gauzy and delicate bodice all speak to the confident and astute way Goya could paint. Or does it?
Let's hope you won’t be too busy during December preparing for and celebrating the various holidays to get to area museums and galleries for their art exhibits. There are quite a few good ones. Here are my recommendations, based either on seeing them or being familiar with the artists/subject matter.
The two Brighton co-op galleries that try to maintain ongoing, changing exhibition schedules — Semantics and U-turn Art Space — have a challenge in luring audiences to their shows. They only have regular hours of noon-4 p.m. Saturdays, along with opening-night receptions. Still, so-called “alternative art spaces” are a crucial component for any city that wants to have meaningful contemporary art.
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.
Imagine walking through the rooms of the Cincinnati Art Museum, farther and farther toward the back, then entering a small back gallery and finding a black hole. It sounds like something out of Jules Verne. Yet, that is the effect upon the viewer from walking up to George Bellows’ magnificent “Excavation at Night” painting, tucked away in the Heekin Gallery.