It’s the 15th century, and remnants of the Middle Ages hang over Europe as it unknowingly waits for the Renaissance. In the dim candlelight somewhere in Spain shines an altarpiece painted to depict the lives of St. Peter and Jesus Christ along with images of the Virgin Mary and other saints. With its impressive strokes of paint and gold and silver leaf, Lorenzo Zaragoza’s “Retablo of St. Peter” is remarkable to behold.
More than 600 years later, the altarpiece rests under the skilled hands of Cincinnati Art Museum’s chief conservator Serena Urry. With only the clack of museum visitor’s shoes disturbing the quiet peace, the setting resembles the serenity of the piece’s original home.
Zaragoza’s piece has stood the test of time, more or less. While it has been admired by thousands of Cincinnati Art Museum visitors since the museum purchased the piece in1960, it was taken off exhibit in 2010 due to its poor condition. It is now back on exhibit through April 24, as visitors can watch Urry bring the retablo to life again through cleaning all 18 of its panels.
It’s a two-in-one exhibit, giving visitors an insider’s look at the work done
by the museum’s conservation department while they view and learn about the
piece. Established in 1935, the museum’s conservation department is one of the
oldest in the country. Since then it has grown from one part-time paintings
conservator to four professionally trained conservators, each of whom have their
own specialization in paintings, paper, textiles or objects. The department is
in charge of conserving the museum’s entire collection (with the exception of
works that are on loan to the museum).
Urry proposed the exhibit because the retablo needed to be treated before it
could go back on view in the galleries. However, this is no small task — the
retouching is not expected to be complete for another few years. On view in the
exhibit is only the first step of the process: cleaning and consolidating.
Urry says determining the full condition of a piece of art before beginning its conservation treatment is the hardest part of conserving art. The two most important tenants that guide painting conservation are reversibility, which ensures that nothing will be done to the work that cannot be removed later, and dissimilarity, which means suing conservation materials that are not found in the original painting.
Of course, Uri’s conservation efforts are not the first for the retablo. With a piece of art this old, it is common for there to be many years of retouching — the first effort to conserve the retablo may have occurred around the early 1500s. It is believed that the central sculpture of St. Peter was created to replace the original lost piece.
Urry’s work includes using a variety of solvents, hand tools and a hot air gun to remove the effects of older retouching campaigns, such as discolored varnish and wax. This includes a layer of wax added by the Art Museum in 1960 to contain flaking. Since then it has become clouded with dust and grime, and the wax tinted to match the gold leaf of the painting has discolored to a greenish metallic hue.
After cleaning, painting conservation also involves structural treatments, such as modifying or replacing the canvas, its lining and stretcher. There may also be surface treatments done to conserve paintings, such as filling losses of paint, toning the fillings and adding layers of varnish.
“All of the paintings in a multi-piece work like this should be worked on together to ensure consistency,” Urry says. “The gallery space gives me an opportunity to have all of them on view as they are conserved.”
Jens Lekman, the acclaimed Swedish singer-songwriter whose weeklong residency at Cincinnati’s Contemporary Arts Center is now in its third day, has finished and posted the first five songs in his Ghostwriting project.
You can hear them here.
Through Thursday, Lekman will be meeting with 11 people (it was supposed to be 12, but one had to cancel) whose written entries about their experiences were selected by him for song adaptations.
He will be discussing their stories with them, creating lyrics and then recording — with a small combo — songs that he posts for the world to hear. The participants receive a USB copy in a gift box. Read more information about the project here.
Listening to the five songs posted so far, one can hear that his knack for melody is up for this challenge. “What Was Worth Saving,” “Cartwheels” and “The Love It Takes to Get By” are particularly memorable. Because of an issue with one song on Monday night, Lekman compensated by recording two versions of another, “Northeastern Ascent.” Three more songs are scheduled to be finished and posted online tonight and another three on Thursday evening.
On Friday at 8 p.m. at the Woodward Theater, Lekman will perform in concert with the MYCincinnati Ambassador Ensemble, a string section of Price Hill youth under the direction of local musician/composer Eddy Kwon, who also adapted the arrangements. Some of the Cincinnati-composed songs will be included.
Tickets are available at contemporaryartscenter.org for $20 (or $15 for CAC members) now and should still be available at the door.
Every piece of art has a story, but what we don’t often remember is that
the story of the artist can be even more enthralling. Donna King of River’s
Edge Pottery Studio shared not only her trade but her history with a group
during a pottery demonstration at the Covington branch of the Kenton County
Public Library. The demonstration, which was scheduled for only two hours,
stretched out as King engaged her audience in a series of stories.
She begian by slamming the clay on the wheel, making a large thump. “You’ve
gotta get really really tough with it,” she explained. After centering the blob
of clay on the wheel, King went to work on what she tells us is going to be a
bowl. “With my students, the first thing I have them do is make a bowl,” she said.
As we watched, King masterfully poked a hole in the middle of the clay lump,
eventually widening it out to form a discernable bowl shape. Once she was
finished with it, King set it aside and grabbed a larger lump of clay, which
she again threw on the wheel. This one was to become a vase, and King eagerly
shared her technique for designing her pieces, which includes using a variety
of objects to create patterns. Leaves, feathers and lace are a few of her
standard tools, but she’s also used Hot Wheels cars, plastic placemats and
pages from adult coloring books. “Sometimes I use a feather, sometimes I use
sugar, and one time I actually used cat’s whiskers,” she said, laughing.
The library demonstration was King’s second at the Kenton County Public
Library. The artist, who has been creating pottery for nine years, originally asked
to display pottery for the Clay Alliance of Cincinnati, but when the library
reached out requesting her to come give a presentation last fall, she gladly
accepted. “It’s just fun,” she said. “It’s
just been an adventure.” The artist says she’s traveled all over the community
doing demonstrations and classes and has worked with several Girl Scout troops
and taught classes at Christian schools in the area, as well as teaching
private or group classes. “I’ve had them as young as two years old, and up to
86 years old,” she said “People who say, ‘You know, I’ve always wanted to try
that,’ and I say, ‘Well, now’s your chance.’ ”
Find this interesting? Check out similar events at the Kenton County Public Library:
Nov. 12: Scarf
It Up: Learn to knit from a local hobbyist. (Durr Branch)
Nov. 17: Coloring for Adults: Unwind at the Erlanger branch with this creative past time. (Erlanger Branch)
Nov. 19: Holiday Sewing: Machines and fabric are available for you to come make a holiday gift. (Covington Branch)
People’s Liberty, a local group that describes itself as a “philanthropic lab that brings together civic-minded talent to address challenges and uncover opportunities to accelerate the positive transformation of Greater Cincinnati,” has announced eight new grantees who will receive help and funding from the organization for their various project proposals.
The group previously announced two 2015 Haile Fellows to receive funding and other support from People’s Liberty. Brad Cooper’s Start Small project involves building two efficient, low-cost “tiny houses” and engaging residents about the benefits of “tiny living” (the small, affordable homes will be powered by solar panels). Local musician Brad Schnittger was also named a Haile Fellow and is working on a music publishing platform called MusicLi, which will feature a library of original music by artists in Greater Cincinnati that can be licensed for commercial use (and provide income for the artists). Schnittger is currently surveying area businesses interested in using music in advertising to get a sense of their needs (click here if you’re involved in a business that would like to participate). There will be an event on May 7 at Over-the-Rhine’s Woodward Theater (6-8 p.m.) to discuss the new venture (Cincy’s Buffalo Killers will provide live music). Click here for details.
The just-announced Spring Project Grantees were chosen by a panel of creative types, business people and others from the community. This round of grantees includes CityBeat editor Maija Zummo, along with partner Colleen Sullivan, whose project Made in Cincinnati is a planned “curated online marketplace that simplifies shopping locally by offering goods directly from Cincinnati’s best craftspeople, creatives and artisans in one centralized location.”
Others chosen by the panel include Daniel Schleith, Nate Wessel and Brad Thomas’s Metro*Now project, which will provide signs with real-time Metro bus information; Nancy Sunnenberg’s Welcome to Cincinnati tool, to help newcomers connect with “local organizations, businesses and civic opportunities”; Mark Mussman’s Creative App Project, which will certify several Cincinnati residents via an Android App Developers educational series; Alyssa McClanahan & John Blatchford’s Kunst: Build Art, a print magazine focused on redevelopment projects for local historic buildings; Quiera Levy-Smith’s Black Dance is Beautiful, described as a “cultural event … designed to showcase diversity in Cincinnati dance, as well as encourage youth to pursue their passions and break down barriers”; Anne Delano Steinert’s Look Here!, a history exhibition to take place in Over-the-Rhine and feature 50 historic photos to help people connect that neighborhood’s past and present; and Giancomo Ciminello’s Spaced Invaders, an interactive installation featuring “a projection mapped video game that will activate the abandoned spaces once occupied by buildings.”
For more information on People’s Liberty’s work in the community (including information about how to apply if you have a good idea), click here.
The Contemporary Arts Center will open its renovated lobby to the public Saturday after a members preview Friday night. The $1.1 million upgrade includes a new lounge area, a much-needed cafe and overall artsy facelift.
Local architecture and design firm firm FRCH Design Worldwide reimagined the interior space, which was under construction since Jan. 6.
The CAC's updated lobby features more seating and gathering spaces, a relocated welcome desk and, yes, more art. Previously exhibited mostly upstairs, artworks will now be displayed around the ground-level. Of course, the museum's excellent gift shop is still a part of the lobby, just more centrally located now.
Collective CAC, the museum's new cafe, comes courtesy Dustin Miller and Dave Hart of local favorite Collective Espresso. Located where the gift shop used to be in the corner of the lobby, Collective CAC will serve signature coffees along with breakfast, lunch and dessert items, plus beer and wine. Visitors can sit at communal tables or grab a drink at the bar.
The new CAC gallery hours are 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Monday, closed Tuesday and 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday. Collective CAC will be open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Tuesday and 7 a.m.-9 p.m. Wednesday-Friday.
The CAC celebrated its 75th anniversary in May 2014.
Edwin G. Fischer, M.D., President of the Board of Directors of the Redwood Library & Athenæum, announced the appointment of Benedict Leca, Ph.D., as its new Executive Director, effective January 15, 2015, following a competitive national search.
“This is tremendous news for the Redwood,” stated Dr. Fischer, “An expert in 18th-century art, history, and material culture, Benedict is uniquely qualified to move the Library into the national spotlight as a center of thought and culture. He has a wealth of experience and is extremely well-suited to lead this 268-year old cultural institution.”
As Executive Director, Leca will articulate and advance the Redwood’s historic mission as a hybrid cultural institution with “nothing in view but the good of mankind.” Building on the Redwood’s unique position as a catalyst for dialogues about education across periods and disciplines, Leca’s work will focus on fully realizing the opportunities inherent to the athenæum model through an expanded array of public programs, forums, and exhibitions—both on-site and on-line—that will foster networks of intellectual exchange locally, regionally, and around the world.
Prior to his current tenure at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Ontario, as Chief Curator and Director of Curatorial Affairs (2012-14), Leca was Curator of European Painting, Sculpture and Drawings at the Cincinnati Art Museum.
He was the first Andrew Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in the French Paintings department at the National Gallery of Art in Washington (2003-2007), and served on the staff of the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University (1999-2000). Mr. Leca also currently holds the position of Adjunct Assistant Professor of Art History in the School of the Arts, McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.
Mr. Leca has curated many important exhibitions: Charles-Nicolas Cochin: Draftsman of the Enlightenment (2003); Rembrandt: Three Faces of the Master (2008); Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman (2010—2011); Monet in Giverny: Landscapes of Reflection (2012); The Painter Pictured: French Nineteenth-Century Paintings and Portrait Photographs (2013); the current The World is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Paul Cézanne, executed in partnership with the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia (2014-15), and the forthcoming Illuminations: Italian Baroque Masterworks in Canadian Collections to be held at the Art Gallery of Hamilton and the Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton, in 2015.
(Thanks to Judith H. Dobrzynski's Real Clear Arts blog at http://www.artsjournal.com/
Another historic Cincinnati building is being artfully illuminated. This year's past LumenoCity light mapping to a live orchestra on Music Hall was more popular than ever, and tonight the NEAR*BY Curatorial Collective is doing something similar at Rhinegeist.
Rhinegeist brewery is housed in the skeleton of an old Moerlein bottling plant. And starting at 7 p.m. Thursday (Nov. 20), 17 artists and collaboratives will be exhibiting projected video, sculptural and environmental installations in/on the structure's architecture. The interdisciplinary works will demonstrate how contemporary artists currently embrace the dematerialization of image and how that manifests in a non-traditional art space. The name Rhinegeist literally translates to "ghost of the Rhine," and according to the curatorial statement, "Though often intangible, light and art can likewise be said to haunt or inhabit space."
Participating artists include Brandon Abel, Jen Berter, Nicki Davis, DAAP Clay & Glazes, headed by Katie Parker and Guy Michael Davis (featuring the work of Olutoba Akomolede, Christine Barron, Amanda Bialk, Michael Broderick, Linnea Campbell, Catherine Gilliam, Theresa Krosse, Sarah Maxwell, Megan Stevens, Christine Uebel, Allison Ventura & Victoria Wykoff), Lizzy Duquette, Sam Ferris-Morris, Mark Governanti, John Hancock, Joe Ianopollo, Maidens of the Cosmic Body Running, Andy Marko, Alice Pixley Young, Play Cincy, Lindsey Sahlin, Caroline Turner, Justin West, C. Jacqueline Wood and Charlie Woodman.
The one-night only exhibit kicks off at 7 p.m. and will go until 10 p.m. It's free and open to the public. Rhinegeist is located at 1910 Elm St., Over-the-Rhine. Get more information about the event or NEAR*BY and their mission to create ephemeral and interdisciplinary exhibits that bypass the art institution here.
As Downtown and Over-the-Rhine continue to see a growth of walking tours related to the revived inner city's heritage (especially its brewing heritage) and architecture, a new one will soon be offered dedicated to its ever-growing collection of public murals.
ArtWorks, which is responsible for many of those murals (including a just-finished one at Eighth and Main streets dedicated to Cincinnati-born Pop artist Tom Wesselmann), will launch the tours in October as part of its Mural (Celebration) Month. They will continue into November, and then take a break. Beginning in 2015, they'll run April through November. Reservations will be needed for the tours, which will run 90 minutes and cost $20 for adults.
Artworks also is looking for volunteers to guide those tours. If you're interested in either, visit artworkscincinnati.org where information will be available soon. Bus tours are being discussed, too, once streetcar construction is completed.
Fresh off its 2014-2015 season announcement, Downtown’s Contemporary Arts Center adds a new promotion to its calendar of exhibits, performances and special events.
Night Museum gives visitors a chance to check out the CAC during evening hours every Thursday. From 5-9 p.m., guests can view the latest exhibit, shop the CAC Store, enjoy a cash bar and mingle with other art appreciators. Admission is $7.50; $5.50 for seniors, students and educators; and free for children under 5 and all members. Paid visitors can park for free Thursdays in July at the Central Parking Garage (36 E. Seventh Street).
This week's Night Museum coincides with a special event from One Night One Craft, the CAC's DIY workshop series. Chef Trinidad Mac-Auliffe of Raw Intervention will demonstrate cool recipes — literally — highlighting dishes prepared without heat. Munch on raw creations, then try making some of your own fro 6-8 p.m. One Night One Craft continues Mondays through July.
The CAC is
typically open until 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. The museum is closed on
Tuesdays and offers free admission from 5-9 p.m. Mondays. Find more info here.