In August, the Corbett Foundation announced it was closing shop, ending
one of the city's most generous streams of philanthropy. It turns out that
there was still one more gift in the hopper.
On Tuesday, The University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music's J. Ralph Corbett Distinguished Chair of Opera received the final award of $1 million, a gift that will provide additional support for scholarships, touring productions, an archive and partial support of the named professorship currently held by Robin Guarino.
Opera Department is one of the nation's finest. Two of its recent graduates
were winners in the Metropolitan Opera's national auditions, and its alumni
perform in theaters all over the world.
Robin Guarino is one of the most sought-after directors and has staged productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Indiana University, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, San Francisco Opera and Brooklyn Academy of Music.
So many FotoFocus-related shows overlap and then close in October that it’s hard to get to them all or even write about in a timely fashion those that I do get to see. But I didn’t want to let Manifest Gallery’s Neither Here Nor There juried group show of photography and video work and its separate but related Leigh Merrill video installation, both of which closed Oct. 24, to go unrecognized. For Neither Here Nor There, the quality was overall quite high and some of the work has stayed with me now for several weeks long after I’ve forgotten other shows.
New York-based artist Gloria Houng won the $1,000 Best of Show prize for her “Standard Double (Feet),” one of a series of eerie shots made in a bedroom that in some way incorporate images of an apparently absent person’s presence into the scene. The results cause a double-take among viewers, but the work is too elegant to be jokey or gimmicky. She infuses the commonplace with mystery.
The London-based Emma Charles, whose short films explore “the dialogue between time and the city,” contributed the mesmerizing, 17-minute Fragments on Machines. Short sequences, some with poetic narration, take us out on the streets and sidewalks of the city and up close to the exteriors and (most ominously) interior infrastructure of buildings. There is beauty and alienation, especially as we look closely at the rows of servers that power modern office buildings. You can watch it here.
And Leigh Merrill’s video installation Drive Thru is a deadpan looping look at the flat barren architecture of suburban sprawl, except the places were created by her digitally assembly of parts from individual photographs and images. The result highlights the strangeness — and questions what draws us as people to seek or support such development in the first place.
Adding to the ever-growing number of public art murals in Covington, Ky., BLDG welcomed the Brooklyn-based street art collective, FAILE in October to complete a massive painted Pop art installation in their torn collage style that spans three walls and either side of Sixth Street.
BLDG, the locally grown art gallery/branding firm, is responsible for numerous murals around Covington including (but not limited to) 10 recognizable black and white characters done by The London Police on notable Covington landmarks and businesses, as well as the current COV200 mural project for the city’s bicentennial celebration, which will involve more than 20 murals by the time it’s completed.
FAILE artists Patrick McNeil and Patrick Miller sent a crew of two studio assistants to begin the initial layout for the piece, which involved pouncing an outline of the design onto walls with cheesecloth bags filled with powdered pigment. Unfortunately for their studio assistants who had come to do the initial legwork, whenever it would rain (and before they could trace a more permanent outline with Sharpie), a storm shower would come and wash it all away.
Despite some less than ideal weather conditions during the two-week installation process, the artists themselves came into town the final two days of painting and were able to finish the grand installation by Oct. 23, when I met up with them at Arnold’s amidst a full table of BLDG employees, headed by Lesley Amann.
Amann recently stepped in as partner at BLDG after the founder — her husband, and the driving force behind BLDG’s commitment to public art — passed away a year ago this month. Lesley said that the FAILE mural was one of the last projects Mike began before he got sick and when I asked Miller and McNeil, “Why Covington?” McNeil echoed that sentiment.
According to the artist, a large factor in FAILE’s involvement was due to, “getting to know these guys and wanting to pull through for them and represent.”
Project leaders unveiled the new three-wall piece to the public on Oct. 23 and the mural included such iconography as the FAILE dog and a cat burglar on the opposing wall, as well as a visual reference to some of the collaborative’s newer works, which depict classic American muscle cars.
Patrick Miller puts their artistic approach in simple terms.
“Our work has always been about making images that people can find their own narrative in and relate to in their own way. It’s always more fun for us to see the way people react to the work — the kind of stories they make up about it. Whenever you’re doing public work, that’s the beauty of it: It’s meant for anyone to come see.”
Beyond Pop: A Tom Wesselmann Retrospective opens to the general public today at Cincinnati Art Museum, with an Art After Dark Halloween costume party from 5-9 p.m. part of the celebrations for the late native-Cincinnatian, New York-based Pop artist.
But last night, members of the museum’s Founders Society level ($1,500-$50,000) got a special opening that included Wesselmann’s widow (and frequent model) Claire discussing her husband’s work with Jeffrey Sturges, studio manager for the Tom Wesselmann Estate.
The presentation started with Matt Distel, the museum’s adjunct curator for Contemporary art, praising the exhibit’s installation — especially the work of chief perparator Kim Flora. “You would hardly know how difficult and heavy those pieces are — they look like they float off the wall,” he said.
I would agree — some of Wesselmann’s complex pieces as gigantic canvases, some are shaped canvases with three-dimensional elements, some are assemblages with sculptural elements, and he did a series of “metal paintings” (oil or enamel on cut-out aluminum) that had to be difficult to handle and mount. None looks graceless or awkward in the gallery spaces.
Next, Claire presented the museum with a gift — one of Wesselmann’s metal paintings, “Barn Near Hilltop Airport.” And she explained how much her husband wanted a U.S. museum retrospective while he was alive, revealing that he saved important works for such an occasion and even prepared a speech in his diary.
She read an excerpt: “I loved being alive even though I buried myself alive in my work.”
(He died in 2004 at age 73. While he had European retrospectives, this is the first in the U.S./Canada. It has already been in Montreal, Richmond, Va., and Denver — this is the last stop. Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts with the Estate’s assistance organized the first two stops; Cincinnati the last two.)
During her conversation with Sturges, Claire offered some insights into her husband’s work. One of his great early Pop innovations, the use of cutout images from billboard advertising posters as collage elements in his paintings, came about for practical reasons.
As a poor artist, he could get those for the asking — he wrote to companies to send them. And he knew how to get them free, too. “At that time, they took down subway posters and threw them in the can,” she said. “So then Tom came along and took them.”
She also revealed that Tom loved the Abstract Expressionist art in vogue in the mid- to-late 1950s, when they were attending New York’s Cooper Union college together. But he knew he needed to do something new. “Abstraction was the thing he really wanted to do, but he took another path,” she said. “But he came back to it.”
As Tom moved through different themes in his work, in the 1990s he started turning to abstraction in his metal paintings. A picture of one, 1993’s “Claire’s Thigh,” was shown at the presentation. “I like this very much, minus the title,” Claire said.
During the question-and-answer period, there was also discussion of Tom’s infatuation with Country and Western music. He wrote more than 400 songs and some were recorded. One, “I Love Doing Texas With You,” was played softly in the film Brokeback Mountain. The retrospective has a small display devoted to his music, although no way to hear any of it.
Claire said when she and Tom would visit his parents in Cincinnati from New York he’d listen to country music on the radio. “He’d take the car and we’d go driving and he’d flip on the country stations,” she said. He’d say, ‘I like the stories.’”Visit www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org for exhibit details.
Cincinnati Ballet will be spreading their wish to inspire hope and enchantment in the community by broadcasting the 2 p.m. performance of Peter Pan on Nov. 8 to Cincinnati Children’s Hospital live from the Aronoff Center. Patients and their families who might otherwise miss the magic will now be able to experience the spectacular tale of the flying boy who never grows up — straight from their hospital room.
The Ballet recently came together again with The Cure Starts Now, a cancer research and awareness foundation they’ve been working with since 2009, to bring oncology patients at Children’s the third year of “Ballerina for a Day.” In this behind-the-scenes event, children and their families were offered a chance to see the background of the ballet world with makeovers, crafts, dancing and costumes. With the show streaming right to the comfort and safety of their rooms, they can now complete the full circle of the ballet experience by enjoying a live show.
Cincinnati Ballet has also invited Leah Still — the dance-loving daughter of Devon Still battling stage 4 neuroblastoma and who has brought a plethora of attention to organizations like The Cure Starts Now — to perform in the show with a walk-on role. If her parents and doctor give the go ahead, this would mark 4-year-old Leah’s debut in a professional stage performance.
This wondrous benefit for dozens of children marks an incredible collaboration by various members of the regional community. Unions have waived fees, Children’s has cooperated in arranging the broadcast and camera operators have donated the use of their time, talent and gear in order for this to be possible, according to Victoria Morgan, artistic director and CEO of Cincinnati Ballet.
Peter Pan hits the stage Nov. 7-9, with performances 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday. Look out for an interview with composer and music director Carmon DeLeone in next week’s issue.
Brian Powers, the Cincinnati librarian who has done exhaustive work researching King Records history, thought he had found a “Holy Grail” photo — of the West End record store that Syd Nathan owned before starting King.
He knew it had been on Central Avenue, but didn’t know what it looked like.
It was in the Hebrew Union College/Skirball Museum FotoFocus-connected exhibit Documenting Cincinnati’s Neighborhoods, which features George Rosenthal’s photographs, taken in the late 1950s, of the West End before I-75 construction would dramatically alter it. Rosenthal’s photographs, owned by Cincinnati Museum Center, hadn’t been shown at least in 50 years, if ever.
Visiting on the exhibit’s opening day, Oct. 22, Powers saw one Rosenthal photo of a Central Avenue record store at 1567 Central Ave. Just a small storefront with a homey screen-door, it had what looked like neon signs that announced “Records All Speeds” and then listed the choices: Spirituals, Classics, Pops, Rhythm-Blues, Bop, Hillbilly & Western.
You can also partially see some letters and the initials “CO” at the top of the signs. Some additional written information was on a window, and another sign offered television sets for $29. Nathan wouldn’t have still owned such a store in this time period — he started King in 1943 — but might it have carried on the same location, more or less unchanged, with someone else in charge?
Powers told Henry Rosenthal, the late George’s son, about his hunch. And in his opening remarks, Henry mentioned it. Henry was particularly proud because he owns the desk that James Brown kept at King Records’ headquarters in Evanston. “It’s my prize possession,” he said.
Among the Rosenthal family members at the opening, besides Henry, were Jean Rosenthal Bloch, George’s wife; daughter Julie Baker; George S. Rosenthal and Roger Baker, George’s grandsons; great-grandson Clay Baker, and cousin Ed Rosenthal. With several hundred in attendance, it was an important moment in recognizing Rosenthal’s work.
Alas, when Powers (who didn’t attend the reception) later started researching, he saw the record store in this photo wasn’t where Nathan’s was located.
“Syd’s shop was at 1351 Central Ave.,” he said via E-mail. “The shop in the photo is at 1567 Central. It was called Mo-F-A Co. It’s listed as a TV repair shop. It was owned by a guy named Ted Savage, who seemed to have lived there with his wife.
“It looks like Syd handed over his store to Ike Klayman around 1945 to 1946. I don’t see 1351 Central listed after 1949. It may have been torn down by then. It’s where Taft football field is now.”
Powers added that he has seen a photo of a record store owned by Klayman, but believes it is at a different location
So the search for a photo of Nathan’s record store goes on, but meanwhile this very evocative one is now — finally — available to be seen.
The exhibit, which looks at what life in Cincinnati was like in the West End and Downtown before much was torn down for controversial “urban renewal” from the 1960s to 1980s, both in terms of their architecture and the conditions of the poor, also features powerful photos by Daniel Ransohoff and Ben Rosen.
It is up through Dec. 21 at the Skirball and Jacob Rader Marcus Center on the HUC campus, 3010 Clifton Ave. Go here for details.
Last night, British photographer Paul Graham presented his FotoFocus-sponsored lecture at Cincinnati Art Museum. Graham’s work is in two of FotoFocus’ featured exhibitions — the museum’s Eyes on the Street and the Stills show at Downtown’s Michael Lowe Gallery. Eyes on the Street is up until Jan. 4; Stills closes Nov. 1.
Graham’s work is related to but updates classic street photography in that, based on what he said last night, he seeks out subtle shots rather than what he calls “clichéd” or obviously dramatic images. He tries to build haiku-like, enigmatic visual sequences that in their small details cumulatively provide insight. (That said, he did show slides from a recent series that features rainbows.)
It’s a difficult task not always easily evident to the viewer, but he expressed his purpose eloquently last night and repeatedly mentioned those whose work inspired him — Robert Frank, Diane Arbus, Garry Winogrand. For those moved by his work, there’s a Where’s Waldo quality to “reading” the smallest details — the color of a tie or T-shirt, the positioning of a pedestrian on a street, the relationship of the camera angle to a storefront sign, the choices in focus.
This is particularly noticeable in his recent The Present series of New York street life, from which the Cincinnati-displayed photos come. “It’s the theater of the street, the theater of life coming at you,” he said. He also prefers that his framed prints be mounted on a gallery wall close to the floor, to approximate sidewalk level. But he acknowledged last night that the Stills show did not do that, and he enjoyed being able to see his photos at more normal eye level.
His The Present photos in Eyes on the Street capture the results of bold action or drama, a rarity for him, in that a woman has fallen on the sidewalk while others move toward her.
Meanwhile last night, the museum’s associate curator of photography, Brian Sholis, distributed announcements of two additional events connected to the current Eyes on the Street show: a Nov. 5 panel discussion at 7 p.m. about Eyes on the Street at Niehoff Urban Studio, University of Cincinnati, 2728 (Short) Vine St.; and a Nov. 19 conversation at 7 p.m. on “Art and Privacy” featuring Cincinnati Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell and civil-rights lawyer Alphonse Gerhardstein. It’s at the museum’s Fath Auditorium.
Go here for more information.
American photographer and firebrand Tyler Shields makes his return to Cincinnati
for a Miller Gallery exhibition as part of the ongoing
This is Shields’ second appearance at the Miller Gallery in conjunction with
FotoFocus, first appearing in 2012 with Controlled Chaos. This
year's exhibit – Provocateur — opens tonight and he’s been shooting
in various locations locally throughout the week.
Of all the superlatives to describe Shields and his work, “provocateur” might
be most suitable of all. He’s gained a level of notoriety for his past exhibits
and photo shoots, including a 2011 exhibit that substituted paint for the fresh
blood of 25 rich and famous celebrities.
Shields has successfully merged the world of art with celebrity, similar to
fellow rebel-rouser Andy Warhol. He’s taken racy and playful photos of Lindsay
Lohan, Kathy Griffin, Abigail Breslin and the entire cast of Revenge.
His work can also be seen as a companion to Jay Z and Kanye Wests’s Watch the
Throne, using the medium of photography to exhibit grandeur, fame
and the excesses of materialism. His works have seen the destruction of a
$100,000 Hermès Birkin bag and the detonation of a vintage Rolls Royce — all in
the name of art, of course.
His latest Cincinnati exhibit yet again pushes his subjects and the limits of
what photography can be. His exhibit takes risks, but also presents the
germination for pensive and reflective thought.
But of all the superlatives and excessive descriptors for his work, nothing
beats seeing the real thing. Make sure Provocateur is a part of your
2014 FotoFocus experience.
The opening party takes place from 7 to 10 p.m. at Miller Gallery (2715 Erie Ave., Hyde Park) and continues through Nov. 8. Go here for more information.