Focusing on 2012's visual arts highlights
0 Comments · Wednesday, December 26, 2012
This may seem a strange way to start a
review of the year in Cincinnati’s visual arts, but the piece that stays
with me the most — haunts me, really — doesn’t even fit any traditional
definition of art.
0 Comments · Tuesday, November 27, 2012
If you drive to Columbus by Dec. 30, you can see a photography show — Annie Leibovitz
— that serves as the culmination to the journey through
celebrity/fashion photography begun by three FotoFocus-related museum
0 Comments · Wednesday, November 14, 2012
I hope the inaugural FotoFocus, which has
formally concluded although related exhibits still are up around town,
was successful by the standards of its organizers, and that they are
eager to plan for the next one in 2014.
by Steven Rosen
While there are FotoFocus shows and events continuing into
November and even longer, the October festival formally closed Saturday night
with a boisterous, picture-perfect celebration, the Carnevil Halloween party at
Newport’s Thompson House (formerly the Southgate House).
All rooms were jam-packed with people in imaginative
costumes, and in the ballroom the DAAP Girls (outfitted for the night as the
DAAP Witches) belted out a funky, soulful, garage-rock version of
“Ghostbusters” far better than the cutesy original.
Best of all, for those who remember coughing and hacking
their way through the old Southgate House, the place was non-smoking for this
event and had signs up everywhere to enforce that. If it can keep up the
pleasant smoke-free environment, Thompson House might just become the nightclub
that counts in Greater Cincinnati. Still not sure if that will make me turn out
for the upcoming Dying Fetus/Malignancy concert, but the place is definitely
back on my radar.
Carnevil’s turnout also proved that FotoFocus, as an event,
was on people’s radar. There had been some questioning of that earlier in the
week, after moderate turnouts for two appearances by nationally significant
photographers at Cincinnati Art Museum’s Fath Auditorium.
gave the prestigious FotoFocus Lecture there on Oct. 24, presenting a slide
show of the past 12 years of her sometimes-eyebrow-raising performative-video
and still-photography work.
For one project, she wandered around truck stops and invited
truckers to dance with her in their cabs. In another, she traveled across
Canada by train and threw her underwear out the window each day, photographing
the colorful results. (As far as I know, she did not get arrested for
littering.) Someone asked about the inherent danger in some of her early work,
which involved putting herself in erotic situations with strange men. “I look
back at my early work and fear for my life,” she said. “But I’m really glad I
made that work.”
Incidentally, one of her more recent projects — for which
she showed slides — was to photograph herself crying everyday for one year. The
“one year” motif seems to be such a strong one that some curator somewhere
should devote a show to its variations. There’s plenty of material right here.
At Michael Lowe’s Downtown gallery, site of the “Using Photography” FotoFocus
exhibit featuring work by 1970s-era (and beyond) Conceptual Artists, there is
an example of On Kawara’s “I Got Up” series. For 11 years (1968-1979), he sent
friend picture postcards stamped with the time that he arose each day.
And when Todd Pavlisko was in town last week to plan for his “Docent”
rifle-firing project that occurred Monday at Cincinnati Art Museum, he said that one piece in his resultant museum show next year will be
displaying all the loose change he’s collected in a year. (He will gold-plate
At the other appearance of a photographer at CAM last week,
Chief Curator James Crump discussed the future of photography books with
Minnesota photographer/publisher Alec Soth and Darius Himes, a gallerist whose
Radius Books publishes unusual photography creations.
Some in the audience wished the event would have featured
much more of Soth and his fascinating photojournalistic work. He did discuss a
current project, in which he and Brad Zellar are photographing election-eve
everyday life in Michigan for his LBM Dispatch, which tries to quickly publish
and distribute photo essays. (The work will then be displayed at Detroit’s
But Himes did express admiration for the strangest Conceptualist
book project I’ve heard of in a long time. That would be photographer Mishka
Henner’s printed-on-demand Astronomical, twelve
506-page volumes representing, in total, a scale model of the solar system from
the sun to Pluto. Many of the pages are blank, representing the great distances
between planets in space. Himes did not say if you must order the whole set or
just your favorite volume, but you can find out more at here.
I was able to spend some time last week with Barry Andersen,
photography professor emeritus at Northern Kentucky University who has been a
strong, forceful advocate for the importance of this form as both an artistic
medium and a critical societal observer. His own show, the now-concluded Sky, Earth and Sea at Notre Dame Academy
in Park Hills, served as a satisfying retrospective of thirty years of his
work. Especially lovely were his gorgeous aerial-shot” Cloudscapes,” vivid
inkjet prints from negative scans.
And as a curator, he put together a superb, sadly also
now-concluded, show at NKU called Reporting
Back, which surveyed the work of 14 documentary photographers whose
thematic interests covered the globe. Each one’s work was presented as a series
of photographs, a thematically related suite, to remind us of the journalistic
impact of the photo essay. Ashley Gilbertson’s quietly moving “Bedrooms of the
Fallen” visited the bedrooms of soldiers slain in Iraq and Afghanistan. Their solemnity
was balanced by Jim Dow’s colorful portraits of idiosyncratically appealing,
retro-Americana buildings. You can learn more about the show — and be
introduced to some fine photographers — here.
FotoFocus has the potential to shine a lens on fine
Cincinnati photographers of the past whose reputations could use a revival. One
of the best shows to achieve that goal this year was Cincinnati Museum Center’s
Photographic Legacy of Paul Briol:
1909-1955, which closes Thursday. Briol’s black-and-white images of the
rhythms and architecture of Cincinnati life have a dreamy beauty, partly
because he was not adverse to stripping in more dramatic skies and otherwise heightening
an image’s dramatic effect.
The populism and humanism in his work are evident — Lewis
Hine perhaps was an inspiration. An elderly African-American couple sits while
the woman peels a potato; children in what seems to be an aged urban schoolroom
pose with their stuffed animals. Those, along with images of the skyline, a
roller coaster, Fountain Square, the riverfront, Rabbit Hash, Ky.’s general
store, give life to that era’s Cincinnati.
Actually, the photo of his that moved me the most was in a
different show, the concluded Images of
the Great Depression: A Documentary Portrait of Ohio. It was by far the
best thing in that exhibit. His
contribution, an extraordinarily composed photo from 1935 called “Waiting for
Work,” shows the looming shadows of men against a room’s wall. A sign reads,
“Dirty Men Will Not Be Sent Out.” Briol may have arranged this image rather
than just observed and captured it, but no matter. It magnificently speaks to
the despair and denigration that the Depression brought.
One hopes 2014’s FotoFocus will find room to spotlight a few
other Cincinnati photographers of the past who could use rediscovery — perhaps
Nelson Ronsheim or George Rosenthal. Or, if you have ideas, send them along to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the Nov. 14
Big Picture column in CityBeat, I’ll address some suggestions for how we can
keep the momentum going now that the interest level for photography has been
by Jac Kern
Halloween is no
longer a one-night event just for kids. Like many holidays, Halloween’s reach
goes beyond Oct. 31 (I’m pretty sure I saw costumes descend into stores
mid-August), giving us grownups a chance to dress up and act out. This
(Hallo)weekend features events that celebrate all the weird, wonderful and
freaky aspects of our favorite holiday.
If staged dance
performances weren’t what you had in mind, think again. While not necessarily
Halloween-related, Cincinnati Ballet’s ALICE
(in Wonderland) will take audiences on a whimsical journey down the rabbit
hole Friday-Sunday. In addition to talented dancers and music by the Cincinnati
the costume and set designs are truly freaky-fabulous.
For a darker dance
experience, check out Exhale Dance Tribe’s one-night engagement, Dead
Can Dance. The troupe has transformed Emery Theatre into a haunted
house, where dancers will lead spectators from room to room, creating an
interactive, spooky show Saturday night. The performance begins at 7 p.m.
After a month of bringing
photography to the forefront of the Cincinnati art scene, FotoFocus will close
with Saturday’s Carnevil. The event boasts a full bill of entertainment from
live music and DJs to improv and burlesque to fortune-tellers. Guests are
encouraged to explore the venue, Newport’s Thompson House — which is said to be
haunted — and hunt for spirits from Southgate’s past. Find tickets and event
than three identical mute men, covered in paint? Blue Man Group wraps up its local run with performances at the
Aronoff Center Friday-Sunday. The show is an energetic spectacle that theater critic
Rick Pender describes as “a strange and wonderful communal experience.” Go here to read
our full review.
Judging by the
number of Halloween bar and club events, alcohol is the “candy” of choice for
many adult trick-or-treaters. So it looks like Arnold’s picked the perfect
weekend for The Bourbon Ball. The bar will be stocked with more than 30 top
shelf selections, offering specials on Manhattans, Old Fashioneds and other
bourbon classics as well as bourbon-infused bites like Bourbon Bacon Strips and
Bourbon Sauce Pork. The free event will also have swag bags and live music all
means Night Owl Market
is back, bringing food trucks and vendors together at the parking lot at Main
Street and Central Parkway. In addition to late night eats, NOMers can
participate in a costume contest and a flash mob-style “Thriller” dance with
Pones Inc. The free fun runs 10 p.m.-3 a.m. Saturday.
One thing that’s
definitely scarier than any haunted house or paranormal activity hotspot is
breed discrimination. Show some love to dogs that prove no breed is born “vicious”
at Bark Bash:
Celebrating National Pit Bull Awareness Day.
From pit bulls to puggles, all are welcome to romp around Voice of America Park
Saturday from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. There will be raffles, vendors, kids activities and
appearances from the Ben-Gals and Cincinnati Rollergirls.
Few experiences are more
picturesque than spending a fall afternoon perusing Findlay Market. This Sunday
the market presents its annual Fall Food Festival, featuring a pie baking
contest, cider mulling demo, live music, food tour and more. Come hungry
between noon and 4 p.m. Find details here.
Check out ScaryBeat
for a full rundown of costume parties, bar events, haunted houses and more
happening this weekend through Oct. 31.
by Steve Rosen
Posted In: Visual Art
at 12:38 PM | Permalink
From now on, when anyone mentions “Octoberfest” in
Cincinnati, I’m going to think first of FotoFocus. This year, its first, it has
clearly established itself as an artistically meaningful and rewarding addition
to Cincinnati’s cultural calendar. The next is planned for 2014.
It is also, like that other
Oktoberfest (which actually occurs in September), fun. No, it doesn’t have
the World’s Largest Chicken Dance, but it may have come up
with something even better in Contained:
Gateway Arts Festival, which opened last Saturday and continues with
limited hours through Nov. 3.
It was produced by the Requiem Project, which is managing
and hoping to restore Over-the-Rhine’s Emery Theatre (where there is a Mike
Disfarmer photo exhibit that I blogged about last week). Saturday’s
opening was hampered by cold weather that kept attendance small on the grounds
of Grammer’s in Over-the-Rhine. (Grammer’s is a place that’s probably seen
quite a few Oktoberfests in its day.) But the weather didn’t dampen the
creative imagination that went into the event.
Using 11 trailer-size steel shipping containers as gallery
walls, artists displayed their photography and video-based work, some
interactive, as visitors wandered in and out. The standards were quite high and
one project — David Rosenthal’s “Everything at Home Depot (Series)’’ — struck
me as outstanding.
Installed in vertical pieces on fiberboard along the interior
sides of the container, the color heat-transfer prints set out to do what the
title suggests. In this environment — with the container’s metal sides, the
wood floor and glaring fluorescent lights – the whole project looked just right — a melding of the artistic and the industrial, the soulful and the soulless.
If this is part of a larger series (as the title suggests), it deserves to be
seen in total. But one hopes future showings will get an environment as cool as
In a corner of the grounds, behind one crate and out of
direct view, a band played suitably spacey music. After awhile, musicians moved
atop a crate to play music with a pronounced electronic component. Meanwhile,
video projections were displayed high off the building’s sides — you could see
the images when approaching the site and it was really exciting.
The whole festival, itself, worked as an art installation. It will be open again this Friday from 6-10 p.m.
(it’s ideal at dark), 2-5 p.m. Saturday and Nov. 3 by appointment at email@example.com.
It’s definitely worth a visit, even if not that easy to get to.
Another show you need to see — partly because of its
excellence and partly because it’s in a space rarely open to the public — is
the Using Photography exhibit at
downtown’s Michael Lowe Gallery. He is a private dealer, so it’s a treat to see
his elegant, uncluttered two-floor gallery open to the public. Drawing on his
own collection, he’s put together a show that
works as both top-notch fine-art photography and as a historical exhibition.
In this case, the history that the show addresses is that of
the conceptual/performance art world of the 1970s. Pivotal names in
international contemporary art’s development are represented here — Marina
Abramovic, Vito Acconci, Gerhard Richter, Michael Kelly, Ed Ruscha, Gilbert and
George and many more.
With the richness of work represented, and it way it
stretches our definition of photography and time-based art, it’s one of
FotoFocus’ best shows. To just pick one piece, I was especially moved by
Christian Boltanski’s five touched-up photographs comprising 1974’s
“Anniversaire,” or “The Birthday.” I am used to the French artist’s solemn,
sobering, heart-rending installations that use photography to remember the
Holocaust. They are so strong you wonder if they must drain the artist of all joie de vivre. Yet here he is happy in
this work, and the meaning of that happiness is revelatory if you know his history.
Even if you don’t, it’s a generous and warm piece.
This show originally was going to be open just briefly, but
Lowe has agreed to stay open noon-4 p.m. weekdays through the end of the month.
His gallery is at 905 Vine St. Plan a downtown lunch trip around it.
Meanwhile, only up through this Thursday is Photogenus at the Reed Gallery inside
University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Art, Architecture & Planning.
Put together by Jordan Tate, DAAP photography professor, and gallery director
Aaron Cowan, this looks at how today’s international artists use photography in
a digital age.
It’s a nice companion to Lowe’s show, as one chronicles
breakthroughs from the 1970s (some of which we’re still trying to understand)
and one shows how today’s international artists are using photography to make
new breakthroughs. Much of it is quite out-there and left me quizzical about
individual work’s obscure intent and technique.
But some were very striking, like Anthony Lepore’s pairing of a photo
(an archival ink print) of a salt field with a piece of carpet of roughly the
I had written earlier about how eager I was to
see Nancy Rexroth’s photographs at downtown’s YWCA Women’s Art Gallery as part
of FotoFocus. The show consists of previously unprinted images from her
influential Iowa project of the early
1970s — she used a toy camera to capture fleeting glimpses of everyday life in
There was always the chance the black-and-white work had
been left unprinted for a reason all these decades, but I’m happy to report
it’s an excellent, evocative show — underscoring just how strong a body of work
Iowa is. Besides the ghostly “Clara
in the Closet, Carpenter, OH,” previously published in CityBeat, I also loved
“House Vibration, Dayton, OH, 1976,” in which the blurry focus produces an
unsteady image that makes one think an earthquake is occurring. It’s a great
metaphor for the here-today-gone-tomorrow nature of life. This show will be up
through Jan. 10 — Rexroth shares the space with Judi Parks and Jane Alden
Stevens. Watch for Contributing Visual Art Editor Steven Rosen’s FotoFocus blog postings all month. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
0 Comments · Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Why are Hollywood glamour photographs on
display at the Taft Museum of Art? FotoFocus isn’t reason enough; the
Taft likes to establish a tie between the renowned permanent collection
and temporary exhibitions. So what is Myrna Loy doing here?
0 Comments · Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Shooting outdoors separated photographer Herb Ritts from
studio-based New York peers. In addition to Malibu and El Mirage, Ritts
used a rooftop studio. He established a fun, “organic” working
environment, enabling him to cajole his subjects and develop an
“anti-glamour” style of celebrity photography.
0 Comments · Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Laurel Nakadate, a celebrated New York-based photographer/videographer/filmmaker/performance artist, will deliver the FotoFocus Lecture 7 p.m. Oct. 24 at the Cincinnati Art Museum. She will be telling stories and showing slides about her work this century.
by Steven Rosen
After the second full week of FotoFocus, I’ve begun to realize that there are way more shows and events out there than one person can get to. (Or, if you do get to them all, to remember what you’ve seen.) It’s also clear that you can begin to roughly pair into categories the kinds of shows that are out there — art photography and photojournalism, still photography and video, portraiture and everything else, contemporary work and vintage (or historic). And then there are those that touch numerous bases — either because that’s what the artists intended or because time has changed the meaning or our appreciation of the work. In the former category, and so far the work that towers over everything else I’ve seen, is Doug and Mike Starn’s Gravity of Light in the decommissioned Holy Cross Church at Mount Adams Monastery. This installation prominently uses photographs without letting them define what its purpose or meaning is about. I’ve written about it previously and may do so again, so powerful is it. It’s up through year’s end, and I hope everyone realizes how important an artwork it is and goes to see it. Go here for details.But two other very different exhibits deserve mention in this regard, too. On the second floor of the Emery Theatre, through the end of the month, is an exhibit of estate-authorized prints — from the original glass-plate negatives — of the mysterious Mike Disfarmer’s Depression-era portraits of residents of the small Arkansas town of Heber Springs. Here is work that, whatever its original intention, contemporary thought has turned into art photography.It can be discussed and debated whether Disfarmer, who died in 1959) was engaged in what he thought was a commercial venture or whether he was after something else… his own quest for an artful statement. But the work today is important as something other than straight photo-documentation, though it is that. The photographs are haunting missives from the place Greil Marcus called “the old, weird America” — a spiritual zone, a cosmic baptismal font, from where much of our contemporary culture can trace its origins. Disfarmer was born Mike Meyers, but seems to have chosen “disfarmer” as a statement that he didn’t want to fit into the agricultural lifestyle of his hometown. He taught himself photography and built a studio, first on his mother’s back porch and then in the heart of town. According to the Disfarmer website, he obsessed over getting the right light — one wonders what his subjects, for whom time was money, thought as the minutes ticked on. But they came, sometimes dressed in their best and sometimes dressed in the best they had. What resulted — and we are fortunate his work has been preserved, which itself was a struggle — is a different take on Depression Era poverty than the federal Farm Security Administration photos. Taken by outsiders, those placed — with warmth and humanity — their subjects in their surrounding hardscrabble environment. They have a sociological dimension. But these remove their subjects from their environment and seem psychological. In a photograph like “First Born,” you have to wonder if Disfarmer ever told his subjects to say “cheese.” The young father, dressed up nicely and wearing a hat, has a proud but slightly furtive gaze that renders his emotions somewhat inscrutable. He sits, holding a child whose face is almost pouting and whose staring eyes are disturbing. The two look apprehensive, either about the photograph or about what life has in store for them. If Disfarmer was after that effect, maybe he was some kind of prophet. By the way, I’m not sure how many people know this exhibit is here. FotoFocus literature didn’t list it as an ongoing show, but rather a part of a one-day event – last week’s Emery concert by guitarist Bill Frisell/858 Quartet of his composition Musical Portraits from Heber Springs. But the Emery is keeping it up through the month. To see it, e-mail email@example.com with your phone number and times you’re available, or call 513-262-8242.Another show that crosses boundaries in interesting ways is Santeri Tuori’s The Forest project at University of Cincinnati’s Phillip M. Meyers Jr. Memorial Gallery (for hours, go here). Tuori is from Finland — a welcome international addition to FotoFocus — and this show was curated by Judith Turner-Yamamoto, a FotoFocus staffer, with assistance from the Finnish consulate. The artist spent five years observing — in film and still photographs — the effect of light, seasonal change and weather on a remote, pristine, Finnish island. In “Forest (Tree and Pond),” his work is condensed via editing into a relatively tight time span and projected onto a gray-painted section of a gallery wall. While it looks like we are a watching a specific spot on the island change over the seasons, I’m told it’s a composite. (I find that remarkable.) Tuori has created this slightly wavering mirage of an image to show how art can turn what we think of as mundane into something momentous. He has photographed elusive “change.” I appreciate the thoughtfulness and hard work of this effort — which is accompanied by a soundscape by Mikko Hynninen — but did find the slight blurriness of the piece distracting. I preferred the three smaller-scale pieces in the gallery’s other room. Here, video images of trees are projected onto, and over, black-and-white photographs of similar trees, providing a three-dimensional effect — a ghostly sense of movement. That happens even though, unlike “Tree and Pond,” these works are not out to simulate an evolving time span. Photography, like all art, isn’t meant to stand still. Tuori is at the forefront of finding new ways to show that.Watch for Contributing Visual Art Editor Steven Rosen’s FotoFocus blog postings all month. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.