by Steve Rosen
Posted In: Visual Art
at 10:43 AM | Permalink
Having wrapped up a very busy first (extended) weekend of
FotoFocus activities, I’m humbled by the fact that I only got to a portion of
the exhibits and events occurring under the month-long, regional photography
Before it’s over, more than 70 shows and related special
events — like this Wednesday’s concert at the Emery Theatre by Bill Frisell/858
Quarter, featuring musical portraits inspired by photographer Mike Disfarmer’s
work — will have taken place. I’m wondering if FotoFocus, like the National
Park Service, should have a passport that can be stamped at each site of a
sponsored activity. (Quite a few exhibits will continue past October – check here for
“Umbrella,” by the way, is an apt word to use in one
respect. Sideshow, the thoroughly charming outdoor kick-off party that took
place Friday night, was bedeviled by rain and cold temperatures. As a result,
attendance was small. That was disappointing because the alleys of downtown’s
Backstage Theatre District had been turned into a colorful, imaginative,
Fellini-esque carnival for the evening, with handmade booths, games of chance
and photography opportunities.
A stage with a theatrical backdrop served to host A Hawk and
a Hacksaw, a New Mexico duo — Jeremy Barnes on accordion and Heather Trost on
violin — whose music had an East European/Middle Eastern flavor and whose
musicianship was impeccable. They would have fit well at MidPoint. In fact, the
Backstage Theatre District would make a great outdoor venue next year for
MidPoint, which, as Mike Breen pointed out, needs a stronger downtown presence.
On Wednesday, I attended the preview opening of Doug and
Mike Starn’s Gravity of Light in Holy
Cross Church at the Mount Adams Monastery. I had gone a couple weeks earlier
for a test, which I described in last week’s Big Picture column,
where the noise and flying sparks from the giant carbon arc lamp’s scared me
even as the magnitude and, well, gravity of the monumental photographs that its
light illuminated astonished me.
On my second visit, with maybe two dozen other guests
present, Gravity of Light wasn’t
quite as scary — not when you see people using the carbon arc lamp’s brilliant
white light to read their smart phone email. Ah, technology! But it’s still a
profound exhibit — a major installation that uses photography as an intrinsic
part of a created environment – and I can’t imagine that anyone interested in
contemporary art or FotoFocus would want to miss it. And afterward, you’ll want
to discuss what it means.
Two other exhibits I attended over the weekend were Anthony
Luensman’s TAINT at the Weston Art Gallery and Let's Face It: Photographic Portraits by Melvin Grier, Michael Kearns and Michael
Wilson at Kennedy Heights Art Center. Luensman is one of our most talented
local artists, especially ingenious with installations involving sound and
light, but I didn’t get a clear indication of how or why the presence of
photography (and video) is supposed to crucially matter in this mixed-media
The Kennedy Heights exhibit had some remarkable large-scale
black-and-white portraits by all three accomplished local photographers. Grier
and Wilson, in their Giclee prints made from film negatives, got remarkable
expressiveness their subjects like “Robert” and “Tony” (Grier) and “Thomas” and
“Lamayah” (Wilson). Those Wilson photos, and some others, frame the pupils of
their subjects’ eyes with a tiny white square, a stunning effect. In several of
his large Giclee prints from digital photographs, Kearns achieves clarity of
detail so rich (on “Chuck,” which is Wussy’s Chuck Cleaver, and “Andre”) that
you could stand there and count every strand of the subjects’ hair. I don’t
know who Andre is, but the way he is posed with head slightly upward and a
triumphant smile emerging from a mouth that appears to be missing some teeth
makes him heroically human. It’s a meaningful show.On Thursday, I attended the Cincinnati Art Museum’s
reception for Herb Ritts: L.A. Style,
the Getty Center-organized show of the late photographer’s black-and-white
prints. Beautifully installed, this exhibit features Ritts’ fashion and
celebrity work, as well as his stylized, erotically charged studies of the nude
male and female torso. The show doesn’t so much chart his “progression” from
high fashion to high art as it spotlights the connection between fashion and
art. It also underscores that the eternal human quest for perfection is about
the body as much as the mind. (Kathy Schwartz will have more on this show soon.)
For opening weekend, the art museum’s Chief Curator James
Crump — also FotoFocus’ co-chair — brought to town Paul Martineau, the Getty’s
curator for the Ritts exhibit, and Charles Churchward, a magazine design and
art director who knew Ritts and has written Herb
Ritts: The Golden Hour.
Martineau, it turns out, is at work on a major Robert
Mapplethorpe exhibit to be presented by the Getty and Los Angeles County Museum
of Art in 2016. (Getty Research Institute and LACMA recently acquired some
2,000 of his photographs, and the Getty already had acquired the archives of
Sam Wagstaff, Mapplethorpe’s collector/lover.)
Martineau told me it might travel. Cincinnati would be a
perfect venue for it — Crump has made a documentary about Mapplethorpe and
Wagstaff, the authoritative Black White +
Gray. Is it too early to start a Facebook campaign to bring that
Mapplethorpe exhibit to Cincinnati? Any volunteers?
Watch for Contributing Visual Art Editor Steven Rosen’s FotoFocus blog postings all month. Contact him at email@example.com.
0 Comments · Wednesday, October 3, 2012
Doug and Mike Starn's photography-related installation Gravity of Light involves a carbon arc lamp with light so brilliant it could cause eye damage if you stared at it unprotected.
1 Comment · Wednesday, September 19, 2012
When Sarah Vanderlip — winner of
Cincinnati Art Museum’s first Marjorie Schiele Prize — arrives here for
the Sept. 29 opening of her show, it will be an Ohio homecoming, a full
circle of sorts, for the California artist.
Manifest Gallery welcomes its first artist-in-residence
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 12, 2012
Manifest’s latest addition is the
Manifest Artist Residency. Annually, beginning in July each year,
Manifest will host a working artist in the studio facility inside the
1 Comment · Wednesday, September 5, 2012
The young women photographed in Another Me: Transformations from Pain to Power have
all been victims of kidnapping or outright sale of themselves into sex
slavery. One is as young as 8 years old, none are more than 22. Rescued
and placed in the Sanlaap Shelter in Kolkata, they found returning to a
self they had lost hard going.
0 Comments · Wednesday, September 5, 2012
I first met Matthew Shelton in the bottom of a swimming pool. It was a program in which musicians performed on the floor of the empty Ziegler Pool in
Over-the-Rhine. Shelton, with his deep resonant voice and wry, smart
songs, made an immediate impression playing guitar in the pool’s deep
end. He towered above — or, rather, below — his surroundings.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 29, 2012
Stuart Fink’s Shape to Shape at
Brazee Street Studios’ gallery One One bristles with energy, mostly
dispenses with narrative (who needs it?) and includes paintings as well
as sculpture. Best known as a sculptor, Fink studied to be a painter and
never really gave it up.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 22, 2012
See Unrealized and Unforeseen, Antonio Adams’ solo show at
Thunder-Sky Inc., and leave feeling a bit more special, even if you
aren’t on his list of “good celebrities,” superstars and Divas of Pride.
Just witness the transformative power of art.
0 Comments · Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Amid busy, vibrant abstract canvases and
panels, the stark simplicity of a paperboard sculpture captures extra
attention at Phyllis Weston Gallery’s Color NOW!, on display through Sept. 1.
1 Comment · Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Music of Change: Hymns, Blues & Rock at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center ultimately succeeds in providing a fascinating journey
through the roles black music have played in America’s history,
eloquently showing how African-American music has been celebration,
protest, spiritual uplift, a means of communication and information
sharing … sometimes all at once.