During a recent visit to the Cleveland Museum of Art, I noticed that the newest contemporary work is in a gallery dedicated to “post-modern art.” That’s an acknowledgement that the latest art has moved way beyond traditional painting and sculpture — and away from people who use “contemporary” merely as a catchphrase for tradition-minded art that happens to be made today. Instead, today’s advanced art has moved into performance, sound, installations, video, salvaged/repurposed/appropriated objects and the use of all manner of unusual and innovative materials.
If that is indeed contemporary art’s future, and it certainly looks to be, you can get an excellent immersion into its strengths and values this holiday season at the Contemporary Arts Center in downtown Cincinnati (www.contemporaryartscenter.org). All three of its current exhibitions meet the post-modern definition.
Anri Sala’s Purchase Not By Moonlight, on display through Jan. 24, offers the Albanian artist’s spellbinding video-installation environments, which also fit another definition of new art as “time-based.” Sala tries to visualize the impact of sound (including music) on us and our environment in pieces like “Answer Me,” which can be heard (and seen) throughout the gallery.
The Marilyn Minter: Chewing Color show, up through May 2, offers her large-scale fashion/antifashion photographs and paintings (post-modern in their use of digital media). It also includes her increasingly famous “Green Pink Caviar” video of a model’s face and licking tongue in close-up. The third exhibition, Standard Definition, features compelling sound experiments and a beguiling video or two from Cincinnati-based avant-gardist C. Spencer Yeh in his first solo museum show. It’s up through Jan. 24.
Meanwhile, if you believe straightforward painting still has an important role in today’s art, it’s worth a holiday-season trip to the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus to see the first U.S. retrospective of the contemporary Belgian artist Luc Tuymans, up through Jan. 3 (www. wexarts.com). His oil paintings, which are surprisingly small, have a shadowy and abstracted quality that gets across the seriousness of his intent as he devotes his eye to such haunting subject matter as the Holocaust (“Gas Chamber”) and Belgium’s colonial treatment of the Congo (“Tsjombe”).
And while in Columbus, stop by the Columbus Museum of Art for Chihuly Illuminated, which dramatically presents several of Dale Chihuly’s spectacularly colorful glass tableaux, such as “Glass Forest #3” and “Mille Fiori,” along with some smaller pieces. Chihuly’s work is becoming so omnipresent in museums that it’s easy to take for granted, but he still invariably delights us with their shapes and color. That show is up through July 4 (www.columbusmuseum.org).
Back in Cincinnati, two Christmas-specific art shows will be at downtown’s historic Taft Museum of Art (www.taftmuseum.org). The charming Under the Tree: Photographs of Christmas Past features home photographs –— some formally posed, some casual — revealing how families have celebrated the holiday for the last 100-plus years. It’s already open and stays up through Jan. 10. The Taft will also celebrate an Antique Christmas through Jan. 10 by displaying vintage decorations in the galleries as well as displaying objects and toys from the years (1829- 1931) that the Taft was a residence. There will be a holiday celebration of the holidays 5-8 p.m. Dec. 3 with treats and music by Ricky Nye.
The Taft will also present Drawn by New York: Watercolors and Drawings from the New York Historical Society, through Jan. 17, featuring work from New York’s oldest museum. It was founded in 1804.
The major news at Cincinnati Art Museum is that you can finally see the twice-delayed Imperishable Beauty: Art Nouveau Jewelry exhibit, which had installation problems. It continues through Jan. 17 (www.cincinnatiartmuseum.org). It brings together more than 100 examples of turn-of-20th-century jewelry and fine-design objects from Europe and the U.S., giving viewers a chance to revel in gold, silver, sapphire, pearls and other precious metals and stones.
At the same time, the art museum continues through Jan. 3 its groundbreaking Roaring Tigers, Leaping Carp, featuring the results of Asian Art curator Hou-Mei Sung’s patient, dedicated work in decoding the symbolic language of Chinese animal painting. There are more than 100 paintings, some more than 500 years old. On display through Jan. 3.
And on Dec. 12, the art museum opens Martin Puryear: Prints, a show it organized to spotlight the printmaking work of the acclaimed African-American sculptor whose abstracted, organicseeming work has become a favorite of museums and public-art collections. That exhibit will be up through March 14.
Manifest Gallery in East Walnut Hills has an interesting group show called Backyard from Dec. 11 to Jan. 8. It spotlights key work by just six regional artists (living within 100 miles of Cincinnati) chosen from 77 applicants. Visit www.manifestgallery.org.
Weston Art Gallery in downtown’s Aronoff Center for the Arts opens three new shows on Dec. 18 — Live Station, a site-specific installation by Steve Zieverink; Paintings and Wall Drawings by Rick Mallette; and Nightfall, an installation by Alice Pixley Young. All stay up through Feb. 28; visit www.westonartgallery.com for details.
Last but by no means least, Carl Solway Gallery is continuing its satisfying, thought-provoking Walls, Floors & Ceilings: Installations by 16 Artists show through Dec. 23 (www.solwaygallery.com). It’s definitely worth going just for Ann Hamilton’s superb site-specific installation “Smoke Licked Wall,” in which she used candles to carefully burn the walls of a gallery. It might make you think of the inside of a chimney — perfect for getting in the mood to await Santa’s visit.