Cincinnati’s three major art museums — Cincinnati Art Museum, Contemporary Arts Center and Taft Museum of Art — all found success with 2010 exhibitions.
The CAC struck the zeitgeist by bringing in the big Shepard Fairey: Supply and Demand retrospective early in the year, and also inviting him to put up his semi-political posters at various locations around town. They unnerved a few people and two were removed — one by a property owner who requested it in the first place.
Personally, I found the actual Fairey museum show repetitive. But his presence did seem to get Cincinnati involved in the national discussion over whether street art humanizes or vandalizes a city (to quote a Los Angeles group called Zocalo Public Square). Hopefully that discussion — and more street art — can continue in 2011.
My favorite CAC show of the year, Shinji Turner-Yamamoto’s still-up Disappearances, is a comparatively quiet one. It created a contemplative atmosphere by pairing gilded paintings with sculptural pieces consisting of unassuming materials like plaster and paint chips. He used marble dust to create a mirage-like landscape, a kind of miniature Monument Valley. For a short time, his ancillary “Hanging Garden” was installed at Mount Adams’ Holy Cross Church.
Where Do We Go From Here: Selections from La Coleccion Jumex in Mexico City, also still up, is an excellent contemporary-art group show, lucidly co-curated by Jumex’s Victor Zamudio Taylor, Bass Museum of Miami Beach’s Sylvia Karman Cubina and CAC’s Raphaela Platow to emphasize both the intellectual depth of the work and the star power of the artists.
The CAC tried to make Fairey-style lightning strike twice with its other current show, curated in-house and featuring the very au courant young painter Rosson Crow interpreting the Myth of the American Motorcycle (pictured above). This seemed promising, as the artist has attracted attention for her vibrantly expressive portrayals of architecture and interiors, but she struggled with this assignment. The CAC filled the spaces between her paintings with custom motorcycles painted by a Cincinnatian, Jim “Dauber” Farr.
The Cincinnati Art Museum has been trying to attract more people, and by its own reporting had a successful attendance-increasing year. I loved the edgy, tough-minded Starburst: Color Photography in America early in the year but thought the populist “See America” theme for a bunch of summer shows awkwardly shoehorned too many exhibitions and group activities together. Some of the art got lost in the hubbub — especially the wonderful opportunity to see together three of Frank Duveneck’s “boy paintings” from the 1870s as part of a show called Cincinnati Collects America.
But the museum really found its groove late in the year, a perfect mixture of art and pop pizzazz, as attested by the “Wow,” “Vow” and “Pow” banners for the imaginatively in-house-curated current shows Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman, Wedded PerfectionHeavy Metal: Arms and Armor from CAM’s collection. I’ve seen women's-fashion exhibitions this year in Charleston, S.C, Washington, D.C., and New York (the Met), and thought CAM’s presentation of wedding dresses past, present and futuristic was the best — gorgeous work installed with space and exquisite taste. It was organized by Cynthia Amneus, curator of fashion arts and textiles. and
Taft Museum surprised us with a substantial, insightful touring show on the early days of photography, TruthBeauty: Pictorialism and the Photograph as Art, since one doesn’t usually think of the Taft and photography. And it really shocked with its great year-closing Francisco Goya: Los Caprichos, in which the Old Master took on the Spain’s power structure — including the Church — in graphic ways. A gutsy thing to do at Christmas.
All told, Cincinnati’s art museums served us well in 2010.
CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: