The Best Art Exhibits of 2015

From an accessible aquatic-themed show to installations that emphasized the importance of light, the Queen City saw fantastic and diverse exhibits in 2015, some of which are still on view.

click to enlarge “Necklace” by Elsa Schiaparelli and Jean Clemént
“Necklace” by Elsa Schiaparelli and Jean Clemént

By This River, Weston Art Gallery For this multi-artist multimedia show, curator Michael Solway chose art that directly related to the show’s aquatic theme. The work was thus accessible, yet without being obvious in its depiction of a waterway. Standouts included works by Benjamin Patterson, Jacci Den Hartog and Steve Roden. 

Daniel Arsham: Remember the Future, Contemporary Arts Center — Astonishing is the best word for this show, curated by Steven Matijcio, in which Arsham used unconventional materials — including volcanic ash — to cast some 3,000 media-related objects and then present them like a rubble pile. He made us think about the temporality of our priorities as well as our addiction to things.

Enduring Spirit: Edward Curtis and the North American Indians, Taft Museum of Art This traveling exhibit presented glorious prints in various photographic mediums of Curtis’ early-20th-century quest to document the North American Indian tribes because he feared they would soon vanish. One can argue about how he went about his task, but he produced unforgettable images.

Field Guide: Photographs by Jochen Lempert, Cincinnati Art Museum Brian Sholis, photography curator, showed his daring in not only giving this contemporary German photographer his first major U.S. museum exhibition, but also in presenting it so unconventionally. That approach works perfectly for black-and-white prints that can loosely be called “nature photography” but often have a strangely compelling cosmic consciousness. (Through March 6.)

John James Audubon: Birds of America, The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County’s Main Branch The library has had a rare intact copy of Audubon’s four-volume folio set Birds of America since 1870 — it paid $1,000 then, and it’s now valued at $12 million. But in November, new display cases were installed in the Cincinnati Room that enabled all four volumes to be displayed simultaneously. (On permanent display.)

Light Strikes, Kennedy Heights Arts Center Kudos to curator Jonathan Sears of Northside’s nonprofit PAR-Projects for organizing this exhibit in which five artists/artist groups used a dimly lit 8,000-square-foot space to present installations that made you think about the importance of light even as you sometimes struggled to see where you were going. Contributors included Intermedio, Sean Mullaney, Karen Saunders, Team B and Rob Wolpert. The show was part of the celebration for the art center’s new annex.

Mark Mothersbaugh: Myopia, CAC Curated by Adam Lerner of the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, this retrospective of Devo co-founder Mothersbaugh’s obsessively multi-faceted, weirdly imaginative and constantly pleasurable visual art has made him a culture hero all over again, as he was in Devo’s “Whip It” heyday. It’s a large show filled with great pieces. (Through Jan. 9.)

Masterpieces of Japanese Art, CAM The Cincinnati Art Museum’s Asian art curator, Hou-mei Sung, spent years researching and preparing the Japanese objects in her collection for this engaging and beautiful show, which was so popular it had to be extended into 2016. (Through Jan. 3.)

Rachel Rampleman, Carl Solway Gallery Originally from Cincinnati and now Brooklyn-based, Rampleman made her debut at Solway with three videos that sometimes manipulate existing footage in ways that are hypnotic. One piece, “Water/Light Study,” effortlessly conjures abstracted images of those two substances/conditions in ways that make it hard to tell light from water.

The Total Look and High Style, both at CAM These two separate traveling fashion exhibitions, both brought here by Cynthia Amneus, curator of fashion arts and textiles/chief curator, showed how 20th-century fashion can have just as visionary and avant-garde an agenda — in the hands of a Gernreich, Charles James or Elsa Schiaparelli — as painting or sculpture. And you can wear it! (High Style is up through Jan. 24).

CONTACT STEVEN ROSEN: [email protected]