Cover Story: Cincinnati in Three Dimensions

Art conference puts city at the crossroads of international sculpture movement

May 31, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Courtsey Willie Cole

Willie Cole's "Dirty Little Soles II" is on view at Carl Solway Gallery.

Although only restaurants and taxi drivers take notice of most conference gatherings, Crossroads Cincinnati 2006 is already making waves. The International Sculpture Center (ISC) conference June 21-24 will be apparent soon in art galleries all over town.

Despite fumbles early on, in which ISC postponed last June's event to this year, the conference has coalesced the local sculpture community in a way it hasn't seen since Hiram Powers left town for Italy in the 19th century.

"We knew other people were out there, but we really didn't know each other," says Voss Finn, whose work turns up regularly in exhibitions here and elsewhere.

The first signal of big-time sculptural doings was the joint opening early in May of Gloom and Doom: SIMPARCH with Steve Rowell, site-specific installations at the Weston Art Gallery and the Contemporary Arts Center, one block from each other on Walnut Street downtown. Glass-enclosed street level space is put to use in each venue, visible to any passerby.

SIMPARCH (a contraction of "simple" and "architecture") is a Chicago/ Cincinnati artist collective whose joint work has appeared in London, New York and elsewhere. Cincinnati-based SIMPARCH artist Matt Lynch will give a free gallery talk at the Weston at 7 p.m. June 8. The Weston segment of the show is on view through June 25, with the CAC portion to Oct. 1.

Without Walls '06 has already opened at Mac's Farm & Sculpture Center in Blue Ash. This annual take on outdoor sculpture by regional artists appears at perhaps the only venue anywhere dispensing both garden produce and art works.

Also open now at Carl Solway Gallery (424 Findlay St., Over the-Rhine) is a stunning exhibition of contemporary sculpture that serves as a quick retrospective of the immediate past as well as signalling what's current. Among the more than 30 artists represented are several expected at the ISC conference: Tom Butter, Willie Cole and keynote speaker Chakaia Booker. Several artists currently or previously worked in Cincinnati, including Jay Bolotin, Petah Coyne, Ana England and Joel Otterson. Solway has also mounted a tribute to the late Nam June Paik, whose pioneering work in video sculpture forecast a technology-obsessed culture.

Next door to Solway, at 426 Findlay St., five Cincinnati sculptors are deep in plans for the Studio B Sculpture Invitational, a 54-artist exhibition with works from sculptors who live and work in the Cincinnati area as well as from neighboring states and the East Coast. Celene Hawkins, one of the organizers, promises the 10,000-square-foot warehouse space will showcase "works from intimate to monumental and in a broad range of media."

This exhibition opens June 22 and will be in place only through June 30. On June 22, Studio B's opening (7:30-10 p.m.) and a reception at Solway Gallery (6-8 p.m.) will be open to the public as well as to those attending the conference.

ISC conferences attract three tiers of attendees: professional sculptors; patrons, including collectors and museum and gallery representatives; and students. Only a few of 200 student scholarships for the conference remain, but a student rate is in place. For conference schedule and registration information, see the ISC web site (

Locals are taking lead roles in some events. Panelists for Art Slam sessions, critiques of up to 10 images of an artist's current work, include Dennis Harrington of Weston Art Gallery, sculptor Celene Hawkins, David Dillon of the CAC and Jason Franz of Manifest Gallery. (Manifest Gallery will open the sculpted line: three-dimensional works that investigates issues of drawing on June 3 to run through June 30, with an artists reception open to the public at 6-10 p.m. June 23.)

Former Cincinnati Art Museum Director Timothy Rub, now director of the Cleveland Museum of Art, heads a panel session on "Is It Sculpture or Is It Architecture?" Among internationally recognized sculptors in attendance will be Booker and fellow keynote speaker Jackie Winsor as well as Anthony Leicester, whose pig sculptures at the entrance to Sawyer Point caused spirited pro and con discussion when they were first installed in 1988.

On the Xavier University campus, where the conference is meeting at the Cintas Center, the art gallery in the A.B. Cohen Center will be exhibiting Micro/Monumental Sculpture, the work of artists from the northeast U.S., during the quirky hours of 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday. Elsewhere, large and small galleries all over town will be showing sculpture during the conference period. Some of the small ones have fitful hours and uncertain schedules but are among the most fertile spots to see art in Cincinnati.

In the Main Street area, Base Gallery plans a group sculpture show, In the Works; Publico will present sculpture from Brian Nicely and Matthew Waldbillig in Do Great Things; and 1305 Gallery will show Katie Schwartz' crocheted and ceramic animals. Meanwhile, in the Brighton district, Junior Gallery, Semantics and Dicere Gallery will exhibit work by local sculptors, among them Gene Sowels and Steve Geddes.

Downtown, a two- and three-dimensional graffiti show is planned at ArtWorks Time Warner Cable Gallery, Nicholas Gallery will include sculpture and the YWCA Women's Art Gallery will show work by two Korean women, one (Hei Kyung Byun) a sculptor. Across the river at The Carnegie, the current half-dozen shows will include generous sculptural representation.

"The ISC is thrilled to present Crossroads Cincinnati 2006 in the culturally rich city of Cincinnati, with its world-class museums and galleries and urban vitality," says Anthony D. Meyers, conference and events director for ISC.

We couldn't have said it better ourselves.

CROSSROADS CINCINNATI 2006, the International Sculpture Center conference, will be held June 21-24 at Xavier University's Cintas Center. The full schedule and registration information is available at Check CityBeat's weekly arts listings for related sculpture exhibitions in local galleries.