Sunday, December 31, 2000

The Year In Review: Visual Art

By Owen Findsen
Enquirer contributor

Dance • Visual Art
        In China it was the year of the Dragon, but in Cincinnati it was the year of the Pig.

        The artist-designed fiberglass pigs made headlines, while masterpieces from art history came and went with far less fanfare.

        The Cincinnati Art Museum dropped its admission charge during the Big Pig Gig and saw its best summer attendance in a decade. Was it Art from the Age of Queen Victoria or the nine pigs in residence that attracted 96,000 visitors from June to October?

        The best attendance for a single exhibition during that period was 35,000 for the splendid presentation of Ansel Adams' masterful photographs that ended in June as the pigs arrived.

        European Masterpieces: Six Centuries of Paintings from the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia spans the history of European painting from the dawn of the Renaissance to the mid-20th century. Works by Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso and many more are on view at the CAM through Jan. 14.

        Viewers who traveled to Louisville last winter doubled their pleasure with Rembrandt to Gainsborough: Masterpieces from the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London.

        These two exhibitions brought more important works of European art to this part of the Midwest than has been seen in decades.

Region's best show


        The most beautiful exhibition in the region was mounted by the Columbus Museum of Art. Showing February through April, Illusions of Eden: Visions of the American Heartland was a thrilling presentation of art that defined the image of Middle America, from Grant Wood and other regional realists of the 1930s to contemporary installation artists such as Maya Lin.

        The story of African-American art was told in depth with two exhibitions: the Taft Museum of Art's summer showing of The Great Migration: African-American Art from 1740 to 1945 the CAM's spring exhibition, Narratives of African-American Art and Identity, which brought the story up to the present with works from the David C. Driskell collection.

        The Victorian period was featured last summer at Cincinnati Art Museum with Art from the Age of Queen Victoria, presenting the elegant but out-of-fashion painters of the British Royal Academy. It followed CAM's spring show, Masterpieces of American Furniture from the Munson Williams Proctor Institute, which spanned the Victorian era.

        Elegant decorative arts were also on view in the Taft's A Renaissance Treasury showing grand clocks and other objects gathered by Renaissance princes and housed in the Flagg collection at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Contemporary successes


        There were stars of contemporary art, too. Rock artist David Byrne lit up the Contemporary Arts Center in January with an exhibition of illuminated neo-pop art.

        Rock artist and sculptor Terry Allen shared the CAC with Mr. Byrne, showing sketches for his giant bronze leaf sculpture on the University of Cincinnati campus.

        Other artists featured at the CAC who are stellar names in contemporary art were dancer and photographer Arnie Zane, painter Leslie Saar, sculptor Stephen Balkenol and video artist Gillian Wearing, whose unsettling work about alcoholics launched the CAC's new video art series, Scopophilia. Still showing through Jan. 14, are the works of Spanish abstract expressionist, Antoni Tapies, a modern master.

        Young French composer Celeste Boursier-Mougenot started the year at the CAC with the most engaging installation, using clusters of coat hangers, harpsichord strings and 40 zebra finches, live birds who made haunting music as they fluttered from perch to perch.

        The best attendance (15,000) for any show at the CAC was for An Active Life this fall. Every work in the show was interactive, presenting viewers with ways not just to look at art but to participate in it.

        That's a major trend in the arts in this new century and one that the CAC will continue to develop in the “Unmuseum” that will be a major part of the new Lois and Richard Rosenthal Center for contemporary art, when it opens in 2003 at Sixth and Walnut streets.


The Year In Review: TV & Radio
The Year In Review: Theater
The Year In Review: Popular Music
The Year In Review: Film
The Year In Review: Dance
The Year In Review: Classical Music
- The Year In Review: Visual Art
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