Sunday, December 29, 2002

Look Back at 2002 in Visual Art

Creative works, well-curated

By Marilyn Bauer
The Cincinnati Enquirer

For the record, I have always had a hard time coming up with the 10 best anything. The one best anything is hard enough, but 10 to me is almost unimaginable. I can never decide if seven is really better than eight or if eight should actually be two.

Deciding upon the 10 best shows for 2002 - taking into account dramatically different styles and media, whether it was best to cite a show featuring poor examples of a prominent dead artist or the work of a living artist who still has a ways to go - is impossible. Do you judge installation art with figurative paintings? Do you judge on attendance, popularity with the suburban set or on artistic merit alone? It's hard to know.

But there is one thing I do know, and that is that 2002 was good year for the visual arts:

SSNOVA took off, the Carnegie in Covington came back gangbusters after the renovation, alternative spaces (artist apartments) cropped up on Final Fridays along Clay Street, the Cincinnati Art Museum decided to feature living Cincinnati artists in a gallery of its new wing, Carl Solway had a show of Joel Otterson's fantastic furniture creations and Thom Collins brought anime and Takashi Murakami to Cincinnati.

That's just for starters. Remember Maureen France's photographs at CAM? The fabulous Charles Woodman at the Weston? Tom Shaw and Yvonne Van Edijen at Suzanna Terrill's? The Art Consortium's Diva and Damsels show? Frank Hermann, Denise Burge, Theresa Hackett and Richard Wearn at Linda Schwartz Gallery?

How do you decide? I still don't know.

So I cheated.

1. Everything at the Weston Art Gallery. Dennis Harrington should be commended for his innovative programming that consistently raises the bar on visual arts in Cincinnati. In 2002 he featured Surface Active with large scale paintings by Mark Fox, Andrea Sparks, Joseph Winterhalter and Ryan Woods; a sound installation by Tony Luensman, a site specific installation in the upstairs gallery by Joel Otterson, Don Harvey's book world, Michael Scott's chickens, Lisa Jameson's charcoals, Keith Benjamin's "Tan Pants," Leslie Shiels' grotesques and Fred Ellenberger's Filter.

2. American Watercolors: Whistler to Wyeth. Leave it to the CAM's unsinkable Kristin Spangenberg to put together a gem of a show on the museum's second floor gallery. Twenty examples of the museum's strong holdings in watercolors - rarely seen - drew viewers back again and again.

3. Looking Forward, Looking Black, at the Dayton Art Institute, was a comprehensive look at African-American art through several decades. It was put together by the institute's new curator of American art, Tuliza Fleming, who may also be considered one of the 10 best in the area.

3. Millet to Matisse, at the Speed Museum of Art in Louisville, was a fitting tribute to the great Impressionists with 65 paintings from the esteemed collection of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow, Scotland.

4. Weegee's World: Life Death and the Human Drama, at CAM. Dennis Kiel outdid himself with this show. The photographs hung by subject matter were absolutely fascinating. An unequaled look at not only New York, but also a huckster journalist.

5. Robert Hermann II at Cincinnati Art Galleries. Robert Hermann believed his art was not for show, but his canvases were brought to Cincinnati Art Galleries' Randy Sandler by Mr. Hermann's sister after the artist died. The modernist paintings in a Ralston Crawford/Charles Scheeler-style were a welcome surprise to gallery goers. Of course you can't mention Cincinnati Art Galleries without a nod to their annual Panorama show of Cincinnati painters from 1850 to the present. This year's show featured more than 100 paintings.

6. Museum Within a Museum: Treasures from the Taft at the Cincinnati Art Museum. Besides providing excellent lighting, a stellar installation designed by Michael Brechner, this lovely little look at the Taft collection stood as a symbol of art institution cooperation. It also allowed us to drool over the porcelains while the Taft is having a makeover.

7. Cincinnati Modern: Art & Design at Mid-Century at the Weston Art Gallery. David Lusenhoff, who has since relocated to Chicago, put together a show of local modernists in an unparallel homage to an important era in Cincinnati art.

8. Margot Gotoff at the YWCA. Ms. Gotoff is the real thing. An original creator working with a very difficult medium able to bring forth deeply colored glass sculptures that glow in the gallery.

9. Indians at CAM. Glenn Markoe appears to be the hardest working curator at CAM. Not only did he put together two simultaneous shows of American Indian clothing and artifacts, but brought Egypt back to Cincinnati with a look at rarely seen objects from the Old Kingdom.

10. Other Bodies at the Speed. Julien Robson, the museum's curator of contemporary art, does a superb job in visualizing exhibitions that will delight his audience of Southern connoisseurs. Other Bodies, featuring the work of important contemporary artists such as Kiki Smith, Petah Coyne and Carrie Mae Weems, was clearly a winner.


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