Posts tagged with "Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center":

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Props breathes new life into Zaha Hadid's Contemporary Arts Center

Nearly two decades ago, Zaha Hadid's vision for a building that housed art, but more broadly worked to catalyze an urban redevelopment effort in Cincinnati, was to create a structure that made art accessible to the public. She delivered on her goal as a spatially complex series of stacked galleries piled up high over a tight infill site. Accentuated on the ground level by virtually no threshold between the city and institution, Hadid's Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) has since become defined by it's airy public lobby, an "urban carpet" that transitions seamlessly from sidewalk floor to gallery wall, and Corbusier-inspired stairways that form a vertical street, tapping into a set of galleries floating seemingly impossibly overhead. It is only fitting that a show like Props could emerge in a space that set out to reimagine the idea of what a white box gallery could be. Props is a set of eight experimental sculptures from architecture-trained mixed media artist Lauren Henkin, who has found new productive uses for underutilized space in the 16-year-old building. Her solo exhibition joins two other compatible shows concerned with spatial awareness: Confinement: Politics of Space and Bodies, and Cincinnati-based photographer Tom Schiff's Surrounded by Art. The trio of exhibitions will remain open through March 1, 2020. Steven Matijcio, former curator of the CAC, and the current director & chief curator at the Blaffer Art Museum at the University of Houston curated the work. "Lauren [Henkin] and I wanted to challenge and expand the typical locations of artistic presentation at the CAC," said Matijcio. "By its very nature, Lauren's series of "Props" was meant to skew the habits, conventions, and assignments that coalesce in even the most avant-garde of structures." Each of Henkin's Props is assembled from an ad hoc material palette—concrete, PVC, wiring cable, plaster scraps, and so on. In one case, scrap wood was pulled from the CAC's basement and piles of debris discarded by installers of the concurrent exhibitions. The development of the work relied heavily on photographic documentation, drawing, and visits to the building. Henkin worked between her Maine-based studio, the CAC, and a nearby Kentucky-based fabrication studio. Props intentionally undermines the programming of the CAC's formal gallery spaces. Why have work in the gallery when it can exist outside of the gallery? Lacking any formalized infrastructure for art viewing (lights, art labels, etc.), the work feels at home amid and within the architecture of the building. The pieces dissolve into walls, hug corners, and playfully grow out from the floor. In this regard, the Props do not come off as menacing or insulting in any way. Instead, they feel like discreet, optimistically friendly characters, producing compelling moments of their own that stop us in our tracks. With no labels or signage, there seems to be a real possibility that some of these Props could be overlooked during de-installation and hang around the museum indefinitely. Henkin, whose background is in architecture, says movement is the organizational force underlying Props: "These pieces are meant to be viewed while in motion where the viewer is moving up and around the work." Henkin flips our traditional relationship to art: the work becomes static, while the viewer is set in motion. However, beyond Zaha's stair, Props can be spotted hiding out in spaces less trafficked, like the entrance to the fourth-floor women's restroom or a forgotten corner of a hall leading to a fire stair. Formalized art galleries offer no escape for visitors who become immediately incorporated into the spatial logic of the institution: you must walk up these stairs, and you must view the work in this order. Henkin, Matijcio, and co. offer an alternative to this. You inevitably pass Henkin's work, but it operates as a filter, or primer, for the other work in the galleries. "The element of play, whimsy, and revelry played an important role in the conception and execution of the project. Lauren's sculptural interventions in the CAC are meant to disorient and befuddle, and provoke," said Matijcio. "Some are imposing and seemingly precarious; others are quizzical and slightly comical. Each one is different, but the unifying thread was to reimagine the structure's non-gallery spaces as fertile terrain to reconsider and activate." While this iteration of Henkin's Props likely won't travel elsewhere due to its site-specificity, the show might still have a legacy. The problem that Henkin's show exposes is that austere, raw, underutilized display and circulation spaces of today's art museum do have the opportunity to be more critically used. What would it look like for an exhibition to spill out into these spaces? What trouble would this cause, between issues of security, lighting, and liability? However, what opportunities this could create, to reimagine the broader curatorial flow to the institution! Props beg us to consider and reinvent our normative, intuitive, choreographed movements through the museum, especially in Cincinnati, where 16 years of exhibitions have begun to familiarize and dull this incredibly significant architectural space. In an institution that prides itself as a "non-collecting" contemporary museum showing "work of the last five minutes," Props exist as a welcome sideshow to the CAC's ongoing spirited circus of traveling acts. Henkin reminds us that a white room can fit only so many paintings before overflowing.
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An architectural exhibition will dialogue with Zaha Hadid's first U.S. building

The first Zaha Hadid-designed building in the United States will host an exhibition that pays homage to the architect’s liberated geometric forms. Later this month, the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center (CAC) will present its winter exhibition, Props, by mixed-media artist and trained architect Lauren Henkin. The CAC moved into its current home in 2003, centered around a spacious, multistory atrium that creates a sense of free circulation. In a 1998 profile of the museum as a work-in-progress, the Los Angeles Times remarked that “Hadid is erasing boundaries—between inside and out, between a controlled and private inner world and the chaotic energy of public life.” Hadid herself described the building as a “jigsaw puzzle” of exhibition spaces—connected by zig-zagging skywalk staircases, the CAC's layout allows for new modes of exhibiting artwork. Henkin will present a series of eight sculptures scattered throughout the museum, each engaging with site-specific elements of Hadid’s architecture. Props will utilize more than 3,300 cubic feet of “unintended” exhibition space, making use of spaces in the museum which have not been previously used to display artwork. “Hadid so often blurs the line between architecture, furniture, and landscape,” Henkin explained. “It was important to me to extend that uncertainty by pushing the boundaries of how we engage sculpture, while also upending common perceptions of how to experience art in a museum setting. In many cases, the way the ‘props’ are experienced is atypical, placed purposefully in circulation spaces where one can only see the work from above or below, or while climbing or descending stairs.” Along with the unconventional use of space, Henkin makes it clear that she does not consider the sculptures to be the main attraction. Rather than to evoke beauty, the sculptures are meant to serve as catalysts to get viewers thinking about Hadid’s built environment and one's place within it. Additionally, Props will pose important questions about the context of objects displayed in institutional settings, for in addition to the unusual placement of the works, some of which are comprised of objects found in the building’s utility closets. “We’ve all had the encounter of walking into a contemporary art space and wondering if something that looks ‘half-way’ is intentional art or just a chance clustering of items, a renovation on pause,” said Steven Matijcio, curator of Props. “Lauren mobilizes that idea to loosen the absolutes of Hadid’s geometry and materials, and to amplify to more porous and fluid dimensions of the building’s design.” Props will be on view from November 22 through March 1, 2020, at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati.
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Do Ho Suh's ethereal art at the Cincinnati CAC

Walking the streets of downtown Cincinnati, it is easy to miss Zaha Hadid’s Contemporary Arts Center (CAC)—especially to those on the lookout for the free-flowing parametrically derived forms. The CAC is something different. Boxy and monolithic, its gallery volumes give way to a generous interior lobby that is surprisingly porous. Views up through the six floors of galleries are pierced by a continuous thread of stair runs. It was here in the lobby that an inspired Do Ho Suh met with curator Steven Matijcio, embarking on a two-year journey that has led to Passage, a landmark survey of the Korean artist’s work.

Suh’s work is a deeply personal exploration, mapping identity, memory, and his reflections on the idea of home. The artist—living transnationally among Seoul, New York, and London—produces work that strides between the intimate space of the individual and collective networks that bind us together. Passage contains a remarkable range of media: Six new pieces are dispersed alongside drawings, videos, architectural models, and Suh’s iconic, highly detailed “transportable fabric” sculptures.

While it is easy to become seduced by the quality of objects resulting from various mapping techniques aimed at documenting abstract memories and emotions, the most compelling aspect of the exhibition is not Suh’s artwork. Rather, it is the ways in which Suh’s virtually constructed spaces seem to haunt Hadid’s architecture. Traversing the galleries through a continuous staircase system allows Suh to take the visitor on a path through his personal history. Ghostlike forms float in the background behind the CAC’s powerful massing. Suh’s videos mutate from a solitary screen along a vast gallery wall to an immersive projection, which literally envelops the viewer. At the terminus to the exhibit, a dead-end corridor invites potentially lost visitors to reflect on their understanding of home. 

A significant example of the dialogue between Suh and Hadid is how Suh’s fabric sculpture Reflection is revealed to visitors. We first stumble upon the sculpture almost accidentally. Turning a corner, a blue archway modeled after Suh’s childhood home hangs upside-down overhead—its ornate roof tiling and decorative wall patterning conveniently at eye level. A fabric ground plane conceals the remainder of the sculpture, which is revealed only upon leaving the gallery. Here, we finally see the entirety of the piece. A doubling of the image consumes nearly the entire volume of the gallery below. A changing of perspective, enabled by Hadid’s architecture, reveals new views into Suh’s world. Continuing to exit the galleries, one must walk through the hallway of Suh’s New York stairwell, as if leaving his apartment before continuing down Hadid’s stairwell. Suh’s works in these cases have been carefully arranged to heighten the reveal through a careful juxtaposition within Hadid’s circulation system. Walking through the CAC is temporarily no longer about experiencing Hadid’s space, it is about experiencing Suh’s.

Another key moment occurs on the upper floor where limitless virtual space is explored. The stair, leading to the upper level of the exhibition, begins in a dark space enclosed in fabric where models of vernacular houses from Suh’s life have been grafted into foreign contexts. Exiting the room, the viewer is presented with a series of multicolored fabric rooms, becoming narrower and narrower, until dead-ending in a video area where a camera steadily moves, drone-like, through the streets of Korea. A sense of discomfort arises. First presented with loose hand drawings, Suh’s work has a mechanistically precise quality deeper into the exhibition. When this initial fuzziness gives way to precision, our senses heighten as we try to process the details. It’s as if Suh’s memories are becoming clearer as we proceed—or as if the separation between virtual and physical is not so distinct.

At times, Suh’s work feels uneasy and foreign in Hadid’s building, while at other points along his “passage,” the work feels strangely made for her space: “magically site-specific” in the words of Matijcio. Perhaps this is a result of aesthetic differences in their projects. Suh’s use of color as an organizational strategy—a mapping tool to communicate geographical information—activates Hadid’s muted museum palette. Hadid’s broad, sweeping architectural gestures play nicely with Suh’s borderline obsessive attention to detail. Both are motivated by a utopian ideal: The museum as a central meeting place open to the city, and the search for humanity’s deeper collective unity.

Compelling art exhibitions are able to ground the viewer and offer an immersive engagement with the subject matter, while allowing space for moments of self-reflection and imagination. This is where Passage succeeds. By pairing Suh’s work with the fundamental diagram of the building, Hadid’s CAC has been suddenly activated and transformed. The dialogue produced by these two architectures—one embedded into the city, the other momentary and fleeting elevates both the work of the architect and the work of the artist to an excitingly synergistic level. When it all comes down on September 11, 2016, perhaps the real question will be how Hadid’s galleries will feel once the nebulous images of Suh’s past have vanished.

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On View> Daniel Arsham takes over Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center

Remember the Future: Daniel Arsham Contemporary Arts Center 44 East 6th Street Cincinnati, OH March 20–August 30 Remember the Future is the first major exhibition in Ohio by Cleveland-born artist Daniel Arsham. In it, site-specific installations respond to the scale, light, and structure of the Contemporary Arts Center building in Cincinnati. Known for “making architecture do all the things it shouldn’t,” Arsham’s work marries theater, classicism, and hallucination by liquefying gallery walls, furniture, and the human form. Eerie, cloth-covered figures ripple from the walls as if trying to entice the viewer to another world on the far side, while elsewhere Arsham makes the walls appear to be in the process of melting. The artist’s recent work has involved casting outdated media devices—cameras, film projectors, and microphones—in geological material such as volcanic ash, crystal, and crushed glass.