Barbara Bloom is not an architect. Yet, her current exhibition, part of FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, would fit in at any of the innumerable architecture biennials and triennials around the world. Entitled The Rendering (H x W x D =), the solo exhibition explores the relationships between images, objects, and space. Located in the Robert Venturi–designed Ellen Johnson Gallery, at the Allen Memorial Art Museum on the campus of Oberlin College, Bloom takes full advantage of the museum’s collection and the gallery’s pedigree. Invoking architectural language and imagery, the installation is at once both thoughtful and funny. With the Ellen Johnson Gallery, Venturi actively questioned the logic of the typical white box, and Bloom uses this to her advantage. Divided into several discrete pieces, The Rendering reverse engineers a number of two-dimensional architectural images into three-dimensional installations. In each case, Bloom uses primary documents from the museum’s collection, and in one case engages with the building itself. This happens in a glass corner looking out onto Venturi’s “Ironic Ionic” column. Like the other pieces Bloom constructed for the show, the column is matched with a series of column drawings, effectively making Venturi an unaware collaborator in the project. The other pieces in the show include a bridge, garden, tea house, and screen, which are all constructed based on overly literal readings of historic architectural drawings. The largest piece, Garden, for example, is based on a 19th-century Indian print, which is a mix of perspective, plan, and axonometric drawing techniques. As such, the construction fluctuates from legible to confusing (in a good way) as the viewer moves around the piece. A similar effect takes place with the Tea House, which, on first inspection, looks to be a traditional Japanese space for tea ceremonies. This reading falls apart as one works out the relationships of angles and surfaces, which were pulled directly from an 18th-century woodblock print. These larger pieces are augmented by two series of flat works that flank the entry to the gallery. One set of 20 works from the museum’s collection are “framed” in such a way to hide most of the image, revealing only select architectural moments. Another set of photographs curated by the artist from the larger museum collection are hung to temper the palette of viewers entering the space. This attention to procession into the space is just another example of how the artist worked in a distinctly architectural way while conceiving the show. The FRONT Triennial has many exhibitions and pieces that architects may find interested, but Bloom's The Rendering is likely the most directly relatable. The Frank Lloyd Wright–designed Weltzheimer/Johnson House is also hosting works by artist Juan Araujo, and the Richard D. Baron ’64 Art Gallery has the striking architectural paintings of Ciu Jie, both just a short distance from the college. Though these works are a bit of a hike from Cleveland, where most of the triennial is taking place, they are well worth the trip. Considering the popular argument that all these new architecture biennials are, in the end, mostly self-absorbant, it is somehow fitting that the best architectural installations might just be happening at art shows. The Rendering (H x W x D =) and FRONT will be open through September 30 at at the Allen Memorial Art Museum and across the City of Cleveland.
Posts tagged with "FRONT Cleveland Triennial":
The expressed goal of the inaugural FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art is to shine a spotlight on the cultural landscape of Cleveland, a city many might overlook when thinking of art hubs. The organizers of FRONT, of which there are many, are taking their chances on yet another triennial/biennial event but are decidedly not relying on a market-based model, like Art Basel or the closer Expo Chicago. In doing so the city is hoping to set itself apart and focus on the cultural aspects of the art, rather than the scene of art culture. The first thing that will strike visitors to FRONT is its scope. With this year’s theme, An American City: Eleven Cultural Exercises, it can honestly be said that the show spans much of the city, including dipping its toes into Lake Erie. With no single institution claiming the show as its own, each of the city's major art museums and a number of galleries and universities have worked in unison to produce the encompassing show. It is a credit to Curator Lisa Kurzner, Artistic Director Michelle Grabner, Executive Director Fred Bidwell, and their team that such a complex undertaking could be negotiated. Public spaces and government buildings also get in on the act with massive new murals, large-scale sculptures, and a number of temporary installations. In many ways, these pieces, outside of typical presentation settings, are the most striking. Possibly the least expected of the non-traditional spaces to show art is the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. Completed in 1923, and fully adorned in ornate gold and marble details, the lobby of the bank is home to a mesmerizing video and sound installation entitled Volatility Smile by New York-based Midwest-native Philip Vanderhyden. The 24-channel video of digitally rendered abstract forms plays with imagery pulled directly from the space itself. A similarly poignant installation fills the large gallery of the downtown Cleveland Public Library. The American Library continues Yinka Shonibare's research-based cultural art practice. The piece is composed of thousands of books covered in African cloth and embossed with the names of American immigrants. The bright color and context of the piece make accessible the timely content, which builds on Shonibare's work dealing with post-colonialism around the world. The work within the established art museums and galleries is broad-ranging and varied, and many pieces are not to be missed. At Case Western University and MOCA Cleveland, a giant silver hand by sculptor Tony Tasset welcomes guests to the museum and the university, both of which are also participating in FRONT. The inside of the Farshid Moussavi-designed MOCA Cleveland echoes with the soundtrack of Cyprien Gaillard’s Nightlife, a slow-motion 3-D video installation of animated urban plant life. It is as intoxicatingly beautiful as it is hypnotizing. Equally powerful, if not much quieter, is what may be the hidden gem of the entire exhibition. Located in the oldest church in Cleveland along a quiet street, Night Coming Tenderly, Black by photographer Dawoud Bey exemplifies the type of work that FRONT is aiming to promote. Both regionally specific and universally accessible, the large installation fills the pews of St. John’s Episcopal Church with almost completely black images depicting landscapes that escaped slaves traveling the Underground Railroad would have encountered. Appropriately, the church itself was the final stop along the perilous system of safe heavens before escapees crossed Lake Erie into Canada. The placement of the large-scale prints in the pews allows for viewers to sit unusually close to the images, making them incredibly immersive as one studies their intense shadowy detail. In many ways, FRONT International has set itself up to achieve its goal of bringing the world to Cleveland. The array of work is a testament to the cooperation between institutions, which would seem unlikely to happen in the more competitive art scenes of larger cities. The work is often both specific to Cleveland as well as relevant to outsiders. Taken in all together, the show is exciting and shows the potential when a city like Cleveland puts on an international exhibition. Does the world need another art festival? Perhaps not, but if we are going to get one, Cleveland seems to have figured out a way to make it worthwhile.
On July 14 the inaugural FRONT International Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art opens in Cleveland, Ohio, marking the latest in a string of art, design, and architecture events across the Midwest. Although it is primarily arts focused—unlike the Chicago Biennial and Exhibit Columbus—the theme, “An American City” and the dramatic backdrop of Cleveland’s downtown lend itself to several architecturally significant installations. “We are very much aware of putting the exhibition within the context of a cityscape,” said Fred Bidwell, executive director of the triennial. “It is not about Cleveland, per say, it is about using Cleveland as a canvas for the artists in an urban context.” The potentially most striking exhibition is Canvas City, a mural program across approximately nine downtown blocks that revives Cleveland’s 1973 City Canvases program and Julian Stanczak’s iconic mural. FRONT will restore Stanczak’s mural on its original twelve-story building on Prospect Avenue and Ninth Street. Over the next three years, more murals will be completed throughout the city by contemporary artists Odili Donald Odita, Sarah Morris, Heimo Zobernig, and Kay Rosen. “In the 1970s, the mural program was part of a blight remediation movement to help revitalize a very bleak condition,” said Bidwell. “Now, this is not a remediation, but a celebration and a way to enhance the city with new works by important artists and a tribute to Julian.” For this first triennial FRONT will create augmented reality versions of the proposed artworks. Cleveland Clinic, which is already home to a renowned art collection, is adding two new artworks, a wall painting by abstract artist Jan van der Ploeg and an installation by multimedia artist Sharon Lockhart. At Case Western Reserve University, FRONT artistic director Michelle Grabner and the university commissioned Chicago-based artist and sculptor Tony Tasset to create a pavilion for the 34,000-square-foot plaza at the university. The result, Judy’s Hand Pavilion, represents the hand of Tasset’s wife touching down on the earth. “It has this great interplay of masculine and feminine because it is clearly a woman’s hand, but also has these God-like references reminiscent of Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam,” Grabner said. The triennial expands beyond Cleveland into nearby northeast Ohio, including Akron and Oberlin. Oberlin College will also serve as a site for a few important architectural events. Conceptual artist Barbara Bloom will create a new installation in the Robert Venturi–designed wing of the Allen Memorial Art Museum by building architectural elements around the existing artwork. The museum will also feature Chinese artist Cui Jie’s futuristic city paintings that explore utopian/dystopian urban landscapes. To create these fantastical works, Jie combines the stories of Orson Wells with her perspective of Chinese cities, including Chinese propaganda and communist aesthetics. At Frank Lloyd Wright’s Weltzheimer/Johnson Usonian House—five minutes away from the museum—painter Juan Araujo will add a new series to the modernist art collection curated by art history professor Ellen Johnson, who lived in the house from 1968 to 1992. "A lot of people have realized that the contemporary art, design, and even architecture worlds are very concentrated in the big coastal cities and hubs, which distorts the market and creates this bubble-effect," Bidwell said. "Cities like New York and L.A. are terrific, but they are very unique and really don't represent the rest of the country. In addition, it can be difficult to do anything new in those cities because of the expense and hassle it takes to put on a biennial or a triennial. In a city like Cleveland, we have seven major arts institutions with international and national exhibitions across multiple venues and over 100 artists to create an expansive, thought-driven, thematically linked art triennial. It is an important time in the history of the U.S. to rediscover the center of the country." To learn more about FRONT Triennial and to stay updated on its programming, check out its website here.