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Arts Prize Winners exhibit spans five decades

 With its huge windows and soaring interior, Convivium33 gallery, located in the former St. Josaphat Church, reinvented as Josaphat Arts Hall, brings out the best in art and its audience.

Its current show offers work by 14 Cleveland Arts Prize Winners. CAP executive director Marcie Bergman says it's the first attempt at an exhibition of this scope, covering the prize's more than 40-year span. "It shows the range and depth of work being produced in Cleveland, now and over time," she says. "It helps to tie the art scene here together."

The earliest prizewinner shown is Ed Mieczkowski (1966), whose lively geometrical constructions inspired two or three generations of Cleveland Institute of Art students. Not just a local hero, Mieczkowski has recently enjoyed high-profile success in Santa Fe and Los Angeles exhibitions. From there, the exhibit skips to 1981's Athena Tacha, the internationally known sculptor whose works use as their subject the intersection of ideal and natural forms. And there's the extraordinary Shirley Aley Campbell (1988), who at 84 continues to paint and draw every day. Campbell has been known for more than half a century as a painter of difficult, often controversial subjects, enjoying national recognition for examining fringe Americans like the Hell's Angels and burlesque queens.

The show's trove of imagery — curated by William Busta, Susan Channing and Josaphat owner Alenka Banco — includes color photographs of suburban McMansions by Andrew Borowiec (2006), contrasting with Linda Butler's (1999) black-and-white studies of the relics of Cleveland's Millionaire's Row's glory days. Laurence Channing (2000), noted for his large-scale powdered charcoal landscapes, is also represented by a superb, nearly abstract drawing of a boulder.

The Cleveland Institute of Art's long-reigning queen of ceramics Judith Saloman (1990) shows exciting, colorful new work; glass artist Brent Kee Young (1987) offers delicately spun shapes; and Christopher Pekoc (2007) contributes intense photographic collages describing a private mythos of pain and redemption. Textile artist Hildur Asgeirsdottir Jonsson (2008) explores details of her native Icelandic terrain, while 1993 winner La Wilson's found-object assemblages trap the eye in a web of delicate obsessions. Northern Ohio masters Craig Lucas (2008) and Don Harvey (1991) show fresh new work, as exciting as anything they've produced over the decades of their careers.

This year's Emerging Artist winner is Amy Casey, whose whimsical takes on Armageddon are featured on the cover of the latest volume of the quarterly New American Paintings, bringing Convivium's selection of Cleveland art up to the present with a flourish of crumbling urban real estate. The Cleveland Arts Prize Winners exhibit is one of those rare shows that no one interested in the art of the region — or in contemporary art in general — should miss.  

arts@clevescene.com

More by Douglas Max Utter

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