Last month, we interviewed new gallery owner Lauren Davies just days after she received the keys to William Busta's former gallery space. After months of anticipation since the change was announced, the gallery (now known by its address as 2731 Prospect) prepares to open its doors once again — for the very first time.
The first exhibitions at 2731 Prospect include local painter Michelangelo Lovelace Sr.'s Good People with Bad Habits and Brick and Bones by Cleveland native Donald Mengay and New York-based Croatian photographer Hrvoje Slovenc. Although the exhibitions are independent, they collectively examine and comment on Cleveland's ongoing transformation.
Lovelace has had a busy year. Earlier in 2015, he was awarded the Mid-Career Visual Artist Cleveland Arts Prize. He also previously received two Ohio Arts Council grants, a Community Partnership for Arts and Culture (CPAC) grant and a Creative Workforce Fellowship. Additionally, a number of his paintings were included in MOCA Cleveland's exhibition, How to Remain Human, this summer. His work has been exhibited in New York, Chicago, Baltimore and throughout Northeast Ohio. Lovelace's paintings reside in many prominent local collections, including the Progressive Corporation, Cleveland Clinic and Artists Archives of the Western Reserve.
Lovelace's paintings depict the daily struggles of inner-city life, with emphasis on Cleveland's African American community.
"The artwork that I will be exhibiting is from my new body of work titled Good People with Bad Habits," Lovelace explains. "With this new series of paintings I take an up-close look at the people in my life and at myself. I am looking at the day-to-day events that surround me. Many of the people in my life are good people with some bad habits. We all have people we love and who love us who have bad habits. Whether it is smoking, drinking, drugs, sex, etc."
Reflecting on the opportunity to be one of the first artists to exhibit in the new gallery, Lovelace continues, "To have this opportunity to be one of the first artists to exhibit at the new gallery is a joy. I have always wanted to exhibit at Mr. Busta's gallery but that did not happen. Now that Lauren has taken over the gallery, I get to still show there. With Mr. Busta retiring, there is a void in the art scene here in Cleveland. I am excited to be one of the first artists she is showing and look forward to the opening, and to the artist talk on Oct. 10. The Cleveland art scene has grown into a national example of a place to grow and exhibit artists from all walks of life. For me, Cleveland is home and I love being a Cleveland artist."
Brick and Bones is the first exhibition in Cleveland by collaborative duo Donald Mengay and Hrvoje Slovenc. Brick and Bones explores Cleveland's evolving urban landscape through the city's transformation from the end of the nineteenth century industrialism through the beginning of our current period of renewal and renovation.
The project features imagery of Cleveland's (seemingly) uninhabited landscapes. However, an optimist will see the potential in these places that has helped ignite Cleveland's rejuvenation. The photographs do not include any people. One could image that as people are added (such as the viewer), the renewal begins. To a longtime Clevelander, an empty factory could be easily reimagined as a downtown artist studio, the side of an unused building could be repurposed with a mural by a local artist or maybe the vacant storefront could house a pop-up holiday market. The exhibition's title refers to the old real estate saying, "It's got good bones." The collaborators see Cleveland as a place with good bones.
"After showing in many museums and galleries in the U.S. and abroad, it is an honor to show the works about Cleveland in the city itself," the duo says. "The legacy of the gallery at 2731 Prospect is enormous, and after talking to Lauren earlier this year, we all concluded that this would be the best place for us to show the work. 2731 Prospect is expanding the scene by showing artists from outside of Cleveland and by including photography in her curatorial repertoire, which we find especially gratifying. It is interesting to be paired in a separate yet parallel exhibition to Michelangelo Lovelace and his paintings about life in Cleveland. That connection provides an especially layered language about the city, one that is clearly on the rise."
They continue, "With the opening of MOCA Cleveland and the Transformer Station, it's apparent that the art scene is not just bubbling up in Cleveland but moving on the cutting edge. These developments mirror the most recent trends in the art world that operate as a de-centering of the arts community away from the more affluent cultural hubs like New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. ... We find it exciting to play a role in these developments."
All of the photographs in Brick and Bones were taken using a large format camera and color positive 4-by-5-inch film. The film was digitally scanned and the images were printed using a large scale printer and archival pigmented inks. Each photograph measures 43.5 inches by 54 inches. Due to the extremely high resolution of the large format film, these photographs are hyper realistic, depicting virtually every detail.
2731 Prospect opens with a reception from 6 to 9 p.m. this Friday. On Oct. 10 the gallery will host a 2 p.m. panel discussion with all three artists. Jennifer Coleman, senior officer of the arts for the George Gund Foundation, will moderate.
The exhibitions remain on view through Oct. 24. The gallery is open Wednesdays through Saturdays from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and by appointment. The gallery and all events are free.