I came so far for beauty, I left so much behind, My patience and my family, My masterpiece unsigned.
Leonard Cohen's song, I Came So Far for Beauty, inspired the title of the first art exhibition of 2016 in the North Gallery of the Galleries at Cleveland State University. I Came So Far for Beauty is curated by Lane Cooper, artist and associate professor and chair of painting at the Cleveland Institute of Art, with co-curator Karl Anderson, co-founder of Forum Artspace at 78th Street Studios.
"To speak of beauty is a dangerous thing," warns Cooper. "Beauty makes us present, takes us out of the everyday, gives us pause, lures us into an extended engagement, haunts us, seduces us, preoccupies us; it can lead to infatuation, obsession or even love. It has preoccupied thinkers as diverse as Plato, Adorno and Hickey. Each of the artists in this exhibition presents some conception of 'beauty' in their work. How that 'beauty' is produced varies widely. In some pieces it could be said that beauty is more a product of the idea of the work than its appearance, while in many others it is produced through a sense of tactility, color, surface and material. Through the presentation of a broad spectrum of aesthetic approaches, this exhibition examines the role that these choices play in our understanding of art."
Besides Anderson and Cooper, artists participating in I Came So Far for Beauty include Gianna Commito, Erin Duhigg, Tony Ingrisano, Sarah Kabot, Mimi Kato, Julie Langsam, Michael Meier, Christian Michael Mickovic, Sean O'Donnell, Katie Richards, Daniel Roth, Zak Smoker, Scott Stibich, Omid Tavakoli, Dan Tranberg, Charles Tucker, Barry Underwood, Nikki Woods, Justin Woody, Christian Wulffen and Lauren Yaeger.
"The idea of beauty is closely associated with the concept of art in the minds of the non-professional public," says Robert Thurmer, CSU's galleries director. "For artists and art professionals, however, beauty is often a thorn in the side — derided and ridiculed, and dismissed. After the atrocities and horrific images encountered after WWII, beauty was often relegated to the sofa-painting genre that was not considered 'real' art by most serious artists. So, it seems, after a little over a half-century, the idea of beauty is once again gaining some adherents and promoters. Although, even in its most recent incarnation, beauty ain't what it used to be."
Meanwhile, in the South Gallery and Media Room, CSU celebrates 150 years of Euclid Avenue's greatness, with its first history-based (as opposed to fine art-based) exhibition ever. This collection of photographs, maps and artifacts creates a historical narrative of the very ground on which the gallery is located.
"When the 'CSU Art Gallery' translocated to Playhouse Square in 2012, it became 'the Galleries at CSU' — not a mere linguistic and cosmetic change," Thurmer explains. "The transformation included a change from a program strictly dedicated to works of art to a broader field that includes art, art history, design, visual culture, and history. This is the very first exhibition of historic subject matter in the history of this gallery. Very appropriately dealing with the very locale of our new home at Playhouse Square, this exhibition actually features among other treasures, historic photographs of this very building! In this self-referential first attempt at an exhibition with a history subject, it is important to thank Dr. Richard Klein who helped us blaze the trail to many more historical exhibitions to come."
Thurmer elaborates, "The exhibition presents a historical narrative of the past of Euclid Avenue from East Ninth Street to the CSU campus: from the founding of 'Cleaveland' to the present. It gives a glimpse of the lay of the land from its earliest beginnings to the very present, including the newest buildings on campus. This exhibition presents a journey though 150 years of time and about 15 city blocks of space. Everyone will be astonished to see what was here before and how what is here today came to be."
CSU Celebrates 150 Years of Euclid Avenue's Greatness is part of Cleveland State's 50th anniversary celebration. The exhibition is curated by CSU lecturer and program research coordinator Richard Klein, with help from the Cleveland Public Library, Special Collections at the Michael Schwartz Library, the Kent State University Museum and the CSU Archives.
"As we celebrate Cleveland State University's 50th anniversary, it seems appropriate to honor the greatness of Euclid Avenue," says Klein. "Today's thoroughfare began as a dirt path called the Buffalo Road. It became Cleveland's Millionaires' Row during the second half of the 19th century. At the outbreak of the First World War, Euclid Avenue shed its elite residential character to become one of this city's foremost commercial boulevards. More recently, it has assumed an entirely new role as a major component of the expanding Cleveland State University campus."
Both exhibitions remain on view through Saturday, Feb. 27. Beginning at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 21, curators Cooper and Klein will discuss the exhibitions in the galleries. A reception will follow from 5 to 8 p.m. At 2 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20, Indra Lacis, editor of Arthopper.org, will moderate a panel discussion titled, I Came So Far for Beauty: The Role of Aesthetics in Contemporary Art.