The Year That Was and the Year That Will Be in Cleveland Visual Art

It has been a heck of a year for visual artists here in Cleveland. We have seen the voice of the individual artist rise, the planning of a triennial along with a dismissal involving sexual misconduct, as well as the passing of two beloved artists. We bore witness to fantastic exhibitions, interesting work and artists making things happen within and beyond the community.

I've revisited some of the artists we highlighted, some of my favorite exhibitions, and what I'm looking forward to in 2018.

Many of the artists we had spotlighted are working on upcoming exhibitions or have made significant career moves. Artist Arabella Proffer has just published the second volume of her work based on basics titled GURLS 2, a treat for all who love snark. She has an exhibition at the Gathering Place titled Forma and Flora, as well as We're Still Here at Boxheart in Pittsburgh. Nikki Woods, whose juicy show at HEDGE titled Regrets Only was one of my top ten experiences of 2017, has earned the title of gallery director at the Cleveland Institute of Art's Reinberger Gallery.

Among my favorite exhibitions this past year was the politically driven Dissent! at the Shaker Community Gallery showcasing artists Laura and Gary Dumm, Michelangelo Lovelace and Liz Maugans. Its dialogue on the 2016 election, the environment and struggles within the urban landscape has lingered long after it closed.

Constant as the Sun was a great experience and a bonding moment for so many artists. The third in the series put on by MOCA Cleveland, this show brought several groups together to speak on social issues throughout the galleries. Among those was Maugans, who invited local artists to submit their portraits, and boy did the community respond like gangbusters. The ongoing benefits are many, including Artist Trust gatherings that give the public an opportunity to meet and network with artists throughout our region.

Derek Hess, Marty Geramita and Angie Hetrick brought us face to face with addiction and mental illness in ACTING OUT!, a necessary look into these diseases through the eyes of artists who are intimately familiar with them. The stories exorcised by the artists were among the most moving of the past year.

A show I had not reviewed but did attend, The Space Between at Cleveland West Art League (CWAL), a two-person exhibition featuring Isin Sezer and Miriam Ancis, really knocked my socks off. It was the one show for which I quite loudly remarked, "OH!," as I walked through the gallery entrance. Turkish-born artist Isin Sezer's stellar paintings of our micro universe are inspired by science and biology and Miriam Ancis' steel sculptures are so light and airy one might mistake them for paper.

Dana Oldfather's show Candyland was an absolute delight to cover. I loved the sumptuous color and the dreamy quotidian throughout her work. Also showing at the Cleveland State University galleries was Mark Keffer's Dark Pronoun, an exhibition I hope you had on your radar. Keffer's stunningly huge, humanoid acrylic paintings on panel were a sight to behold. What I found most interesting was his adroit use of blood. That is correct: I said blood. As Keffer states, "As we navigate a world of turmoil, I feel it is important to look inward to recalibrate our understanding of our better selves."

Judith Brandon's Resonant Drawings and Darius Steward's Baggage Claim were an absolute pleasure to absorb.

To write that I'm looking forward to checking out the work from one of the most important and influential artists of our time, Yoko Ono, is a great understatement. Imagine Peace is on view now until Jan. 31 at the Emily Davis Gallery in the University of Akron Myers School of Art. Ono, from Fluxus to her collaborative work with her late husband, John Lennon, has been a powerhouse for peace and these artworks reflect her 50 years of promoting the same. You'd do well to make the trip down I-77 to check it out as well.

Rachel Yurkovich, who traveled to Chernobyl, will have her examinations on view under the title Black Grass at the Sculpture Center. The trailer for part of the exhibition, which you can check out at the Sculpture Center's website, looks immensely promising. Yurkovich is an artist to watch. Black Grass runs from Jan. 19 through Feb. 23.

Deb Pinter's Natural Order and Chaos at BAYarts from Jan. 12 through Feb. 4 in the Sullivan Family Gallery will bring new insight on materials and real, natural elements in a discussion on the volatile and paradoxical aspects of nature. I was a big fan of Pinter's work at the Maria Neil Project and look forward to these mono prints and whatever else she's bringing to the table, because it sounds delicious.

Finally, I anticipate some interesting artwork to come out of not only the official FRONT Triennial, but also the rogue exhibitions that will be popping up all over the city and the region. Whether the general public actually gives a flying frog about an art triennial or not, it is undoubtedly a great thing to happen to our city. It will bring out some of the best, and the worst, art we will have seen in a long time. I can't wait.

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