A September To Remember

Cruising The Far-flung Visual Arts Diaspora

Around Labor Day, the local art world enters the on-ramp to fall with a burst of speed. But this year the pace is a little different. Challenging, energetic shows and events (the Ingenuity Festival, exhibits of Matt Dibble's paintings at Tregoning Fine Art, prints by Darren Waterston and Karen Kunc at Kokoon Fine Art in Cleveland's newly hot Gordon Square arts district) kept popping up through July and August. Some, like MOCA's exhibit of emerging artist Jamie Davis' sculptural installations, remained on view all the way through the dog days.

Somehow the intensity hasn't been seriously hurt by the absence of several important smaller galleries that kept an edge on the local scene through recent seasons. The small but extraordinary Raw & Co in Tremont retired last fall; Tremont's exit (a gallery space), True Art Gallery in Collinwood and the Front Room Gallery at Superior Avenue and East 36th Street all shut their doors more recently. On the other hand, new venues like Vision Gallery in Collinwood, Artchitecture in Midtown and TIXe Gallery in Tremont continue to spring up, filling at least some of the sudden gaps as artists and galleries disappear down economic potholes.

Any way you look at it, there's plenty to see in the remaining local venues as nights grow longer. And as always, art viewers will need an encyclopedic command of the RTA schedule or a fistful of gasoline bucks to reach all the far-flung venues of Cuyahoga County's arts diaspora. Beginning on the East Side, the first stop this September should be the historic retrospective of Richard Hunt's smaller three-dimensional works, on view at Cleveland's Sculpture Center (September 5ÐOctober 25). The Chicago-based Hunt is one of America's premier lyrical abstract sculptors and was the first African American artist to receive a one-person exhibit at MoMA in New York. Known especially for works installed in urban public spaces, his sculptures in stone, stainless steel and bronze are on view in dozens of American cities, including Cleveland, where his "Sentimental Scale and Wedge" (1977) stands adjacent to the Justice Center. Filling both of the Sculpture Center's galleries, works on view will include smaller sculptures and maquettes, supplemented by photomurals of Hunt's larger public projects.

From there it's a short hop to the opening of the Cleveland Institute of Art's 2008 Faculty Exhibit, showcasing work in traditional and cutting-edge media. Among the latter, check out Kasumi's mind-bending video-based work "Recursion."

Opening the same night nearer downtown at its new Prospect Avenue location, William Busta Gallery presents a solo show featuring the abstract biomorphic sculpture of nationally acclaimed ceramics artist Eva Kwong. Kent-based Kwong's sensuous forms have all the bright, glistening improbability of rare sea creatures, part animal and part plant. Displayed in shows and galleries around the country, they were featured at the Cleveland Museum of Art Invitational Exhibit.

Also beginning on the evening of September 5, at the gateway to the West Side on the Superior Viaduct, SPACES Gallery presents an exciting exhibit of Latino and African American artists, most of whom are currently based in Ohio. Curated by long-time SPACES artist and arts activist Angelica Pozo, Bi-Lingual explores themes of artistic identity and cultural bipolarity. In her curatorial introduction to the show, Pozo writes, "While each of these artists desires very much to be part of the contemporary art dialogue, they equally want to remain actively engaged with the people and culture of their respective communities. Their struggle is to have their visual lexicon fully understood by the contemporary art community while remaining relevant to their own people. In this process, the artist can, at times, sense a real or imagined backlash: His community may feel abandoned, exposed or betrayed by his art, while at the same time some exhibition venues may flinch from presenting the politically hot topics they examine."

Including major figures like Cleveland painter Michelangelo Lovelace, noted filmmaker Robert Banks and gallerist/painter Bruno Casiano, the exhibit promises to explore some nervous subject matter in the not so vacant spaces between cultures, races, neighborhoods and between artists and their audiences.

The following Friday, September 12, another not-to-be-missed exhibit opens at MOCA. Jorge Pardo: House is the first comprehensive U.S. museum exhibition of this much-praised Los Angeles-based artist, who emigrated from Cuba two decades ago. The show includes some 70 works - paintings, sculptures and installations that help to generate various rooms in a dreamlike meta-house. Pardo's work can be disorienting, even creepy at times, as it cuts through walls and across categories, invoking highly charged emotional themes of transgression and entrapment.

Also on the night of September 12, a few miles farther west at the Beck Center in Lakewood, an important exhibit of ceramic works by the late Charles Lakofsky highlights the accomplishments of one of the region's most admirable and creative modernists. Lakofsky, who died at the age of 71 in 1993, taught at Bowling Green University for several decades. During his lifetime, his mainly utilitarian pots, vases and bowls impressed audiences in venues all over the country with the sense of invention and deep-seated liveliness that they conveyed.

Back on the East Side that evening, Northern Ohio-based master sculptor, painter, writer and conceptual artist Don Harvey opens a show at Zygote Press, where he has produced a body of work as the latest participant in that organization's Artist in Residence (A.I.R.) program. And a few blocks to the west, painter Paul Sydorenko's show Plant, Animal, Mineral opens on that busy Friday at the Wooltex Gallery in the Tower Press building. Sydorenko's usually diminutive, whimsical studies have become an integral part of the city's contemporary visual-art culture during the past several years, while Wooltex curator Elizabeth Davis is one of Cleveland's stubbornly heroic gallerists, persisting despite the closing of her e. davis gallery three years ago. In another case of functional art-world reincarnation, the show Portraits at the newly opened TIXe Gallery on West 14th in Tremont is an exhibit of intriguing abstract works by former exit (a gallery space) owner/curator Corey Baker.

Last but not least, the multifaceted Asterisk Gallery will feature several shows this fall, including a Labor & Industry exhibit running from September 12 through October 4, celebrating art and industry in the Ohio and Erie Canalway area. On a different footing with reality is the exhibit opening there this Friday, August 29, for a brief two-week run, showing the work of KRK Ryden, a California punk-pop artist of considerable renown whose post-normalcy, sci-fi-ish paintings relate to the still-surviving new-wave band Devo. If you want to know more about Ryden's mission, Devo's inner teachings and the revealed truths of the Church of the SubGenius, better show up there and at the DEVOtional event at the Beachland Ballroom later that night.

Asterisk Gallery, 2393 Professor Ave., 330.304.8528

Cleveland Artists Foundation, 17801 Detroit Ave., Lakewood, 216.227.9507

Cleveland Institute of Art, 11141 East Blvd, 216.421.7000 

MOCA, 8501 Carnegie Ave. 216.421.8671

Sculpture Center, 1834 E. 123rd St., 216.229.6527

SPACES, 2220 Superior Viaduct, 216.621.2314

TIXe Gallery, 2688 W. 14th St., 330.321.8161

Vision Gallery, 410 E. 156th St., 216.383.0230

William Busta Gallery, 2731 Prospect Ave., 216.298.9071

Wooltex Gallery, 1900 Superior Ave., 216-241-4069

Zygote Press, 1410 E. 30th St., 216.621.2900

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