Sprawling MOCA Cleveland Summer Exhibitions Open to the Public Tonight

Celebrate the opening of MOCA Cleveland’s Summer 2017 season with a free opening night celebration from 7 to 10 p.m. tonight.

The celebration begin with a discussion between artist Keith Mayerson and MOCA Cleveland deputy director Megan Lykins Reich. From 8 to 10 p.m., MOCA Cleveland’s loading dock features live music from Glass Traps and Pack Wolf, and guests are encouraged to visit the galleries and create artwork inspired by the current exhibitions in the Open Art Studio.

Summer’s new exhibitions include MOCA Cleveland’s third regional biennial exhibition, Constant as the Sun, as well as Keith Mayerson: My American Dream and Lu Yang: Delusional Mandala. Each new exhibition features socially conscious artwork exploring relevant and important issues in contemporary society.

Constant as the Sun includes work by ten artists and artist collectives from Northeast Ohio, Western Pennsylvania, Western New York, and Eastern Michigan. Featuring both conventional and non-conventional materials and processes, the exhibition includes artists who engage their community in a variety of ways, from traditional studio practices to responsive, ground level activism.

Besides the work in MOCA’s main gallery, Constant as the Sun includes work in both of MOCA Cleveland’s staircases. With work spread throughout the building, a visit becomes an exploratory adventure, searching through all the building’s unique spaces.

Upon entering the main gallery space, billboard-sized black-and-white photographs by the Cleveland-based artist collective Acerbic, one of an African American man smoking in front of a door with a “Believe in the Land” sign in its window and the other of a group riding dirt bikes and four-wheelers through the city streets. Poems printed on large sheets of plexiglass hang from the ceiling directly in front of these images, and a documentary examining the repercussions of Cleveland’s Opportunity Corridor plays on a nearby screen.
While reading the text on the plexiglass, the viewer’s eyes shift focus from the text back to the images and back to the text again. This back-and-forth connects the words to the images visually, while the audio of the documentary’s interviews with residents of Cleveland’s “Forgotten Triangle” adds an additional dimension to the work.

Adjacent to this multimedia installation is a faux fall-out shelter installation by Kate Sopko and Angela Beallor contained in its own space – fully stocked with dozens and dozens of pickle jars, among other provocative and metaphorical items. Seeking to raise awareness and respond to the needs of their community, the installation represents urban communities that currently feel “actively threatened.” Again, this installation features video elements.
Continuing to move through the gallery, a doorway separates another space with work that explores art’s therapeutic potential. First, the three-person collective Institute for New Feeling presents six “designer” fragrances in glass bottles on a secured pedestal. Offering samples like in a department store’s cosmetic counter, the sample sheets include the uncommon name of each fragrance and its eccentric (yet somehow oddly fitting) ingredients.

Next, Danielle Julian-Norton’s installation of house plants invites the viewer to whisper positive messages into microphones embedded among the leaves. Pink overhead lights give the plants an “otherworldly” quality.

Continuing through another doorway, another space features Liz Maugans’ Artist Trust project and an installation by three-woman artist collective Transformazium. Setting a record for the most works in a single installation at MOCA Cleveland, Maugans’ project features more than 300 self-portraits by local artists. Redefining the term “artist” and our region’s geographic boundaries, the project includes a diverse variety or residents. Collectively, the project showcases the immense wealth of local talent in countless, unique styles and processes. Connecting these individuals through their mutual passion for visual art, Maugans portrays the potential collective power of this group. Beyond the installation at MOCA Cleveland, Maugans is creating an online database of all the participating artists. Once complete, artists will be able to join the network and update their information. Maugans hopes the website will be used as a resource to find art and artists in the region and beyond. With all the self-portraits filling a single wall, the Artist Trust is visually overwhelming at first. Spending five seconds on each image, it’ll take you about half an hour; a minute each will take five hours. You might want to schedule a second visit now.

Transformazium’s installation of beds, books and bricks encourages visitor interaction. The books are all selected from a solicitation for texts considered to be most important as learning resources. Visitors are encouraged to sit and read or even rearrange the installation, so feel free to touch the art.

Continuing through the exhibition, the path returns to the original gallery space with work by Tyree Guyton from Detroit’s famous Heidelberg Project, which utilizes art made from found materials to embellish the exteriors and lawns of vacant homes. Viewable from MOCA’s staircase, a wall outside the gallery features 10 of Guyton’s nonfunctional clocks, which explore the concept of time as a metaphor.

Also outside the gallery and viewable from the main staircase are two painted murals by Cleveland-based painter Darius Steward. Titled "Baggage Claim No. 1 and 2," the subjects are Steward’s wife and son. An image of his wife carrying bags references the metaphorical “baggage” we all carry with us. The other painting features Steward’s son shining a flashlight like a beacon, a hopeful metaphor for Steward’s aspirations for his son’s future.

Located on the building’s second floor, Keith Mayerson: My American Dream features approximately 185 paintings depicting views of the “American Dream” created primarily over the past decade, and hung salon style with work filling the gallery walls to encourage the viewer to create connections between seemingly disparate imagery in close proximity. The exhibition juxtaposes images of famous figures and iconic events with personal experiences, images of the artist’s family and inspiring landscapes.

Although the works are painted realistically, Mayerson’s interest in comics is evident in both the installation (similar to the panels of a page in a comic book or classic church frescos from the Renaissance), as well as his subject matter, which includes multiple images of Superman and Spider-Man. The exhibition also includes several paintings of LeBron James, from his high school years through last year’s NBA Finals, as well as Charlie Brown, Anne Frank, James Dean, the cast of The Wizard of Oz, the Dalai Lama, the original moon landing, Muhammad Ali, Barbara Streisand, John Lennon and even Neo from The Matrix (Keanu Reeves). Several paintings portray landscapes of both Cleveland and New York City, and a large number of works focus on Mayerson’s family. This juxtaposition of intimate, personal imagery with pop culture references and landscapes creates a narrative of the American Dream that is both personal and universal. Again, with so many works included in the exhibition, one visit won’t be enough.

Taking its title from one of four films featured at MOCA Cleveland, Lu Yang: Delusional Mandala includes a series of short videos ranging from 4 to 16 minutes. Born in Shanghai in 1984, Yang’s work explores issues of gender and the impact of the internet, neuroscience, medical and digital technology on contemporary society. Selected videos include: Krafttremor (2011), Uterusman (2013), Wrathful King Kong Core (2014), and Lu Yang Delusional Mandala (2015). These psychedelic videos playfully question serious issues that transcend boundaries or cultures. Using techniques from the entertainment industry, Yang diffuses the tension of these issues through humor, bright colors and pop music. Lu Yang: Delusional Mandala is located in the fourth floor’s video room, adjacent to Constant as the Sun. The full video series is nearly an hour long, so again plan accordingly.

This summer, MOCA Cleveland offers an overwhelming amount of thoughtful and skillful artwork that explores the human condition in the context of current socio-political issues. While some of these issues are very specific to this region, these problems reoccur countless times in cities all across the U.S. and the world. MOCA’s Summer 2017 exhibitions present these issues without the anxiety typically attached to them, allowing the viewer to explore these issues without any pressure to immediately solve them. These installations and exhibitions require the viewer to take an active role during the visit, like a series of dots for you to connect in your own way.

MOCA Cleveland’s Summer 2017 exhibitions remain on view through September 17. Following Friday’s free opening night party, admission is $9.50 for adults, $6 for seniors ages 65 and over, $5 for students with valid ID. Admission is always free for MOCA Cleveland members, children ages 5 and under, active military and veterans. Thanks to a generous gift from PNC, admission is free to all on the first Saturday of each month.

(MOCA Cleveland) 11400 Euclid Ave., 216-421-8671, mocacleveland.org.

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