Friday, November 11, 2011

Akron Art Museum: A Work of Art

Steel, Glass, and Italian Renaissance

      Ohio is fortunate to have so many second tier cities that house prominent public art collections.  Dayton and Toledo come to mind, along with Akron that emerged with the opening of the Knight Building in 2007.  The contemporary wing is somewhat like a glass and stainless steel prop plane that has landed and taken the original 1899 Italian Renaissance revival style building under its wing…literally.  The result has received reactions from “huh?” to “wow!”  I feel it totally works and connects the two structures in a way that is symbolic of a city that has reinvented itself.

Akron Art Museum
      I was visiting Cindy in Medina when we decided to take a day to visit Akron for the temporary exhibit Landscapes from the Age of Impressionism.  Her painting friends, Georgene and Lee joined us there.  The three of them are plein air artists, a genre that was
featured prominently in the exhibit.  Many of the pieces were from the Akron Art Museum’s permanent collection, as well as others, including pieces from the Brooklyn Museum that organized the traveling exhibit.  The space in the Knight Building allows for temporary shows that are focused and manageable without being overwhelming.  The scope of this particular exhibit explored the different techniques that surfaced during American Impressionism.  

Dolce Far Niente by John SInger Sargent
We were particularly drawn to Dolce Far Niente (it is sweet doing nothing).  The work by John Singer Sargent fuses color, light, and texture with costumed friends in a rich Italian landscape.  The forms become the terrain and vice versa.

Michelle Droll: Landslide Between
a Rock and a Place
      A contrasting landscape exhibit was Michelle Droll: Landslide Between a Rock and a Place.  In this instance, the artist uses found objects from the contemporary landscape.  The main work is an interpretation of an oil spill where the ocean is extracting itself from the leftover oil rather than the removal of oil from the ocean.  It’s a thought-provoking piece that resembles a blue tornado.

Western Art 1950 to Present

I wanted to run through the permanent contemporary collection from 1950 to present that is housed in the remaining exhibit area of the new wing.  I had visited a couple of years ago and remembered that the representation of modern artists was quite vast and eclectic.  

Brillo Boxes by Andy Warhol and Linda by Chuck Close (Left Rear)
Girlfriends and Lovers by Mickalene Thomas
Most of the majors make appearances including Chuck Close’s Linda and Andy Warhol’s Brillo Boxes.  There were several recent acquisitions that bring to prominence some relative newer names such as Mickalene Thomas and Matthew Kolodziej.  Again, the dose seems to be just the right amount to digest in a few hours.  

Paperweights by Paul Stankard

We completed our visit with a look at The Mike and Annie Belkin Collection of Stankard Glass featuring paperweights.  Paul Stankard’s interpretation of tedious plant and insect glass sculptures are preserved inside more glass creating pure whimsy.

The Bridge to the Original 1899 Italian Renaissance Building
       The permanent collection of Western art from 1850 to 1950 is exhibited in the original building.  I’ve viewed it in the past and it is beautifully curated and particularly interesting for its collection of regional art with emphasis on the works of William Sommer.

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