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Beauty in abstract brightens up Akron Art Museum

1/22/2015 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Charles Burwell’s “Dialogue in Blue” features layers of paint in one of the larger pieces in the Akron Art Museum exhibit Beauty Reigns: A Baroque Sensibility in Recent Painting.
Photo courtesy of Charles Burwell and Bridgette Mayer Gallery
DOWNTOWN AKRON — Bold colors and intricate patterns on large-scale canvases and some smaller works are on display in Beauty Reigns: A Baroque Sensibility in Recent Painting at the Akron Art Museum.

The new exhibit, which brightens the galleries on the museum’s second floor, opens this weekend and will be on display through May 3.

Akron is just the second spot for the exhibit since it was created by the McNay Art Museum in San Antonio, Texas. Akron Art Museum Chief Curator Janice Driesbach said when she heard about the exhibit — which features more than 60 works of art by 13 contemporary artists — it was something she knew she wanted to bring to Akron.

“They had not envisioned a traveling exhibit, but I asked, and we are very fortunate that they agreed,” she said.

The artists are all new to the museum, she added. All but one have studios in the United States, but several were born or lived in other countries, and that lends a multicultural sensibility to the exhibit, Driesbach said. She noted several of the artists are also from sunnier climates and that is also evident in the works, many of which are bursting with color.

“The climate in which an artist is living in impacts their vision of the world,” she said.

Another commonality in many of the pieces is they feature layers. The final effect is often achieved using a variety of materials, such as Jose Alvarez (D.O.P.A.)’s work with enamel, ink, organdy, feathers, quills and crystals.

The exhibit also includes a site-specific installation by Paul Henry Ramirez. The New Jersey artist arrived in Akron to work on it Jan. 14. He said he’s taken the installation from the McNay and recreated it here based on the architecture of the museum space.

“I like the viewer to come into the belly of the work and really experience the environment,” he said. “I treat each space like a blank canvas. The end result is I want the viewer to feel like it just happened.”

The installation will include a series of framed, tiny drawings Ramirez created on Ralph Lauren paint color chips, as well as circular design paintings on round canvases interspersed with larger abstract paintings.

Much of the work in the show was created by hand, but several artists also incorporate technology, Driesbach said. Ryan McGinness, the artist who created several large-scale works in the exhibit, “draws nonstop” in sketchbooks, Driesbach said, then uses a computer to “clean up” the images before silk screening them onto canvas in layers.

“There’s an array of information and positive color, but looking at this, it can have a disturbing characteristic to it also,” she said.

His works and those of artists like Charles Burwell in the exhibit are engaging from afar, Driesbach said, but upon closer inspection offer much more information.

Other artists included in the exhibit are Beatriz Milhazes, Kamrooz Aram, Jiha Moon, Susan Chrysler White, Nancy Lorenz, Fausto Fernandez, Rex Ray, Roslyn Schwartz and Annette Davidek.

The exhibit opens tomorrow, Jan. 23, with a member party at 6:30 p.m., featuring artists Ramirez and White, followed by a free public opening party from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m.

White will return Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m. for an Art Talk panel discussion with Lorenz and Aram on “What is the role of beauty in painting today?” The museum’s book club will discuss the Zadie Smith book “On Beauty” Feb. 5 at 6 p.m.

Also, Slide Jam: Beauty Reigns will take place March 19 at 6:30 p.m. with six talks about beauty from Northeast Ohio artists and designers.

The Akron Art Museum, 1 S. High St., is open Wednesdays through Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., with hours extended on Thursdays to 9 p.m. General admission is $7 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens and free for children 17 and younger and members. Admission is free for all on Thursdays. For more information, go to akronart museum.org or call 330-376-9185.

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