Choice: Contemporary Art from the Akron Art Museum at Transformer Station

By Janice Driesbach, Chief Curator

Presenting selections from the museum’s collection in Choice at the Transformer Station on Cleveland’s West Side has been great fun. Having experienced how artworks engage in different conversations when they are placed differently even within our own galleries, it has been a delight to see how they appear and relate to each other in Transformer’s combined historic and contemporary buildings.

Photo: Courtesy of Transformer Station.

Installation view: El Anatsui, Dzesi II and Matthew Kolodziej, Good Neighbors, both collection of the Akron Art Museum. Photo: Courtesy of Transformer Station.

Matthew Kolodziej’s Good Neighbors and David Salle’s Poverty Is No Disgrace sing on the walls of the main gallery. These large canvases flank El Anatsui’s Dzesi II, a signature example of the Akron Art Museum’s prescience in collecting artists relatively early in their careers. It has been wonderful to observe how this glittering construction composed of aluminum liquor bottle caps and copper wire has captivated Transformer station volunteers, Cleveland arts leaders and members of our museums at recent events.

Anthony Caro, Veduggio Wash and

Anthony Caro, Veduggio Wash, Hiroshi Sugimoto (8 seascapes), Adam Fuss, From the series My Ghost [large smoke]. All: Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Photo: Courtesy of Transformer Station.

I am also very pleased that Fred Bidwell and I decided to feature works in black and white in the historic  building. Anthony Caro’s Veduggio Wash, composed from scrap metal the artist encountered while working at a factory in Italy, looks at home on the rough floor not far from the massive horizontal crane that also occupies the space. Lee Bontecou’s untitled sculpture, also assembled using discarded industrial materials, complements impressive large-scale images by Adam Fuss, Daido Moriyama and Lorna Simpson, which speak to the prominence of photography in the museum’s collection. The opportunity to cluster our eight Hiroshi Sugimoto views of seas allows for an appreciation for the vastness and subtleties of the subject, one that has occupied the artist for more than three decades.

Photo: Shane Wynn.

Installation view: Julian Stanczak, Dual Glare (background), George Segal, Girl Sitting Against a Wall II. Both: Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Photo: Shane Wynn.

In working on Choice and related programs, including a tour I am giving of our contemporary collection in Akron (October 11) and a panel I am moderating on our collection at Transformer Station (November 7), I have renewed appreciation for how the artwork that informs our decisions today was assembled, an accomplishment that reflects the sensibility of our community as well as the contributions of visionary directors and curators. The purchases of Julian Stanczak’s Dual Glare from the exhibition we organized in 1970 and El Anatsui’s Dzesi II prior to the acclaim the artist has received were prescient acquisitions that reflect the museum’s commitment to contemporary artists working nearby and afar. I have been reminded that George Segal’s Girl Sitting Against a Wall II came into the collection along with Andy Warhol’s Single Elvis and our outstanding early Donald Judd sculpture (both on view at home in Akron) in 1972, confirming the museum’s longstanding commitment to contemporary art.

Helen Frankenthaler, Wisdom, 1969, acrylic on canvas, 94 in. x 112 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Gift of the Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Family Collection in honor of Mrs. Galen Roush.

Helen Frankenthaler, Wisdom, 1969, acrylic on canvas, 94 in. x 112 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Gift of the Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Family Collection in honor of Mrs. Galen Roush.

Tony Feher (Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1956 - ) Untitled, 2013 Glass bottles with aluminum screw caps, water, and food dye on painted wood shelf with metal brackets 12 3/4  x 144  x 3 1/2 in. (32.39  x 365.76  x 8.89 cm) The Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Endowment Fund for Painting and Sculpture

Tony Feher, Untitled, 2013, glass bottles with aluminum screw caps, water, and food dye on painted wood shelf with metal brackets. 12 3/4 x 144 x 3 1/2 in. Collection of the Akron Art Musseum. The Mary S. and Louis S. Myers Endowment Fund for Painting and Sculpture.

The most surprising question I have been receiving, to me at least, is that if the Akron Art Museum has highlights at Transformer Station, what do we have on view in Akron? Briefly, highlights are filling the galleries dedicated to our collection.  Paintings by Helen Frankenthaler and Morris Louis welcome visitors when they arrive.  In addition to the Andy Warhol and Donald Judd mentioned above, longtime favorite paintings, including Chuck Close’s Linda and our amazing Philip Guston Opened Box are joined by new acquisitions, including an untitled Tony Feher and Yinka Shonibare’s Gentleman Walking a Tightrope. Louise Nevelson’s Fugue, also an impressive relief sculpture, occupies the spot vacated by the Lee Bontecou. All to say, there is outstanding Akron Art Museum artwork on view on the West Side of Cleveland and in Akron. Magnificent art in both locales provides all the more reason to plan outings in Cleveland and in Akron this fall.

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