Collection Feature: Richard Estes, Food City

by Associate Curator, Theresa Bembnister

Food City verges on abstraction, as colors, shapes and brushstrokes intermingle. Cars, taxis and vans flatten into the same space as the cashier’s pink uniform, the checkout counters and stacks of cigarette packs. The facades of multistory buildings merge with hand-lettered signs advertising chuck steaks at 39 cents a pound. Richard Estes crops his painting so the grocery store’s glass windows fill the entire composition. Exterior and interior elements dissolve into a single plane. This energetic visual potpourri mimics the vitality of the surrounding New York City.

Richard Estes, Food City, 1967, Oil, acrylic and graphite on fiberboard 48 in. x 68 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum, Purchased, by exchange, with funds raised by the Masked Ball 1955-1963

Richard Estes, Food City, 1967, Oil, acrylic and graphite on fiberboard, 48 in. x 68 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum, Purchased, by exchange, with funds raised by the Masked Ball 1955-1963

Richard Estes is known as one of the twentieth century’s most celebrated photorealist painters. In his case, however, that credit is a bit of misnomer. Estes’ paintings do not actually have the same level of veracity that viewers associate with photographic images. That’s not to say that the camera isn’t central to the artist’s process. He photographs his subjects, collaging multiple prints together to achieve his desired composition. Estes then subtly tweaks his imagery, removing some elements that appeared in the photographs and adding others. Nowadays, the 85-year-old artist accomplishes this with the help of Photoshop. Unlike other artists active in the photorealist movement, Estes never used a grid or a projector to transfer his photographs to canvas or board. Instead, the artist drew and painted freehand.

When Estes made Food City in 1967, the young artist primarily focused on his immediate urban surroundings as subject matter. This painting of a busy grocery store in New York City’s Upper West Side neighborhood provided him the opportunity to show off the lettering skills he picked up as a freelance illustrator. These gigs paid Estes’ bills until he was able to focus his attention on painting full time in 1966. The artist credits his commercial work, and not his earlier training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with forcing him to master his craft. That work required him to translate photographs into painted illustrations for reproduction.

View more photorealistic artworks in the Akron Art Museum collection.


Inscribed Books at the Akron Art Museum

by Stefanie Hilles, Education Assistant

Imagine this. You visit the Akron Art Museum and fall in love under the “roof cloud” (the museum’s 327 foot long steel cantilever that joins the old 1899 post office building with the new 2007 Coop Himmelb(l)au structure). No, not with some beautiful stranger you exchange eye contact with across the museum’s lobby (although that would be pretty exciting too). Instead, you fall in love with a beautiful artwork. Maybe you’re a fan of American Impressionism and succumb to the charms of Abel G. Warshawsky’s pure color technique in The Seine at Andelys showing in the McDowell Galleries (and also installed as a reproduction at the International Institute in North Hill as part of the Inside|Out project). Perhaps you prefer your artists a bit more surrealistically inclined and become entranced by Art Green’s Delicate Situation in the Haslinger Galleries. Or possibly, landscape photography is more to your liking and you discover Robert Glenn Ketchum’s CVNRA #866 (from the Federal Lands Series), on view in the Arnstein Galleries as part of Proof: Photographs from the Collection.

Abel G. Warshawsky (Sharon, Pennsylvania, 1883 - 1962, Monterey, California) The Seine at Andelys, 1923 Oil on canvas 32 in. x 39 1/4 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Gift of Miss Malvyn Wachner in memory of her brother, Charles B. Wachner.

Abel G. Warshawsky, The Seine at Andelys, 1923. Oil on canvas. 32 in. x 39 1/4 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Gift of Miss Malvyn Wachner in memory of her brother, Charles B. Wachner.

Like the start of any epic love affair, you are captivated. You have to know more. So, you head in to the museum’s Martha Stecher Reed Library to do some research. The librarian hands you your desired books and you dive right in. Much to your delight, the books are autographed.  The Akron Art Museum is full of surprises.

Inscribed copy of Abel G. Warshawsky: Master-Painter, Humanist

Inscribed copy of Abel G. Warshawsky: Master-Painter, Humanist

Abel G. Warshawsky: Master-Painter, Humanist by Louis Gay Balsam came into the library’s collection in 1959 at the bequest of Mrs. Minna Wachner, whose generous gifts to the museum also include two oil paintings: Le Pont de la Cité, Martigues by Warsharsky and Landscape by William John Edmondson. The book, which is mostly dedicated to fifty black and white lithographs reproducing the artist’s work, was published by the Carmel Valley Art Gallery that, while no longer in existence, was once near to the artist’s Monterey, California home where he lived after his return from Paris in 1939. Dedicated to Billie Wachner, “Who is a dear sweet and wonderful friend [sic],” Abel signed with his nickname, Buck, as well as the longer A.G. Warshawsky.

Art Green, Delicate Situation,  1968

Art Green, Delicate Situation, 1968. Oil on canvas. 69 in. x 45 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Gift of William and Deborah Struve.

Autographed copy of Art Green: Tell Tale Signs accompanied an exhibition of the same name at the Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery in Chicago, held from December 9th 2011 through January 21st 2012.

Autographed copy of Art Green: Tell Tale Signs accompanied an exhibition of the same name at the Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery in Chicago, held from December 9th 2011 through January 21st 2012.

Art Green: Tell Tale Signs accompanied an exhibition of the same name at the Corbett vs. Dempsey Gallery in Chicago, held from December 9th 2011 through January 21st 2012. While the exhibition focused on work created years after Delicate Situation, the interview at the beginning of the text explains some of Green’s recurring  images, namely, the ice-cream cone and the flame that are found in Delicate Situation. Green states, “The image of the ice cream cone interested me because it is so idealized, not because of any specific symbolism. I like opposition and the flame offers that here” (p. 5). Another autograph can be found in Art Green, published by the CUE Art Foundation in 2009 to accompany the first solo exhibition of the artist’s work in New York since 1981. This exhibition was curated by Jim Nutt, who, along with Green, was a member of the Chicago artist group, “The Hairy Who,” that consisted of five recent graduates from the Art Institute of Chicago known for their grotesque subject matter and carefully finished style.

Robert Glenn Ketchum, CVNRA #866, from the Federal Lands series, 1988 Cibachrome print 24 in. x 30 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Purchased with funds from Kathleen and Gordon Ewers.

Robert Glenn Ketchum, CVNRA #866, from the Federal Lands series, 1988. Cibachrome print. 24 in. x 30 in. Collection of the Akron Art Museum. Purchased with funds from Kathleen and Gordon Ewers.

In 1986, the Akron Art Museum commissioned Robert Glenn Ketchum to photograph the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area (CVNRA). Many of these images, taken over the course of several years and throughout different seasons, were later published in Overlooked in America: Photographs by Robert Glenn Ketchum. Compared to the understated signatures contributed by Warshawsky and Green, Robert Glenn Ketchum’s autograph takes on an almost landscape-like quality, with sweeping, flowing organic lines. Ketchum’s book uses the CVNRA as an example of national parks in general, exploring how man and nature interact and how the government manages its federal lands. The CVNRA series can be read in conjunction with another museum commission. In 1979, Lee Friedlander (whose work is also included in Proof) was contracted to photograph the industrial landscape around the Akron/Cleveland area, popularly known as the rust belt. In comparison to Friedlander’s bleak emphasis on desolate factories and the urban landscape, Ketchum’s landscape photographs demonstrate the natural beauty of the Akron area.

autographed copy of Overlooked in America: Photographs by Robert Glenn Ketchum

autographed copy of Overlooked in America: Photographs by Robert Glenn Ketchum

What is it about an autograph that seems to impart some extra knowledge about a person? Sometimes it’s what the person says in an inscription, as in the case of Abel G. Warshaswsky, that gives some insight into the artist’s life. Other times, it’s the style of the handwriting. Whatever the case, it’s an interesting and delightful surprise to discover these autographed works because you seem to get just a bit more information about the artist, something more human than what is captured in the descriptions and analysis of their work.

Take a Journey to the Past with Inside|Out

Inside | Out Akron Logo

By Roza Maille, Inside|Out Project Coordinator

Picture this: You’re walking down the street and then suddenly…whoa!  Is that the painting I saw at the Akron Art Museum last week?  How did it get out here?

Don’t worry.  It’s not the real painting, but a reproduction so realistic it’ll make you do a double take.  That is just one of the ways the Akron Art Museum will engage the community with its new public project, Inside|Out.

Raphael Gleitsmann, Winter Evening, c1932

Raphael Gleitsmann, Winter Evening, c. 1932, Oil on fiberboard, 39 x 44 in., Collection of the Akron Art Museum, Gift of Joseph M. Erdelac. Photo courtesy of the Akron Art Museum.

We are so excited about this project that we decided to give the city a preview of what’s to come!  We have installed a framed reproduction of Raphael Gleitsmann’s painting “Winter Evening” at an outside location across from the historic Akron Civic Theatre. It will be on view from December through February, accompanying other great downtown winter events such as First Night and ice skating at Lock 3. We would love to see the residents of Akron interact with the art, so we are encouraging visitors to take pictures in front of the new installation and post them on social media using the hashtag #insideoutakron.

Photo of the reproduction of Raphael Gleitsmann's painting "Winter Evening" taken after it was installed in downtown Akron.

Photo taken just after the installation on Dec. 1

“Winter Evening” is a great piece of Akron history! Gleitsmann lived in Akron for most of his life and painted this lively scene of downtown Akron in the early 1930s. It’s hard to tell from the seemingly bustling atmosphere but it was painted during the Great Depression when 60% of Akron residents were unemployed.

The image is positioned so the viewer can get a modern-day perspective from the artist’s vantage point.  Some of the buildings depicted in the painting are still standing today, most notably the city’s first skyscraper, now called the FirstMerit Tower.

The FirstMerit tower, circa 1950s.

Photo from – created by Howard Studios (Cleveland, Ohio), 1950s

But wait, there’s more!  Inside|Out is a two-year project, funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and is set to officially launch in the spring of 2015.  The Akron Art Museum will embark on this community outreach project by taking 30 high-quality reproductions of artwork from the museum’s collection and placing them in the streets and parks of the city of Akron and surrounding areas.

Knight Foundation Logo

About ten framed images will be placed in each of the six individual communities that are being targeted for next year. There are two, three-month installations set for each year: three communities for spring/summer and three different communities for summer/fall.  For the second year of the project, we will extend our reach by adding ten more images and two more communities, installing 40 reproductions in eight communities, total.

The images will often be clustered within bicycling or walking distance, to enable residents to discover art in unexpected places. The communities in which they are placed will be encouraged to take ownership of the art in their neighborhoods by creating activities and events around these temporary exhibitions.  All of the art displayed in the streets will be on view at the museum so residents will be able to visit the “real” artwork.

Are you interested in learning more about Inside|Out?  Please attend the community meeting at the Akron Art Museum on Thursday, December 4, 2014 at 5:30 p.m.  The meeting is free and open to the public.  Museum admission is FREE every Thursday.  Please email the project coordinator, Roza Maille at if you plan on attending.

A Look Back into the Archives: The Akron Art Club

Akron Art Club, 1915

Akron Art Club, 1915

By: Alexandra Lynch, Kent State University Practicum Student

Founded in 1915, the Akron Art Club had a membership of 20 people and was organized by Herbert Atkins and Kenneth Nunemaker. The club met once a week and allocated one afternoon a month to outdoor sketching. In 1915 the Akron Art Club started holding exhibitions in various locations around the city, which soon lead way to the idea for an art center. On October 19, 1920, 24 Akron citizens met to explore the possibilities of bringing about an institution that would benefit both the spiritual growth and mental development of the Akron Community. A second meeting was held on November 17, 1920, in regards to the development of the art center. Headed by Edwin C. Shaw, longtime advocate for the arts, it was decided that the basement of the Akron Public Library would become the home of the Akron Art Institute. On February 1, 1922, the Akron Art Institute opened its doors the public.

Postcard of the Akron Public Library from 1909

Postcard of the Akron Public Library from 1909

A Look Back Into the Archives: La Wilson

By Alex Lynch, Kent State University Practicum Student

We’re featuring local artist La Wilson for the second time in our galleries. Her first show, Metaphorical Objects, was at the museum from November 14, 1986 – January 18, 1987, and highlighted the charm and wittiness found in the ordinary, everyday objects of our culture.

The examining, collecting, sorting and assembling that is Wilson’s art is evident in her current exhibition, Objects Transformed, on view through September 21, 2014.


Interchange by La Wilson

Interchange and New York Brush, also featured in Metaphorical Objects, are on view along with works borrowed from local collectors and seldom seen works from the collection.

Want to learn more about La Wilson and her artwork? Visit the museum library and check out our books La Wilson Five Decades, 240 College Street and The Art of La Wilson.

La Wilson002

La Wilson on a motorcycle in 2002


A Look Back into the Archives is a new, regularly occurring segment on our blog. Check back for fun facts about the museum, hilarious old photos and juicy tidbits culled from our archives.

2012 in Review

By: Bridgette Beard Klein, Communications Assistant


This image is from one of the most popular posts from our blog this year (and ever). Here the Inverted Q is shown through the Chromatic Vision Simulator’s Protanope filter. To view the Q’s typical appearance, visit the Akron Art Museum’s Online Collection.

2012 has been an exhilarating year for the Akron Art Museum. We continued to launch our new visual look, celebrated 90 years in the community, exhibited monumental art and made major leadership changes.

We really kicked off the year with our 90th anniversary celebration in February. The performance included abstract painter Al Bright in concert with the Jesse Dandy Band. In March, Ray Turner: Population opened featuring an ever-expanding series of portraits, including key Akronites from the University Park neighborhood and even some Akron Art Museum staff.

April and May saw the staff preparing for the sale of Cindy Sherman’s Untitled #96 at Christie’s Post War and Contemporary Art – Evening Sale on May 8, 2012. The money raised from the sale created a new acquisitions endowment. We retained another 1981 masterpiece by Cindy Sherman from the Centerfolds series, Untitled #93 (Black Sheets), subsequently named Sherman the 2011-2012 Knight Purchase Award recipient and purchased several works from her Bus Riders series.

Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui opened in June with the artist present in Akron! The Akron Art Museum was the first modern and contemporary art museum in the US to collect Anatsui’s work and is thrilled to organize the major traveling exhibition. Huffington Post recently called its presentation at the Brooklyn Museum one of “The 25 Most Anticipated Exhibitions of the New Year.” You can catch the exhibition on its national tour through 2014.

The summer sizzled with the always popular Downtown@Dusk concert series and the new to 2012 ArtCamp@Dusk for kids to enjoy while their parents listen and embarrassingly dance to music. In July, we launched our completely redesigned website and enacted two major admission changes. Children 17 years and younger are now admitted FREE to the museum’s galleries. Beginning in July, visitors receive FREE admission to the collection and exhibition galleries all day from 11 am – 9 pm, on the third Thursday of every month.

After 26 years as director, with one of the longest tenures of any art museum leader in the country, Dr. Mitchell D. Kahan announced to the Akron Art Museum’s Board of Trustees that his resignation, effective January 2, 2013, and assume the title of Director Emeritus. Janice Driesbach joined the staff in August after a yearlong national search, as the museum’s new Chief Curator and was named Interim Director in December.

The colder weather hasn’t slowed down this mammoth year. Sculpture exhibitions Adolph Gottlieb: Sculptor  and New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim opened in late October.  In November, tribute was paid to Dr. Mitchell D. Kahan during a formal dinner on November 10 and a community day on November 11. Holiday mART expanded its hours to reach more people this year and the popular Island of Misfit Toys once again sold out.

You might think all of this is enough for one year, but think again. Just as many people were planning their final holiday shopping or how to best spend the time off with family, the Akron Art Museum announced a pledge from museum supporters Rick and Alita Rogers as the lead gift for the design and construction of its long awaited outdoor sculpture garden. The completed outdoor gallery and multi-use space will bear the name of Bruce and Susanne Rogers, Rick’s parents, who are among Akron’s most devoted community boosters.

From September to December, we added 131 new objects, many of which were donated in honor of Mitchell.  The museum’s commitment to photography holds strong and over half of the works in the collection are photographs. You can check out the museum’s collection at

As for the blog, some of the most popular posts have been The Q is Blue!, Staff Interview: Special Events Manager Sheri Stallsmith and Photographic Masks from the Collection.  We have some posts planned for the next couple of months that we can’t wait to share with you.

Don’t think the Akron Art Museum will rest on its laurel in 2013. As the search for a new director continues, the museum will open some amazing exhibitions and put on some great events.

 The Snowy Day and the Art of Ezra Jack Keats pays tribute to award-winning author and illustrator Ezra Jack Keats (1916–1983), the first to feature an African-American protagonist in modern full-color picture books and will open on March 16, 2013. The exhibition Draw Me a Story (February 9 – August 4, 2013) will celebrate Keats’s legacy and the power of visual literacy and multiculturalism. Elementary students from area schools will created collaborative picture books. The student artists will also meet and work with award-winning children’s book author and illustrator Duncan Tonatiuh, who will be here in the spring.

Drawn entirely from the museum’s collection, Danny Lyon: Bikeriders highlights one of the artist’s most celebrated bodies of works. Now, nearly 50 years after their creation, the images retain their original power and raw energy. Line Color Illusion: 40 Years of Julian Stanczak showcases paintings and prints collected by the Akron Art Museum since 1970. The exhibition documents both Julian Stanczak’s impressive career as a master of color and the museum’s longstanding commitment to his work.

Art and Ale returns this year on March 8 and the galleries will even be open for the first hour! Get your tickets now to take advantage of special pricing. Meanwhile, kids and teens will be delighted with our studio class offerings, but don’t wait to sign up because these classes are in demand.

As always, check out the website, Facebook, Twitter and this blog for the most up-to-date Akron Art Museum information.

Countdown to Gift Giving 2012: Day 19

Small Business Saturday falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday and is dedicated to driving sales to small businesses on one of the busiest holiday shopping weekends of the year. This countdown item also comes with an in-store discount.

Some of the most popular products in the museum store, especially during the holiday season, are those that feature Winter Evening. By regional artist Raphael Gleitsmann, this painting – part of the museum’s collection and on view in the McDowell Galleries – documents Akron’s bustling Main Street in the 1930s.Visitors are invited to save 5% off all Winter Evening merchandise. Members will receive this on top of their 10% member discount and are welcome to enjoy complimentary coffee/tea and cookies while shopping in the museum store. While supplies last!

Photographic Masks from the Collection

By: Eric Parrish, Curatorial Research Assistant

indy Sherman 1994.4

In the spirit of Halloween, the Akron Art Museum offers its patrons a slideshow of photographic masks ranging from the literal to the abstract. You can also visit many of these works at

Perhaps the most innocent mask-wearers in the collection are the three young children – depicted wearing paper cut-out masks and standing patiently on a door-step – in Helen Levitt’s New York (1939). In contrast, Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s 1960 photograph of a boy with a masked face and heavy, over-sized hands takes on an ambiguously melancholy air—a world-weariness we normally associate with adulthood. Edouard Boubat’s Fêtes des morts, Mexique 1980, which depicts the Day of the Dead celebrations on November 1, shows a masked boy placing a candle on a grave. Ken Heyman’s depiction of two young trick-or-treaters in Children in masks, Hotel Belvedere in background, NY provides an interesting counterpart to Levitt’s photograph from a quarter century earlier.

Of course, children aren’t the only ones in the collection wearing masks. Heyman’s Man with mask and black robe in [sic] Halloween, New York (1984) depicts a man dressed as what appears to be a sunglasses-wearing witch. Similarly, Leon Levinstein’s untitled and undated photograph depicts a pair of masked revelers in a delightfully seedy Times Square. In The Masquerader (1985), Penny Rakoff brilliantly uses color to create a mysterious dream-like atmosphere surrounding the masked woman of the title. The same year master-photographer Cindy Sherman created a photograph (Untitled) which somehow defies any attempt at adequate description; it must be seen.

Clarence John Laughlin’s evocatively-titled The Masks Grow to Us (1950) portrays a much more metaphorical kind of mask—one that hints at the complex relationship between masks and identity. Similarly, Amy Jenkins’s Untitled XLIII (43) (1994) is a surrealist tableau that includes a face embedded in the eye of another face. Lotte Jacobi’s beautifully ethereal Mask takes this motif fully into the realm of abstraction.

There are several other photographs in the collection that evoke Halloween. Ralph Eugene Meatyard’s 1966 photograph Untitled [Arched doorway with ghost] combines photographic techniques of erasure with an institutional setting to suggest a ghostly figure wandering through an abandoned hospital or penitentiary. Finally, Joan Liftin’s gorgeous color photograph “Psycho,” Kentucky (1984) juxtaposes the warmth and intimacy of a drive-in theatre at twilight with a single projected frame (“Bates Motel / Vacancy”) of Alfred Hitchcock’s black -and-white horror masterpiece.