Film Screening

Akron Film+Pixel

It’s that time of year when film critics release their lists of the best movies of the past year. But many of the films listed won’t play in the Akron area until months later, if at all! Since it’s more exciting to see films when the rest of the world is talking about them, Akron Film+Pixel began a new series that brings current, critically acclaimed films to the Akron Art Museum. The first film, Miguel Gomes’s TABU, was warmly received, and we continue on Thursday, January 24th with NEIGHBORING SOUNDS by Kleber Mendonça Filho.

“We’re filling a gap for ‘arthouse’ cinema,” says Akron Film+Pixel Film Curator Tim Peyton. “Cleveland has the Cinematheque and Cedar Lee Theatre, but until now there’s been no place in Akron to see new festival films on the big screen, with an audience.”

NEIGHBORING SOUNDS deals with the fallout of a series of petty crimes in a seaside community, and the private security firm that is brought in to solve the problem. The Akron premiere is at 6:30pm on January 24th, and is free and open to the public. Seating is available on a first come, first served basis. Get full details here, or watch the trailer below.


Art: 21- Change

In one week (April 13) the sixth season of “Art in the Twenty-First Century” premieres with the episode “Change,” which features international artists El Anatsui, Ai Weiwei and Catherine Opie.

This is perfect timing because for the museum’s 90th anniversary celebration, it is organizing the national tour of Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui in conjunction with the artist and his dealer, Jack Shainman. The exhibition will premiere in Akron June 17 – October 7, 2012 with the artist’s most recent work including twelve monumental wall and floor sculptures widely considered to represent the apex of his career. In addition, a series of drawings illuminates the artist’s process and wooden wall reliefs reference his earlier work in wood.

To kick off the opening festivities of Gravity and Grace El Anatsui will participate in a dialogue with Interim Chief Curator Ellen Rudolph at the Akron-Summit County Public Library’s Main Library-Auditorium on June 16. Tickets are $7 for members and $15 for nonmembers (includes admission to the Opening Party). Tickets for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity are now available!

“Art in the 21st Century”, often referred to as “Art:21,” is a PBS series, educational resource, archive and history of contemporary art.  Art:21 is the only series on United States television to focus exclusively on contemporary visual art and artists.  It is a part of a nonprofit organization founded in 1997 to make contemporary art more accessible to the public and to document 21st-century art and artists from the artists’ own perspectives.

Art:21 has profiled several artists in the Akron Art Museum collection, including Cindy Sherman, Kiki Smith, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Yinka Shonibare and Richard Tuttle.

Local Airings:

Western Reserve PBS: April 13 at 9 pm
WVIZ/ PBS ideastream: April 13 at 10 pm


Experience El Anatsui in Akron on June 16! Buy your tickets for this once-in-a-lifetime event now.

David Wojnarowicz Review

Mitchell Kahan, Director & CEO

On January 6, Akron Art Museum screened two versions of David Wojnarowicz’s “A Fire in My Belly” for a small audience of 35 who braved slippery streets and snow. In Akron, there was little awareness about the controversial removal of an edited version of this video from the National Portrait Gallery’s groundbreaking exhibition on gay history – “Hide/Seek: Difference and Desire in American Portraiture.”  The threats and counter threats over Smithsonian funding had not made local press until both Akron and MOCA Cleveland sent out press releases about our screenings, even though The Washington Post ran a full-page article calling for Smithsonian Secretary Wayne Clough to resign. Meanwhile, museums and galleries across the country are screening the piece.

Our museum audience was more interested in viewing the video than discussing it. But it is not easy viewing. The work exists in two versions, both found in the artist’s studio after his death and clearly marked as works in progress. The shorter version is the most powerful, 7 minutes of footage, mostly shot in Mexico, picturing various forms of cruelty. Cock fighting, bull fighting and Lucha Libre wrestling matches are roughly edited with scenes of poverty and a few images constructed by the artist, like a mouth sewn shut and the disputed segment of ants crawling on a crucifix resting in the dirt. For me, the latter is an image by an artist identifying with human suffering, with the ants a symbol of oblivious humanity overrunning the one who comes to redeem them.

This reading would be too subtle for the foes of gay rights and federal arts funding. Most importantly, it doesn’t serve their political agenda. So instead, they just call it “anti-Christian” and demand its removal, apparent retribution for an artist who won a Supreme Court case many years ago against The American Family Association. I agree with The Washington Post—we all lose when museums cave into bullies, in this case the Speaker of the House and the House Majority Leader, who threatened the Smithsonian with a loss of funding. It seems to me that the Secretary of the Smithsonian squandered an opportunity to inform Americans how the tenet of free inquiry is the foundation of humanities studies and scientific research.