El Anatsui

Gravity and Grace Travels to Brooklyn, NYC

By: Arnold Tunstall, Collections Manager

Brooklyn_Arnie repair

We’ve begun the next phase of our El Anastui exhibition, Gravity and Grace – after its premiere here in Akron.  Since the exhibit closed last October, the staff has been working nearly every day to prepare it for the national tour.  Our preparators re-designed existing crates, new ones and developed packing methods.

And I went to Brooklyn to assist with the installation.

Watching Brooklyn Museum’s curatorial team re-imagine some of the works was very exciting.  A few pieces were literally turned upside down, parts of Peak were turned into a forest of tin can tree forms and most dramatically, the installation piece Gli (wall) went from a maze of screens visitors walked around in Akron to soaring translucent pieces climbing up the height of the impressive rotunda in Brooklyn.


While in New York, I was able to check in at Jack Shainman Gallery on the last day of Anatsui’s wonderful exhibition of new works. Later, I climbed up on the High Line to see how Anastui transformed the side of a building into a work of art with mirrored panels and rusty metal plates.  If you are in New York for the exhibition in Brooklyn, make sure to see this fantastic piece on the High Line (near 20th st.)


The Brooklyn Museum has posted a number of images and a wonderful stop-motion video of the installation process check it out:


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 www.AkronArtMuseum.org/collection.

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.

Last Downtown@Dusk of the Summer ft. Zydeco Kings

Thursday, August 9
6:30 – 9:30 pm

Come see the Zydeco Kings perform live at the Akron Art Museum on Thursday from 6:30 – 8:30 pm as part of the museum’s popular Downtown@Dusk concert series. Also enjoy a lecture from Collection Manager Arnold Tunstall, ArtCamp@Dusk for the kids, hot dogs and a cold beer from Elevator Brewing for adults. This is the LAST Downtown@Dusk of the season and is also a great chance to purchase work from local artists.

The Zydeco Kings have been celebrating the music of Louisiana for more than twelve years. The band consists of five members playing variety of instruments to create an old school rhythm and blues sound. Popular instruments like the guitar, drums, piano and bass are used, but different instruments such as rubboard and accordion are incorporated. This creates a unique sound that makes the band stand out. The Zydeco Kings play all over Northeast Ohio and on local news stations.

In honor of 90 years as a museum, Tunstall will breeze through artwork from the collection representing each of those years from 1922 to now. Not a historical highlight of familiar works, but a whirlwind tour through art historical movements and regional interests represented chronologically by our museum’s objects.

The Museum Store at the Akron Art Museum is happy to host regional artists Bili Kribbs, Morgan Mzik and Todd Jakubsin who will be selling their paintings, prints and sculptures onsite during ArtSale@Dusk.  Sorry members, but member discounts are not applicable on consignment items.

Bili Kribbs resides is Massillon and thinks that imagination is important for the human psyche. Escape from reality, day dreaming, fantasy… all these things help us hold on to our youthfulness and are why Kribbs makes art.

Morgan Mzik’s motivation for her artwork comes from a desire to understand the self and fully appreciate the world around her.

Todd Jakubisin has a passion for telling stories both verbally and visually highlighted with considerable emotion. Jakubisin prefers to take his time in portraying sweeping complexities with simple strokes while using shadows both figuratively and literally to stimulate the viewers’ imagination.

Concert goers may also visit the museum galleries to view Gravity and Grace: Monumental Works by El Anatsui, Robert Stivers: Veiled Image and The Anniversary Show: Commemorative Art Through the Years during the evening. Gallery admission is required. For detailed information on this and other museum events, visit the calendar of events at www.AkronArtMuseum.org/calendar.

Downtown@Dusk 2012 is made possible by The City of Akron. It is presented in cooperation with 89.7 WKSU.

ArtTalks@Dusk are made possible by a gift from the Sam & Kathy Salem Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Community Board of Akron.

ArtCamp@Dusk is made possible by a gift from the Harris-Stanton Gallery.

An Awakening of our Creative Side (Part 1 of 2)

By Jennifer Stavrianou*

After recently returning from a trip to New York City, where I got to meet the original art dealer for EL Anatsui’s artwork, I learned that the Akron Art Museum was working on an exhibition of his work.  Aggressively, I began hunting for the  staff member who could help me become a part of this grand event.  My search lead me to Interim Chief Curator Ellen Rudolph who explained that this particular show did not follow the museum’s typical installation pattern because it was being produced in just 3 weeks.

The first day that I encountered the curatorial team wrangling this installation project was a day in early June.  They were installing Peak, a sculpture by the artist that consisted of 75,000 Milk can lids.  They mulled over the sculpture, making sure that each mound, mold and divot were to their liking. After they were satisfied with mounds that they had created, the team explained to me that the artworks were shipped to them in large wooden crates, from New York, where they had been awaiting exhibition from the Jack Shaiman gallery.   Arnold Tunstall showed me how they arrived in sheets with plastic in between them, flat like a tapestry, WITH NO INSTALLATION INSTRUCTIONS!  When I learned this, my mind began turning….an excellent shipping solution, but I wondered how efficient this solution was for the curators who are required to install the work.  After a few days of watching the installation I’m not sure that was ever a goal of the artist.  To inspire the people who install his work was definitely the goal, and a successful one too.

Each time a piece was installed it challenged the curatorial team to create, by sculpting brilliant turns and sways in the metal tapestries, finding unique ways to present each piece so that the show did not become stagnant and repetitious.  At one point Ellen and Arnie (the collection’s manger at the museum) both exclaimed, “I can’t believe this is so much fun”!

One of my favorite pieces to watch the installation of was Amemo.  It has an ambiguous shape, created by the pinwheel pieces that make up this 18 foot tall sculpture.  It lies on the wall as if it were a winter cable knit sweater piled upon the floor they way my daughter’s end up after she comes home from a fall football game.  At times there were 5 people pushing and scrunching the tapestry to create its sense of relaxation, visible in its dramatic sagging undulation.  Here, over the course of two weeks, I watched the completion of El Anatsui’s vision take us all to a place of awakening.  We were able to bring alive the artist in all of us….what a gift!

Check back on Friday for Part 2 of Jennifer’s Anatsui experience!

*Jennifer Stavrianou is an up and coming art historian, specializing in contemporary African art. She has traveled nationally and internationally to: New York, Washington DC, London, Paris, Chicago and San Francisco to study contemporary artists. Her art historical writing focuses on the identity issues that multicultural artists face in today’s artistic world. She is currently writing her master’s thesis for Kent State University, focusing on contemporary artist EL Anatsui. Recently, she was awarded an internship with the Akron Art Museum to help the curatorial team with Gravity and Grace: The Monumental Works of El Anatsui.

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. http://akronartmuseum.ticketleap.com/dialogueanatsui/