exhibition

A Conversation with Erin Guido & John Paul Costello

Interview conducted by Alison Caplan, Akron Art Museum Director of Education

Erin Guido creates brightly colored dynamic shape and text murals often found in surprising places, like abandoned buildings, offering friendly encouragement as they declare “come over all the time” or “hi.” With the help of carpenter John Paul Costello, Guido’s works became durable, movable pieces, such as “How Are You Feeling Today?” a large sculpture that asks visitors to dial in their emotions.

Erin Guido and John Paul Costello, photograph courtesy of the artists.

How are you feeling today?
EG: I am feeling pretty good today!
JP: Today as with most days lately I’m feeling a bit stressed out, my furniture business has me extremely busy. However, I am really looking forward to this collaboration with Erin as a time to step back and let those creative juices flow in another direction.

How do you come up with the phrases you include in your artwork?
EG: Usually the phrases are something I am thinking about someone specific—sometimes a person I know really well or sometimes a complete stranger. I mostly just like writing nice or silly notes to people! Recently, I’ve been thinking more about the range of feelings or thoughts that I experience or that I imagine someone else experiencing and how to make artwork that can change with emotions.
JP: Ha! I will take no credit for the phrases, that’s Erin’s department.

Erin Guido and John Paul Costello, It's going to be, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists. Photography by Joe Levack/Studio Akron

Erin Guido and John Paul Costello, It’s going to be, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists. Photography by Joe Levack/Studio Akron

What inspired your pieces in the Please Touch exhibition?
EG: My favorite part about putting up artwork outside in the public is that it goes from being my own personal art and feelings to something that is anyone’s and everyone’s. I love when people interact with pieces that they connect to. The Please Touch exhibition is the chance to take that one step further and actually let people change the pieces and create their own public artworks.
JP: For this project most of my inspiration has come from Erin’s artwork. She uses such great colors (something my work is usually void of) and shapes, I just wanted to bring them to life.

L-R: Erin Guido and John Paul Costello, Melpomene and Thalia, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists; Shapes and Pegs, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists; and Today I feel, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists. Photography by Joe Levack/Studio Akron

L-R: Erin Guido and John Paul Costello, Melpomene and Thalia, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists; Shapes and Pegs, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists; and Today I feel, 2017, mixed media, courtesy of the artists. Photography by Joe Levack/Studio Akron

It seems like all of the artist in show have some connection to childhood games or picture books in their work. Do you have a favorite childhood game or book?
EG: I loved all kinds picture books when I was little, but I especially liked pop-up books and flip books (and still do!)
JP: Who didn’t love pop up books? I could sit for hours looking at them, in awe of the simple yet genius mechanics behind them.

How do you collaborate?
EG: It has been really helpful working with JP to see how he makes functional pieces so beautiful and how going from two-dimensional space to three-dimensional space can open up so many options. JP’s mind is has both extremes—really really creative and really really logical. So coming up with crazy ideas with him is so much fun—he can actually figure out how to build them! I usually just add too much color or make the shapes a little bit more wonky.
JP: Extremely well I think. Outside of the furniture my personal work can be a little dark at times so working with Erin has been a welcomed change.

Erin Guido’s & John Paul Costello’s artwork is on view and accessible along with artwork by Jordan Elise Perme & Christopher Lees (Horrible Adorables), and Jay Croft in Please Touch at the Akron Art Museum through July 16, 2017. 

Please Touch shakes off all of the traditional museum-goer behavior and asks visitors to use their sense of touch to experience the exhibition.

For Please Touch, the museum commissioned a group of regional artists to create new works that actively engage audiences of all ages. Erin Guido creates brightly colored dynamic shape and text murals often found in surprising places, like abandoned buildings, offering friendly encouragement as they declare “come over all the time” or “hi.” Jordan Elise and Christopher Lees create mounted animal sculptures they call Horrible Adorables and design patterns for fabric and wallpaper, as well as plastic toys for Kid Robot. Inspired by skateboarding and D.I.Y. culture, Jay Croft’s illustrations have donned skateboard decks, his zine Street Canoe, and most recently, a mural at Chill Ice Cream in downtown Akron.

Read our interview with Jay Croft.

Read our interview with Jordan Elise Perme & Christopher Lees (Horrible Adorables)

For Please Touch, each artist has created an interactive work that visitors can touch and manipulate as they make meaning of it in their own ways.

Please Touch is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by a generous gift from The Mary S. and David C. Corbin Foundation.

This Land Is Your Land… (Finding Photographs on the Run) Part 2 of 2

Editor’s note: Akron Art Museum board member Sue Klein has visited—and photographed—every single one of the national parks. She wrote the following account of her journeys for the Garden Club of America’s Focus magazine. The GCA generously granted permission to republish Klein’s article in conjunction with Our Land, an exhibition of photographs of areas under the management of the National Park Service. Organized in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the NPS, Our Land is on display through February 12, 2017 in the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery.

Isle Royale National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Isle Royale National Park, photo by Sue Klein

by Sue Klein, Akron Art Museum Board Member

Visiting the national parks took us to some unimaginable places in our own magnificent country. My husband George and I had visited 28 of the national parks when we decide to go for broke and visit all the other 39 (includes three added along the way). To plan our visits, we just figure out how to get there and where to stay and do the rest when we arrive on site. Usually I take a tripod, but rarely, if ever, use it–we are moving light and flexible. I look for the non-iconic shots (but truthfully I do shoot Old Faithfuls and Half Domes). In the following journal just one or two adventures or experiences per park are mentioned. This is only a taste.

Isle Royale National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Isle Royale National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Isle Royale
Michigan, 2009

The essence of this place is wolves, moose, granite, water, prehistoric copper mining pits (1500 B.C.), a boreal forest, bogs and plant diversity. This 209-square-mile park is an international biosphere reserve, encompassing a remote and primitive wilderness archipelago on Lake Superior. It consists of one big island and several smaller ones off the Minnesota/Canadian border. A three-hour boat ride from Copper Harbor, Michigan, is our gateway to the park.

We explore only one little section of the main island and nearby Raspberry Island. Nevertheless, we get a taste of everything except for moose and wolves. But, miraculously, in the evening a professor lectures on wolves and moose and how they keep each other in check. Park talks are something we always look forward to and this one is especially interesting. Our basic lodging accommodation is the only place with beds and plumbing in the park. Otherwise it’s tents.

On our second day, we hear a big storm with big winds is headed our way. We opt to get out of Dodge before the storm hits and hop the evening boat on calm waters back to Copper Harbor. Isle Royale is a place to come back to, maybe to stay in a tent and just soak in all the goodies in this small jewel of a park. Perhaps we would even see a moose or wolf!

Pinnacles National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Pinnacles National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Pinnacles National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Pinnacles National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Pinnacles
California, 2013

This park, our second to last, is just east of Carmel and Monterey. In early January 2013, I tell the superintendent of our Cuyahoga Valley National Park that we are about to complete our quest to visit the 58 national parks. “Oh no,” says he. “As of last week there is a new one,” and off we go to Pinnacles.

My sister and brother-in-law join us for this adventure. Pinnacles, a combination of volcanic and sedimentary rock, is part of a 23-million-year-old volcano 195 miles to the southeast near Los Angeles. The giant San Andreas Fault split the volcano, and the western part crept north, carrying the rock pinnacles.

The Junior Canyon loop trail from the west side of the park winds up to the top and goes back down a different way. It’s like a Disney ride with every imaginable feature squeezed in along the way: huge rock formations, backlit trees, tunnels through huge rock formations, narrow boards bridging rock ravines, rickety steep metal steps with a surprise lake at the top, scenic vistas from the top and the pièce de resistance: California condors with 10-foot wingspans circling at the summit.

I could walk this 4.2-mile trail every day and never get tired of it. It’s spectacular. In fact, I recommend this as my #1 favorite hike in all the parks… really!

Yosemite National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Yosemite National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Yosemite National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Yosemite National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Yosemite
California, July 2014

“No temple made with human hands can compare with Yosemite,” wrote John Muir. For me it’s about soaring trees, high waterfalls, huge granite walls, snow, meadows, the intimate valley and my memories. This is my home stomping ground for national parks.

We have been here before with our children, but this time we include our four grandchildren. It’s our victory lap celebration, as well as our 50th wedding anniversary. We expect it to be hot and jammed, and it is. However, somehow visitors have a reverence for this place and it‘s very peaceful, like being in a magic bubble. For four days we play in the valley on the river, in the visitor centers, on the trails and on the boulders. Part of the family goes rock climbing in the high country.

For me there is a heart-stopping “Aha!” moment. Part of our three-generation group drives up to Glacier Point (elev. 7,214 ft.) overlooking the valley. As we drive around a corner we are suddenly up close and personal with the iconic Half Dome (think Ansel Adams). There it is, at eye level across the valley, it is so close. I can’t take my eyes off old Half Dome. It pulls me with an irresistible force. I am speechless! I can still conjure up that moment.

As we leave Yosemite, our oldest grandchild, Jason (then 12) names his three favorite things: the lazy inner tube float through the valley on the Merced River, rock climbing in the high country and (be still my heart) the live, one-man John Muir show. I know he gets it.

Our thirteen-year adventure took us to unimaginable places in our own country, in many cases far off the beaten track. Whether the park was one of the biggies or something like Hot Springs, Arkansas (my first time in the state), Great Basin in Nevada (a five-hour drive across the Great Salt Lake desert at night), or Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota (a two-hour drive west from Bismarck past oil wells and sunflower fields), I can remember every one by some unique experience. That is, as we checked parks off our list, we discovered, often by accident, so much about our own glorious country that we never knew!

So, “just do it.” Make plans, but don’t schedule every minute, something better might turn up, like a California condor, a sandstorm, a yin-yang experience or an in-your-face Half Dome. If you need extra incentive, take your kids or grand kids.

Read Part 1 of Sue Klein’s National Park adventure! 

Start your own National Park Adventure by visiting Our Land at the Akron Art Museum and the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

 

This Land is Your Land… (finding photographs on the run) Part 1 of 2

Editor’s note: Akron Art Museum board member Sue Klein has visited—and photographed—every single one of the national parks. She wrote the following account of her journeys for the Garden Club of America’s Focus magazine. The GCA generously granted permission to republish Klein’s article in conjunction with Our Land, an exhibition of photographs of areas under the management of the National Park Service. Organized in celebration of the centennial anniversary of the NPS, Our Land is on display through February 12, 2017 in the Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery.

Wrangell—St. Elias National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Wrangell—St. Elias National Park, photo by Sue Klein

by Sue Klein, Akron Art Museum Board Member

Visiting the national parks took us to some unimaginable places in our own magnificent country. My husband George and I had visited 28 of the national parks when we decide to go for broke and visit all the other 39 (includes three added along the way). To plan our visits, we just figure out how to get there and where to stay and do the rest when we arrive on site. Usually I take a tripod, but rarely, if ever, use it–we are moving light and flexible. I look for the non-iconic shots (but truthfully I do shoot Old Faithfuls and Half Domes). In the following journal just one or two adventures or experiences per park are mentioned. This is only a taste.

Guadalupe Mountains

Texas, April 2003

Way south on the New Mexico border. The mountains are actually part of an ancient marine fossil reef. We find a flat 6.8-mile loop trail (loops are the best) at McKittrick Canyon. Around each corner we discover treasures: a rattlesnake, a tree with alligator bark, squawroot, an unusual cliff and, at the end, a blinding sandstorm. I am like a kid in a candy shop. The sandstorm blows in fast and furious, 80 mph we are told. The white sand piles up along the road like snow.

Everglades

Florida, December 2003

We are mountain people. We tell ourselves this is only a trip to check a park off our bucket list. However, our adventures in the Everglades are pure delight. There are so many short walks, boat rides (motor and self-propelled) and even biking opportunities through different environments: sawgrass, swamp and mangroves by boardwalks, alligator territory and others. Most can be done on our own time. The boardwalk at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is our introduction and I feel like I am squealing as we wander through this amazing swamp, hanging over railings and gawking at the birds, plants, flowers and the general landscape. (It’s actually in a national preserve contiguous to the official Everglades. National parks are often surrounded by other federal lands.) A favorite adventure in Everglades National Park is a moonlight paddle after dinner to see the roseate spoonbills. The pink birds are beautiful as they come into roost with a pink sunset and pink water reflections. On the way back in the dark, our guide shines a flashlight on the water and we see alligator eyes all around us.

Joshua Tree National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Joshua Tree National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Joshua Tree National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Joshua Tree National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Joshua Tree

California, April 2004

“Rather than be dazzled by man’s accomplishment, you’ll be bewildered by nature,” say our hosts at our desert funk motel. We aren’t particularly interested in deserts. But, then there are the amazing rocks and rock formations. It looks like a playground for kids of all ages. Cacti, succulents and other plants are everywhere. Outrageous flowering plants are in full display. The Mojave and the Colorado deserts abut here. The Colorado is known for the cholla cactus and the Mojave (higher and wetter) is recognized by the Joshua trees. This is prime time on the desert. Look at us, we are now desert people! (FYI, it’s only 157 driving miles to LAX.)

Capitol Reef National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Capitol Reef National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Capitol Reef National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Capitol Reef National Park, photo by Sue Klein

Capitol Reef

Utah, April 2008

Capital Reef is Mother Nature on steroids. The reef is actually a “giant, sinuous wrinkle in the earth’s crust stretching for 100 miles” north and south, according to the park service. At first I love the huge-sized rocks, formations and jagged shapes. There is intense color, texture, layers, energy and chaos here. But after a few hours, I long for something peaceful, softer and soothing. I want out. We follow a dirt road outside and around the park, with less drama and lots of quiet beauty. Ahh, it feels better, and I immediately relax. A friend later explained to me that this was a yin and yang experience. That is I went too far, yang (chaos and jagged) and I needed to balance this with yin (rounded and calm). Bottom line, these parks really jiggle all the things I love, over-stimulating sometimes, but a thrill.

Saguaro

Arizona, April 2008

This park is divided into two parts, separated by the city of Tucson. We spend the night here in the 1930s Arizona Inn, a classic Spanish-style place… very high class for our national park adventures that usually run more to tents, Hampton Inns, and 1930s cabins (with one double bed and a bare overhead bulb). We head for Saguaro West and this time I have an agenda. I am looking for an image to enter in the “Joy of Sex” class at a Garden Club of America show. My 105 macro and monopod are with me as I walk along the Cactus Garden Trail. Oh, my gosh! When I focus in on the ripe blooms, it is a virtual porno show. I think I’m blushing. Giggling my way around this Garden of Eden, trying not to be such a prude, I discover a whole new lustful plant world. Mission accomplished.

Measuring up to 50 feet tall and up to 16,000 pounds, the saguaro plant is the largest North American cactus. In some places they covered the landscape like a forest.

Our thirteen-year adventure took us to unimaginable places in our own country, in many cases far off the beaten track. Whether the park was one of the biggies or something like Hot Springs, Arkansas (my first time in the state), Great Basin in Nevada (a five-hour drive across the Great Salt Lake desert at night), or Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota (a two-hour drive west from Bismarck past oil wells and sunflower fields), I can remember every one by some unique experience. That is, as we checked parks off our list, we discovered, often by accident, so much about our own glorious country that we never knew!

So, “just do it.”  Make plans, but don’t schedule every minute, something better might turn up, like a California condor, a sandstorm, a yin-yang experience or an in-your-face Half Dome. If you need extra incentive, take your kids or grand kids.

Check back in a week for Part 2 of Sue Klein’s National Park adventure! 

Start your own National Park Adventure by visiting Our Land at the Akron Art Museum and the nearby Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

NEO Geo Studio Visits

By Theresa Bembnister, Associate Curator

If philosopher Alan Watts is right, and museums are the places art goes to die, then the artist’s studio must surely be the birthplace of a work of art.

For the record: I disagree with Watts. But I do relish the opportunity to see art in its native studio environment, before it’s displayed on the museum’s pristine walls. The context of an artist’s workspace offers clues as to how or why a particular artwork was made.

Studio visits made up a large part of the efforts required to organize NEO Geo. After scoping out an artist’s website, I would set up a studio visit to observe the work and ask questions. Not only did these observations and conversations guide my selections of works to include in the exhibition, but they were integral to gathering key information I could then convey to museum visitors through labels, tours, the brochure and this blog post.

NEO Geo artist Erik Neff

Pastel drawings on display in Erik Neff’s studio.

Pastel drawings on display in Erik Neff’s studio.

I visited Erik Neff’s studio in Newbury in rural Geauga County in early April and mid-May of last year. A prolific artist, Neff creates pastel drawings on paper in addition to the oil paintings and wooden sculptures selected for NEO Geo.

Small paintings stored in a flat file in Erik Neff’s studio.

Small paintings stored in a flat file in Erik Neff’s studio.

Neff’s studio serves a dual role of a place to make and store artwork. His flat file drawer holds examples of the modestly scaled paintings the artist made when his children were younger. Now that they spend their days at school, Neff has more time to devote to larger canvases like the ones you see in NEO Geo.

Erik Neff’s paintings in their natural habitat.

Erik Neff’s paintings in their natural habitat.

During my visits, Neff displayed his larger and mid-sized canvases propped up on aluminum cans, leaning against the wall. Neff’s painting Between, which is included in NEO Geo, is on the right of this photograph; the edge of Breakwater is barely visible on the far right.

The studio mascots in the studio.

The studio mascots in the studio.

Neff places his small wooden sculptures, or studio mascots, as he likes to call them, on a wooden bench. Here you see a set of Neff’s pastels in the background, and the wooden stove that heats his studio is visible on the far right. The wooden blocks Neff uses to construct his sculptures would have ended up in the stove if they hadn’t had a visual appeal to the artist, who sets them near his palette and brushes paint on their surfaces from time to time.

NEO Geo artist Paul O’Keeffe

I visited Paul O’Keeffe’s studio, which was specifically designed and constructed for the backyard of his Cleveland Heights home, in mid-March and late June of last year. A beautiful natural light fills his workspace.

Paul O’Keeffe’s stash of acrylic.

Paul O’Keeffe’s stash of acrylic.

O’Keeffe purchases colored acrylic pieces that are rejects from improperly cut commercial orders. He layers the translucent sheets atop one another, creating new hues in the process.

The early stage of a distant silence XXX and XXI.

The early stage of a distant silence XXX and XXI.

When I visited O’Keeffe in June, he had begun work on his two newest sculptures in the exhibition, a distant silence XXX and XXXI. You can see the skeletons of those two works, which were constructed in part with materials from a botched job for a Victoria’s Secret store.

O’Keeffe’s method of combining individual components comes from an example set by sculptor David Smith. “Years ago, as a student, I came across photos of him laying out individual found metal elements on the floor prior to welding (and also composing with cardboard). My acrylic pieces are generated in a similar fashion although the sensibility is considerably different.”

NEO Geo artist Janice Lessman-Moss

I first visited Janice Lessman-Moss’ Kent studio in mid-March of last year, with a follow up visit at the end of May.

Sketches pinned to the wall in Janice Lessman-Moss’ studio.

Sketches pinned to the wall in Janice Lessman-Moss’ studio.

Pinned to the wall above her flat file are print-outs of digital sketches for the artist’s Random Walk series. The random walk theory, which is used to explain the unpredictability of the stock market’s rise and fall, serves as inspiration for the patterns that appear in works in this series, which Lessman-Moss weaves on a digital jacquard loom in her studio. None of the Random Walk weavings are on display in NEO Geo, but the work visible on the right in the above photograph, #420, is part of the series of tapestries created at the same industrial mill in North Carolina where the textiles in NEO Geo were woven.

Janice Lessman-Moss’ “crayon box.”

Janice Lessman-Moss’ “crayon box.”

On the opposite wall hangs what Lessman-Moss refers to as her “crayon box,” a tapestry that doubles as a palette for the colors the artist creates by instructing the industrial digital loom to weave threads in a particular order. She set up a corresponding digital palette in Photoshop, the program she uses to create her designs before transferring them into files for the digital loom using software called Pointcarre.

Janice Lessman-Moss sharing the "crayon-box" during her talk at the NEO Geo opening reception. Photo: Shane Wynn.

Janice Lessman-Moss sharing the “crayon box” during her talk at the NEO Geo opening reception. Photo: Shane Wynn.

Each of the many, many colors featured in the complex designs of the weavings on display in NEO Geo corresponds to a square on the crayon box. This tool, which hangs on the wall directly above the desk where the artist sits to design her tapestries, provides valuable insight into the work’s creation—insights best obtained through visits to the artist’s studio, the birthplace of the works of art.

Find out more about NEO Geo, on view at the Akron Art Museum through April 24, 2016. • View the NEO Geo exhibition catalog online.

Altered Landscapes Showcases Innovative Contemporary Approaches to Landscape

by Janice Driesbach, Chief Curator

The museum’s Judith Bear Isroff and Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Galleries offer ideal opportunities to bring together thematic exhibitions from our collections. These galleries are particularly well suited for featuring works on paper and photographs that are vulnerable to light, and so cannot be on view for extended periods of time. When I first started thinking about the exhibition that became Altered Landscapes, I was eager to showcase relatively recent gifts that we had not had yet been able to share. These included Meridel Rubenstein’s Temple Tree, Vietnam and Yun-Fei Ji’s Three Gorges Dam Migration, both donated in honor of former director Mitchell Kahan on the occasion of his retirement.

Meridel Rubenstein, Temple Tree, Vietnam, 2000-01, vegetable ink on paper, with mica and gum arabic

Meridel Rubenstein, Temple Tree, Vietnam, 2000-01, vegetable ink on paper, with mica and gum arabic

I appreciated how Rubenstein’s incorporation of unconventional materials into the photograph, including vegetable ink and mica, were beautifully employed to convey how the ancient tree had been honored. It was also clear that, with the construction of the surrounding temple, the landscape’s original context was transformed centuries ago. In contrast, the soft colors and traditional format of Yun-Fei Ji’s scroll invite us in to view the tragic consequences of a much more recent change—the construction of the Yangtze River dam that buried thousands of villages and displaced more than a million people.

Yun-Fei Ji, Three Gorges Dam Migration, 2009, hand-printed watercolor woodblock on paper and silk

Yun-Fei Ji, Three Gorges Dam Migration, 2009, hand-printed watercolor woodblock on paper and silk

Certainly as we head into our parks and the countryside today, there is little that has not been impacted by the human presence. Much that may strike us as pristine wilderness is in fact second- or third-growth forest and shelters numerous invasive species. In addition, since the invention and proliferation of photography, the detailed views that artists spent extended time rendering can be captured and disseminated instantaneously. The role of the artist has changed and Altered Landscapes allows us to present some of the ways contemporary artists have responded to this traditional subject.

Randall Tiedman, Limbus Patrum #7, 2010, Acrylic and oil on paper

Randall Tiedman, Limbus Patrum #7, 2010, acrylic and oil on paper

I take particular delight that as the exhibition came together we were able to include other artworks that have not been on display before. These include Randall Tiedman’s Limbus Patrum #7, a gift the museum received just a few months ago. A lifelong Cleveland resident, Tiedman developed his impressive composition from imagination, informed by his intimate understanding of the industrial landscape. In contrast, Wayne Thiebaud, painted River and Slough, a view of his beloved Sacramento Valley, in his studio from sketches made on the spot. And, Joseph Yoakum was probably inspired to depict Mt. Banda Banda in Great Dividing Range near Kempsey Australia by a magazine illustration rather than firsthand observation—all very different approaches.

Wayne Thiebaud, River and Slough, 1969

Wayne Thiebaud, River and Slough, 1969, acrylic on canvas

With artwork ranging from Mark Soppeland’s glitter-laden sculpture Bridge over a Strange Place to Lilian Tyrrell’s powerful Disaster Blanket, Altered Landscapes truly brings together a wide range of styles and media in addressing its theme. It is my hope that visitors will enjoy making comparisons and that they consider extending their visit by wandering into our C. Blake McDowell, Jr, Galleries on the first floor of our 1899 building. There they will see earlier interpretations of landscape subjects, including outstanding Impressionist and Tonalist paintings and early 20th-century views of our region.

A Look Back Into the Archives: Art in Use

By Mandy Tomasik, KSU library & information science practicum student

It’s that time of year when the air turns chilly and thoughts turn to things comfy and cozy.  I have been in squirrel mode preparing my apartment for the cold weather ahead, since the thought of hibernating in a cluttered space makes me claustrophobic all over.  So, with housekeeping on my mind, I couldn’t help but notice while working in the archives the significant number of house and home-related exhibits clustered in the mid-1940’s to early 1950’s.  There’s probably plenty to be said about the interest in domestic affairs and industrial design in the aftermath of WWII, but I’ll leave that to the experts and instead share my favorite finds from:

Cover of exhibition catalog for Useful Objects for the Home, picturing (from left to right), Clothes, military, nail and hair brushes with “Shaped for Use” plastic handles, Wood bowl “turned to shapes of unusual thinness and proportions”,  “Chemex” coffee maker - “All glass one piece coffee maker with shaped wood ring grasp handle”, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

Cover of exhibition catalog for Useful Objects for the Home, picturing (from left to right), Clothes, military, nail and hair brushes with “Shaped for Use” plastic handles, Wood bowl “turned to shapes of unusual thinness and proportions”, “Chemex” coffee maker – “All glass one piece coffee maker with shaped wood ring grasp handle”, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

First of all, who could pass up this (now) classic Eames coffee table and chair?

“Evans-Made, Eames Designed” coffee table and chair from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

“Evans-Made, Eames Designed” coffee table and chair from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

After all, I’m going to need somewhere to park my new wire recorder!

Wire recorder from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

Wire recorder from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

Truly though, I want this.

There’s something illicitly fascinating about smoking-related objects from back in the heyday of cigarettes, like these ashtrays and “cigarette box”.  Very Mad Men.

Ashtrays and cigarette box from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

Ashtrays and cigarette box from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

However, those don’t hold a candle (or a match?) to this “Glamor Kit”!  The ladies surely went wild over this “Plastic combination cigarette case and compact”.

“Glamor Kit” from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

“Glamor Kit” from the Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives

So glamorous!

The items in Useful Objects for the Home were selected based on their practical applications, while keeping design as a primary consideration.  The exhibition catalog (pictured at the top) lists the objects, their designers, producers and retailers.  “Prices range[d] broadly between 20¢ and $25,” (Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives), and the majority of items were available in local Akron stores.

This exhibit, which took place November – December 1947, was part of a series called Art in Use, which included companion exhibitions titled Plan Your Home (January 1946), Made in Akron (September 1946) and Contemporary Furnishings (February 1947).  The Akron Art Institute, the precursor to the Akron Art Museum, offered a four year course that included instruction in field of industrial design.  At the Institute’s art school, “All art students, regardless of future plans for specialization in art, [were] required to participate in the study of ‘art in use’.” (Useful Objects for the Home exhibition catalog, 1947, Akron Art Museum Archives)

If we’re going to be all holed up in the coming winter, it might as well be with some well-designed and useful art!  Of course, when we must venture out, there’s always the option of cozying up with some art here at the museum too.

A Look Back Into the Archives: John Pearson

By Mandy Tomasik, KSU library & information science practicum student

Let’s talk about math.

Drawing for Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10.  #AAI 3,628,800.  All permutations of ten of ten symbols. Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

Drawing for Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10. #AAI 3,628,800. All permutations of ten of ten symbols. Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

 

No, wait, come back!

John Pearson has already done all the math, we just get to enjoy the results.  The new John Pearson: Intuitive Structures exhibition in the Isroff Gallery is the first solo show at the Akron Art Museum for this enduring figure in the Northeast Ohio arts community.  Educated at the Harrogate College of Art, Yorkshire, the Royal Academy Schools, London and Northern Illinois University, Pearson taught at Oberlin College from 1972 until his retirement this year.  In addition to his remarkable teaching career, he is the recipient of numerous regional and international art grants, fellowships and awards including the 1975 Cleveland Arts Prize.

Although this is his first one-man show here at the museum, Pearson has participated in two previous group exhibitions.  Six Artists: Breidel, Davidovitch, Eubel, Lucas, Pearson, Tacha was on view from December 17, 1972 through January 28, 1973, and featured local artists working with conceptual ideas.  His second appearance, in Five Perspectives: Henry Halem, Patrick Kelly, Edward Mayer, John Pearson, and Judith Saloman, occurred April 24 through June 5, 1983, and likewise highlighted area artists who all explored abstract modes.

Pearson arrived at the minimalist geometric abstractions he created in the mid 1960’s and 1970’s through the rigorous application of mathematical systems like the one pictured above.  While this sounds dry, Pearson’s explanation of these works is anything but:

When I use mathematical structures to make my own structures, I am using concepts and forms which have been developed to define specific aspects of the harmony perceived in nature.  I am taking that harmony, fracturing it, putting it back together in my own way, to deal with another kind of harmony — the harmony that is in my spirit, in my soul.  (Five Perspectives exhibit catalogue, 1983, p 20, Akron Art Museum Archives)

 

Installation of Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10.  #AAI 3,628,800.  All permutations of ten of ten symbols.  Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

Installation of Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10. #AAI 3,628,800. All permutations of ten of ten symbols. Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

 

Installation view of Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10.  #AAI 3,628,800.  All permutations of ten of ten symbols.  Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

Installation view of Expansion Rotation Series factorial 10. #AAI 3,628,800. All permutations of ten of ten symbols. Six Artists exhibit catalogue, 1972, Akron Art Museum Archives

 

Indulge your inner mathematician and discover some examples of Pearson’s early systematic mode in the John Pearson: Intuitive Structures exhibit on view in the Isroff Gallery through February 8, 2015.  Also, don’t miss the artist’s Gallery Talk on October 9, starting at 6 pm.