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.

Studio Glass Movement

Paul Stankard 2010.282.14

Take a peek inside a glass studio in this short video chronicling the humble beginnings of the Studio Glass Movement in a Toledo, Ohio garage under the guidance of Harvey Littleton and Dominick Labino. Learn more about the rise of the studio glass workshop in 1962 and get a look at several beautiful pieces made throughout the history of the movement.

Stop into the museum to view our collection of glass sculptures by Paul Stankard and current exhibition New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim on view through April 7, 2013.

New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim

The Q Is Blue!

By Corey Jenkins, Communications Intern


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.

One of the first things visitors to the museum see is Claes Oldenburg’s bright pink sculpture Inverted Q. However if you are Vincent van Gogh, who one vision expert believes suffered from “protanopia,” the Q would appear to be blue.

The Chromatic Vision Simulator app for iOS/Android was developed by Japanese vision expert, Kazunori Asad. After viewing some of Van Gogh’s pieces in an exhibition where the lighting and environment was designed to display pieces the way a colorblind person sees them, he noticed that Van Gogh’s work artwork hinted at “protanopia,” the absence or malfunction of the cells in the retina which recognize the color red.

Typically, people have three types of Cone cells in the retina. Each type is responsible for sensing red, green or blue light. Color blindness is caused by an absence or malfunction of one of these cone types. The Chromatic Vision Simulator gives an approximation of “protanopia”  the lack of a red cone; “deuteranopia,” the lack of a green cone; and “tritanopia,” the lack of a blue cone.


Here Sol LeWitt’s Wall Drawing #1240 is shown in it’s common state, along with all three simulations. Clockwise from top left is Common, Protanope, Deuteranope and Tritanope.

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

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.

90th Anniversary

By Antoinette George, Communications Intern 

On February 1, 1922, the Akron Art Museum opened its doors as the Akron Art Institute in two borrowed rooms in the basement of the city’s public library. In the past 90 years, the museum has survived and grown despite significant hardships including the Great Depression a disastrous fire, World War II and multiple moves. Today, the Akron Art Museum occupies two iconic buildings and boasts a world-renowned collection of over 5,000 objects. The dream of the Institute’s founding committee to become a collecting institution holding work of national significance and offering art exhibitions of historical and modern international art has been realized.

The museum celebrated this momentous anniversary with a Community Open House on February 5, 2012. Nearly 2300 visitors enjoyed free admission to the collection and exhibition galleries and a mesmerizing performance by Ohio abstract performance artist Al Bright, who was accompanied by the Jesse Dandy Band. Visitors also enjoyed cupcakes and cakes with images of some of the museum’s most popular artwork.

Akron Mayor Donald L. Plusquellic recognized February as Akron Art Museum Month in honor of the museum’s many achievements through the years. In his proclamation he encouraged all to continue to visit this important institution that has been and continues to be essential to our region’s cultural heritage.

Al Bright presented the community with an unforgettable experience of abstract performance art. For over four decades, Bright has explored the realm of abstract expressionism by creating art to live music in front of public audiences. This interesting form of art allows Bright to include the audience in the piece’s creation. He reminded the audience that their energy and response were important stimulants to his creative process. In addition to the audience’s participation, the different selections of jazz played by the Jesse Dandy Band also provided Bright with artistic inspiration.

This celebration rewarded the community with an elaborate setting of appreciation and reminded visitors of the important role they play in helping the Akron Art Museum continue its mission of Enriching Lives through Modern Art.

More anniversary activities are being planned through the year to inspire and engage the community.

The Sixth Floor Trio at the Akron Art Museum

By Antoinette George, Communications Intern

Come see The Sixth Floor Trio perform live at the Akron Art Museum Friday, March 16 at 6:30 pm- 8:30 pm as part of  Tuesday Musical Association and the museum’s popular FUZE! concert series.

The Sixth Floor Trio is a chamber group dedicated to the creation and performance of music that furthers a dialogue between different musical communities and other artistic disciplines. Their vision places musical traditions from around the world on one continuum as part of the same great musical language.

The Sixth Floor Trio was selected to receive a generous grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to be the resident partner of the Random Acts of Culture program across the United States during 2011-2012.

Random Acts of Culture series brings classical artists out of the performance halls and into the streets and our everyday lives. Think Mozart at the Food Court.

To purchase tickets visit TicketLeap.

During FUZE!, concert goers and museum members may also visit the exhibition galleries to view Stranger in Paradise: The Works of Reverend Howard Finster, Ray Turner: Population and String of Hearts: Photographs by Bea Nettles from 6 – 9 pm.  For detailed information on this and other museum events, visit the calendar of events at