Venice Biennale, Part Three

Chief Curator Janice Driesbach recently travelled to Italy where she experienced the Venice Biennale 55th International Art Exhibition. This is the third post in a series of three. Read the first post here and the second post here.

Venice is awash with tourists, although we had a nice conversation with a native Venetian one day. Among visitors, Italian seems to be the predominant language, followed by German. British and Australians are numerous among English speakers.

An English couple we encountered directed us to the Richard Mosse installation at the Irish pavilion, about 15 feet from a vaporetto stop or, since swimming in the canals is discouraged, half a mile following passageways around the canals. A marvelous multi-screen video captured in outdated military infrared film, part of which we had seen when Mosse spoke in Cleveland last year (pictured below and here is a link to an interview of Mosse at the Biennale)

Richard Mosse installation at the Irish pavilion

Richard Mosse installation at the Irish pavilion

Iraq offered both food and food for thought…

Iraq pavilion

…while Cyprus and Lithuania shared space in an arena/warehouse near the Arsenale:


At the Correr Museum was a very nice installation of Tony Caro sculpture, many pieces in spaces by themselves. That led to the Cuban pavilion in the adjacent archaeological museum, which featured a number of artists. An installation with birdcages with videos by Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons and Neil Leonard was superlative.‎

image18And, back at the Arsenale, we discovered amazing digital animations in China’s display, including one by Zhang Xiaotao called Sakya (approx. 15-min video viewable online via this gallery site). Was incredibly complex and defies description (cosmic, perhaps?).

image19Unfortunately, it was impossible to take in all the collateral Biennale exhibitions. And certainly with the hour+ long line to see San Marco (hordes of people pour out of gigantic cruise ships each morning), we missed the usual tourist destinations. At the end of our final day in Venice, we could have easily spent another several days just taking in Biennale events.

Explore the official Venice Biennale 55th International Art Exhibition site here.


Venice Biennale, Part One

Chief Curator Janice Driesbach recently traveled to Italy where she experienced the Venice Biennale 55th International Art Exhibition.

Our first afternoon we made our way via a short vaporetto ride and on foot to two of the collateral Biennale exhibitions—both in palazzi (palace-like buildings) along the Grand Canal.  We saw a section of Glasstress: White Light/White Heat in elegant rooms, each adorned with amazing chandeliers (most of which were part of the original decor, it seemed). Rina Banjeree‘s multimedia installation (photo below) was a highlight there.  I have admired her works on paper for some time, but her 3-D work was new to me.

Rina Banjeree's multimedia installation

Rina Banjeree’s multimedia installation

Next we saw Rudolf Stingel’s extraordinary installation at the Palazzo Grassi. 38 rooms (I’m told, didn’t count) with floors and walls covered with inkjet-printed carpet each  containing one of Stingel’s paintings.  An amazing contemplative space.

Rudolf Stingle installation

Rudolf Stingle installation

On our second day we headed to the first of the two main exhibition sites—the Arnsenale, which formerly housed an armory and shipyards.  We were greeted by Marino Aurito’s model that gave the name to this year’s event, The Encyclopedic Palace.  Highlights included Camille Henrot’s single-channel video Grosse Fatigue, which earned a Silver Lion award (think Oscars for artists) and is featured on the cover of the current Artforum.

Camille Henrot's Grosse Fatigue

Screenshot from Grosse Fatigue. Image courtesy Kamel Mennour Gallery,

Drawings by the Turkish artist Yüksel Arslan using potash, honey, egg whites, oil, bone marrow, blood and urine were also quite wonderful. While there were few paintings represented at the Arsenal , three canvases by Daniel Hesidence (born in Akron, as it turns out) were quite fine.

A special section of the exhibition was curated with Cindy Sherman—and included photo albums Sherman has collected and used as inspiration for her work.  Among the interesting artists featured there was Phyllis Galembo, featuring residents of Ghana dressed for masquerades that parody festivals Europeans introduced.

Beyond the main exhibition galleries were national pavilions, including wonderful representations from Argentina (videos and sculptures evoking Eva Peron), Turkey, and Indonesia.  Wandering to the back of the Arsenale at the end of the day, we were serenaded by Ragnar Kjartanssson’s crew of seven musicians aboard the S.S. Hangover and delighted by a wall of drawings by Marco Tirelli in the Italian Pavilion.

Our third day was spent at the second major Biennale site, the Giardini. One room featured a wonderful combination of Ron Nagle’s evocative ceramics, and Tantric paintings and textiles by Geta Bratescu.  Another highlight was the performance Tino Sehgal orchestrated with two performers aligned in chanting, dancing, beatboxing (which won Sehgal a Golden Lion).

One example of Tino Seghal’s orchestration—the performers rotate frequently so that the dynamics of the performance change constantly:

As at the Arsenale, there were a number of national pavilions nearby, including Sarah Sze’s carefully calibrated installations in the United States pavilion (which also earned a Golden Lion).  Anri Sala’s three-part (four screen) video Ravel Ravel Unravel was also exquisite and Jeremy Deller’s English Magic was Great Britain’s quite fine entry, even accompanied by tea served in a gallery overlooking a garden (much appreciated late in the afternoon on a gray day).

Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze

Jeremy Deller

Jeremy Deller

Ai Wei Wei (below) in Germany’s presentation was also riveting.  Yes, I know he’s not German, and neither were any of the other three artists in this wide-ranging exhibition (hosted in France’s space no less—France and Germany having traded pavilions this year)!

Ai Wei Wei

Ai Wei Wei’s installation

This is Real! Installing Real/Surreal at the Akron Art Museum

By: Liz Carney, Curatorial Assistant

Have you ever wondered what happens behind closed gallery doors when the museum is changing its exhibitions?

Lots of work goes into installing an exhibition. Most importantly, it takes a lot of time and care to take works of art from their crates to the gallery walls.

Each artwork comes in its own travel frame, which is specially padded and shaped to fit it. Paintings are usually bolted to the bottom of their travel frames to keep them from shifting during transit. Here is Charles Sheeler’s River Rouge Plant (1932) being unbolted by AAM art handlers:


Then, the painting is meticulously examined to make sure that it hasn’t been damaged during travel.IMG_0552

IMG_0575The artwork is all then arranged so that the curators can fine-tune the exhibition layout. Notice how the painting has been carefully placed against the wall in order to protect it before it is hung in its permanent position.

IMG_0587Finally, everything goes up on the wall! It’s not as easy as it may seem to get everything exactly straight and evenly spaced…

IMG_0661After all of the art has been placed on the walls, we add labels, lighting and other details. You’ll have to come see for yourself the completed installation of these powerful works of art, which are even more striking and intriguing in person!


Want to be one of the first people to see this exhibition? The opening party is tonight (Friday, July 19) at 6 pm. Click for more details.

Preparing for Real/Surreal

By: Janice Driesbach, Chief Curator

This week, painters came in to work on one of the galleries where we are installing Real/Surreal , changing the walls from white to dark blue and gray.  For much of the past month, Joe Walton (our Chief Preparator and Exhibition Designer) and Chris Ross (Preparator) have been working with curators to determine the design of our installation.

Part of that process involves painting color samples and placing them in a ½-inch scale model of the museum’s galleries.  This allows us  to look at and talk about wall colors and other design elements in advance of each exhibition.  Wall color is a very important factor in the overall feel of an exhibition, and it can change the way that individual paintings and other artworks look within the galleries.  After considering a number of color schemes, we’ve decided to use dark and light grays and saturated blues for Real/Surreal.  Also look for a splash of bright chartreuse in the section devoted to surrealist photography!

1/2 inch model for Real/Surreal

1/2 inch model for Real/Surreal


1/2 inch model for Real/Surreal.

Real/Surreal is Coming Soon

By: Janice Driesbach, Chief Curator

Edward Hopper, Railroad Sunset, 1929, oil on canvas, 29 1/4 x 48 in., Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art

Edward Hopper, Railroad Sunset, 1929, oil on canvas, 29 1/4 x 48 in., Josephine N. Hopper Bequest, Collection of the Whitney Museum of American Art

It’s just over four weeks before Real/Surreal opens and Akron Art Museum curatorial, education and design staff have been planning the installation for  months. Although the exhibition is organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art, we are personalizing it for our Akron visitors.

Our efforts respond to input we received from our constituents in surveys and a focus group last fall.  We learned our visitors are interested in knowing about the historic context in which the artists were working, so we’ve created a timeline for our installation. As well, our respondents indicated an interest in having the artworks installed thematically, so we are presenting the exhibition in sections.

For the first section, we have selected paintings that can be best described as Realist (Charles Sheeler, Andrew Wyeth) and most Surrealist (Man Ray and Yves Tanguy) to contrast the two styles.  Succeeding sections include Alone in the City, Interior Portraits, Social Concern, Empty Landscapes, Leisure, and Man and Machine.  There will also be an expanded section of surrealist photography, reflecting the importance of photography to surrealist artists and to the Akron Art Museum, and three short Surrealist films playing in our Jerry and Patsy Shaw Video Box.

We look forward to your comments on the Real/Surreal exhibition.  Please fill out the contact form below if you would like to be invited to take surveys and participate in community meetings to help us plan future museum exhibitions.

 Clarence John Laughlin, The Masks Grow to Us, 1950 (printed 1962), gelatin silver print, 13 7/8 in. x 11 in., Collection of the Akron Art Museum,  Gift of David Cooper  1997.19

Clarence John Laughlin, The Masks Grow to Us, 1950 (printed 1962), gelatin silver print, 13 7/8 in. x 11 in., Collection of the Akron Art Museum,
Gift of David Cooper 1997.19

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:

Behind the Scenes: Installation of “New Artifacts”

By: Danielle Meeker, Curatorial Assistant

Does looking at these photographs of the exhibition New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim make you curious about the installation process?

We started planning the installation of New Artifacts over the summer. At the time, several works in the show were still in progress, so we had to base our layout on the artists’ estimates for the works’ dimensions. We made several studio visits to check on the progress of the artwork and then came up with a list of what to include in the show. We tried to keep the amount of work by both artists roughly equal. Although Sungsoo Kim has more individual pieces, Brent Kee Young’s sculptures are larger. Similarly, when we were designing the show’s layout, we tried to intermix the artworks so that viewers could compare the two artists’ work.

Installation view, New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum, Photo by Joe Levack

Installation view, New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum, Photo by Joe Levack

This was one of those exhibitions where we weren’t sure what it would look like until we had all the art unpacked and placed on the pedestals (which we had been building for weeks). Artworks that we felt should be framed by doorways for maximum impact ended up occupying too much space in the center of the room, restricting visitors’ movement around the gallery. We either had to rearrange the layout, or include fewer works in the show!  On top of that, security personnel were very nervous about damage to the artwork because of the tight quarters. In the end, we figured out that by placing more works along the walls of the gallery, we could accommodate all the artwork we had planned to use and keep the work safe.

Installation view, New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum, Photo by Joe Levack

Installation view, New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum, Photo by Joe Levack

While the Akron Art Museum’s show change team mounted all 150 shelves used in artist Sungsoo Kim’s wall compositions, the artist wanted to arrange the glass pieces himself. So Kim figured out where he wanted each piece to go, sometimes stepping back to get a better view of the entire composition. After Kim had placed all the work, museum staff carefully secured each piece to its shelf.

Installation view, New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum, Photos by Joe Levack

Installation view, New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum, Photo by Joe Levack

Did you know that we built a new pedestal for Kim’s three towers after this photo was taken? The height of the first pedestal just didn’t feel right with the rest of the works in the room, and we wanted the towers to be experienced at eye-level. Come visit the exhibition in person and see if you notice the difference!

Installation view, New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum, Photos by Joe Levack

Installation view, New Artifacts: Works by Brent Kee Young and Sungsoo Kim, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum, Photo by Joe Levack

Artist Brent Kee Young has specified that his monumental Cubism, Contiguous Lineage… Interrupted can be shown many different ways. We hope to rearrange the eight pieces halfway through the exhibition. Do you have any ideas?

"Cubism, Contiguous Lineage...Interrupted" in Brent Kee Young's Studio, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum

“Cubism, Contiguous Lineage…Interrupted” in Brent Kee Young’s Studio, Courtesy of the Akron Art Museum

Did this summary of the installation process raise any questions for you? Post your questions for the curator in the comments section below.


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.

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.