Monday, April 1, 2013

Field Trip Report: Cincinnati 3/23/2013

Hema Upadhyay, Modernization (detail), 2013
Students in the Women, Art, Objects, and Histories course travelled to Cincinnati last weekend to visit the Taft Art Museum and the Contemporary Art Center. These visits were our third and fourth experiential learning opportunities this semester. The first was the exhibition on diversity held in the Cochenour Gallery and the second was the juror's talk at the Lexington Art League for the Nude show.

Hema Upadhyay, Modernization, 2013

This time around, we visited three exhibitions and some students even ventured for a fourth, by taking in the NEW 21c hotel and museum on Sixth Street. The day was full of contemporary art, and our focus was on art created with special attention to the minority perspective - whether African American, Indian; affluent or impoverished; "traditional" or "new" media.

At the Contemporary Art Center, we viewed the work of two Indian artist, Hema Upadhyay and Atul Dodiya. In Upadhyay's work, the artist has recreated an aerial view of the Indian slum Dharavi on the floor of second floor galleries of the CAC. The work is made up of building materials common to this type of structure, including aluminum, scrap metal, enamel paint, plastic sheets, and found objects. The work takes on the appearance of a quilt, and draws viewers in for a closer look. One point that we observed was the protrusion of religious structures above the horizon line.

Hema Upadhyay, Modernization, 2013

The second exhibition at the CAC that we visited was the installation by Atul Dodiya, also India, of metal store front shutters salvaged from the streets of Mumbai. Upadhyay was a student of Dodiya's, and this is evident through their use of subject matter and found object aesthetic. Yet, Dodiya's work contains numerous references to canon(s) in Western art history.
Atul Dodiya
We also learned about the architecture of the CAC, the first museum designed by a female in the US. The 5-story building was designed by Zaha Hadid, completed in 2003. To draw in pedestrian movement from the surrounding areas and create a sense of dynamic public space, the entrance, lobby and open area in the foyer are organized as an "urban carpet," as seen in the ground beneath us.

Gathered before the tour, we are situated on Hadid's "urban carpet." Special guest stars
Prof. Doug Griggs and Adam Johnston, GC '02, and
Laura Stewart, former GC Gallery Director, joined us!

De-briefing outside of the Driskell exhibition at the Taft.

Across downtown, at the Taft, we took in the exhibition "African American Art since 1950: Perspectives from the David C. Driskell Center" which offered a range of works from the collection of scholar, curator and artist, David Driskell. It is seen as the counterpart to the earlier exhibition he curated entitled "Two Centuries of Black American Art" which focused on c. 1750-1950. Here, works of the past 60 years from Faith Ringgold, Romare Bearden, Bettye Saar, and Sam Gilliam on view along with Kara Walker, Willie Cole, and Radcliffe Bailey offering a range of mediums, including paintings, sculpture, prints, collage, photography, and mixed media.

Both exhibitions are on view for a few more weeks. They are worth the time to visit because they offer perspectives that are not often the sole focus of an exhibition; and yet their very existence asks us to question if we homogenize our view because works are shown together. In response to this dichotomy, we followed up our visit with a discussion last Monday in class. Among many topics we shared our perspectives on whether or not we, ourselves, were "critical museum visitors" or "ideal" or "typical" ones.  These classifications enable us to reflect on how much we engaged with the material as well as the entire landscape of the exhibitions, activities that require more than just looking.

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