Jane Durrell comments on Creating the New Century.

Now that we’re a decade deep into the new millennium, the impulse to slap “New Century” on just about anything out there is hard to resist. Meanwhile, a lot of what’s going on has 20th century roots. Case in point is Creating the New Century: Contemporary Art from the Dicke Collection at the Dayton Art Institute through July 10. Although it is indeed 21st century work, the bulk of the show is by artists who made their names and their styles in the 20th century, Sean Scully, Eric Fischl, Alex Katz, and Francesco Clemente among them.

The exhibition could be called A Painter’s Eye or An Artist’s Choice – admittedly not so attention-grabbing as Creating the New Century, but either is more reflective of what’s in the exhibition. The museum press release describes the collector as “Ohio business leader James F. Dicke II” and adds that “His appreciation for how artists handle materials is informed by his own practice as an exhibiting painter.” Yes, the collection is particularly interesting because of the collector, and his choices are knowing and distinctive. But not particularly 21st century. Unseen here are any of the digital, video, or myriad other new media that artists coming of age in the new century are seriously exploring. With the exception of a few sculptural pieces all the work is paintings, not surprising as the collector is a painter.

One artist does move into new territory – Linda Besemer. She has developed a method in which her paintings are paint alone, no support. They hang over rods, like fabric never seen before. Not until I reached that work did I think I was seeing the new century.

– Jane Durrell




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