Picture this if you will: it’s early 1970’s and you move to Cincinnati to join the “art community”;, no you are not alone in the back of a train station rotunda, you’re trying to find the cosmic center of the art world in the heart of River City. There it is, “Not in New York” gallery and there he is, Carl Solway: quiet, unassuming and intimidatingly concise. Where have I landed? It was 1971 to be exact, I came to begin my teaching career at a Museum Art School ( CAM, AAC), full of diverse faculty from around the country, an Art Museum director who was opposed to a Photographic Collection (Phil Adams), and a newly appointed Curator of Prints and Drawings-Kristin Spangenberg. Here was a community which also included an over active CAC, filled with multi-diverse openings and contemporary art and I wondered where have I landed?
Carl is, indeed, a gallery owner full of ideas, and certainly a “can do” attitude about showing work of visual interest, a supporter of Photography as a Fine Art, and always committed to projects that went way beyond a conservative city. I was impressed with The Urban Walls project, he that helped make the city come alive, and proud of its active, creative regional artists. I have worked directly with Carl on curating exhibitions, showing my own work, and assembling museum quality photographic works for corporate and private collections. Carl’s gallery became a laboratory of extended experiences, showing Aaron Siskind, Claes Oldenburg, Jerry Uelsmann, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Duane Michals, Nam June Paik and scores and scores of other artists. When I spent a year in Over-The-Rhine photographing Mr. Spoons for my book “A Book Full of Spoons” , and then documenting “T-Shirts are Tacky”, Carl gave me my first gallery show in Cincinnati. His enthusiasm for meeting and talking with artists was insightful support any young artist finds enthralling.
Carl Solway Gallery and Carl himself are always a learning experience, if that meant the work you had to research, find out about, and be knowledgable about, well go do your homework, Carl provided the ground work, found the artists and made the most professional presentations ever, the gallery was surprise package in box, just waiting to enrich your life and the community as well.
My 45 years of friendship with Carl made me and many others want to excel, expand, and dream your dreams.
His example has set the bar very high: Cincinnati can fully realize this with the wonderful CAM honorary exhibition currently on display.
My favorite anecdotal story with Carl, outside of the Art World Hustle, was on a Sunday afternoon in 1980’s, Lizzie bought Carl a sewing machine as birthday gift (of all things) . Carl calls and says , “what are you doing”?” I said, that “ aside from decompressing from teaching, not much, “come on over-we’re going to make bow ties from scratch- and we figured it out and made them in various pop art colors.
Just another creative adventure ! Similarly, the 1980’s portrait I did of Carl looking like Albert Einstein in the style of Lotte Jacobi ( I had just finished a documentary video on her in New Hampshire), her collection of Alberts portraits fresh in my mind, the look-alike portrait is in the CAM exhibition.
Well it has been an affirming creative jolt, far more than I expected when I came to River City in 1971.
–Cal Kowal, artist.