Letter From The Editor

The fall art season has begun, with exhibitions of high quality all over the region.   Aeqai is back with its monthly reviews, profiles, and issues, following our one summer issue. Our September issue is the largest we have ever posted, reflecting the growth in numbers of venues showing art here.  We have also, for this issue and for part of our October issue, added an important section; we asked art leaders in this region to grapple with the (maddeningly vague) question “what is contemporary art?”.

In the past eighteen months or so, our writers have brought to my attention a phenomenon that I think is a national/international one:  many nonprofits , in particular, are looking at contemporary art from  postmodern, new media perspectives, using a lot of installations, videos, technical wizardry; often postmodernism explores power relationships through the tropes of race, gender, and class.  These types of art dominate the international art fairs, the Leftist art publications, and the like.  The other pole of contemporary art continues to ground itself in what I call, simply , a “product”, meaning a painting, sculpture, print, and the like.  Artists  who fall generally into this category are much likelier to exhibit in commercial galleries, and to see themselves as part of a continuum of art history. A few artists bridge these two parts of contemporary art, and many institutions examine both.  In this month’s aeqai, the following area arts leaders, professors, artists etc. have attempted to give us some answers to these questions:  Regan Brown, Aaron Betsky, Tim Kennedy, Cynthia Kukla, Matt Distel, Rick Bennett, Keith Banner, Cole Carothers, Jason Franz, and Kevin Kelly.  Next month, we are expecting essays on the same topic from the new curator at the Contemporary Arts Center, as well as an essay from CAC Curator Drew Klein on what video and performance art are, and why they are central to the discourse on contemporary art, and, I hope, from a couple of area college art professors, as, regretfully, none from the greater Cincinnati area felt that they had the time to answer this question for this issue.  Aeqai hopes to continue commissioning essays on a variety of “issue-based” topics in contemporary art on and off from now on.  We hope that you enjoy these essays, and appreciate with us the work that has gone into them: we are not trying to suggest specific solutions to anything, but to explore the dialogue between and amongst artists and administrators of good faith with, ultimately, the same goals: to promote an understanding and appreciation of contemporary art in all of its rich and myriad manifestations.

We have placed Keith Banner’s essay first, as his combines a review of the new JR exhibition at the CAC with his analysis of the question “what is contemporary art”, while the others begin with Regan Brown’s analysis of “The Trickster” in contemporary art and all follow from there.  Last month, aeqai published a very thoughtful essay on the work of Marcel Duchamp by IU art professor Tim Kennedy, as we believe that much of contemporary art from around 1970 onwards has been heavily influenced by Duchamp’s ideas more than by his art, and that Duchamp’s influence still pervades the worlds of contemporary art.  Cynthia Kukla and Tim Kennedy both offer, this month, excellent historical overviews of where contemporary art is now, and how many different mini-movements take us to the very present.

We also offer two photo-essays, of work by Brooklyn-based Raymond  Adams, and by Chicago-based Doug Birkenheuer.  Louis Zoellar Bickett reviewed a new photo book by Adams two months ago, and we regret that the photos got a bit garbled, so we asked Adams to do a whole spread this month.  Birkenheuer is a former Cincinnatian, a graduate of Antonelli College, and is having a 25-year retrospective in Chicago this fall, where he teaches at The Art Institute of Chicago.

Some of our writers have been travelling this summer, so when Jane Durrell told me that she was zooming off to New York to see the James Turrell retrospective at The Guggenheim, I asked her to write us another “Letter from New York”, which we post here, full of Durrell’s wonderful observations about people and food and urban life as well as the descriptions of the art she saw. Kevin Ott was to do the same with a recent trip to France, but fell in love with a small Italian town which was having its own small fotofocus of sorts, so he jumped countries and we offer his superb “Letter from Italy”.  Ott will also be reviewing the George Bellows show in Columbus for aeqai in November.

Reviews abound.  Banner looks at the JR show at CAC and includes a review of the Joey Versoza show there as well (Versoza is a much admired area artist, and we are pleased to see the CAC showing more of same in their new season).  Jane Durrell also reviews a show of one painting by a lot of well-known Cincinnati artists like Kevin Kelly, Dan Biggs, Leslie Shiels, Cole Carothers, T.C. Boyle, all long time friends and all of whose work has a strong emphasis on excellence in craft. Sara Pearce joins aeqai as a writer this month, with a superb look at the new work by Teri Kern, at Riley and Hummler downtown, experts in Rookwood and other such decorative arts.  Marlene Steele, a figurative artist herself, examines the work of an internationally-based portrait show now on view at the 2lc hotel downtown (you can catch a look at Steele’s work on display right now for a couple of weeks at 5th St. Gallery downtown). Emil Robinson offers a very astute and thoughtful look at Celine Hawkins’ work at the Taft Museum; her work is part of the “emerging artists” series, of which Robinson’s own work was the first of this series.

Karen Chambers offers another of her superb reviews, this time of a group show on “vessels” at Kennedy Heights Art Center.  Stephen Slaughter returns to aeqai this month, offering a fascinating glimpse into the world of teaching architecture at UC/DAAP.  His is a real-world assignment where students were asked to fabricate something which could go into rapid deployment as housing after natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.  The winning project went national, and the process of this project is Slaughter’s essay.  Our graphic design specialist, Danelle Cheney, gives us a fascinating look into the world of typesets; she has just moved to Birmingham, Alabama, but will write for aeqai regularly on the topic of graphic design.  Chris Hoeting reviews the first show at the new Solway Performance Space at their Findlay Market campus, a show curated by Annie Boling, who is also starting several new careers herself.  Kenn Day looks at a just opened show at Phyllis Weston Gallery, one with a subtle Asian art flair.

Larry Watson spend some time at the Brazee studio of Jim Killy, observing his wood sculptures and also watching a seven year old girl enjoying them, too; it’s a wonderful look at how art can come alive. Susan Amis , our occasional collector, is also back, taking a look at The Brazee studios and other parts of the newly renovated Oakley district, and her memories of those Crayola crayons we all so once craved.

Laura Hobson’s profile this month is of Aaron Cowan, director of the UC galleries, a man whose very sensitive shows we hope we see more of this year.  Maxwell Redder, inspired on his honeymoon in Mexico, sent us two new wonderful poems, and my own book review is on Alice McDermott’s brand new novel, Someone. We also publish, with pride, another poem by UC Elliston poetry department chair Jim Cummins.

This is a very long issue, and we hope that you enjoy it; let us know what you do like the most, if you are so inclined.  Not every issue will be this large, but we are growing, and our readership in London, in particular, is booming, and we hear increasingly from artists and institutions there as well as in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago.

You may note that we are accepting advertisements now, which include ads from individual artists, for whom we offer a very low and friendly rate.  Our ad rep is David Smith.  We have also been offered a challenge grant for $5000, and if any of our friends out there want to help us meet that, just contact me at [email protected].

Thanks and welcome to fall, cooler weather and exciting programs.

Daniel Brown
Editor, AEQAI

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