The Continuing Work of Ken Nevadomi, at Judson
Complex and saturated with stories, artist Ken Nevadomi’s work addresses challenging, oftentimes uncomfortable topics, offering a visual narrative on large-scale canvases. Nevadomi is represented by WOLFS Gallery and now resides at Judson Park, where he spends much of his time in the art therapy studio, creating smaller works. A renowned retirement community, Judson offers a large, well-stocked art facility. His show, Nevadomi: An Intimate Look, opens on Friday, January 27, and runs through April 21, and will feature a select group from Nevadomi’s personal collection alongside several recent works created at Judson.
Interestingly, as a young man, Nevadomi didn’t pursue art as a career. During his time serving in both the US Army and Air Force, he discovered his abilities as a draftsman and painter. After leaving the service, he entered The Cooper School of Art in Cleveland. He began his career at American Greetings, where he worked for several years before eventually moving into fine art and finally joining the faculty at Cleveland State University (CSU) in the 1980s.
“Ken is and has been for many years a really important and innovative artist in Northeast Ohio and beyond,” says George Mauersberger, an artist and colleague of Nevadomi’s at CSU. Mauersberger is infinitely familiar with Nevadomi’s art, having photographed more than 500 of his works. “He has always focused on making art for art’s sake as opposed to trying to be really commercial and making only paintings he thinks he can sell,” Mauersberger says. “His approach is very idealistic, and his pursuit is to always move art forward.”
Nevadomi’s work has been described as mysterious. The human figure or even animals are often central to his subject. He casts his characters in worlds inspired by mythology, religious iconography, and commercial culture. For example, his work Lot’s Wife (1989) at WOLFS Gallery depicts faceless figures trying to escape a high-rise tower turned upside down and crashing to the ground, an apparent commentary on the collapse of economic warfare and capitalism.
Mauersberger calls Nevadomi a “very fine craftsman and a draftsman—a master of numerous techniques and styles, sometimes working on a very large scale.” His work is emotional, often mirroring history and sometimes inspired by artists who came before, resulting in his own unique and strong compositions.
Michael Wolf, director of WOLFS Gallery, stated, “Nevadomi chose to confront, head on, one of his greatest heroes and inspirations: Pablo Picasso. He admired this ‘giant’ for most of his life, having spent hours in front of Picasso’s majestic Blue Period masterpiece, La Vie, in the Cleveland Museum of Art collection.”
The Cleveland Museum of Art has showcased Nevadomi’s work, and last fall, he premiered at New York’s Independent Art Fair and had a significant exhibition at WOLFS. Nevadomi was a regular exhibitor and prize winner in the prestigious Cleveland Museum of Art May Show, a winner of the Cleveland Arts Prize, and an exhibitor at Washington DC’s Corcoran Gallery. In 1984, the Smithsonian Archives of American Art featured an interview of Nevadomi by Dennis Barrie, former director of the Cincinnati Contemporary Arts Center and co-creator and former executive director of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. During the interview, Nevadomi said this about his evolving works and how they are interpreted: “maybe this year it will strike somebody as meaning one thing, and a year from now it will strike somebody as meaning something entirely different, which is fine.”
Nevadomi was never one to interpret his pieces on behalf of viewers. He wants them to wrestle with and work out the ideas, messages, and meanings.
Despite his national recognition, Nevadomi stayed as a teacher and working artist in Cleveland. In a previous CAN Journal article, author and artist Douglas Max Utter described his “planting both feet in Cleveland” as “a kind of originality to which few artists aspire.”
“Ken is kind of that rare commodity of a local artist who has national recognition,” Mauersberger adds, relating how they became longtime friends and neighbors and enjoyed not only sharing their art, but running and participating in road races.
He is also the kind of artist that is constantly learning—always challenging the status quo through his works. Mauersberger says, “He is always pushing the envelope and pushing his work—and he does not remain static. He’s always trying to grow as an artist.”
STREETER GALLERY AT JUDSON PARK
1801 Chestnut Hills Drive
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44106
Nevadomi: An Intimate Look, January 27–April 21