The Cleveland Museum of Art Takes Ownership of Transformer Station and Opens Immersive Art Experience by Japanese Artist Tabaimo
Transformer Station has begun its next chapter. In July, The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA) assumed ownership, management, and daily operations. In this new era, Transformer Station serves as a Near West satellite location for CMA exhibitions and programs, offering contemporary art installations, presenting the work of emerging artists, time-based media, live music, and dynamic social experiences in Ohio City’s Hingetown neighborhood.
The museum’s goal for Transformer Station is to reach an even larger, younger, and more diverse audience, doubling down on its mission to provide transformative experiences through art, for the benefit of all the people, forever. Transformer Station will also help fulfill CMA’s promise to serve as a social and intellectual hub, providing a venue for experimentation in a manner that is most impactful for the community, while complementing the museum’s work with families at its Community Arts Center (CAC) in the nearby Clark-Fulton neighborhood.
Founded in 2011 by philanthropists and art collectors Fred and Laura Bidwell, Transformer Station opened in 2013 and has hosted special exhibitions, programs, and events in partnership with CMA over the past decade. The Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Foundation promised the facility and property as a gift to the museum shortly after it was founded in 2011. This gift was originally intended to take place in December 2026, but given the ongoing and successful working relationship, the transfer was expedited to take place this year.
“It has been our privilege and pleasure to share works from our collection and commission exhibitions that have empowered the ideas of scores of artists and provided an essential platform for the growth of their practice,” said Laura Bidwell. “We know that the Cleveland Museum of Art will continue to make Transformer Station a place where artists and art lovers can share innovative ideas and celebrate creativity long into the future.”
The CMA’s inaugural exhibition as owners of the space is Blow, a time-based exhibition by Japanese artist Tabaimo, which fuses traditional Japanese art forms with contemporary digital animation. A pioneering video artist, she created Blow as a four-channel, immersive video installation that blurs lines between fantasy and reality.
“Although this work came into the collection in 2012, we have not yet had an opportunity to display it. Visitors will be immersed in a fantastical world of floating projections that move through a darkened space. Tabaimo’s animations draw on contemporary manga and anime, as well as nineteenth-century Japanese woodcut prints, so there is a nice connection between this work and the CMA’s historical holdings,” said Nadiah Rivera Fellah, associate curator of contemporary art.
The open-ended, fragmentary nature of the piece is intentional, as the artist often draws from personal experiences and emotions, but Tabaimo says, “I leave fifty percent up to the viewer. The core of my work is something to be thought through, experienced.”
Upon entering the immersive exhibition, visitors are transported to a constructed world of the artist’s creation. Animated bubbles, fragmented body parts, and various plants float through space in a five-minute looped video. Using a kind of printmaking technique that recalls the artist’s inspiration from Japanese woodcut prints, she often layers different drawings to create her digital videos. The accompanying audio, which mimics the dripping and rushing of water, is an acoustic collage of digitally-invented sounds.
On view in the Crane Gallery is another work by Tabaimo, The Obscuring Moon (2016), which draws on the artist’s inspiration from traditional Japanese prints, taking it to animated, fantastical ends. Blow and The Obscuring Moon are on view at Transformer Station until February 3, 2024.
1460 West 29th Street
Cleveland, Ohio 44113
Blow and The Obscuring Moon, through February 3, 2024. Admission: FREE. Fall hours: noon to 7pm Wednesday through Saturday