Cleveland Institute of Art and the Ohio Advisory Group of the Women’s Museum celebrate Women to Watch
“The art market is not sexist,” British art critic Brian Sewell told The Independent. “There has never been a first-rank woman artist. Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness.” (“There’s never been a great women artist,” The Independent, July 6, 2008).
Shockingly clear in Sewell’s statement is the under-appreciation of women artists that is also evident in auction prices, museum collections, and professional wages worldwide. How, in the twenty-first century, can an established art critic still question the “aesthetic greatness” of female artists? Why is it that, while 51 percent of visual artists today are women, only 5 percent of work on American museum walls is by women, and work by women makes up only 5% of major permanent collections in the United States and Europe?
Women to Watch – Ohio, the exhibition on view in Cleveland Institute of Art’s Reinberger Galleries from April 2 through May 2, may not answer these troubling questions, but the show does shine a light on sexism in the art world while celebrating five successful women artists who are pushing the boundaries of contemporary art: Christi Birchfield, Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, Mimi Kato, Eva Kwong, and Lauren Yeager. While hailing from around the world, all of these accomplished artists now call Northeast Ohio home.
Women to Watch-Ohio was initiated by Barbara Richter, a CIA board member, and Harriet Warm, who together with Richter serves as co-founder and co-chair of the Ohio Advisory Group of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA). As NMWA National Advisory Board members, Richter and Warm convened an influential group of Ohio women to support and promote Ohio women artists by advocating on their behalf and seeking exhibition opportunities. They recruited Cleveland curators Reto Thüring of the Cleveland Museum of Art and Rose Bouthillier of MOCA Cleveland to choose the artists. Reinberger Galleries Director Bruce Checefsky selected the works and curated the exhibition. The exhibition’s theme is women’s relationships to nature and art.
Of the five artists, Kato was chosen by the NMWA curatorial team to exhibit work in the museum’s international exhibition, Organic Matters – Women to Watch 2015, which will be on view at the NMWA in Washington, D.C., from June 5 through Sept. 13.
Women to Watch – Ohio opens to the public with a reception in the Reinberger Galleries, 11141 East Boulevard, on Thursday, April 2, 6-8pm. The featured artists will participate in a lunchtime panel discussion on women in the arts on Friday, April 10, at 12:15pm in Aitken Auditorium in the East Boulevard building. Details at cia.edu/womentowatch.
Women to Watch – Ohio is supported in part by Huntington Bank and media sponsor ideastream.
Five takes on “aesthetic greatness”
Mood, experience and landscape are in conversation in Kato’s performative photomontages, which feature her image, embedded into traditional yet modernized Japanese landscapes. Through relentless repetition, Kato’s large photographic panels create a new theatrical space where the artist acts out all roles.
Yeager’s investigations of everyday objects function as urban taxonomy, organizing seemingly banal objects and systems into something more interesting and often absurd. Yeager explained, “The relevance of my work does not depend on a specific geographic location, but a more common, contemporary experience of everyday urban and suburban life.”
Birchfield looks to both the natural and mechanical world in efforts to create her own nature morte that is anything but lifeless. She transforms printmaking into a performative juxtaposition of destruction and delicacy. “Invested in the unique stains and texture each run produces, I am distanced again by the insensitive and aggressive act of making,” Birchfield explains.
Inspired by both macrocosmic and microcosmic environments, Kwong’s ceramic sculptures are direct manifestations of the natural world. “I am interested in the juxtaposition of mass/space, land/air, solid/hollow, male/female forms,” Kwong states. These dualities find harmony in her sculptures of organic forms and wall installations of fantastic bacteria, diatoms, and cells.
Process is central to Jónsson’s textile-formed paintings, which become ghosts of the landscape of her native Iceland. Jónsson returns to Iceland and photographs her hikes. “The photographs trigger the memory of being in these places and they help with forms,” she explained in the catalogue of her most recent solo exhibition.
Celebrating a Unified Campus
Women to Watch – Ohio will be the final major exhibition in the galleries in CIA’s Gund Building on East Boulevard before the college vacates the building and unifies its campus on Euclid Avenue this fall. There, CIA completed major construction this winter of the 80,000-square-foot new George Gund Building adjoined to CIA’s Joseph McCullough Center for the Visual Arts. For the first time in more than a quarter century, all CIA students will learn together in new and renovated facilities that are ideal for learning and making art. To celebrate, CIA invites the public to a full spectrum of events. Details at cia.edu/spectrum:
Lumière: Cinematheque Premiere Night — Aug. 1. The first event in CIA’s state-of-the-art new Peter B. Lewis Theater, the new home of the Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque.
Prism: Procession and Party — Aug. 28. A final convocation in the East Boulevard Gund Building, followed by a mass procession to the new, unified campus for an opening reception at the 2015 Faculty Exhibition.
Chromos: Opening Celebration Gala — Sept. 19. An evening of dinner, dancing, an auction and unexpected moments that will leave guests inspired.
Kaleidoscope: A Family-Friendly Art-Making Open House — Oct. 18. An opportunity to make your own take-home art project and experience a wide array of art and design studios and industry-leading technologies.
Jen Rokoski is a graduate student in art history and museum studies at Case Western Reserve University’s affiliated program with the Cleveland Museum of Art and is serving as assistant curator for this exhibition.
Cleveland Institute of Art
Gund Building (Home of Reinberger Galleries, Aitken Auditorium)
11141 East Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44106
Women to Watch – Ohio
Public Opening Reception, April 2, 6-8pm
Panel Discussion, April 10, 12:15
Exhibition April 2-May 2
All events in the East Boulevard Gund Building