Nick Cave, Joe Vitone, and Mernet Larson at Akron Art Museum
Nick Cave: Feat.
Karl and Bertl Arnstein Galleries
February 23–June 2
Nick Cave’s (b. 1959) dazzling trademark soundsuits were originally conceived as a kind of protective armor in the wake of Rodney King’s 1992 beating by members of the Los Angeles Police Department. “I started thinking about myself more and more as a black man—as someone discarded, devalued, viewed as ‘less than,’” states Cave. Stringing twigs and sticks he had gathered in a Chicago park into a wearable sculpture, he realized he had created a second skin that camouflaged his race, gender, class, and sexuality. He called the work a “soundsuit” because of the rustling noise generated as he moved in it. The now ongoing series—primarily made using unwanted everyday items such as buttons, plastic hair-beads, old toys and domestic textiles—forms a resplendent army of resistance to profiling, violence and hate. Like the rest of Cave’s recent work, they broadcast an increasingly urgent call for justice.
Aesthetically related to Mardi Gras Indian costumes, African ceremonial attire and Tibetan folk costumes, the soundsuits in motion are a seamless combination of sculpture, dance, and fashion. That blending of genres reflects Cave’s MFA in fiber arts from Cranbrook Academy of Art, his studies with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and his position as a professor in the fashion design department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Feat. offers a fantastic environment replete with a runway of spectacular soundsuits against an otherworldly backdrop of black fabric walls covered with thousands of shimmering buttons. In the life-size video Blot, a figure in a black raffia soundsuit continually evolves against a stark white background, like inkblots on a Rorschach test. Meanwhile, a large-scale installation with thousands of brightly colored beads and psychedelic patterned bamboo strands creates an enchanted forest.
At the heart of Cave’s practice is his belief that art can engender connectivity and compassion. A self-described messenger, he wants his work to extend beyond museum and gallery walls. As an extension of the Akron Art Museum’s exhibition, the artist will direct a project featuring Akron residents. With the support of Akron Civic Commons, Cave and the museum are partnering with community members, social service agencies and artists in various disciplines to produce Nick Cave: Feat. Akron, a project that will culminate in public art and performance in May. Through the exhibition and the community project, Cave hopes to provide a transformative, inspirational and empowering opportunity for all.
Nick Cave: Feat. was organized by the Frist Art Museum, Nashville, Tennessee. Its presentation in Akron is supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Ohio Arts Council, Akron Reimagining the Civic Commons and The Lehner Family Foundation. Media sponsorship is provided by Western Reserve PBS.
Joe Vitone: Family Records
Fred and Laura Ruth Bidwell Gallery
April 27–October 27
Family Records is an ongoing series of portraits of photographer Joe Vitone’s relatives living in and around Akron, Ohio. Begun in 1998, this body of work documents evolving interpersonal connections between parents and children, siblings, spouses, cousins and other relations within working class communities of the Rust Belt region. Shot each summer when the artist—now based in Austin, Texas—travels back to Ohio, this series features scenes from festivities such as birthday parties and weddings as well as intimate portraits set outside homes and workplaces. Touched by celebrations and struggles including marriage, divorce, addiction, new homes, unemployment, new jobs and babies, the lives of Vitone’s relatives reflect experiences common to families across the United States.
Vitone prints his images, which he captures using 8 x 10-inch and 4 x 5-inch view cameras, in both black and white and color. Featuring 55 works photographed in Akron proper, as well as in surrounding communities including Barberton, Stow and Marshallville, Family Records marks the first time a selection from this series has been exhibited in Northeast Ohio.
Joe Vitone: Family Records is organized by the Akron Art Museum with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.
Mernet Larsen: The Ordinary, Reoriented
Judith Bear Isroff Gallery
March 16–September 8
Mernet Larsen (b. 1940) makes intriguing, humor- and tension-infused paintings featuring geometric figures that inhabit space in ways that defy gravity and conventional depictions of space. Claiming influences ranging from Japanese Ukiyo-e to Renaissance and Russian Constructivist painting, the artist stages ordinary scenes—people playing cards or eating dinner, a faculty meeting, reading in bed—but constructs them using vertiginous, skewed spatial relationships that convey a sense of precariousness. The disorienting figure-ground relationship places the viewer inside and outside of the paintings at the same time, “as if they’re wearing the situation,” the artist describes.
Larsen imbues her figures with deadpan facial expressions and subtle but highly expressive body language. Her protagonists don’t seem ruffled by their seemingly disadvantaged upside-down or distant positioning relative to other figures. The puzzling compositions reveal an essence of everyday human interaction. Wry, anxious and awkward, the paintings are frozen monuments to memories that are built rather than uncovered.
Mernet Larsen: The Ordinary, Reoriented is organized by the Akron Art Museum with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.
PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES | THROUGH MAY 5
MARY S. AND DAVID C. CORBIN FOUNDATION GALLERY
BRIAN BRESS: PICTURES BECOME YOU | THROUGH APRIL 14
FRED AND LAURA RUTH BIDWELL GALLERY
NICK CAVE: FEAT | FEBRUARY 23–JUNE 2
KARL AND BERTL ARNSTEIN GALLERIES
MERNET LARSEN: THE ORDINARY, REORIENTED | MARCH 16–SEPTEMBER 8
JUDITH BEAR ISROFF GALLERY
JOE VITONE: FAMILY RECORDS | APRIL 27–OCTOBER 27
FRED AND LAURA RUTH BIDWELL GALLERY
Akron Art Museum
One South High Street
Akron, Ohio 44308