Museums are not static places. They grow and change.
More often than not, institutions such as art museums reflect the triumphs and challenges of the community in which they exist.
In recent years, the Akron Art Museum went through difficult challenges. A group of employees who were laid off at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic aired complaints about alleged workplace violations, including racism, sexism and bullying of employees by supervisors.
The complaints led to the resignation in May 2020 of then-manager Mark Masuoka. The two years since then have seen the museum work to address these issues and recover from the workplace upheavals and pandemic challenges that have affected the arts sector worldwide.
“Share the Past, Create the Future: Selections from the Akron Museum of Art Collection” was created to celebrate the museum’s centennial. The galleries exhibit 104 works by more than 70 artists from the museum’s collection and organized around one of the following themes: “The Beyond and the Fantasy”, “The Political Landscape”, “Realism, “Images of Darkness”, “Abstraction” and “The Natural World”.
This reinstallation almost doubles the number of artists represented in the galleries of the collection, including 19 women and 18 artists of color as well as 25 previously unseen works.
This is not a typical museum collection exhibit and the curators’ approach to choosing objects has been carefully executed. The works highlight the international vision of the collection as well as the quality of regional artists.
One of the artists in the “Abstraction” section is Akron native Timothy App. App grew up taking classes at the Akron Art Institute (now Akron Art Museum) and later studied at Kent State University with Leroy Flint, the former director of the Akron institute. App is known for combining his appreciation for precision and logic with an open exploration of materials and colors.
The 2005 acrylic-on-canvas “Bacchanalia” painting began with Italian Renaissance painter Titian’s “Bacchanalia of the Andrians,” which App simplified into geometric shapes.
Instead of an outward depiction of group characters in various stages of undressing and movement. We find ourselves gazing at geometric shapes that vary in color from black to most earth tones and then almost white. Despite the complete removal of the representative qualities of the original painting, App is able to retain the movement and energy of the original painting.
Flint’s Constellation of Hot and Cold Suns, a 1966 acrylic on canvas, hangs nearby. In this table, a blue field has multicolored dots of different sizes. It looks like a constellation in the night sky. There’s a push and pull to the composition and the location and size of the featured dots that help create dimensionality.
One of the most intriguing works on display is ‘Les pas perdus (The Wasted Footsteps)’, a little-known painting by Belgian artist René Magritte. This 1950 oil on canvas depicts a large eagle that has turned to stone. A mountainous landscape is depicted behind the eagle and other birds fly in the distance.
It turns out that Magritte painted over 20 works between 1950 and 1951 that focused on petrification because he was afraid of becoming paralyzed in stone. It is an intimate painting that sheds light on the explorations into the unconscious, dreams, sexuality and fantasy that have helped make this artist so famous.
Indeed, each section of this collection contains works that grab your attention and challenge your assumptions about what the Akron Art Museum is and has been throughout its history.
There’s a lot going on in the visual arts this summer, including the return of the FRONT International Triennial to northeast Ohio.
“Sharing the Past, Creating the Future: Selections from the Akron Art Museum Collection” is an equally important milestone for those of us who love and cherish our community.
Visit, understand and connect.
Anderson Turner is Director of Collections and Galleries at Kent State University School of Art. Contact him at [email protected]
Exposure: “Share the Past, Create the Future: Selections from the Akron Art Museum Collection” through April 9, 2023.
Square: Akron Art Museum, Sandra L. and Dennis B. Haslinger Family Foundation Galleries, 1 S. High St., Akron.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday. Extended hours until 8 p.m. on the second Friday of each month.
Cost: $12 for adults, $10 for seniors 65 and over, $8 for students. Free for museum members, children 17 and under, University of Akron students, faculty, and staff. Admission to the gallery is free for every Thursday.
More information: https://akronartmuseum.org/ or 330-376-9186