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Sunday, November 9, 2014

Ohio Artists

Mudbugs, 2014, Herb Roe, Portsmouth, Ohio                                 
Over the years, I've written about quite a number of famous artists from my home state of Ohio. Among them, John Henry Twachtman, Jim Dine, George Bellows, Howard Chandler Christy, Charles E. Burchfield, David Hostetler, John Ruthven, Robert Henri, and Maya Lin. As distinguished as all these are, I'm not going to again highlight their remarkable lives and careers. Moreover, in searching various databases for outstanding Buckeye State artists, I've come upon dozens, perhaps hundreds, of those similarly outstanding in their art (alas, I was not listed as one of them). Not all of them (or the ones above) live and work in Ohio, though all were, in fact, born here. Actually, the large majority of them probably don't live in Ohio. The state has is share of major museums, galleries, arts associations, and living, working artists, but I'd be delusional in claiming we're anywhere near the center of the American art world. And, for better or worse, if for no other reason than convenience, artists tend to gravitate toward the New York, Chicago, L.A. axes of creative and economic involvement.
Ohio born, Jenny Holzer, dry wit and wisdom.
In my book, Art Think (right-hand column) I mention in some detail a fellow southeastern Ohio artist named Jenny Holzer, born in Gallipolis, Ohio, though she now lives in Hoosick Falls, New York (about half-way up the Hudson River). I once met and talked with her as a fellow student in a painting class at Ohio University, Athens, Ohio in the early 1970s. We were both undergraduates. She was studying to be an abstract painter, I was an art education major. Her career took her to New York where she chose the proverbial "thousand words" over abstract painting. Her "truisms" have marched along digital Marquees and been projected upon the walls of buildings literally all over the world.

One of Portsmouth, Ohio, artist, Herb Roe's floodwall murals (Maysville, Kentucky).
Herb Roe, Portsmouth, Ohio
Also from the same area, an artist born and raised in Portsmouth, Ohio, (on the Ohio River just downstream from Gallipolis) meet, Herb Roe. As old-timers might say, he's a young whippersnapper born in 1974, a product of the Columbus School of Art and Design. His 2014 Mudbugs (top) is one of his more traditional efforts. He also paints portraits, automobile taillights, and floodwalls. Portsmouth and nearby towns along the Ohio river have an extensive system of floodwalls which the locals have seen fit to allow the Artist to decorate in commemorating local history and legendary Ohioans. I like his work despite the fact that he's younger, better looking, more talented, and more famous than I am.

One and Three Chairs, 1965, Joseph Kosuth, born in Toledo, Ohio.
Toledo's Joseph Kosuth
Under the topic of conceptual art, I also mention in my book the seminal work of Toledo born artist Joseph Kosuth. Like myself, Kosuth was born in 1945. He studied art first as the museum schools in Toledo then Cleveland, before also traveling and studying in Paris and North Africa. He eventually settled in New York where he studied both art and philosophy. Kosuth's most iconic work, One and Three Chairs (above) from 1965 deals more with philosophy than art. On the left, he hangs a full-size, full-color photo of a folding chair. In the center, he sets the chair itself, while on the right is an enlarged, dictionary entry defining the word, "chair." The definition is no much for the photo while neither can compete with the real thing. That's the essence of conceptual art--ideas taking shape existentially.

The Cliff Dwellers' Mural, 2004, by Curtis Goldstein & Michelle Attias, Columbus, Ohio
The Cliff Dwellers, 1913, George Bellows
And finally, a little of the old and the new. Most people who know anything at all about art will recognized the name of Columbus born, George Bellows, one Robert Henri's cronies from New York's Social Realist or "Ashcan School." (Henri was from Cincinnati.) Bellows' iconic The Cliff Dwellers (left) from 1913 is nearly as well known as his brutal boxing paintings. Far fewer people are aware that they can view this painting as a 45 foot X 60 foot mural on the side of the Burgundy Room building (above) in the "Short North" section of Columbus, Ohio. Painted by the Ohio husband and wife team of Curtis Goldstein and Michelle Attias, the mural was created some ten years ago and is still in relatively good condition (summer sun and frigid winters are quite hard on murals in Ohio). Curtis noted: "The work, in many ways, is reminiscent of what Columbus might have looked like one-hundred years ago when this area was more of a village and less a city… To us, Bellows and this particular image made the most logical sense for the space." Though depicting the 19th-century slums of New York, the urban art of George Bellows was a strange mix of beauty and ugliness that came with the rapid growth of cities.

Copyright, Jim Lane
OSU Montage, 2007, Jim Lane.
(I couldn't resist adding this. I am an Ohio artist, after all.)


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