The Wexner Center for the Arts is nothing, if not cutting-edge. We are always looking at new, innovative and important things in contemporary art. But sometimes it’s fun to look back: how did Wex become Wex?
The winter exhibition “To Begin, Again: A Prehistory of the Wex, 1968-89” at The Ohio State University Art Center presents a variety of works collected by the avant-garde predecessor, the University Gallery of Fine Art. .. Gard Wexner Center.
The exhibition is the largest ever work of the university’s permanent collection and includes the work of more than 70 artists, including Eva Hess, Sol LeWitt, Adrian Piper and Frank Stella.
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Organized by Exhibition Associate Curator Daniel Marcus, the exhibition begins at a lower-level Gallery A, displaying artwork and souvenirs from the 1960s and 70s, and is displayed almost in chronological order.
This was the period when the University Gallery was presided over by Fine Art Director Betty Collings. Betty Collings navigates and collects galleries over the protests and turmoil of the late ’60s and’ 70s.
Shown here is the tough wall of Sol LeWitt hanging in an “imperfect open cube”. Agnes Denes’ incredibly long and detailed “Pascal’s Triangle Drawing No. 3 from the Pyramid Series”. Early digital art by Charles Thule of OSU, a pioneer in this genre. And an array of important communications, notes, calendar entries, etc. from the archives of Collings, an active artist in his 80s.
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Moving on to the next gallery, viewers will take a short look at psychedelia, a work from the mid-1970s to the 1980s. Especially impressive is Joan Brown’s “Woman Preparing for the Shower”. This is a 1975 enamel with a main subject wearing a blue polka-dotted robe and a shower cap, painted on canvas to help a dog standing on his hind legs provide a checkered towel. ..
Other important works in this section include Betty Collings’ large inflatable sculpture “Dance” (1975-76). This resembles a giant shiny white snake that also appears to have swallowed a giant garlic bulb. “Songhai” by Robert J. Stull, a colorful and abstract mixed media sculpture celebrating the Central African Empire of the 15th and 16th centuries. Star was the husband of artist Betty Star, a professor of black studies, chairman of the arts department who oversaw the gallery, and a famous Columbus curator.
In the 1980s, Collings was taken over as director by Jonathan Green, who emphasized activism in the acquisition and presentation of art. The top galleries offer a variety of works in response to current events and crises, and as stated in the text panel, the artist’s “sharing of aversion to violence, racism and sexism in the United States”. Is expressed.
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Here, viewers will find large-scale works by socially enthusiastic artists. A 36-foot-long mural created on campus by graffiti artist Futura 2000 (now Futura) in 1984. Frank Stella’s giant abstract wall sculpture “Puerto Rico’s Blue Dove (1976)”. Eva Hesse wall sculpture “Area” (1968). Hanging cloth posters reminiscent of “rape,” the first national tour show to deal with sexual violence. Adrian Piper’s “Four Intruders Plus Alarm Systems” (1980) is a large, interactive black cylinder with a soundtrack that plays stereotyped comments about the white reception on black art.
In 1989, the University Gallery unveiled its final official exhibition, “AIDS: The Artists’ Response.” In “To Begin, Again,” the work on display is shown with a photo of the NAMES Project AIDS Memory Alquilt when it was brought to Ohio State University and exhibited at the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.
By that time, the initial funding for the university’s new Center for Contemporary Art had been donated by Leslie H. Wexner and an architectural competition that had begun to move.
The Wexner Center for the Arts was opened in November 1989 with a bold Peter Eisenman design that is a futuristic and informative reference to the past of Ohio State University. Performance artist Spalding Gray described it as “a spaceship that crashed into the meadow.”
The spaceship led viewers to some of the most interesting and groundbreaking art of the day. It is interesting that “To Begin, Again,” which began with protests and activism in the 1960s, was announced in the 2020s, a similar era of social unrest.
Looking back How interesting it will be to see how Wex presents today’s art at future exhibitions.
At a glance
“To Begin Again: A Prehistory of the Wex, 1968-89” will be held at the Wexner Center for the Arts until May 8. 1871N. HighSt. Gallery Hours: Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm. Thursday-Saturday 11 am-7pm. Admission: $ 9; $ 7 seniors, OSU faculty and staff. Free for members, college students, veterans, active duty, under 18 years old. Free on all Sundays and Thursdays from 4pm to 7pm. Call 614-292-3535 or visit www.wexarts.org.
At 4:00 pm on March 2, graffiti artist Futura talks with fellow artist Zephyr about their work and the relationship between Ohio State University.