Our Bicentennial has put the city in a reflective and celebratory mood. There is no better place to delve deeper into that spirit than at the Riffe Gallery’s “100 Years of Art”.
Curator of American Art at the Columbus Museum of Art Melissa Wolfe was curious, “What is that legacy that the contemporary Columbus art world draws from, and grows on? What is its past?
Sometimes those things [artists] are known and sometimes, as this show has proven sometimes it’s not so well known.” What Wolfe is hinting at is a treasure trove of artistic gems to discover in the exhibition.
“While there are those “cornerstone artists I knew, and most people are going to know [like] George Bellows, and Emerson Burkhart but not everyone,” says Wolfe. You can also find works by familiar names Roy Lichtenstein, Roman Johnson, Elijah Pierce, or Alice Schille.
Whether any of these names are familiar to you or not, Wolfe has spread out a buffet of artists to pique your interest into what the artistic culture in Columbus was long before we know it as it is today.
The long threads that run through the diverse exhibition are the communities that cobbled together Columbus’s burgeoning art world. Wolfe considers Columbus’s relative size as a city in comparison to larger art meccas such as New York City or Los Angeles. In those larger cities, supposes Wolfe, the communities don’t have to inter-mingle or “read the same newspapers, or show in the same shows.”
Here in our “unassuming, midwestern city” is a large enough base of artists to create an interesting mix of artists and communities but small enough to engender camaraderie and support of one’s fellow artists.
In the wonderful biographies that accompany each artist in the exhibition, you can learn about the strands that connect all of these artists together. Wolfe “installed artists next to each other who had relationships so you can get the story. Even if you don’t get the relationship in the art work, you get the human story, and the narrative story, and the story of community.” You can find out who taught who, who shared a studio or went to go hang out with Bellows in Woodstock, or distinguish a connection all on your own.
The variety of this show is truly at the heart of it.
“The show includes sculpture, and ceramics, and cartoons, and prints, and pastels, and oil, and folk artists, and academic artists,” smiles Wolfe, after taking a quick breath. ”I really tried to get a sense of the mix because one of the hallmarks of the city is this really integrated mix of these artists.”
100 Years of Art is on view at the Riffe Gallery from January 26th to April 15th. Visit their website for hours and information.