This fall, the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University will celebrate its 25th anniversary with a season of exhibitions, collaborations, performances, and film/video screenings that explore the diversity and ingenuity of modern and contemporary artistic practice. Reflecting the institution’s history as a leader in supporting and presenting ambitious creative production, the season includes a major creative partnership between artist Ann Hamilton and theater director Anne Bogart made possible by a Wexner Center Residency Award; a new performance by previous Wexner Center Artist Residency Award recipient Miranda July; and an exhibition that debuts a new series by photographer Catherine Opie, an Ohio native who created new work for the center’s acclaimed Hard Targets exhibition in 2010. Beginning with Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection, an unprecedented exhibition of the rarely seen personal collection of the Wexner Center’s major benefactors Leslie and Abigail Wexner, the season firmly situates the center’s varied programming within a creative continuum from the 20th century and into the future, and underlines the enduring influence of the Wexner Center’s support of artistic innovation.
“From its inception, the Wexner Center has taken a bold and rigorous approach to the creation and presentation of contemporary art in all forms,” notes Wexner Center Director Sherri Geldin. “The center has consistently sought out original, high-caliber programs, and developed longstanding relationships with emerging and established artists through exhibitions, programs, residencies, and commissions. As we celebrate our anniversary, we look forward to the next 25 years of inspiring cultural curiosity and fueling the creative expression of our time.”
The wide range and inventive quality of the 25th anniversary season’s programs honors the center’s legacy as one of the nation’s premiere contemporary art centers. Among the season’s highlights are:
The cornerstone of the season, Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection, presents an opportunity to see an exquisite, in-depth selection of masterworks by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Jean Dubuffet, as well as exemplary paintings by Willem de Kooning and Susan Rothenberg that rarely, if ever, are presented for public viewing. The Wexner collection, with its concentrated focus on Picasso, Giacometti, and Dubuffet, three 20th-century virtuosos, is among the most outstanding collections formed over the last 50 years, and will be on view from September 21 through December 31, 2014. Guest curated by Robert Storr, professor and dean of the Yale University School of Art and former senior curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, the exhibition brings fresh curatorial and scholarly perspective to the artists and examines the figurative impulses that connect them.
Following Transfigurations, the center will present multiple solo exhibitions, including the debut of a new series of artist portraits and abstract landscapes by photographer Catherine Opie; a focused look at the work of Moroccan-born Hassan Hajjaj, whose portraits form an insightful commentary on global capitalism within an African cultural context, in an exhibition traveling from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art; and a retrospective, organized by the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art, of the groundbreaking work of experimental painter Jack Whitten. The season will also include Fiber: Sculpture 1960 – present, a group show from the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston of more than a dozen contemporary artists tracing a line of abstraction in fiber-related artworks from the mid-20th century to the present.
Underscoring the Wexner Center’s multidisciplinary, innovative tradition, the anniversary season’s programing features a new performance/installation work titled The Light House, a collaboration between visual artist Ann Hamilton and theater director Anne Bogart of SITI Company. Made possible by a Wexner Center Artist Residency Award, this interdisciplinary performance installation takes Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse as its key source material and promises to create an evocative piece that merges text, movement, costuming, and light and sound in new and compelling ways. On October 11, another landmark partnership will come to the center: Landfall, a recent pairing between Laurie Anderson and the Kronos Quartet, which tells stories of what is lost and what is found through words and music. That this performance can trace its roots back to the Wexner Center’s dedication in 1989 when Anderson first met Kronos Quartet backstage while performing on that occasion and it was suggested they should work together some day.
Internationally acclaimed choreographer William Forsythe, a frequent Wexner Center collaborator and past recipient of both the Wexner Prize and Wexner Center Artist Residency Award, says, “It is fair to say that while arts institutions have become increasingly ‘multidisciplinary’ in recent years, the Wexner Center was truly pioneering in making an equal and vigorous commitment to visual, performing, and media arts—often incubating collaboration across disciplines.”
Highlighting the creative combustion that characterizes the center is New Society, an interactive performance by former Wexner residency artist Miranda July on November 20. The piece blends fiction and real life as it weaves the histories, interests, and abilities of the audience into a chronicle of time, love, and group faith. The season also features the US premiere of the solo program Rising, on October 23–26, which showcases Aakash Odedra, an ascending star of British South Asian dance, in a program created for him by internationally renowned choreographers Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and Russell Maliphant. Further, the Edinburgh Festival hit The Events by David Greig, an award-winning play at the Edinburgh Festival and in London that insightfully deals with the aftermath of a tragic mass shooting event and its reverberating impact on its immediate community. It travels to the Wexner Center on its international tour for seven performances beginning on October 1 and features Columbus’s community choir, Harmony Project, in a staging that pairs recognized international talent with the local arts group, and furthers the Wexner Center’s history of collaborations with leading local arts organizations.
The wide array of performances are indicative of the center’s dedication to cultivating a global perspective through its programming. “In its 25 short years, the Wexner Center has achieved remarkable success as an international laboratory for the understanding and production of contemporary art,” says Ohio State Interim President and Vice Chair of the Wexner Center Foundation Joseph A. Alutto. “The center serves as a multidisciplinary space for research and scholarship, as well as a vital public gateway to the arts.”
Throughout the anniversary year, the Wexner Center will also continue its robust film programming, with approximately 175 screenings a year spanning the entirety of global cinema history and ranging across classics, independents fresh off the festival circuit, documentaries, and experimental films—often accompanied by filmmaker introductions and post-screening conversations. Among the high points are a retrospective of work by Richard Linklater, including the Ohio premiere of his acclaimed new film Boyhood, introduced by the director and followed by a conversation featuring Linklater and Wexner Center Director of Film/Video David Filipi; a live score to the classic Buster Keaton film The General by Alloy Orchestra; and a screening of Wexner Center Prize recipient Martin Scorsese’s Martin Scorsese Presents: Masterpieces of Polish Cinema, a comprehensive survey of newly restored and rarely seen Polish films that underscores the center’s enduring commitment to the history and presentation of cinema. The anniversary season also includes, a retrospective on the work of acclaimed independent filmmaker Terry Zwigoff, known to audiences for works such as Art School Confidential, Bad Santa, Crumb, and Ghost World. Further details on individual programs and exhibitions will be announced in the coming months along with an extended calendar of exhibitions, films, performances, and public programs.
ABOUT THE WEXNER CENTER
The Wexner Center, which opened in November 1989, is Ohio State’s international research laboratory for the exploration and advancement of contemporary art, and as such, has served for 25 years as a model for universities throughout the country who have pursued ever more cross-disciplinary arts programming. A core tenet of the center’s mandate is to inspire cultural curiosity and fuel the creative expression of our time. Since its inception, artist residencies and commissions have been a signature component of its programs in the visual, performing, and media arts.
From the start, the Wexner Center attracted international attention and critical acclaim for its innovative architectural design (by renowned architect Peter Eisenman and the late Richard Trott of Columbus). In the years since, it has lived up to the early promise and expectation through bold and rigorous artistic and educational programs. The building was made possible by a generous gift from Leslie H. Wexner in memory of his father, Harry Wexner. Leslie H. Wexner, founder and chairman of Limited Brands (now L Brands), has continued to be a major benefactor to the center and chairs its board of trustees, now composed of 28 civic, corporate, and cultural leaders from Columbus and beyond.
ABOUT THE WEXNER PRIZE
The Wexner Prize is awarded to a major contemporary artist in any artistic field who has been consistently original, influential, and challenging to convention. The $50,000 prize is funded by the Wexner Center Foundation through a gift from Leslie H. Wexner, chairman of the Wexner Center Foundation and chairman and founder of Limited Brands, and Abigail Wexner, a Wexner Center Foundation trustee. The recipient is chosen by the Wexner Center Foundation trustees, along with the center’s director and senior program staff. A commemorative sculpture designed by artist Jim Dine accompanies the award. Past recipients include John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Spike Lee, Annie Leibovitz, Bruce Nauman, Renzo Piano, and Gerhard Richter, among many others.
ABOUT THE WEXNER CENTER ARTIST RESIDENCY AWARD PROGRAM
The Wexner Center’s Artist Residency Award program offers significant resources for innovators across all creative disciplines, selected each year by the center’s curators and director. These unique residencies include considerable financial resources, along with technical, intellectual, and staff support, as well as (mental and physical) space in which to develop new work and engage with Ohio State classes and the Columbus community. A total of $200,000 annually is earmarked for distribution among the Artist Residency Award recipients, and has been each year since 1991. Past recipients include Paul Chan, Tacita Dean, the William Forsythe Company, Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, Barbara Kruger, Young Jean Lee, Zoe Leonard, Maya Lin, Chris Marker, Bebe Miller Company, Paul Sietsema, Art Spiegelman, Twyla Tharp, Lorna Simpson, William Wegman, and The Wooster Group, to name a few. The residency program, a relative anomaly of institutions of this type in the center’s early years, is a highly regarded and influential program covering a wide breadth of media and artists at various stages of their careers.