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Around the world with the Wex

Mon, Dec 20, 2010
Mark Bradford in front of Scorched Earth, 2006
Mark Bradford in front of "Scorched Earth," 2006

The Wexner Center's past and future exhibitions, including those by artists Mark Bradford, Alexis Rockman, and Susan Philipsz, have been generating lots of coverage in the press recently. As the Wexner Center Graduate Associate in Publicity and Outreach, I find it gratifying to see the Wex's reach as our past and future exhibitions travel around the world. It helps me understand how the Wexner Center is connected to a much larger community of artists and art aficionados.

One of my favorites from this past autumn, Mark Bradford's Wexner Center-organized exhibition, which recently traveled to the Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston after its opening here in Columbus, has been getting lots of attention, most recently in The New York Times: “Yet even with the art world more or less at his feet, Mr. Bradford continues to challenge himself, changing the direction of his work almost as soon as a new idea gains traction…” The Boston Globe interviewed him just last month and published a positive review: “[Bradford's] works … are like palimpsests, quietly radiating meanings, emotions, and no end of visual satisfactions.” And, then, of course, there was a celebrity sighting at the exhibit, keeping Mark Bradford in the news. I hope my friends out east will catch this one; it's a fine exhibition with truly memorable works of a contemporary artist working with extraordinarily everyday materials.

On December 6, Glasgow-born artist Susan Philipsz was awarded this year's prestigious Turner Prize for a sound installation that features her singing three versions of a Scottish lament, entitled Lowlands Away. The prize is worth about $39,000. This year is the first time a sound installation had been nominated for the art prize. Wexner Center visitors may recall her work, The Shortest Shadow, which was exhibited just last autumn at the Wexner Center. I remember walking by the sound of her voice as I passed by the Wexner Center on my daily trips to and from campus. It's excellent news that her work is being recognized in such a big way.

And now the exhibition that already has all my Columbus friends abuzz: The first major retrospective of American painter Alexis Rockman's works will arrive at the Wexner Center just nine months from now after its first opening November 19, 2010, at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum. Alexis Rockman: A Fable for Tomorrow, which will be on view at the Wexner Center September 24, 2011–January 1, 2012, has already been generating excellent press coverage, including an engaging interview with the artist in the December issue of Art in America.

Rockman is “painting the future” by blending contemporary reality with a fantastical, imagined future, says NPR. “Artist Alexis Rockman delights in the natural world and paints it as it is, as well as how it might be…. His work depicts a world that is both real and fanciful, genuine and synthetically altered.”

The Washington Post praises Rockman's work, calling it “meticulous” and “visually impressive and conceptually dense.” Rockman, says The Washington Post, is “a great collaborator,” drawing from the natural environment, science, Hudson River School landscape painting, and science fiction, among other passions. According to The Smithsonian Magazine, “[Rockman's] extravagantly beautiful, disquieting paintings of a post-apocalyptic natural world” display “a surrealistic wit.”

Wexner Center visitors from 2004–2005 may remember that we've had two Alexis Rockman murals on display before: Manifest Destiny and Evolution. His brilliant, brightly colored murals feature prominently in my memories of my first year in graduate school in Ohio State's English Department. Over the past six-odd years, I have often spent time in the Wexner Center café, studying and meeting with friends, and the murals were a big, noticeable backdrop to those early study sessions and long conversations with new friends.

Manifest Destiny was in plain sight every time I came down the stairs to go to a film or video screening in the Wex. Even after the murals were replaced with other works, they remain fixed in my mind as a part of the Wexner Center. More recently, we had Rockman here for the 2010 Director's Dialogue on Art and Social Change: Climate and Culture. It's going to be fantastic to have his new exhibition here this upcoming fall. I know from my conversations with friends these past few weeks that it's the kind of exhibition that opens its arms to all kinds of audiences, including those who might not be keen on the more difficult contemporary art. I hope to see you there when I slip away from my studies to take a break and wander the galleries. In the meantime, read up on Alexis Rockman: A Fable for Tomorrow, and get excited for what I predict will be a stellar year at the Wex.
PARKING UPDATE: Construction at 15th and High. For more information click here.

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