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To Begin, Again: A Prehistory of the Wex, 1968–89

A black-and-white photo of artist Futura spray painting a long, wall-length work in a gallery lined in plastic film. Photographers film film from the center of the gallery and its doorway.

To Begin, Again examines the cultural currents that gave rise to the Wexner Center for the Arts through the largest presentation of Ohio State’s permanent collection to date.

During the 1970s and 1980s, The Ohio State University emerged as an unlikely laboratory of avant-garde culture, offering a platform for dialogue and experimentation across audiences and media. This creative ferment shaped the orientation of contemporary art on campus and in the region, ultimately inspiring the creation of the Wexner Center in 1989.

Inspired by the uprisings of 2020, To Begin, Again traces this story back to the formative revolts of late 1960s, a period that similarly saw artists, activists, and students demand systemic change from mainstream institutions. Ohio State was no exception. Rocked by protests that brought the campus to a standstill in April and May of 1970, the university sought to chart a new direction in the years that followed. Emblematic of the changing culture was the school’s decision to empower a recent MFA graduate, Betty Collings, to revamp the program of the University Gallery of Fine Art. Under Collings, the gallery assembled an acclaimed collection of contemporary art; it also served as a gathering place for visiting artists, critics, and curators, implanting a model of multidisciplinary practice to be expanded by the future Wex. In the 1980s, with new Director Jonathan Green, the gallery’s program took a more openly activist approach, launching several major community-led exhibitions addressing the politics of feminism, sexual violence, American imperialism, and the AIDS crisis.

Illuminating these initiatives and the social movements that informed them, To Begin, Again is organized around a selection of more than 80 works acquired by the former University Gallery—including works by Futura2000, Eva Hesse, Adrian Piper, Sol LeWitt, and Frank Stella, which the center has stewarded since its founding. The exhibition also includes loaned objects that were previously shown at the university; works by former Ohio State faculty, students, and visiting artists; plus a selection of historical ephemera that deepen and enrich the narrative.

Watch wexarts.org for further details about upcoming programs, including a panel discussion with curator Daniel Marcus, art historian Julian Myers-Szupinska, former University Gallery staffers Stephanie K. Blackwood and Mark Svede (all of whom contribute to the exhibition’s robust gallery guide), and artist and educator Jerri Allyn.

Artists represented

Vito Acconci* • Mary Albrecht* • Jerri Allyn* • Benny Andrews* • Artists’ Poster Committee of Art Workers Coalition* • Rudolf Baranik* • Lynda Benglis* • Billy Al Bengston* • Mel Bochner* • Gary Bower* • Matt Bower* • Joan Brown • Chris Burden • Peter Campus* • Josely Carvalho • Colleen Casey* • Michael Cianchetti* • Reverend St. Patrick Clay* • Betty Collings • Columbus AIDS Task Force • Charles Csuri* • Peter d’Agostino • John DeFazio* • Agnes Denes* • Frank Detillo* • Ann Fessler • Futura2000* • James George • Sam Gilliam* • Heidi Gluck* • Ilona Granet • John Greyson • Hans Haacke* • Donald E. Harvey* • Eva Hesse* • Barbara Hammer • Michael Horvath* • Isaac Julien • Tom Kalin* • Bertram Katz* • Michael Keyes • Shigeko Kubota* • Victor Landweber* • Barry Le Va* • James Lenavitt* • Sol LeWitt* • Craig Lucas* • Vicki Mansoor* • Duane Michals* • Lynette Molnar • Elizabeth Murray* • Dennis Oppenheim* • Nam June Paik* • Adrian Piper* • William Price* • William Ramage* • Harold Reddicliffe* • Dan Reeves* • Dorothea Rockburne* • Joel Shapiro* • Robert Smithson* • Allan Sekula  • John M. Sokol* • Nancy Spero* • Frank Stella* • May Stevens* • Robert J. Stull • Testing the Limits Collective • Norman Toynton* • Richard Tuttle* • Woody and Steina Vasulka* • Ruth Vollmer* • Jackie Winsor* • Joseph E. Yoakum • Scott Zaher*

*From the collection of The Ohio State University, Wexner Center for the Arts

A black-and-white photo of artist Futura spray painting a long, wall-length work in a gallery lined in plastic film. Photographers film film from the center of the gallery and its doorway.

Futura2000 creating Untitled (1984) for the exhibition Writing on the Wall: Works in Progress by New York City Graffiti Artists at Hoyt L. Sherman Gallery, February 1–16, 1984. Image courtesy of The Ohio State University Archives.

A black-and-white image of an artwork framing a gallery entranceway that consists of phrases in roman type displayed on blank fabric curtains hanging from the ceiling. The visible phrases read “He said it was her fault for not locking the door,” “She was more afraid for her children in the next room,” and “He also knew what it was to be vulnerable.”

Ann Fessler's Rape: A Crime Report (1984), installation view in the exhibition RAPE at University Gallery of Fine Art, November 13–December 13, 1985. Image courtesy of The Ohio State University Archives.

A black-and-white image of Elizabeth Murray standing in a gallery in front of several students seated to her left; a painting hangs on the far wall.

Elizabeth Murray speaking to students on the occasion of the exhibition Elizabeth Murray Paintings, University Gallery of Fine Art, January 17–31, 1978. © Estate of Elizabeth Murray/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Image courtesy of The Ohio State University Archives.

Organized by the Wexner Center for the Arts and curated by Associate Curator of Exhibitions Daniel Marcus with Curatorial Associate Kristin Helmick-Brunet and Curatorial Intern Arielle Irizarry.

SUPPORT FOR THIS EXHIBITION PROVIDED BY
Ohio Humanities
Cardinal Health
Joyce and Chuck Shenk
Reed Arts
Nancy and Dave Gill
Larry and Donna James

EXHIBITIONS MADE POSSIBLE BY
Bill and Sheila Lambert
The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts
Carol and David Aronowitz
Crane Family Foundation
Mike and Paige Crane

FREE SUNDAYS POWERED BY
American Electric Power Foundation

WEXNER CENTER PROGRAMS MADE POSSIBLE BY
The Wexner Family
Greater Columbus Arts Council
The Columbus Foundation
Ohio Arts Council
American Electric Power Foundation
Adam Flatto
Mary and C. Robert Kidder
Bill and Sheila Lambert
L Brands Foundation
Institute of Museum and Library Services
Nationwide Foundation
Vorys, Sater, Seymour, and Pease
Arlene and Michael Weiss

ADDITIONAL SUPPORT PROVIDED BY
Mike and Paige Crane
Pete Scantland
Axium Packaging
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams
President Kristina M. Johnson and Mrs. Veronica Meinhard
Nancy Kramer
Huntington
Lisa Barton
Johanna DeStefano
Russell and Joyce Gertmenian
Liza Kessler and Greg Henchel
Ron and Ann Pizzuti
Joyce and Chuck Shenk
Bruce and Joy Soll
Clark and Sandra Swanson
Jones Day

This program is made possible in part by Ohio Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Next Exhibitions

To Begin, Again: A Prehistory of the Wex, 1968–89