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Tue, Aug 25, 2020
This Fall, the Wexner Center for the Arts, the multidisciplinary contemporary art laboratory at The Ohio State University, presents exhibitions by Gretchen Bender, Tomashi Jackson, Steve McQueen, Antoni Muntadas and Marshall Reese, Taryn Simon, as well as a continuously evolving Free Space designed collaboratively with Wex programmers, visitors, and artists.
Amid the most contested presidential election in American history and massive social upheaval surrounding the entwined public health issues of systemic racism and the COVID-19 pandemic, these exhibitions highlight work from a diverse group of artists analyzing and challenging the tenets of American democracy, representative structures, and modes of political discourse. Exhibitions are slated for September 26 through December 27, except where noted. Acknowledging uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, dates are subject to change. All other programming—films, performances, talks—remains virtual this season.
Commissioned by the Wexner Center in 1990 for one of its inaugural exhibitions, Bender’s Aggressive Witness, Active Participant turns the pulsating cycle of non-stop American television into theatrical spectacle. Consisting of eight domestic television sets (pre-flat screen era) interspersed with four computer monitors, Bender’s piece was one in a series of remarkably confrontational works taking live television imagery and abstract computer graphics as source material. Juxtaposing Bender’s original computer graphics with the 24/7 newsfeed of the present, it creates a responsive continuity of political and televisual theater.
For Love Rollercoaster, Jackson is creating five new paintings centered around themes of voter disenfranchisement and suppression in the Black community—specifically in Ohio. The works examine the state’s troubling history and its particular challenges in the present political moment. Documentary photographs, local and national campaign ephemera, details from conversations with Ohio citizens, and planes of bright color are the foundational materials Jackson uses in creating her collaged paintings.
Remember Me (2016) is a seldom-seen series of neon sculptures, all bearing the same plea, each uniquely penned: “remember me.” Even though each component repeats the blunt but ambiguous two-word appeal (An order? A request?), the variation in how that emotional utterance is graphically registered accounts for the work’s powerfully lyrical dimension. Each is given in its own written form with some mixing upper and lower cases, some almost indecipherable, some suggesting childhood, and still others suggesting boldness, fragility, desperation, or mania.
The number and installation of separate neon elements varies according to how McQueen responds to the gallery space displaying them; at the Wex, they will be densely clustered, with the power source and the cascade of cords prominently displayed as the artist intends.
Thumbnail image: Steve McQueen, Remember Me, 2016. N.78. Acrylic paint on neon borosilicate tubes, width: 35 7/16 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York. Photo: Rebecca Fanuele.
Political Advertisement began 36 years ago when New York-based media artists Muntadas and Reese produced their first compilation of American presidential commercials, beginning with Eisenhower in the 1950s. Every four years since—aligned to the national election cycle—they’ve updated the collection to reflect the current moment, presenting the clips in chronological order with no voice-over editorializing, a tour-de-force of witty and incisive editing.
Consisting of rare as well as notorious footage, Political Advertisement argues for television’s enormous importance in selling the presidency—a force that transforms citizens into consumers and the presidency into the ultimate product.
Taryn Simon’s Assembled Audience (2018) draws on the notion of engineered applause, gathering individuals with varying political, corporate, and ideological allegiances into a single crowd. Working with a team from Columbus—nicknamed “Test City USA”—Simon recorded applause of a single attendee at local concerts, sporting events, and political rallies at three of the largest venues in the capital city of the bellwether state of Ohio. Simon’s experiential installation wholly immerses the visitor in a darkened space punctuated only by the sound of randomized individual applause tracks; the same crowd never gathers twice.
Presented for the first time in the city of its creation, Assembled Audience proves prescient in the isolation that it forecasted as these same gathering spaces, once crowd-filled, are now quieted by COVID-19, each space repurposed for eviction trials, police trainings, and a field hospital.
Free Space, a microcinema and community resource lounge in the Wex’s entry gallery, will offer daily screenings of film programs curated respectively by Cameron Granger and No Evil Eye, as well as a series featuring filmmakers from the center’s Artist Residency Award project, Cinetracts ’20 (premiering via wexarts.org October 8). This will also be a place for creative and practical programs and tool-sharing, serving as a free, accessible, ever-evolving experiment coproduced by those who visit.
Free Space is a collaboration between the center’s Film/Video, Exhibitions, and Learning and Public Practice Departments, alongside local artists and educators.
Gretchen Bender: Aggressive Witness, Active Participant; Tomashi Jackson: Love Rollercoaster; Steve McQueen: Remember Me; Taryn Simon: Assembled Audience; and Free Space will take place September 26–December 27 at the Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N. High St. (at 15th Avenue) on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus. Antoni Muntadas and Marshall Reese: Political Advertisement 2020 will be on display October 26–December 27.
Gallery hours are 11 AM–4 PM Sunday, Tuesday-Wednesday, and Friday-Saturday; and 11 AM–7 PM Thursday. Galleries are closed Mondays. Admission is $9; $7 for seniors and Ohio State faculty and staff; free for Wexner Center members, college students, and visitors 18 and under; and free for all Thursdays 4–7 PM and the first Sunday of the month.
Please note: due to university guidelines on the COVID-19 pandemic, timed ticketing will be used to restrict capacity in our galleries and face coverings will be required in all areas of the center. Purchasing advance tickets online is strongly recommended and visitors are asked to limit the items they bring to the center.
More info on campus safety guidelines, bus routes, parking, and other visitor information, as well as advance tickets, are available here or at (614) 292-3535.
The Wexner Center's Fall 2020 exhibitions have been made possible by American Electric Power Foundation, The Columbus Foundation, The Ohio Arts Council, the Greater Columbus Arts Council, The Institute of Museum and Library Services, Huntington Bank, and Nationwide Foundation.