The Wexner Center for the Arts presents To Begin, Again: A Prehistory of the Wex, 1968—89 February 5–May 8

Thu, Dec 09, 2021

Winter 2022 exhibition unveils rarely seen 20th century works collected at Ohio State, including work by Futura2000, Eva Hesse, and Frank Stella 

With To Begin, Again: A Prehistory of the Wex, 1968–89, the Wexner Center for the Arts at The Ohio State University shares the rich legacy of contemporary arts programming at the school, exploring the cultural ferment from which the center emerged in 1989 through the largest presentation to date of art from the university’s permanent collection. 

The exhibition, on view February 5–May 8, will fill the Wex’s galleries with pieces by more than 70 artists that were acquired or presented by Ohio State during the 1970s and ’80s, including major works by Futura2000, Eva Hesse, Adrian Piper, Sol LeWitt, and Frank Stella

Inspired by the uprisings of 2020, To Begin, Again traces this story back to the formative revolts of the late 1960s, a period that saw artists, activists, and students demand systemic change from mainstream institutions. As flashpoints of dissent during this era, universities responded to protest in various ways—frequently with violent force; but also with progressive reforms, including the creation of the first Black, women’s, Latinx, and American Indian studies programs, and the elevation of contemporary art and popular culture within the academic hierarchy.

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 give a recent MFA graduate, Betty Collings, the directorship of the University Gallery of Fine Art—a new position at Ohio State, which, unlike other institutions in the Big Ten, lacked an independent art museum. Between 1975 and 1980, Collings launched an acclaimed program of contemporary exhibitions—with solo projects by Sam Gilliam, Chris Burden, Jackie Ferrara, Joseph E. Yoakum, and Joan Brown, among others—and began collecting major works by artists such as Hesse, LeWitt, Stella, Robert Smithson, Donald Judd, and Agnes Denes. 

The University Gallery under Collings served as a multidisciplinary gathering place where visiting artists, critics, and curators, including New Museum founding Director Marcia Tucker and P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center’s Alanna Heiss, engaged students and faculty in peer-to-peer dialogue. In the 1980s, with new Gallery Director Jonathan Green, the university set in motion a plan to create a comprehensive visual arts center at Ohio State, drawing international attention with the architectural competition that yielded Peter Eisenman’s winning design for the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts (the name was later shortened to reflect the center’s multidisciplinary focus). 

During Green’s tenure, the gallery also took an openly activist stance. Several nationally significant, community-led exhibitions were generated, including All’s Fair: Love and War in New Feminist Art, curated by Lucy Lippard; RAPE, the first national touring show to address the politics of sexual violence; and AIDS: The Artists’ Response, which brought the NAMES Project AIDS Memorial Quilt to Columbus in 1989. This evolution in the gallery’s programming also led to acquisitions by socially engaged artists like Piper, Vito Acconci, Benny Andrews, and Nancy Spero. And it dovetailed with the work of faculty in Ohio State’s Department of Photography and Cinema, including Allan Sekula, Thom Andersen, and Noël Burch, whose critical approach to visual culture and ideology set an important precedent for the future Wexner Center.

To Begin, Again charts this important shift in contemporary arts programming at the university and is organized around a selection of more than 80 works acquired by the former University Gallery, which the Wex has stewarded since its founding. Also included in the presentation are works by former Ohio State faculty, students, and visiting artists, such as Mary Albrecht, John DeFazio, Michael Keyes, and Robert J. Stull.

Standouts include a 36-foot-long mural painting by legendary graffiti artist Futura2000 (his moniker at the time, since shortened to Futura), which has not been shown since it was first created on campus in 1984; Piper’s immersive installation Four Intruders Plus Alarm Systems (1980); Hesse’s large-scale sculpture Area (1968); and Stella’s monumental metal-relief painting Puerto Rican Blue Pigeon (1976). Selected loaned artworks, including the “relic” from Chris Burden’s performance Shadow (1976) and a multimedia installation from artist Ann Fessler, will enhance the presentation, bringing into focus the cultural life of the university and the wider region during the era.

To Begin, Again: A Prehistory of the Wex, 1968-89 is 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. The exhibition will be accompanied by an illustrated gallery guide featuring archival documentation alongside essays by Marcus and art historian Julian Myers-Szupinska, with reflections from Irizarry and former University Gallery staffers Stephanie K. Blackwood and Mark Svede.


Artists represented

From the Collection of The Ohio State University, Wexner Center for the Arts
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, Peter Campus, Colleen Casey, Michael Cianchetti, Reverend St. Patrick Clay, Charles Csuri, John DeFazio, Agnes Denes, Frank Detillo, Futura2000, Sam Gilliam, Heidi Gluck, Hans Haacke, Donald E. Harvey, Eva Hesse, Michael Horvath, Tom Kalin, Bertram Katz, Shigeko Kubota, Victor Landweber, Barry Le Va, James Lenavitt, Sol LeWitt, Craig Lucas, Vicki Mansoor, Duane Michals, Elizabeth Murray, Dennis Oppenheim, Nam June Paik, Adrian Piper, William Price, William Ramage, Harold Reddicliffe, Dan Reeves, Dorothea Rockburne, Joel Shapiro, Robert Smithson, John M. Sokol, Nancy Spero, Frank Stella, May Stevens, Norman Toynton, Richard Tuttle, Woody and Steina Vasulka, Ruth Vollmer, Jacqueline Winsor, Scott Zaher

Loaned works
Joan Brown, Chris Burden, Josely Carvalho, Betty Collings, Columbus AIDS Task Force, Peter d’Agostino, Ann Fessler, James George, Ilona Granet, John Greyson, Barbara Hammer, Isaac Julien, Michael Keyes, Lynette Molnar, Allan Sekula, Robert J. Stull, Testing the Limits Collective, Joseph E. Yoakum


Related events

A free Winter Exhibition Preview will take place Friday, February 4, 5–8 PM, with open galleries, music, and a cash bar. As part of the opening, at 5:30 PM, curator Daniel Marcus will moderate a public conversation with former University Gallery staffers Stephanie K. Blackwood and Mark Svede, art historian and writer Julian Myers-Szupinska, and artist and educator Jerri Allyn on how a legacy of experimental arts programming at Ohio State might help us to navigate the crises and challenges of the present moment.

On Wednesday, March 2 at 4 PM, famed graffiti artist Futura will join fellow artist Zephyr at the Wex for a conversation about their paths as artists and the work that brought them to Ohio State in the 1980s, moderated by art critic and author Carlo McCormick.

More events will be announced closer to the exhibition’s opening.


Visitor information

To Begin, Again: A Prehistory of the Wex 1968–89 will be on view February 5–May 8, 2022 at the Wexner Center for the Arts, 1871 N. High St. (at 15th Avenue) on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus.

Gallery hours are 11 AM–5 PM Sunday, Tuesday, and Wednesday; and 11 AM–7 PM Thursday–Saturday. Galleries are closed Mondays. Admission is $9; $7 for seniors and Ohio State faculty and staff, and timed ticketing is available. Gallery admission is free for Wexner Center members, college students, veterans and active military personnel, and visitors 18 and under, and free for all Thursdays 4–7 PM. Admission is also free for all on Sundays, powered by American Electric Power Foundation.

Info on campus COVID-19 safety guidelines, bus routes, parking, and more, as well as advance tickets, are available at or at (614) 292-3535.


Exhibitions are made possible by Bill and Sheila Lambert; The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; Crane Family Foundation; and Mike and Paige Crane.

Additional support for To Begin, Again is provided by Joyce and Chuck ShenkNancy and Dave Gill; and Larry and Donna James.

A current list of funders is available here.