‘Illustrious Decay’ Opening Night

Thank you to everyone who came from near and far and attended the “Illustrious Decay” opening at CWAL and 78th Street Studios. This was my first time since my days at CalArts I had done an installation piece let alone a collaborative one. Jen Omaitz led me through it because I kind of had zero idea where I was going.

The feedback we got from everyone was great and I think our pairing worked very well. There will be a closing party during Third Fridays on Friday, October 19th if you missed it.

 


 

FRONT opening weekend

The scope of the undertaking is ambitious on all levels. The partnerships, installations, artist lectures, films, and beyond have aligned despite the bureaucratic obstacles one can often experience in the world of non-profit entities and arts organizations. Founded by art collector Fred Bidwell (whose Transformer Station I am a big fan of), with the creative direction of Chicago-based artist Michelle Grabner, FRONT Triennial is not about representing artists in the rustbelt region, and it never claimed to be. It is about showcasing the city itself as an arts and culture destination that can attract a wider gaze and international talent. A Republican National Convention and an NBA Championship, sure. Now how about a city-wide arts event? The process of selecting artists was to choose those who have started to ascend, or have already made a splash in other Biennials, Triennials, and various degrees of academe in the art world. The list of international artists is staggering for a first-time arts event in any capacity.

There was a stink about artists in Northeast Ohio not getting fair representation, although six artists from the region were selected: Elizabeth Emery, Dale Goode, Julie Ezelle PattonMichael Oatman, Lauren Yeager and Johnny Coleman. However, much like SXSW or Art Basel Miami, FRONT has inspired rogue exhibitions by 78th Street Studios, Collective Arts Network, Lakeland Community College, Artist Archives of the Western Reserve, and Curated Storefront in Akron to name a handful. All affiliated and complimentary to FRONT. It’s an answer to the question of regional representation of which FRONT gladly included gallery and event listings in their own printed materials.

The marketing of FRONT and its choices of artists was to serve the purpose of bringing people in. In fact, almost all marketing efforts were targeted to those beyond a 250-mile radius of Cleveland. Does a gorgeous spread in Architectural Digest inspire a culture junkie in Seattle or a diehard art collector in Dallas to make a weekend out it? As though we are on a hamster wheel, always something to prove, Cleveland has a hurdle that most other cities with arts events don’t have: the stigma of being Cleveland. Let’s face it, Prospect New Orleans, Art Basel Miami, and the Venice Biennale take place in places people want to visit, anyway.

The theme for FRONT is “An American City” as artists created work that explores their sense of Cleveland, and cities like it. Several pieces in the Triennial speak to our current socio-political climate in America; immigration, racism, police brutality, the declining environment, and Wall Street greed are just some of the topics raised. Although these have always been problems, the spotlight has never been hotter in the wake of the Trump presidency.

 

The Thursday preview attracted visitors from the likes of Colorado, Utah, California, New York, Michigan, and Massachusetts. Still unfinished, the Julian Stanczak mural on Prospect Avenue was a wonderful way to see the process. As a part of Canvas City, 10 murals will stay up beyond this summer and be changed again in the coming years as a revolving outdoor mural gallery, much like Murals at the Market in Detroit.

The Saturday opening schedule was a grueling one; compounded by the fact opening gala was the evening before. If you didn’t have a ticket for up to $5,500 a plate at Public Auditorium, you could catch the wildly colorful and almost primal Asian Dope Boys performance on Instagram Live. In addition to tours and lectures, there is a large amount of programming of films, performances, and musical acts during City Stages. The planning around all locations was based on the assumptions one could walk to various sites, as well as hop on the RTA. Whether you love it or hate it, this is where ridesharing apps came into play for visitors in the summer heat or in a hurry to see as much as they could on opening weekend in a city where public transit is not exactly a strong suit. Shuttle tours that included the stops at the locations Oberlin and Akron aided, and inspired camaraderie. How this will develop over the summer with visitors remains to be seen. Frankly, many of these visitors for the opening weekend who were assigned by institutions and publications, were very annoyed they had to be in Cleveland despite whatever polite comments they offered. Some were open to exploring, while others just wanted to hit a checklist and retreat back to the area closest to their accommodations.

The popular Kusama exhibition at The Cleveland Museum of Art serves as an anchor for the Brutalist cinderblock city by Marlon de Azambujaand, the neon pieces developed using software by Agnieszka Kurantand, and works on paper of Kerry James Marshall (who also has an exhibition at The Cleveland Public Library) to name a few. Fred Bidwell referred to the giant hand created by artist Tony Tasset at MOCA as “selfie bait” but the real star of photos and social media platforms seems to be Yinka Shonibare MBE at The Cleveland Public Library. Even if you knew nothing of the context, as many visitors wandering from the nearby hotel conferences didn’t, the beauty of 6,000 colorful bound books on its own combined with the jaw dropping architecture made it hard for anyone to resist. If anyone took part in the interactive component, it didn’t seem to matter.

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You could say labeling anyone a “local” artist is akin to calling them a provincial artist. Perhaps Cleveland Artist, Rustbelt Artist, or even American Artist are labels we can begin to use more often despite not being a metropolis. It might be a long road, but FRONT could be yet another turning point in the perception game when it comes to Cleveland. Magazine features and online listicles can only do so much. Perception, of course, is one of the most minor problems the city faces.

www.FRONTart.org

GURLS: For the ‘Basic’ in Everyone!

GURLS Volumes 1 and 2 are available now! Each one is 70 pages. And yes, the snarky captions are included in the books, for those of you that have been following along with this series. My best advice is to read the snarky captions in Bobby Brown’s voice (you’ll see what I mean when you get a book in your hand).

My show in Cologne, Germany just came down but original drawings can be purchased thru both FB69 Galerie locations and from me directly.

There are also prints and products, such as this “get well” card via my Society6 Shop.

The books are extremely limited and honestly, I probably won’t be doing them again. Not unless a proper comics publisher wants to do an anthology. I’m participating in my first ComicCon by doing GenghisCon is my old studio building Sunday, November 26th in Cleveland. There may or may not be some Pumpkin Spice lattes and a selfie stick!

Across both books, there is only one drawing that depicts something that actually happened. The rest are just things I imagine someone is saying somewhere, right now. Some of the better quotes I’ve actually heard would need context and a preface — I was too lazy to bother with that. So don’t feel personally microaggressed by these drawings. It’s called being “basic” for a reason!

Biomorphic Garden Party solo exhibition at 78th Street Studios

Hey! My show is almost here! I’ve been working my tail off on it despite everything medical that has happened this summer. I’ve also ordered some fancy truffles for the opening reception with designs that look like the paintings — so it’s serious now. This is my first show of my new work and if you live in NE Ohio I hope to see you there….

Join us for the opening reception at the HEDGE gallery satellite space Suite 215 during Third Fridays at 78th Street Studios.

Friday, November 18th from 5 to 9pm 

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This series brings together painter Arabella Proffer’s interests in botany, microbiology, monsters, space, disease, and the evolution of cells. Within those interests, she explores the particular roles that organisms, medicine, DNA, and hybrids play, all while creating from her imagination and instinct. Shaping aesthetic outcomes of these paintings doesn’t come from research or re-creating what already exists; she creates her own nature within these little worlds. If cells and viruses can look beautiful when magnified, what about organisms on other planets? Is there something bigger we are a part of? What will these cells look like 10 days later – what about 10 million years later? Proffer visualizes every stage of evolution from our planet and ones yet to be explored.

This exhibition is made possible by the support of the Ohio Arts Council.

www.arabellaproffer.com  www.hedgeartgallery.com

Proffer’s surreal organic environments start from a place of abstraction and evolve into surroundings filled with strange hybrids of flowers and organisms. In 2010 the artist was diagnosed with a rare cancer which was crawling through her body at an alarming rate. Ironically when her oncologist showed the scans of the tumor and aggressive virus, they looked almost identical to Proffer’s most recent paintings, tentacles and all! This fascination with the macro universe and micro universe has continued through Arabella Proffer’s work — and more recently in a circumstance of life imitating art — she has battled re-occurring illness, continuing to paint what seem like familiar creatures and symbols during her recovery.

After more than a decade of being known as a figurative painter, this is the first time her new direction has come together as a solo exhibition.

The show will be up until December 23rd.

Summer Mini Art Shows

I’ll be the featured artist for the Saturday, May 21st installment of the Platform Brewing Concert Series at Lake Affect Studios! This includes bands The Teddy Boys, Erienauts, and John’s Little Sister. Amazing beers on tap, food trucks, and more. 21+ and doors are at 7:30pm. $10 entry. This event is a monthly concert series featuring local bands, beer, food, and artists.

Catch my pop-up exhibit called “Brush with Beauty” inside Legacy Village during Art in the VillageJune 4th & 5th from 10am to 6pm. We are taking over a storefront as part of Retail Lab and it will include a pop-up exhibition, and fabulous vintage finds from Deering Vintage.

After that is “Draw Together” co-presented by the Cleveland Museum of Art and SPACES on Sunday, June 26th at CMA. I’ll be drawing for a few hours in the galleries with visitors. The museum turns 100 and this is part of their Centennial Festival Weekend. If you are too hung over from Solstice Party they do sell wine in the cafe! I’ve been a Teaching Artist at CMA this past year working with medical students and professionals, and it’s been swell!

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