Three Museums in Cincinnati

Sunday I explored 3 museums in Cincinnati:

The Cincinnati Art Museum – is a wonderful collection of art, on par with state art museums around the country. It does a terrific job of bringing art to the city (it’s actually one of the oldest in the country) – like many art museums using a sort of checklist  approach to showing work: a cycladic statue, check; an Egyptian sarcophogus, check; a Monet, check; a Picasso, check; a Rodin, a Calder, a Roman this, a Greek that – check, check, check & check.

It does what it sets out to do and so I find no fault – I do especially like that it places emphasis on the rich history of art from the region with it’s Cincinnati Wing. This addition, opened in 2003 and includes the “Cincinnati Painters” and also Rookwood pottery, along with glass, metalworks and furniture.  There are beautiful examples of work by John H. Twachtman, Joseph H. Sharp, Frank Duveneck, and Henry Farny and many others – Cincinnati was one of the foremost art centers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

During this trip, I was happy to get to see a new statue installed this past Spring out front: Jim Dine’s Pinocchio (Emotional) – a 12 foot bronze greeting visitors upon the approach to the museum. His work was also featured prominently in an exhibit, In Celebration of Pinocchio with hometown artists including Jim Dine, Casey Rioden Millard, Mark Fox, Jay Bolotin and Will Hutchinson.

The Taft Museum of Art – This 1820’s house on a hill was donated to the city by the Tafts. Charles Taft and his wife Anna Sinton Taft were brother and sister-in-law to President WIlliam Howard Taft. Their collection of art, bequeathed to the city, includes Eurpoean and American master paintings, Chinese porcelains and European decorative arts – there are works by Rembrandt, Hals, Goya, Gainsborough, Turner, Ingres, Whistler and Sargent.

While I was there I enjoyed the collection and also 2 special exhibits. The first was Mathew Albritton’s photography in Ohio to the White House  – a look at the brithplaces and childhood homes of seven presidents.  The second, al look at the collection of French paintings on loan from the Wadsworth Atheneum in the exhibit Old Masters to Impressionists. Additionally, the city was celebrating it’s 80th anniversary of the museum with an exhibit of 80 reproductions from the collection placed throughout the Cincinnati Valley. http://www.taftmuseum.org/?page_id=2031

The Contemporary Arts Center – This striking 6-story jig-saw puzzle of a building designed by Zaha Hadid opened in 2003. It is a non-collecting museum dedicated to presenting contemporary ideas from around the world. – this time around I saw Jannis Varelas’ Sleep My Little Sheep Sleep, Francis Upritchard’s A Long Wait, and Spectacle: The Music Video.

Art for All, Taft Museum
Taft Museum

The Captive, by Henry F Farny 1885 at Cincinnati Art Museum

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Boston July 2012

Earlier this month we took a week and a half to go to Boston and then up the coast of Maine. We got to visit dear friends in both areas and we got to unwind while checking out New England.

In Boston, we did our normal walkathon tour of the city, winding our way up the Harborwalk , heading into the North End, wrapping around to Beacon Hill, Back Bay over to the South End and back by Tufts and into Downtown. We went jogging through Boston Common and shopping over on Newbury Street. While we never miss Faneuil Hall or Mike’s Pastry Shop over on Hanover Street, this time we also made the effort to branch out and we were glad we did. We enjoyed our meals down on newly-trendy Tremont Street and in Chinatown and we tried out the food trucks on the Rose Kennedy Greenway.

On our fifth day we headed up the coast of Maine toward Portland and stayed the rest of the week with friends in Yarmouth. We slowed our pace way down – we hiked a little and checked out a nearby beach, one evening we took a water taxi to one of the islands for dinner. We took a drive up to Christmas Cove, and spent a little time shopping in Freeport. We drank wine and gorged ourselves on lobster … actually having lobster for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  Most of the time we simply sat out on the veranda and enjoyed letting ourselves do nothing.

I couldn’t help myself – I tried, but I just couldn’t. We managed to skip the art galleries altogether (I looked longingly into a few windows), but still wound up visiting three art museums in Boston: The Museum of Fine Arts, The Isabella Gardner and the Institute of Contemporary Art.  We were impressed with the new architecture at each of the museums and we enjoyed the exhibits – two of my favorites:

Josiah McElheny’s exhibit at the ICA, Some Pictures of the Infinite, takes a conceptual look at time and space continuums.   McElheny is the kind of artist that makes me wish I was smarter – each display challenged me  to try to grasp a concept of infinity that, by definition, is unattainable.  His blown-glass works break down barriers between craft and art – the mirrored spirals of suspended orbs combine scientific theories of the cosmos with iconic mid-century modernism.

At the MFA, the highlight was Alex Katz Prints – the show includes 125 pieces on display that together emphasize Katz’s artistic clarity of voice over the past 60 years.  He creates arresting images using as few elements and details as possible. He reduces form and color to produce images of graphic quality that are immediately recognizable and the subjects – his beloved Ada, his family & friends and the Maine landscape retell his story of a life well-lived.

Orange Hat by Alex Katz

Endlessly Repeating detail by Josiah McElheny