Back from Cincinnati

We’re back from my opening at Manifest Gallery and while I hope you go see the show, there are so many other reasons to go to Cincinnati!

It was a whirlwind tour of Cincinnati, but we packed a lot into 48 hrs.  First up was Manifest Gallery itself.  It’s a neat space in a turn of the century residential/commercial building.  There are multiple galleries up front with great light from the street.

Lucas James Manifest Show 2015 Lucas James Manifest Show 2015 Lucas James Manifest Show 2015

The Monolithic show in the main gallery was really impressive, both in scope and the visual impact of the works.  It was so interesting to see how different artists approached the same theme from completely different angles!  Macroscope featured works that varied in their subject distance, but all had compelling elements of texture that I found myself drawn to.  (Then there was this photography guy- metal sheets or something…)  It was great that Manifest has the space to do large pieces justice- something that is not very common in smaller galleries.   But probably the coolest thing about the gallery is their artist in residence program.  I wandered back through the hallways and got to see some of the work in progress from Marina Fridman and Samantha Haring.  I just love talking with artists about how work develops and where it takes different twists and turns along the way.  Plus the old building with its creaking wood floors and double hung windows reminded me of so many undergraduate apartments-turned studios of the past.  Both ladies will be showing work developed in their residencies later in spring, so keep an eye out for them.  We might just have to make a return trip!

On Saturday, we had a whole day to kill before I was scheduled to give an artist talk.  To be honest, we had not planned anything about the trip.  Zero.  I picked the hotel based on a email offer from Hilton, but it landed us smack in the down town.  Cincinnati benefited from a benign neglect in the past forty years.  As a result, some really cool art deco and modernist architecture was left unmolested and is now being restored.  We wandered and found a cafe (First Watch) for breakfast, then bumped into the Contemporary Arts Center.  Right now they are hosting a retrospective on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Mapplethorpe  Show controversy and the ensuing legal fight to define obscenity.  The show, while it has warnings about “adult content” is mostly about the experiences of the museum and the community reaction.  There are also artworks created in response to the anniversary.  I find it interesting how most of this stuff is pretty tame by today’s standards.  We were not allowed to take photos in the exhibit, but there was a show by Pia Camil just off of an adjacent gallery that invited interaction.  She constructs fabrics and stages that viewers are allowed to participate with- so we did!


There’s nothing quite as much fun as playing dress up.

While I liked the Mapplethorpe exhibit and Camil’s work was fun, the star of the center is the Mark Mothersbaugh show.  Mothersbaugh was the front man of DEVO and a prolific artist.  I had forgotten just how zany, fun and subversive DEVO was and Mothersbaugh’s output makes pretty much everyone look like a slacker.  But the best part was how the exhibit made me feel.  It’s rare that I walk out of a contemporary art show with a smile, but I was positively laughing my ass off in this exhibit!  Of course, Nixon and Reagan are funny, if you don’t have to live under the SOBs.  We also got to see a couple of the smaller galleries (such as the Weston and the Museum hotel) that make up Cincinnati’s growing and vibrant arts scene.  We missed the Taft and the Cincinnati art museum (plus a bunch of others I’m sure) so a return trip is definitely in order.

The appointed hour of the artist talk arrived and I was fully prepared with a slide show on a usb, my iphone and even a pdf backup if necessary.  And… none of it worked.  Apparently backwards compatibility is not really a “thing” with Apple.  Ironically, I had left the laptop back in the hotel, since I was so “prepared”.  So onto “plan B” which was to hold the talk in the gallery and work directly off of the art, plus a few images from my iPhone.

Lucas James Manifest Show 2015 Lucas James Manifest Show 2015

As it turned out, Plan B was the way to go!  We had a lively and interactive discussion about the work- one that I’m not sure would have happened if the original slide show had worked out!  Afterwards we headed around the corner to O Pie O for dinner and some wine.  No pictures, but trust me- this place had an awesome concord grape pie and kick-ass empanadas!  After gorging on pie and saying goodbye to the great folks at Manifest, K and I headed back downtown for a little “relaxation” with my favorite beverage: bourbon.

bourbon in Cincinnati

Being so close to Kentucky, the Horse and Barrel was the place for a bourbon lover!  So Cincinnati ended up being a really cool town with an even cooler art scene!  We’re definitely headed back and you should check it out if you have the chance.

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