Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows, the second iteration of FRONT International, is a multi-venue exhibition that embraces art as an agent of transformation, a mode of healing, and a therapeutic process. The title is an homage to the 1957 poem “Two Somewhat Different Epigrams” by Langston Hughes. A tender, brutal, and provocative prayer, the poem meditates on the inseparability of joy and suffering. Expanding on Hughes’s invocation, FRONT 2022 explores how art making offers the possibility to transform and heal people—as individuals, as groups, and as a society. The triennial also demonstrates how aesthetic pleasure—sharing joy through movement, music, craft, and color—can bridge differences between people to bring them together. Finally, the exhibition suggests ways that art making can speak with power, showing people how to recognize and reimagine the invisible structures that govern contemporary life.
The CMA is a presenting partner of FRONT International. As part of the multi-venue exhibition, CMA curators Emily Liebert, Nadiah Rivera Fellah, Britany Salsbury, and Barbara Tannenbaum and Tom Welsh, director of performing arts, have organized seven exhibitions with eight artists throughout the museum’s galleries. These presentations reflect and amplify different aspects of FRONT International 2022’s primary interests and curatorial considerations.
Julie Mehretu: Portals will be on view in the Julia and Larry Pollock Focus Gallery. For this exhibition, works by the internationally renowned artist Julie Mehretu (American, born 1970) will be in conversation with works from the CMA’s encyclopedic collection that Mehretu has selected because of their affinities with her own artistic practice. For more information on this exhibition, see page 12 in this issue.
At the opening and closing of FRONT, Michele Rizzo (Italian, born 1984) and Maria Hassabi (Greek, born 1973), respectively, will give dance performances in the Ames Family Atrium. Newly adapted for the CMA, Rizzo’s choreographic work HIGHER xtn (2018) considers the unique spaces of nightclubs and the ways they afford both self expression and community for the dancers who frequent them. Throughout the piece, a group of trained dancers perform minimal, repetitive movements to a hypnotic electronic soundtrack.
Making its debut at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Hassabi’s work CANCELLED (2022) considers womanhood from perspectives that cross generations. Four female performers’ choreography is composed of individual solos that display poses historically associated with women based on everyday mannerisms throughout history and rooted in Hassabi’s signature style of stillness and deceleration. Nicole Eisenman: A Decade of Printing will be presented in the James and Hanna Bartlett Prints and Drawings Gallery. A prolific and highly influential painter and sculptor, Nicole Eisenman (French American, born 1965) recasts art historical tropes in contemporary settings, often exploring experiences of community and isolation in today’s world. The works on view reveal how printmaking has emerged over the past ten years as a primary vehicle for Eisenman to consider these themes, translating them across media through close collaborations with three master printers. In Toby’s Gallery for Contemporary Art, two new works by Yoshitomo Nara (Japanese, born 1959) will be integrated into the CMA’s display of its permanent collection. That of one of the most celebrated contemporary Japanese artists, Nara’s work across mediums draws on a range of sources, including music, literature, and childhood memories. This presentation will include a painting of a child from a series for which the artist is best known and a ceramic vessel in which he brings together his interests in painted imagery, sculptural form, and language.
FRONT: Matt Eich and Tyler Mitchell, in the Mark Schwartz and Bettina Katz Photography Gallery, will bring together work by Matt Eich (American, born 1986) and Tyler Mitchell (American, born 1995), artists who share an interest in belonging, transformation, and the American South. The works in this exhibition set joyful scenes of leisure, languor, and personal contentment into the Southern landscape. Both artists use photography, most often associated with recording fact, to suggest the possibilities of transformation, a delight in the senses, and the engaging mystery of the transitory.
A newly commissioned installation by Firelei Báez (Dominican American, born 1981) will be featured in the museum’s east wing glass box gallery. Known for large-scale paintings and immersive installations that conjure lavish fictional pictorial worlds, Báez will create an installation that integrates narratives of colonized cultures often overlooked in Western art history. In particular, the painting and sculpture on view are rooted in Báez’s ongoing consideration of the ciguapa: a bold and alluring female creature found throughout Dominican folklore.
“The FRONT presentation at the CMA is an opportunity to play with different timeframes for art and art making,” says Prem Krishnamurthy, FRONT’s artistic director. “When art spans this spectrum, I believe it can begin to tweak our everyday experience and expectations of the world in transformative ways.”