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A New Look

Stroll with the curators through the reinstalled contemporary galleries
Reto Thüring, Curator of Contemporary Art
April 17, 2017

New Dialogue. Joining collection favorites by Andy Warhol and Claes Oldenburg are sculptural works by Haim Steinbach and Rachel Harrison and a video projection by Oliver Laric.

The contemporary galleries reopened in late February after undergoing a complete reinstallation. Visitors will discover new and insightful groupings of artworks from the permanent collection, including many recent acquisitions and longtime favorites such as Anselm Kiefer’s Lot’s Wife, along with several important loans. We aim to rotate the contemporary galleries regularly so that they reflect both the quickly evolving nature of the collection and the changing aspect of the world around us. 

The reinstalled galleries showcase works that are new to the collection, either never before shown or originally part of various special exhibitions. For example, on view for the first time is David Hammons’s Basketball Drawing, an exemplary work by a leading African American artist, given by Agnes Gund in honor of LeBron James’s return to Cleveland. In that same gallery off the corridor (229A), visitors will instantly notice a mesmerizing large-scale video projection by Oliver Laric, a young Austrian artist. This work joins the collection’s small yet growing contingent of new-media works. The video animates the entire gallery, complementing and engaging with the adjacent Haim Steinbach shelf sculpture. Both works trace how recognizable images and forms throughout time and different global contexts seamlessly morph into one another.

Nearby, Richard Diebenkorn’s incredible painting from his Ocean Park series is paired with a seductive painting by Jo Baer, an underrepresented artist who helped pioneer minimalism. Displayed on a plinth are several sculptures by Damián Ortega that evoke biological forms and creatures. After creating them using ordinary tools, Ortega transformed them into surreal shapes with plaster. An accompanying sculpture by Gabriel Orozco also evokes human influence on the natural world; acquired in 2009, the work is on view for the first time.

 Abstraction, Quiet to Loud. Agnes Martin, Jack Whitten, Gerhard Richter

In the next gallery (229B) is a rather unconventional work, Anicka Yi’s The Washing Away of Wrongs, an interactive piece that engages our senses of sight, smell, and touch. Visitors may remember a similar work by Yi in her debut museum exhibition at Transformer Station. This spring she will have a solo show at the Guggenheim and participate in the 2017 Whitney Biennial. The Contemporary Art Society’s gift of this work to the CMA collection was indeed prescient.

On another wall in the same gallery is a monumental and beautifully intricate painting by Cleveland Institute of Art alumna Dana Schutz. An exhibition of her new paintings and sculptures will debut at Transformer Station on September 1. The Schutz painting is on loan from a private collection; we occasionally borrow specific artworks for the contemporary galleries to complement or enhance particular works or groupings from the collection. Another example is the stunning double portrait by Maria Lassnig, one of the most influential female painters of the past half century, which was generously lent by the artist’s estate. Lassnig’s work speaks beautifully to a suite of exuberant portraits and social scenarios, including Heritage by Wadsworth Jarrell, one of the museum’s most recent acquisitions and another significant touchstone in our collection of works by African American artists.

Dazzling Loans. Works by Cleveland Institute of Art alumna Dana Schutz and influential painter Maria Lassnig were lent by private collectors to enhance the new presentation.

The final gallery (229C) is notable not just for the return of the Anselm Kiefer painting Lot’s Wife, but for the way in which all of the works there speak to fraught themes such as the fragility of the human body. In contrast to earlier installations in which the Kiefer was hung independently, it’s now ensconced within the supporting context of works by Georg Baselitz and Mark Grotjahn. Together, they offer a compelling narrative of painting’s evolution over the past four decades. Other deliberately chosen works by Lee Bontecou, Chaim Soutine, and Robert Gober make this gallery as much about the history of art as it is about political and social issues. 

Fraught Themes. Intense works of art share a thematic undercurrent with Anselm Kiefer’s chilling Lot’s Wife.


Reto Thüring, Curator of Contemporary Art 
Beau Rutland, Associate Curator of Contemporary Art