The Sculpture Center’s executive director and chief curator previews “After the Pedestal,” which opens from 5:30 to 8 p.m. June 14 and remains on view through Aug. 2.
What can visitors look forward to from “After the Pedestal”?
“After the Pedestal,” an almost annual juried exhibition of small sculpture by artists of Ohio and its greater region is a fascinating compendium of contemporary sculptors’ approach to stand-alone object making, long the back bone of sculptural practice. Each year’s invited juror, a prominent artist or curator, brings a personal aesthetic to the selection of works, whether it be a focus on materiality, craftsmanship, aesthetic relationships or thematic complements. The result is always a uniquely curated exhibition of small works that allow an intimacy of viewing experience rarely afforded in larger museum settings.
Juror Sara O’Keeffe is currently deeply engaged in the recently revealed relationships among plants and fungi and their underground communications in response to environmental and predatory dangers. She sees parallel implications for humans and their art production with “evocative metaphors about dependency, violence, power, care and collectivity.”
This 12th iteration of “After the Pedestal” includes 35 pieces by 16 sculptors, which allows the visitor a mini-immersion into each sculptor’s practice. Sculptures of ceramic, thick glass, cast metals, African textiles and exquisitely dyed silks relate one to another in their rounded forms, subtle coloration and content related to the environment, its degradation, and its need for protection and recreation. Many of the pieces have hidden, interior aspects that are revealed only by careful looking. Particularly striking is the evocation of natural forms and the creation of the formal sculptural relationships of solid and void, shape and materials through the joining of discarded materials. Each gallery contains a microcosm of contemporary sculptural practice.
“After the Pedestal” is now in its 12th year. In what ways has the annual show helped raise the profile of sculpture — and individual sculptors — in the region?
These juried exhibitions introduce visitors to the extraordinary talent of sculptors in our region, artists who often do not have the exhibition opportunities afforded those in the larger urban art centers of the U.S. Our jurors always comment that the high quality of the work is equal to any being shown in the larger cities and note their professional appreciation of the discovery of these sculptors.
These group exhibitions are particularly successful at introducing sculptors outside Northeast Ohio to the high quality of the work done by The Sculpture Center and to the vibrant art scene and engaged art community of Cleveland. Many of the early-career sculptors whose work is first shown in “After the Pedestal” subsequently apply for the solo exhibition opportunity of W2S (Window to Sculpture Emerging Artist series).
Speaking of individual sculptors, whose work will be included in this year’s show (and who hails from Northeast Ohio)?
There is a higher preponderance than usual of sculptors working in Ohio in this year’s “After the Pedestal.” Clevelanders include independent artists Joyce Morrow-Jones, Mona Kolesar, Jacquie Wynn Kennedy, E.D. Taylor and Don Stuart. Ben Johnson arrived here last summer to head up the Cleveland Institute of Art’s glass department. Lauren Baker is practicing in Akron, having graduated from Cranbrook Academy of Art. Jennifer L. Jones, also in Akron, is teaching at The University of Akron – Wayne College and Kent State. Rebecca Cross lives in Oberlin, teaches at Kent State University, and is often found at the Morgan Paper Conservancy and Praxis Fiber Workshop. Michelle Droll is working in Cuyahoga Falls. Sharon Koelblinger is a recent transplant from Philadelphia to The College of Wooster, where she holds a one-year appointment. Carol Boram-Hayes works in Columbus, where she teaches art history at The Ohio State University. Casey Bradley is also practicing in Columbus, where he is studio manager at the Columbus College of Art and Design. Ana England and Steven Finke (collaborators), faculty at Northern Kentucky University, are the Ohio outliers from the Cincinnati area. Peggy Breidenbach teaches at the Indianapolis Art Center in Illinois. Finally, Kristine Mifsud works across our northern border in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
What can you tell us about this year’s juror, Sara O’Keeffe?
Juror Sara O’Keeffe, associate curator at the New Museum, New York, is a rising star in the contemporary curatorial world. She grew up in Northeast Ohio and received her bachelor of arts from Reed College in Portland, Ore. At the New Museum, she was part of the curatorial teams that organized “Trigger: Gender as a Tool and a Weapon” (with Johanna Burton, 2017-18) and the “2015 Triennial: Surround Audience” (with Lauren Cornell and Ryan Trecartin, 2015). She curated “RAGGA NYC: All the threated and delicious things joining one another” (2015) and “Screens Series: Dynasty Handbag” (2018-19) and co-curated “Jeffrey Gibson: The Anthropophagic Effect” (2019); “MOTHA and Chris E. Vargas: Consciousness Razing—The Stonewall Re-Memorialization Project”(2018-19); “A.K. Burns: Shabby but Thriving” (2017); “My Barbarian: The Audience is Always Right” (2016); “Beatriz Santiago Muñoz: Song, Strategy, Sign” (2016); “Cheryl Donegan: Scenes and Commercials” (2015-16); and “Wynne Greenwood: Kelly” (2015), all with Johanna Burton. Her critical essays are frequently seen in art journals, most recently in the current issue of Mousse.
What programming is scheduled surrounding “After the Pedestal”?
The Sculpture Center’s openings always include informal talks by the exhibiting artists to afford our visitors direct access to them. Many of the artists included in this year’s group exhibition will be at the opening. Brief remarks by each about their practices and works on view begin at 6:15 p.m. in the Euclid Avenue Gallery and will move later to the Main Gallery. Visitors’ questions are encouraged.
Juror Sara O’Keeffe cannot be at the opening. She will return the next week to be our featured curator for the Cleveland Sculptors Network panel “Beyond the Walls: Support for Artist Driven Research and Production.” Other panelists are photographer Amanda D. King, founder of shootingwithoutbullets.org, and Canadian artist Kristine Mifsud with moderator Key Jo Lee, Assistant Director, Academic Outreach for Education and Academic Affairs at the Cleveland Museum of Art. The following morning Sara will meet privately with four selected sculptors for Master Reviews & Collective Discussion. CV
Lead image: “Night Shadows” by Mona Kolesar courtesy of The Sculpture Center.