Querulous at Large

October 22nd, 2013  |  Published in October 2013

Querulous at Large

By Querulous

Sometimes, not often but sometimes, for someone headed to a six o’clock event at the Contemporary Arts Center, a parking slot will be open on East Sixth Street in that tiny interval of time between Forbidden (4-6 p.m.) and Free (post 6 p.m.). When one turned up as Querulous headed for the CAC recently, to hear local artist Joey Versoza speak, it seemed a positive omen. Arrived there on more or less the stroke of six to find the mysterious lower floor lecture hall perhaps half full and the speakers, as usual here, lurking in shadows while the audience sat in what light there was. This black-draped room frequently traffics in ambiguity and is prepared for it.

In the audience were a number of known artists, also unknown artists, and a scattering of people who seemed to know one another. Joey Versoza is a local guy, from northern Kentucky, Art Academy graduate and employee of CAC as long ago as when it looked out over Government Square, before architect Zaha Hadid created the difficult building it moved to. He  talked about his career leading up to his show in the galleries above. Frankly, Querulous had trouble following.  His work seems intensely personal, no harm in that, but hard for this listener to work out exactly what was going on.

Meanwhile, at street level, the young and cheerful crowd the CAC attracts with its free admittance on Monday evenings was enjoying itself.  Some even were headed upward, by elevator or by the splendid slanting stairway, to actually look at some art. Querulous meant to do the same, but in the end did not. It is tiring to listen to a speaker and be unsure of what is being said.

A day or two later, however, the Cincinnati Art Museum sent out two press releases within minutes of each other, shared with Querulous by a recipient, that were pretty definite about what was being said. Something along lines previously reserved for adolescent girls, with liberal use of words like “thrilling” and “tremendous” and  “incredibly impressive.” The second (an “Update!!” its covering message caroled) had a new lead half as long as the first but no new information although the breathy tone remained intact. The news is the acquisition of an appealing mid-18th century “conversation piece” by a respected but not star-power English portrait painter, Nathaniel Dance. It shows seven members of two or three generations of the Hodges family, gathered in their handsome parlor and ready to receive the viewer as guest. There are a number of interesting things about this picture, one being that it indicates the rise of a well-to-do middle class in Britain. It seems, in the digital reproduction I have seen, to be well executed and an altogether appropriate addition to the collection, unlike anything else on hand. But when “thrilling” and “incredible” are trotted out for any interesting acquisition, what is there to say when the genuinely thrilling and incredible make an appearance?

It should be noted that the following day ArtDaily Newsletter, the on-line art news journal, picked up the second release and reprinted it exactly, also reproducing the painting. No quibbling there over inappropriate word choice.

A curious note in the email accompanying the second version puzzled Querulous. “If you are interested in information regarding other acquisitions from the Middle Ages made by the Cincinnati Art Museum in the past, please feel free to contact me for more information,” says the writer. How did we get to the Middle Ages?  Has the mid-18th century been conflated with that stretch of time? Did Querulous miss something?

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