The Collection of Dr. Jack and Shirley Chewning

November 24th, 2015  |  Published in November 2015

10/30 thru 11/2 2015,  Mary Ran Gallery, 3668 Erie Avenue, Cincinnati, Ohio 45208

Collectors are a rare and wonderful breed.  Through them art gains a purpose, functioning as a separate world wherein personal affairs of the heart are gathered together, for no other reason than that the gatherers cannot resist them. Often we hear of those who collect basically for investment, or for the purpose of impressing others, but once in a while, there are those who simply thrill to the possession of fine art, such as Dr. John D. and Shirley Chewning, a portion of whose works on paper collection is currently offered on the market (tagged at prices-to-sell)  at Mary Ran Gallery.  And it’s these collectors who want such  precious parts of their lives to continue as treasured by others of the same ilk.  Until early 2016, a mind boggling slew of classic works on paper will be available at the Ran Gallery

Fifty-two historic items with eye-popping artists’ names attached march around the walls  of the Ran Gallery,  along with another group of untouched prints discovered in flat storage, unframed.

While some are already sold, it’s exciting to simply drink in this display in a visit to the gallery.  Just to mention a few,  a large Richard Diebenkorn lithograph, “Seated Nude” dated 1965, boldly nudges all edges in black and white,  while a small Klee steals a more modest space in etching nearby.  Eduardo Chillado, Spanish sculptor, pursues his fractured space ideals in vigorous printing, while Giacometti etches faint, delicate line images.   Braque, Isabel Bishop, Milton Avery, and Duchamp share the illustrious stage with prints by Henry Moore and Robert Motherwell.  A simple red and white structural image by Frank Stella, masterfully utilizing negative space, seems a perfect partner for Louise Nevelson’s  crisp collage of textured gray materials  and a color litho by Joan Miro playfully follows the artist’s vision of “Day and Night”.

Area artists of this inventive era from the 30’s through the 60’s have not been neglected in the collection.  A small scene of Eden Park,  surrounded by unoccupied  grassy acres hangs near an oil painting by Dixie Seldon of a “Venetian Doorway” featuring gray-green ghostly abstract shadows on the waters of the canal.  The Chewnings added two small Paul Chidlaw paintings, and a marvel in neutral grays by Jack Meanwell who designed the unusual frame which subtly becomes part of  the painting.

To add to the enchantment, many of these single works were purchased from exhibits and are accompanied by the original catalogs.  The Diebenkorn catalog is nearly completely filled with similar heavy line figure drawings seen in the large lithograph.  There is also a catalog which shows works in this show purchased through Carl Solway. The available catalogs hark back to the dates of the art, offering impressions of the masters in the early part of their careers.

Perhaps because of raw immediacy of the unframed prints, and the predominance  of Japanese printmakers, the flat stored pieces hold a strength hard to resist.  Some are printed and embossed, others are aggressively sized onto their picture planes, pushing into or beyond their surface boundaries.   Earth tones dominated, noticeably adding to the feeling of weight and strength.  These works are shown in an open folder like those seen at art fairs, a casual display method which added much to their accessible ambience.

Be prepared for the unexpected, too.  Spanish sculptor Miguel Berrocal is present in the form of “Mini David”, a bronze torso sculpture, about 5 or 6 inches tall, which is shown in an accompanying catalog as a hood ornament on a Rolls-Royce,  proving that nothing is obvious in this display.  It’s unusual excellence invites more than usual investigation.

–Fran Watson

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