30 Americans…. Plus The Region Phillip M. Meyers Jr. Gallery, U.C. Campus June 5 – July 10

June 25th, 2016  |  Published in June 2016

Good can always be better. That’s what happened to the touring “30 Americans” Exhibit now showing at the Cincinnati Art Museum. It’s grown to include “30 Americans… Plus” , a local extension of the great art made right here in the Cincinnati area. Stuart Golding suggested this worthy enterprise to the Director of DAAP galleries, Aaron Cowan , and he, in turn, included the Art Academy of Cincinnati in the idea. The Phillip M. Meyers Jr. Gallery is smaller than the museum space, so the 60 paintings included there were cut to 30, which certainly did not affect the quality.

Three of the artists from the DAAP collection are deceased: Terrance Corbin, Thom Shaw, and Brian Joiner. But excellence never dies. The first one seen on entering the gallery is by Thom Shaw, his unmistakable aggressive black and white wood cut leaps from the wall, very nearly shouting his emotions. In the next room Cedric Cox confronts visitors with an incredible array of abstract shapes pushing and receding in fantastic patterns. These two acrylic paintings are nearly reflected by the Terrance Corbin piece directly opposite. Cox admits that Corbin was a strong inspiration, and has taken up the challenge with new vigor and more complex arrangements of geometric figures. Cox is also the artist who just recently added a huge mural to the Clifton Cultural Arts Center in the same colorful composition style.

Brian Joiner. I remember a beautiful show at Northern Kentucky University featuring his paintings of African American women by Joiner some years back. I also remember his comment. “I can’t live on one show a year each February, Black History Month.” Nor should he have had to try to do so. The portrait loaned by Sara Vance Waddell included in “30” is exuberantly painted with the energy of a man who loves his art, holding nothing back. The subject is crowned, (aren’t we all?) and covered with the symbols of success and beauty.

There were new names on the walls, too. And good work beside them. Buford Buchanan’ paper sculpture of nearly life-sized skinny figures busily decorated in nearly tribal imagery hangs long, tall and twisted forms sinking to squat positions as they slip to the floor with intriguing design and construction that hinted at sophisticated humor.

Two paintings by Joyce Phillips Young were a paean to pleasure. “Checker Players” and “Spring” avoid political messages, racial issues, etc., and concentrate on life’s simple pleasures. While linearly confined, both the players and the boy and girl in “Spring” are transparent. “Spring” is the artistic partner of “what is so rare…”, portraying the two upward-looking figures enveloped in flowers, light, and birds. Figures in both paintings allow the warm background designs to be visible as part of them.

It was the installations, though, that stole the show. Thomas Phelps two paintings seemingly deliberately primitive. The star of the arrangement was the centerpiece, a cane wound with beads and paper, stolen completely by a black sparkling skull, the whole muttering of voodoo or shamans.

“Counter Culture” combines boxed sculpture, some with black braids, black roses on sculptured folds, and a beautiful portrait of a woman “dressed to kill”. All is elegant, with sly metallic intrusions sparkling on the black backgrounds. The entire arrangement is huge and stands out from the wall with demanding presence. The artist, Jacobee Rose Buchanan, has created so much that one examination cannot reveal all.

Rounding out the non-traditional compositions was another elegant piece in quilting by Cynthia Lockhart. Shaped and intricate beyond the simple description of that craft, three odd shaped pieces swirl about on a wall, related but never touching; so well constructed that at first glance they appear to be both paintings and possibly three-dimensional sculptures.

Words embellish many pieces. They reinforce the pictorial strength of their art as just another step in the statement. “Women Never Get the Blues Cause We Are Stone Cold Survivors” , holy commentary on a treatise of good and evil in four paintings, and a tribute to Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit” make their mark verbally as well as artistically.

This edition of is full of messages about lives, attitudes, and courage embellished through the artists’s passion. With or without words they succeed as true art by connecting with their observers in a mere “30” very human statements.

–Fran Watson

Comments are closed.