‘Climate Changing’, the new exhibit from the Wexner Center for the Arts, kicks off outside the building with a 1990 work by the late Chris Burden: crenellations added to the brick walls and referencing an armory that stood there. years ago in the same place. The ramparts, making the building look like a castle or a foundry, pose a question: is an art museum a storage place for great works or is it a space to create new ones?
The ambitious indoor exhibition leans towards the second objective, showcasing works by 19 artists and three artist collectives. Included are nine new commissioned pieces which, along with the other works, address contemporary issues. In this regard, “Climate Change” deals not only with global warming, but also with societal issues that affect everyone on Earth. Economic inequality, racism, social injustice, equitable education and mass incarceration are just a few of the issues addressed.
Originally slated to open in spring 2020 to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Wexner Center, the exhibit has been delayed due to the pandemic. Its focus, according to curator Lucy I. Zimmerman, has broadened from “its original iteration as a gesture of institutional criticism” to one that takes into account these broad social issues as well as the role of artists and museums in society. . Such an imposing mission gave rise to an imposing exhibition filling all the galleries of the Wexner Center. With the exhibition guide in hand – necessary to absorb the context and meaning of the pieces – viewers can spend hours absorbing this rich and substantial spectacle.
Performance artist Pope.L’s sculpture, “A ship within a ship within a ship and so on,” sets the stage for complexity. A busty black pirate woman hangs upside down from the ceiling while below her on the floor is a puddle of chocolate. The woman’s head is none other than a bust of Martin Luther King Jr., perhaps opening up a discussion of his role in history and culture.
Jibade-Khalil Huffman’s installation, “We Don’t Need Another Mural,” grapples with issues of community and social injustice. Placed on the ground between video murals taken in Smoketown, the oldest black neighborhood in Louisville, Ky., Are road signs with fragments of messages such as “Black Lives Matter.”
While his large geometric black and white sculptures are abstract, Torkwase Dyson nonetheless manages to hint at black history, including a piece reminiscent of Henry “Box” Brown, a slave who sent himself for freedom to Philadelphia.
One of the larger and more attractive pieces are the five-part columns by Baseera Khan that refer to Corinthian architecture as well as the Muslim faith. The moss columns are covered with colorful prayer rugs adorned with floral designs.
One of the many interactive works in the exhibition is “Domestika” by Jacolby Satterwhite, a virtual reality animation experienced using an Oculus headset. Images surround the viewer as they experience what Satterwhite calls a “queer techno-futuristic utopia” inspired by the video game “Final Fantasy VII”.
The Constantina Zavitsanos postal call is also interactive, a huge wooden ramp that visitors are encouraged to walk on. In the accompanying “All the Time”, quotes from the artist are both projected on the wall and broadcast – except that they are at a frequency that humans cannot comprehend. No problem, they translate into vibrations you can feel on the ramp which looks like a king size bed and can’t help but make you think of low-cost motels.
Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas turned over the construction of his five sculptures to an artist and four graduate students from Ohio State University. From his sketches, they built five red and black structures: one is a wheelchair, one is possibly a desk, and the other three are abstract. But all are as graceful and attractive as the works of sculptor Alexander Calder.
San Francisco-born collective Futurefarmers offers the most multi-part installation, retracing the journey by sea from traditional farmers’ grain to their homelands. The installation includes a beautiful digital printed map, videos of the voyage at sea, glass globes with seeds, a reconstructed ship mast and a message that comes full circle in the exhibition. Printed in Morse code, the message reads, “We don’t need museums to preserve varieties. What we want is to make them grow.
There are many more works of art in “Climate Change”. It’s a mammoth exhibition, intelligent but it is also accessible (another sheet here for the exhibition guide) and full of surprises. His intelligent and referential works give credence to the idea that an art museum must indeed create as much as maintain.
In one look
“Climate Change: On Artists, Institutions and the Social Environment” continues through May 9 at the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, 1871 N. High St. Hours: 11 am to 4 pm Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday. Cost of timed tickets: $ 9; or $ 7 for seniors, faculty and OSU staff; free for members and students; free for everyone after 4 p.m. on Thursday and all day on Sunday. Call 614-292-3535 or visit wexarts.org.