Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Swoon at The CAC

Also known as Swoon, Caledonia Curry is a renown street artist. For the moment, her work is on display within Cincinnati's Contemporary Arts Center and on its streets.

- "Swoon. The Canyon: 1999-2017" on display at the Contemporary Arts Center.

I had seen the artwork posted online before, but didn't know about the actual artist. When Blink rolled around in October 2017, I read about Swoon installing some of her work in Cincinnati as part of the festival. Laura and I went to have a look around Over-The-Rhine's alleyways and buildings before eventually catching the installation at the Contemporary Arts Center:

Swoon is known for her creation of human forms often painted on recycled newspaper. These portraits are sometimes of people she knows personally, other times of figures who call attention to social causes. Using wheat paste, the final pieces are typically glued onto the streetscapes of cities, adding another layer of character to the urban environment. They're intended to be on the same scale as the average human and close to the ground so that they can be inspected up close. With lots of detail and the familiar form of a face, these works connect with the viewer in a unique fashion.

If you wander around the northern parts of Over-The-Rhine near Findlay Market, you'll have the chance to view some of her work in its intended element. At the time of writing this post, they're all still there. Given their fragility, outside elements, and the ongoing restoration/redevelopment of buildings, they may not always be. As they wear, they'll continue to be part of a greater story spanning multiple cities.

The Contemporary Arts Center is also hosting a multi-level exhibit focused solely on Swoon's work. "The Canyon" features pieces which span her career from 1999-2017. The exhibit gives a different view of Swoon's process compared to what the outdoor ones show. Pieces are affixed to almost every surface of the gallery on both floors, rather than bricks of buildings. Her work consumes nearly all available space and is deserving of a slow walk-through, taking the time to view the details. In there, everything seems more fragile, not as secure as the ones held firm by a combination of wheat flour and water. In some of the more heavily trafficked areas such as the stairs, the pieces have become torn or are starting to peel away from where they're adhered, an example of the work's fragility that makes it seem less like fine art and something more real and relatable.

Another highlight of Swoon's work is the "Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea." These boats made of ordinary junk, captained to navigate and float the waters of New York City and Venice, Italy, aren't physically present, but are seen in a series of videos set to the music of Dark Dark Dark. The photographs of Tod Seelie, who has beautifully documented this maritime project, are also on display. You can check out a video about these ships and their crews here.

Ultimately, while the installation is great, I preferred seeing Swoon's work in the outdoor environment, existing on the street as something to stumbled upon. It's pretty incredible to see so much of the detailed work encompass a large space (and the CAC is a fantastic place), but it's even better when it's playing a part in the daily life around you. You can catch the exhibit at the CAC until February 25, 2018. Once the installation is removed, hopefully the Swoon pieces in OTR last awhile and maybe, we'll one day be able to see one of the flotillas being carried by the waters of the Ohio.

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