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Riffe Gallery shows the Midwest in modernist light

Modernism in the Midwest.’

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“Against the Grain: Modernism in the Midwest” is an exhibit of paintings from Midwest artists being displayed at the Ohio Art Council’s Riffe Gallery.

“The exhibition concerns the history of modernism in the Midwest, an area defined by eight states: Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Minnesota, Iowa and Missouri,” according to an excerpt from an essay by William Robinson and Christine Fowler, the exhibit curator, at the entrance to the exhibit.

Consisting of several rooms of paintings, the exhibit is divided into six sections: “The Human Condition: Portraits,” “Ideal Form: Abstraction,” “The Social Order,” “Urban and Industrial Life,” “Beyond the City” and “Spirit and Imagination.” The exhibit includes 60 paintings.

The paintings are by artists who lived throughout the Midwest, including Ohio State alumni, and were painted between 1900 to 1950, Fowler said.

“Nothing like this exhibit has been produced by any curator or organization in the state,” said Mary Gray, director of the Riffe Gallery. Gray said this is the first exhibit that focuses on Midwestern modernism.

Modernism in this exhibit is a “wide breadth of styles and subjects interesting to those artists,” Fowler said. “It shows you the diversity being produced … (is) much more experimental.”

Fowler approached Gray about the exhibit for the Riffe Gallery about two years ago, Gray said.

The paintings are borrowed for the exhibit from various museums and private collections, and one painting comes from Santa Barbara, Calif., Fowler said.

“I like to uncover these gems,” she said.

Admission to the exhibit is free.

John Keller,  a Columbus resident and visitor at the exhibit, said he likes “this period of art” and was interested in seeing paintings by Henry Keller, who was from Cleveland.

Keller, a materials specialist at Liebert Corp., said he likes to see which galleries the paintings are from so he can visit them with his wife.

“It’s like a scouting mission,” he said.

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