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Wexner Center for the Arts to express blues genre in new exhibit, ‘Blues for Smoke’

September 18, 2013

seamon.17@osu.edu
An untitled piece by William Eggleston as part of ‘Blues for Smoke,’ which will take place at the Wexner Center for the Arts Sept. 21-Dec. 29.  Credit: Courtesy of William Eggleston

An untitled piece by William Eggleston as part of ‘Blues for Smoke,’ which is scheduled to take place at the Wexner Center for the Arts Sept. 21-Dec. 29.
Credit: Courtesy of William Eggleston

While Ohio Stadium will be covered in scarlet and gray Saturday, the Wexner Center for the Arts will begin boasting some blues.

From Saturday to Dec. 29, the color will paint the galleries and showrooms of the Wexner Center not only in pigment, but also as an aesthetic in the center’s new exhibit, “Blues for Smoke.”

The exhibit’s title is derived from jazz musician Jaki Byard’s 1960 album, but show curator Bennett Simpson, who is based at the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, went beyond musical influences to demonstrate the genre.

“I think the show stems from originally (Simpson’s) interest in music,” Bill Horrigan, curator at large at the Wexner Center said. “He is professionally a visual arts curator, and he wanted to sense the affinities within visual culture with what he felt blues as a musical tradition was about.”

Although the blues is original to music representation, Horrigan explained, the style can be translated across different mediums.

“One of the things about the blues is that it is such a flexible term,” Horrigan said. “Everyone gets the blues for various reasons. Sometimes it’s for love, sometimes it’s for race or poverty, all kinds of things. It’s immensely personal, and I think one of the goals of the show is for the works to make viewers ponder what it means to have the blues.”

The Wexner Center’s galleries are slated to showcase more than 40 different artists expressing the blues genre in different forms. The pieces are organized in the galleries to first introduce viewers to the basic concept of the blues and end with a more abstract representation of the genre, Patrick Weber, senior preparator at the Wexner Center, explained.

One of the more interesting pieces in the show, Wexner Center spokesman Erik Pepple said, is an installation by Zoe Leonard that displays more than 40 blue suitcases propped up in a line. The piece, Pepple said, is an ongoing project of Leonard’s, who is a former resident artist at the Wexner Center.

“I cannot speak for (Leonard), but it is in a lot of ways kind of a living piece because it continues to grow, as this piece is refined and worked on,” Pepple said.

Additionally, multimedia art forms are to be infused with the paintings, photographs and sculptures. Guests will have the opportunity to listen to blues-inspired artists like punk band Bad Brains while watching film and television clips.

The entirety of the hit HBO show “The Wire” is set to play throughout the galleries, and Weber said Bennett’s choice in playing the series, which is based in Baltimore, Md., is based off the multiculturalism displayed in the episodes, which Pepple said he believes to be a core aspect of the blues genre.

“The exhibit explores issues of identity, including issues pertaining to African-American identity and American culture at large,” Pepple said. “There are issues of LGBT identity in there, gender identity, a broad swath of issues are covered in the show, and how … these types of art forms can be used as a form of expression.”

“Blues for Smoke” comes one year following Wexner Center’s Annie Leibovitz exhibit last fall. Leibovitz’s photographs garnered a lot of foot traffic to the Center’s galleries because her art is considered by many to be iconic of contemporary America, according to Matt Reber, buyer and manager of the Wexner Center’s store.

However, although some of the works date back to the 1950s and may not seem as modern as Leibovitz’s photographs, “Blues for Smoke” is not a historical recreation, Horrigan explained.

“The works go up to the present. For example, there’s some paintings of Amy Winehouse, there’s lots of rap music, which the show kind of argues is a continuation by other means of the blues,” Horrigan said. “The show is very much about right now.”

OSU students can view the exhibit before the general public on Friday at the Wexner Center’s annual fall student party. During the party, which is scheduled to begin at 9 p.m. and run until midnight, the center’s galleries will be open, gallery tours will be provided and pizza will be served. The 2012 film “Django: Unchained” will also be screened at the party, which, Pepple explains, fits in with the blues’ virtue of expressing identity. Students must have a valid BuckID for admittance.

“Blues for Smoke” opens to the general public Saturday and will run through Dec. 29. Admission is free for students and those under 18 years old, $8 for the general public and $6 for OSU faculty and staff and senior citizens. All visitors are admitted for free each Thursday after 4 p.m. and the first Sunday of each month.

The galleries are open from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays and 11 a.m. – 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.


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