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Art exhibition walks visitors through half-century of contemporary art

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Beginning with a 1962 Andy Warhol piece, “Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne” tells a story of contemporary art that spans half a century.

The Arts Initiative at Ohio State will showcase “Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne” from Aug. 25 to Nov. 7 at the OSU Urban Arts Space, Hopkins Hall Gallery and on the facade of the former Long’s bookstore, located at the corner of 15th Avenue and High Street.

Los Angeles-based art collector and founder of The Skylark Foundation, Blake Byrne originally conceived this exhibition along with Barbara Schwan, executive director of The Skylark Foundation.  

The Skylark Foundation is a private family foundation that seeks to serve the communities where Byrne’s family lives — including Los Angeles, California; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Charlotte, North Carolina

“(Byrne and Schwan) wanted to have an exhibition to send to universities that had been important to Blake and to his family,” said Joseph Wolin, senior curator for the exhibition.

As the alma mater of both of Byrne’s parents, OSU was selected as one of the exhibit’s destinations.

Wolin described the setup of the show as roughly chronological, stating that the exhibition’s themes showcase many of the major art movements of the last 50 years. Some of these themes include pop art and conceptualism, minimalism, performance art and the abject body and identity politics.

“This is an exhibition that I put together with the idea that it would be useful to both art history classes and studio art classes,” Wolin said. “In order to sort of talk about the recent history of contemporary art using actual objects.”

Valarie Williams, the associate dean of Arts and Humanities and executive director of the Arts Initiative at OSU, said the show’s use of themes and chronology makes it easy for students to follow as it takes them through five decades of contemporary art.

“One of the important things is that it is laid out for a teaching experience,” Williams said.

Merijn van der Heijden, deputy director of Exhibitions and Curatorial Practice for OSU’s Arts Initiative, said a collection that encompasses a range of work as extensive as what is featured in “Open This End” is hard to come by.

“The themes have a broad-reaching appeal to students who are interested in arts and culture,” van der Heijden said. “(The exhibition) is really about humanity in some ways.”

“Open This End: Contemporary Art from the Collection of Blake Byrne” will be displayed from Aug. 25 to Nov. 7 and admission is free.

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