In celebration of its centennial, the Akron Art Museum announces a reinstallation of its collection galleries, titled Share the Past, Create the Future: Selections from the Akron Art Museum Collection. The spaces have been completely revamped, the most dramatic change that they have undergone in over a decade. In the galleries, visitors will witness the fantastic progress the institution has made in its collection over the past one hundred years. Share the Past will be on view in the Museum’s Sandra L. and Dennis B. Haslinger Family Foundation Galleries through April 9, 2023.
Share the Past features works of art organized around themes strongly represented in the collection. In organizing the collection by theme and not by historical period, the Museum invites viewers to experience art in a way that reflects the present day. Some of the artworks have been shown frequently throughout the institution’s history, while others are being displayed for the very first time. Each object on view is meant to invite new and fresh conversations. Through this presentation, the aim is to offer a more inclusive look at the embedded diversities within the history of art.
“I’m so excited to share a refreshed presentation of the collection with our community,” Jared Ledesma, senior curator said. “The thematic galleries strengthen the Museum’s relevancy while also displaying a more comprehensive overview of our holdings. It was difficult to place favorites into storage, but thrilling to pull new works from the vault and place them alongside hallmarks of the collection.”
Each gallery in this reinstallation is organized around one of the following themes: The Otherworldly and the Fantastic, The Political Landscape, Realism, Images of Blackness, Abstraction, and The Natural World.
THE OTHERWORLDLY AND THE FANTASTIC: The atrocities of World War I and its abysmal aftermath intensified the desire for many artists working in the early-twentieth century to create works inspired by psychology, fantasy, science fiction, and spirituality. Since then, artists have remained motivated to produce art grounded in these particular themes and areas of thought. The artworks in this gallery exemplify this, conveying meaning through fantastic imagery or subject matter.
THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE: For centuries, landscapes have been regarded by artists as worthy subject matter in their own right. Though viewed as a means to display natural beauty, landscapes often unveil subjective and political undertones. In this gallery, some artists employ unique materials and photographic techniques to subvert the landscape tradition, while other, more conventional works are seen anew.
REALISM: Artists can find subject matter for their work simply by looking at the people, places, and things around them. However, as the works in this gallery demonstrate, there are many different ways to show reality—some artists produce dense and intricate detail, while others freely explore imaginative styles.
IMAGES OF BLACKNESS: During the 1920s, the growing population of Black artists and creative thinkers in Harlem, New York, prompted a Black Pride movement that motivated countless artists in New York and across the United States to illustrate the hardships and joys of Black Americans. Over the course of 100 years, artists have continued to develop this subject matter and, in the process, have inspired younger generations to challenge the fundamental disparities of Black representation. In this gallery you’ll find examples of both, demonstrating the subtle yet various degrees of the Black experience.
ABSTRACTION: When art does not show anything recognizable and instead is composed of pure shapes and colors, it is called abstract. That label applies to each work of art in this gallery. Artists have often pursued abstraction as a way to immediately communicate their feelings and experiences, or other concepts that cannot be represented directly by images. Through abstraction, artists have also explored the materials, processes, and tools of art-making, and the experience of viewing artwork.
THE NATURAL WORLD: Nature can be beautiful, overwhelming, nurturing, dangerous, and more. For perhaps as long as art has existed, artists have hoped to capture these qualities in their work. Many have also sought to examine the ever-changing relationship between humans and the natural world. Each in their own way, the artists featured in this gallery extend and expand these traditions.
Assistant Curator Jeff Katzin, PhD, stated, “These new installations have provided a wonderful occasion to look to both the past and the future. We’ve been able to reflect on the century of hard work, smart choices, and community support that built the Museum’s collection, while also considering how we can expand on that legacy. It has been a privilege to help mark this historic occasion and to share it with our visitors.”
This reinstallation almost doubles the number of artists represented in the collection galleries, including nineteen women and eighteen artists of color as well as twenty-five works never shown before. Among the works never shown are Homage to Nature, a key photograph by Sarah Charlesworth, a seminal figure of the Pictures Generation, and The Beach, an eerie and intoxicating painting by Nicaragua-born, Miami-based artist Farley Aguilar. Visitors will also be pleased to find Nick Cave’s Soundsuit, which joined the Museum’s collection in 2019 but has been off-view since.