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news release Akron Art Museum Celebrates Two Major Exhibitions This Fall

For Release: October 2

Akron, Ohio—The Akron Art Museum will present two major exhibitions this fall, opening both with a celebration on Friday, October 26, 2018. Jeff Donaldson: Dig and Allison Zuckerman: Pirate and Muse will open simultaneously in adjacent museum galleries, featuring a career-spanning retrospective of Donaldson’s work alongside the first solo museum exhibition of Zuckerman’s paintings and cut-out sculptures. Both artists have created thought-provoking, groundbreaking works that engage art history and contemporary culture.

Chief Curator Ellen Rudolph said “These two exhibitions present an incredible opportunity to see work by artists—Jeff Donaldson in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, and Allison Zuckerman today—whose works respond powerfully to the culture of their time. In their own way, each artist taps into a desire to transform the social power structures that have governed how Black people, in Donaldson’s case; and women, in Zuckerman’s case, have been represented in art. Both artists expand the conversation about contemporary society through their integration of art and the culture around them.

Jeff Donaldson: Dig explores the artist’s four-decade career, from his activist roots in Chicago as a co-founder of the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists (AfriCOBRA) in 1968, to his tenure as a professor at Howard University and vice president of the Barnes Foundation. Donaldson and his fellow co-founders birthed AfriCOBRA in an era of political and social unrest, amid an art world that privileged white artists and audiences. The group, still active today, sought to create a new kind of art that was both politically engaged and reflective of contemporary Black culture. It is among the most influential artist groups associated with the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s.

Donaldson’s paintings, prints and mixed media works combine his signature “coolade” colors, intricate patterns and African iconography, in conversation with and celebration of the history of African art and the roots of Black culture. Dig illustrates Donaldson’s belief in artists’ responsibility to create work that is socially relevant and visually striking.

Rudolph said, “Kaleidoscope patterns and surprising surface details come together with images and words that reference U.S. civil rights events, Africa’s colonial history and jazz culture. The result is a vibrant, multi-dimensional body of work that speaks to issues that are just as relevant to the world today as they were fifty years ago.”

Allison Zuckerman: Pirate and Muse presents new paintings and sculptures that recast the submissive, romanticized female muses painted by male artists throughout Western art history as commanding, empowered figures. Unruly and deliberately awkward, Zuckerman’s women are pieced together Frankenstein figures that shake the ground they walk on and unsettle viewers with their exuberance and large scale. The artist brazenly—and proudly—steals from male artists to create provocative artworks that confront our societal discomfort with women’s emotions, vulnerability and imperfection. A Picasso head, Lucas Cranach torso, Richard Prince hand, Cezanne fruit, Lichtenstein brushstrokes and Disney bluebirds converge to create a grotesque, unapologetic expression of the absurdly passive and idealized way that female figures have been depicted throughout history.

Zuckerman’s process—and the way she intends her work to be experienced—mirrors the fragmented, distracted and image-overloaded way we interact with the world today. She pulls together a multiplicity of sources, depositing hundreds of years’ worth of imagery, including body parts, accessories and background elements collected from the internet, into a single composition. The digitally composed works get printed on canvas, and the artist breathes life into them by painting directly on their surface. Zuckerman likens her process to the way people carefully curate identities on social media. Cobbled together from disparate sources, her figures are performances of people that when examined closely—like her cut-out sculptures—only exist in a flattened reality.

Rudolph said, “Allison’s work speaks to the way we conduct our lives through apps on our phones—the flat container of infinite images and information allows us to access anything at any time. While her process is of the moment, her work addresses a centuries-long dynamic of women being depicted as passive objects of desire.”

Zuckerman’s exuberant, maximalist aesthetic matches the pitch of her message. Describing her figures, she states, “They are grotesque and even monstrous, but also seductive, and I think they tap into a fear of being attracted to something that’s aggressive.” She describes the figures’ hysteria as “a celebration of not quieting down. The work needs to be loud.” She says, “It’s time for women to be listened to.”

Jeff Donaldson: Dig and Allison Zuckerman: Pirate and Muse will be on view through Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (January 21, 2019) at the Akron Art Museum.

The opening party for both exhibitions is Friday, October 26. Museum members will have early access to the exhibitions from 6:00 to 8:00 P.M. The exhibitions are free open to all from 8:00 to 9:00 P.M. The party will also feature music, food and special guests.

Jeff Donaldson: Dig is organized by The Everson Museum of Art, Syracuse, NY, and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, the Akron Community Foundation and Katie and Mark Smucker.

Allison Zuckerman: Pirate and Muse is organized by the Akron Art Museum with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Ohio Arts Council, the Akron Community Foundation and Katie and Mark Smucker.

For more information about Jeff Donaldson: Dig and Allison Zuckerman: Pirate and Muse at the Akron Art Museum, visit the museum at Join the conversation on social media with #AkronArtMuseum and follow the museum on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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