Press Releases

news release: Akron Art Museum Presents Contemporary Geometric Abstraction from Northeast Ohio in NEO Geo

For Release: October 15, 2015

Akron, Ohio – Exuberant color, richly textured surfaces, illusory patterning and simplified geometric forms characterize NEO Geo, an exhibition of contemporary art celebrating geometric abstraction in Northeast Ohio today. The Akron Art Museum is pleased to showcase drawings, paintings, ceramics, textiles, prints, photographs and sculpture by eight artists working in studios in Cleveland, Cleveland Heights, Kent, Oberlin, Newbury and Toledo. NEO Geo, which will be on view from Nov. 21, 2015 through April 24, 2016, examines geometric abstraction’s ongoing relevance in Northeast Ohio.

“Geometric abstraction pares art down to simple shapes, but these limits allow for an incredible amount of experimentation and innovation. The artists of NEO Geo expand the genre through their use of unexpected materials and processes or through their pursuit of new meaning,” comments Akron Art Museum Associate Curator Theresa Bembnister. “I’m excited to exhibit the work of contemporary artists in our very own community.”

In the 1960s and 70s, painters and sculptors in Cleveland, Oberlin and Kent created abstract works dependent upon hard-edged geometric forms. Guided by pre-determined systems based on logic or mathematics, they were motivated by their interests in science, psychology and technology. Artists working in the region today use a combination of pre-determined systems and intuitive responses to create the underlying geometry of their work. Included in NEO Geo are artists united by a shared visual vocabulary of non-representative curvilinear and rectilinear forms. These artists look to a number of rich and varied sources for insight and inspiration.

Responding directly to the history of art in Northeast Ohio, Michelle Marie Murphy (Cleveland/Chicago) photographs makeup palettes arranged in patterns mimicking Op Art paintings. Her work functions as a critique of both consumer culture and the beauty industry. “I see makeup as a loaded art supply,” she says. “It’s designed very carefully to be enticing. From a consumer standpoint, it is marketed toward specific target audiences. It’s put on display with intention, to draw in the customer and to make them believe this is the tiny solution for a more ideal aesthetic.”

Written communication provides inspiration for Amy Sinbondit (Cleveland Heights) and Kristina Paabus (Oberlin). Sinbondit balances geometry and gesture in her ceramic sculptures with swirls and curves borrowed from letter forms. For her multi-layered screenprints, Paabus chooses from stencils that function like letters of the alphabet—placed together, they make meaning. Her graphite drawings resemble Op Art, but reference her struggle with insomnia while living in Estonia, where winter brings only a few hours of daylight.

Natalie Lanese (Toledo) will create a walk-in painting that will challenge viewers’ sense of visual perception. “The constant thrill for me with my work is that the experience of a space can be completely altered just by using color, shapes and lines,” she says. Lanese will paint geometric designs with sponge-tipped brushes freehand directly to walls and floors of the Arnstein Gallery. “Brushstrokes and slight wobbles in the line remind the viewer that he or she is looking at a painting made by a person,” she observes.

Also featured are works by Janice Lessman-Moss (Kent), Erik Neff (Newbury), Paul O’Keeffe (Cleveland Heights) and Gianna Commito (Kent). Lessman-Moss expands upon weaving’s basic geometric grid structure with the explosive designs of her jacquard tapestries. Trained in art and entomology, Neff works in a studio in a rural, wooded setting. Life experiences and an intuitive decision-making process help shape his oil paintings, which feature soft, block-like forms. The highly reflective surfaces of Paul O’Keeffe’s hard-edged, wall-hanging sculptures also play with viewers’ senses, changing color depending on the angle at which the works are seen. Commito builds layer upon layer of casein (a paint created from milk proteins) to create subtly textured, multi-colored canvases with repeating stripes, x’s, squares and diamonds.

In concert with the NEO Geo exhibition, the Akron Art Museum has scheduled a free opening party on Nov. 20, 2015. Viewers will have the opportunity to connect with artists in the exhibition and enjoy live music and activities in the museum lobby. A preview for museum members starts at 6:30 p.m., and the reception is open to all from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m.

Related Events:
Gallery Tour: Erik Neff – February 25 • 6:30 pm • Akron Art Museum

Artists Dialogue: Gianna Commito, Erik Neff, Amy Sinbondit and Amy Yoes – March 31 • 6:30 pm • Akron Art Museum

Gallery Tour: Paul O’Keeffe – April 21 • 6:30 pm • Akron Art Museum

NEO Geo is organized by the Akron Art Museum and generously supported by Myrna Berzon, Dianne and Herbert Newman, the Kenneth L. Calhoun Charitable Trust and Harris Stanton Gallery.

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