Painters explored new ideas

By    Christopher A. Yates 

For the Columbus Dispatch

Published: Sunday, January 3, 2010
Edition: Home Final
Section: Features - Life & Arts
Page: 06E

The 1913 Armory Show, a grand spectacle in New York that celebrated avant-garde artists and new schools of art, was met with jeers as well as cheers.  

With hundreds of works of symbolism, impressionism, post-impressionism, cubism and more, the show proved to be a wake-up call for established American art markets, academies and museums.  

Ohio was not immune to the influx of new ideas.  

At Keny Galleries, the exhibitions "Edmund Kuehn: The Abstractions" and "Ohio and Modernism (1905-1939)" explore the effect of early 20th-century modernism on Ohio artists.  

Beginning in 1939, when he was a curator and assistant director for the Columbus Museum of Art, Kuehn helped to introduce and make modernism accessible to central Ohioans by spearheading the acquisition of the Ferdinand Howald Collection of American Modernist Art.  

As a painter, now 93, Kuehn continues to wrestle with the modernist ideas discovered in his youth.

Included in the exhibit are examples of his current and past work. Especially striking is a display of several small abstractions. Palmengarten, Bird of Paradise, and Cubistic Movement are particularly successful.

Serving as an anchor for the smaller works, Flying Acrobatics from 1953 reveals the push and pull of color saturation and temperature Kuehn learned while studying with Yasuo Kuniyoshi, Vaclav Vytlacil and Hans Hofmann.  

"Ohio and Modernism" offers a fine selection of works by Ohio artists, including a strong series by Cleveland painter August Biehle. In the two works Fire Tug on the Cuyahoga River; Cleveland West Side, Hillside Houses and Landscape Scene Near Canal, Biehle can be seen trying to sort out the influence of the Ashcan School, regionalism, cubism, futurism and synchronism.  

Similar searching can be found in William Sommer's The Pool. As a young man, he studied in Munich, Germany, and eventually settled in Cleveland in 1907. Employed as a lithographer, Sommer immersed himself in the avant-garde and befriended Henry Keller and William Zorach, both part of the 1913 Armory Show.  

Other strong pieces include Charles Burchfield's Drought, Sun and Corn; Lucius Kutchin's Mother and Child, New Mexico; Edna Boies Hopkins' Blossoms; and Viktor Schreckengost's Danse Moderne.



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