Heavy Metal

October 25, 2017

Akron Art Museum Presents the Sometimes Weighty, Sometimes Lighthearted Heavy Metal

For Release: July 25, 2017

Akron, Ohio—Whether in pure element, alloy or compound form, metal has served as a mother lode of ideas and materials for artists for centuries. On Saturday, August 12 the Akron Art Museum presents contemporary approaches to all things metallic in Heavy Metal, which pairs internationally known artists such as Yayoi Kusama and Lorna Simpson with artists who live in the Northeast Ohio community. Artists in the exhibition utilize metal or materials that resemble it to explore topics that include race and gender equality, personal narratives, the proliferation of warfare and others. Sculpture, jewelry, video, printmaking, painting, metalpoint, assemblage, tintypes and daguerreotypes will be on display.

Associate Curator Theresa Bembnister said, “Metal is rich in cultural connotations. Regardless of whether they are using gold, copper, silver, iron or another metal, the artists in this exhibition are mindful of the meaning of their chosen materials. Some artists make statements regarding value by disguising cast-off or common everyday items, such as cardboard or clothing, to resemble precious metals.”

Artists whose work is featured in Heavy Metal include Yayoi Kusama, whose wildly popular Infinity Mirrors exhibition is currently traveling across the country, as well as Kent State University School of Art associate professor Mahwish Chishty, and University of Akron associate professor of art Sherry Simms. Additional artists on view in the exhibition include Lynda Benglis, Lorna Simpson, Dale Goode, Michelle Grabner, Sarah Paul, Corrie Slawson and others.

Sometimes weighty, other times lighthearted, the themes expressed in Heavy Metal are articulated both through abstraction and realistic representation. As a playful critique of the fashion and cosmetic industry, Simms created a necklace that presents a cast of her own mouth in lipstick. Kusama’s Chair, part of the Akron Art Museum’s collection, has not been on view for three years, and combines elements of domesticity—furniture, sewing—with surreal, metallic phallic protrusions. Dale Goode creates dazzling sculptures made from discarded clothing and pieces of wood coated with metallic auto paint, giving the work a lustrous sheen.

Heavy Metal will be on view at the Akron Art Museum through February 18, 2018.

Heavy Metal is organized by the Akron Art Museum and supported by funding from the Ohio Arts Council.

For more information about Heavy Metal at the Akron Art Museum, visit AkronArtMuseum.org. Join the conversation on social media with #ArtHeavyMetal, and follow along on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Art review: Akron Art Museum polishes up ‘Heavy Metal’

 | By Anderson Turner
Special to the Beacon Journal

When you think of metal, you may think of weight, preciousness or even something forged for battle. Indeed, metal has many meanings and many different uses.

A small-but-intense show at the Akron Art Museum, Heavy Metal“features artworks made of metal or materials disguised to resemble metal, as well as images of or about lustrous chemical elements.” It’s an interesting show because of the variety of works chosen and because some of the artists haven’t been featured in a museum setting before. It highlights what is so wonderful about the Akron Art Museum and their curatorial staff: the willingness to explore and to take a risk in what they choose to exhibit.

Golden Balls is a video by Sarah Paul featuring “Little Miss Cleveland,” a beauty queen character developed by the artist in celebration of things and places that form Cleveland’s identity. The video is visually deep and textured, full of movement and rhythm. Like any good work of art, it has a quality that defies description. I would simply encourage you to check it out, as I felt like it helped make this show successful.

Sherry Simms’ Compact Cameo Lipstick is a well-crafted and somewhat haunting sculptural jewelry piece. The artist cast her own lips and used that for the shape of the makeup compact. So, in order to apply the makeup yourself, you would have to effectively kiss the compact. This is a sensual, absurd, beautiful work that challenges our notions of what beauty is and how we feel about it.

Goodbye Victorians features cast iron, chrome and nickel plating and a necklace given to the artist, Mary Jo Bole, by her grandmother. It’s a visceral and dream-like work that pays homage to a time in our history. It’s very intense and deeply felt, in some ways even confrontational, hard to examine.

Corrie Slawson’s The sun rises over the canyon mixing with ocean air. It lifts a crimson haze on a succulent studded hillside. Palm trees shudder. The ocean hammers the rocks below uses photo lithography, screenprint, colored pencil, oil, acrylic, gold leaf and spray paint on paper. It’s a wonderfully expressive work full of color and light. The piece investigates climate change: “This metaphor applies to the production of goods and luxuries taking precedence over human needs for clean air and water,” Slawson remarks on the label for the piece. “If we sacrifice the air to glitter and gold we will not be able to breathe it.”

Prick (Un petit somme d’Après-midi) by Alicia Ross features more than 600 needles sticking into a floral printed cotton pillow. It makes all kinds of statements about femininity and domesticity while being an intriguing sculptural work. Nothing is quite what it was originally intended to be, and that engages you and makes you contemplate why the artist has made her choices.

Michael Grabner’s Untitled silverpoint, copperpoint and black gesso on paper was done by dragging a sharpened metal rod across the surface, and has the feeling of a something left behind or even dug up. Like a remnant of manufacturing or something created through a geological process, Grabner’s work is subtle yet powerful and timeless in its composition and qualities.

Through the thoughtful choices of the curator and the excellent way in which the gallery spaces encourage you to interact with the artwork, this museum continues to shine a light on how strong the visual arts are in Akron.