Visual art can be a lot of things to different people. For example, few would deny its transport capacity. Many of us share the memory of looking intensely at different works of art and feeling that we are part of the artwork that we are viewing, or that the artwork has helped shape a world in which we can immerse ourselves.
Likewise, art has the capacity to tell a story. Through the medium that an artist has chosen, a story can be told that can offer a more intimate look at how we might better understand an event, a series of events, or even a difficult concept. The artist can offer a deep insight into the community in which the artist lives.
Two exhibits presented at the Akron Soul Train Gallery tell stories about the Greater Akron community from special angles. “Reshaping the Narrative,” a collaborative community project with Akron’s Black Artists Guild, and “We should be home,” an exhibition of the work of artist-in-residence Arron Foster, help highlight what makes north – Ohio and Akron is a special place to call home.
Akron Soul Train has teamed up with the Black Artists Guild to produce “Reshaping the Narrative”. Curated by Dara Harper, the exhibit features a 30-minute film by Fred Barrett that tells the stories of black families who immigrated to Akron, a selection of heirlooms and an exhibition of photographs by Talia Hodge.
The film is inspiring to watch, and the heirlooms help anchor and add meaning to the overall shared story. Certainly the photographs help to communicate and share a deeper connection with our community. The artist’s talent for presenting photos that are conceptually interesting and skillful in composition and technique helps hold the entire exhibit together.
Hanging in a ‘loose living room style’, the images have been produced on a larger scale and hang elegantly on the wall. Familiar images of Akron are included along with images of families, individual community members, children, and people working or engaged in their lives. Each image would be effective on its own in communicating a story which, like the film, helps inspire the viewer.
Arron Foster has several works on display in the gallery. Foster is an artist whose work also explores migration.
In his artist statement, he notes: “As a transplanted person from the Appalachians in northeastern Ohio, I take a keen interest in the deep connections between the two regions. Research and history have shown that throughout the 20th century, Akron, Ohio was an epicenter of Appalachian migration as large groups of skilled and unskilled workers flocked to the area to work for the tire industries. and rubber. While some of these transplants only remained for one season, others took hold and became established parts of the community.
“Migration has been an important part of the Appalachian experience and reflects the conditions of a changing world. During my residency, I strove to create a body of work that graphically represents the physical and cultural landscapes of the places people have left and the places they have settled. I believe that the shared exploration and interpretation of places can foster empathy for the spaces we occupy. and perhaps foster a greater sense of stewardship and care.
Foster is best known as an engraver. His most striking works in the exhibition are large wall pieces made up of several prints that together form a cohesive whole.
“We Should Be Home” (also the title of Foster’s exhibition) is an image made up of 24 silkscreens that show a photographic representation of a farm field in the foreground with houses and a large hill in the background. This piece conveys an ingrained sense of earth and earth. This wall installation creates a rural feel not only in the shared subject, but also through the artist’s choice to use green as the main color.
Another screen printing installation is “Run, Run, Run”. However, instead of a rural scene, this work features 36 squares made up of repeating images of a brick red colored tire with yellow chrome rims against a black background. It’s important to note that the composition works because the artist was able to create a repeating pattern that would showcase the tire in the larger and smaller versions. Due to the different sizes of the subject and the colors chosen, the installation vibrates and creates a visual flatness and foreground and background confusion that is particularly engaging.
Through its leadership role in the community as a center for contemporary artistic research, Akron Soul Train, shows once again with these exhibits why it is shaping the contemporary art narrative in Akron and helping to form a new vision of which can happen locally for artists who call Northeast Ohio home.
If you needed a reason to brave the construction going on in downtown Akron, “Reshaping the Narrative” and “We Should Be Home” are great reasons to do so.
Anderson Turner is Director of Collection and Galleries at Kent State University School of Art. Contact him at [email protected]
Exhibitions: “Reshaping the Narrative” and “We Should Be Home”
Place: Akron Soul Train, 191 S. Main St.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday until December 18.
More information: akronsoultrain.org or 330-573-0517