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1939

In the Beginning

In the Beginning

“The Modern Art Society is formally founded by Betty Pollak Rauh, Peggy Frank Crawford and Rita Rentschler Cushman. The three were encouraged by M.W. Warburg and Alfred H. Barr of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Each had very little museum experience and operated out of a makeshift office that consisted of “a letter file and a portable typewriter” and whichever living room was available. The MAS occupied a gallery space in the basement of the Cincinnati Art Museum. Enough funds were raised in the first year for six exhibitions.”

Cincinnati in 1939

Cincinnati in 1939

“In 1939 . . . one could not truthfully say that Cincinnati was marching in the vanguard of modern art movements . . . the attitude of the general public of Cincinnati roughly approximated that of New York at the time of the Armory show . . . the worlds of Klee or even Picasso were pretty far away . . . So, actually, 1939 was as good a time as any to break a leg . . . because that’s the way the Cincinnati Modern Art Society began . . . with a broken leg” - Betty Pollak Rauh

Funding

Funding

By the fall of the same year the founders were able to raise enough money for six shows per year that would be brought to the Cincinnati Art Museum. Rita Rentschler mentions that this fund, which covered “freight charges, insurance costs . . . publication of a catalogue for each show, invitations to previews, announcements and mailing costs,” was about $5,000.

Modern Paintings from Cincinnati Collections

Modern Paintings from Cincinnati Collections

The very first exhibition held by the Modern Art Society ran from November through December. It featured works from Jacob Epstein, Georg Kolbe, Fernand Léger, John Marin and others. Cards were distributed at this first show which listed the goals of the newly founded MAS: “ ‘1. To invite general membership; 2. To bring fine exhibitions of modern art to Cincinnati; 3. To sponsor lectures on modern art to Cincinnati.’ ”

1940

The Lending Gallery

The Lending Gallery

The Society also created the country’s second Lending Gallery where visitors could pay to take art home with them (some art was available for purchase). The Lending Gallery expanded to include international art in 1956. The program was eventually ended because the escalating insurance prices made it difficult to ship important pieces.

Picasso: 40 Years of His Art

Picasso: 40 Years of His Art

Picasso's Guernica tours the Midwest for the first and only time.

Peggy Frank Crawford is director

Three Modern Masterpieces

Three Modern Masterpieces

Two shows, Three Modern Masterpieces and Three Modern Sculptors, were designed to encourage discussion between Cincinnatians and modern art. To do this, each show featured a voting system. The first show featured three paintings: Renoir’s Le Moulin de la Galette (left), Hills at St. Remy by Van Gogh (right), and Calvary by Gauguin (bottom). The Renoir piece was the most popular.

Three Modern Sculptors

Three Modern Sculptors

The second ballot show featured Georg Kolbe’s Assunta (left) as the winner, beating out Standing Woman by Gaston Lachaise (middle) and L’Ile de France by Aristide Maillol (right) with scores of 81, 66 and 63, respectively. 11 votes were cast in opposition to the entire show.

1941

Expressionism

Expressionism

Exhibited “to render a long needed service. By showing together a group of paintings united only by the warm, personal spirit in which they are painted, we hope to make clear that nationality and chronology have little to do with art.” - Peggy Frank

Marsden Hartley and Stuart Davis

Marsden Hartley and Stuart Davis

“Two of the most solid and individual American painters and thinkers on art are Marsden Hartley and Stuart Davis” - Peggy Frank

“You are certainly setting some standards out there which are sure to affect other institutions throughout the country." - Stuart Davis

1942

Marion Becker is director

Marion Becker is director

25 Creative American Painters

25 Creative American Painters

“It is up to disinterested public art institutions and groups who have no ‘axes to grind’ to lead the way in encouraging those artists who are thinking and painting in honest and creative terms. The Cincinnati Modern Art Society . . . [presents] this exhibition of ‘Twenty-Five Creative Modern American Painters’ with the above idea in mind” - Peggy Frank

1945

Modern Art in Advertising

Modern Art in Advertising

Modern Art in Advertising, which featured works by Rufino Tamayo, Fernand Léger and Willem deKooning, was sponsored originally by the Art Institute of Chicago "because they considered the series one of the most artistically progressive advertising programs ever initiated by a large industrial enterprise and because of the economic opportunities offered [it] offered artists in such a relationship” (Marion R. Becker, modern art in advertising).

Accident and Design

Accident and Design

Accident and Design was created in 1945 for the CAC by Robert Goldwater, a prominent art historian. The MAS tasked him with putting together a show that illustrated the kind of styles and features that modern artists (such as Klee, Brancusi and Gauguin) were drawing from nonwestern art, including “African masks . . . Greek bronzes and American Indian artifacts.” In Goldwater’s own words, “ ‘They [the nonwestern works of art] were not the cause of his [contemporary artists] freedom from nineteenth century naturalism, but when he was ready they helped him attain it.’”

1946

Fred Lewy Exhibition

Lewy's show was picked up for circulation by the American Federation of the Arts.

Thomas C. Adler is director

1947

Edward H. Dwight is director

1948

Juan Gris

Juan Gris

The CAC presents the first American showing of Juan Gris’s retrospective.

1949

10th Anniversary of the MAS

10th Anniversary of the MAS

“ ‘I have followed with admiration the work of the Cincinnati Modern Art Society since its foundation ten years ago. Although its administration has changed several times, I have been impressed by its consistently courageous and progressive policies which have produced at times exhibitions which I have greatly regretted bit having seen in New York.’ ”
Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Director of Museum Collections, MoMA, NY.
Excerpt from the catalog on the 10th Anniversary Exhibition
(MAS: The Center’s Early Years, 8).

1951

Buckminster Fuller

Buckminster Fuller gives a lecture at the MAS.

1952

M. A. New Painters

M. A. New Painters

A show that was set to be a yearly exhibition in which 5 new to Cincinnati artists were presented. While an identical show did not occur each year afterwards, the idea of showing lesser known artists continued on in other exhibits.

1953

MAS Administration

“Between 1940 and 1953, the Modern Art Society had four different directors. They were called variously, Director, Art Director, or Program Chairman depending on the circumstances. Sometimes they were paid, but more often not, as every scrap of money which we received from membership (there were no large gifts in the early years) went into exhibitions, lectures and catalogs”

Selections of American Paintings

Selections of American Paintings

Peggy Frank Crawford arranged this show commenting: “The resulting group of artists exhibited are heterogeneous, both in age and philosophy, homogeneous only in that all are represented by oil paintings. The common denominator in this exhibition is a matter of my personal conviction that each of these pictures is a fine thing to look at, worth serious attention”.

1954

The Contemporary Arts Center

The Contemporary Arts Center

A successful vote is cast to change the society’s name to the Contemporary Arts Center.

Renovated Spaces

Renovated Spaces

Architects Carl Strauss, Ray Roush and Michael graves remodel part of the lower floor of the Cincinnati Art Museum into 2 permanent galleries for the CAC.

Robert H. Luck is director

Artist Members and Collectors

This show was a completely unjuried exhibition and had local Cincinnati artists displaying works right next to artists like Joan Miró, Georges Braque, Picasso, and Rouault.

1955

Allon T. Schoener is director

1957

Logo

Logo

1958

CAC membership doubles since 1953

The jump in numbers was due to a "campaign to enlarge membership" that began in 1953 under the president Mrs. Warner Atkins. This program, alongside increased community activities, exhibitions with wider appeal and the new permanent gallery spaces resulted in huge membership gains.

1960

The Laurens Collection

The Laurens Collection

The Collection of Frank and Ursula Laurens displayed a large selection of private art in Cincinnati. Their collection was noteworthy for its 62 works by Paul Klee

1962

The CAC Moves Out of the Cincinnati Art Museum

The addition of the Emery Wing at the CAM replaces the original space belonging to the MAS. The CAC moves to a space in Carew Tower.

The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller

The Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Heller that the recent program referred to was a collection that circulated from the MoMA that featured contemporary abstract painters such as Willem deKooning, Philip Guston, Barnett Newman, Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.

1963

Pop Art at the CAC

Pop Art at the CAC

The Pop Art show An American Viewpoint is one of the first museum exhibitions of its kind.

“The work of the six artists included in this exhibition represents the most important force in the fine arts today” (Allon T. Schoener).

1964

On the Move Again

The CAC moves to a 4,000 square foot gallery on the fourth floor of the Women’s Exchange building after temporarily occupying spaces in the Taft Museum and Carew Tower.

E. Pope Coleman is acting director

William A. Leonard is director

1965

Joseph Albers

Joseph Albers

“The Contemporary Arts Center . . . has organized this exhibition . . . to circulate throughout the country in order to acknowledge his [Albers’] contribution as an innovator of a new development which he refers to as ‘perceptual’ art . . .”

1966

The Museum Directors’ Selections for Photography in the Fine Arts

The Museum Directors’ Selections for Photography in the Fine Arts

“Nine eminent experts in art have selected 152 pictures from 1042 examples prejudged by photographics organizations and authorities in the field.” The show debuted at the MoMA and began with a search for works 18 months before the selection. Selection allowed “all points of view, asking only that the product of a man’s work contain that certain spark which kindles in a sensitive observer a response to its message.” During the judging there was a simple collection of votes that lacked any “expression of opinions”, so there was no arguing over inclusion.

Andy Warhol Happening

Andy Warhol Happening

A special, one night presentation of Warhol's The Exploding Plastic Inevitable featuring The Velvet Underground and Nico.

1968

Richard J. Daley Protest Show

Richard J. Daley Protest Show

A protest exhibit that featured roughly 50 works that not so subtly voiced criticism with Chicago’s then mayor, Richard Daley, who had recently told his chief of police to shoot to kill any “arsonist or anyone with a Molotov cocktail in his hand” (referencing the riots in response to MLK’s assassination). Artists included Claes Oldenburg, Adolph Gottlieb, Roy Lichtenstein and Robert Rauschenberg

1970

A Home at the Mercantile Center

A Home at the Mercantile Center

The CAC moves to the Mercantile Center on 5th Street where it remained for 30 years. The move was reported in the Cincinnati Enquirer as " 'a matter of intense satisfaction for a wide group of Cincinnatians.' " It was designed by Harry Weese (who designed Metro Subway System in Washington DC) and featured 10,000 sq. ft. of space.

5th Street Location

5th Street Location

The new space opened with the Monumental Art show which expanded outward into Fountain Square. The new center would introduce Cincinnati to performance and video art through over 400 different exhibitions that spanned 30 a little over 30 years.

1971

CAC Closes Until Fall

The center ran into financial issues in 1971. It closed down for the summer and lost its director, William Leonard. With a smaller budget and the help from volunteers, the center was able to reopen in the fall.

Duchamp, Johns, Rauschenberg, Cage

Duchamp, Johns, Rauschenberg, Cage

Nearly 1,000 people were in attendance for the opening, including John Cage and Mrs. Duchamp.

1972

Jack Boulton is director

Eat Art

Eat Art

The first show of the 1972 season saw an exhibition filled with works made from edible materials such as an ice cream still life from Wilmer Graeter, golden chewing gum sculptures from Les Levine and Tom Marioni with both a live and video taped piece.

1975

São Paulo

São Paulo

The CAC’s video art exhibition represents the United States at the São Paulo Biennale.

1976

Ruth Meyer is acting director

Selections from the Permanent Collection of the Vent Haven Museum

Selections from the Permanent Collection of the Vent Haven Museum

A large exhibition was on display in 1976 consisting of selected ventriloquist puppets. The items came from the Vent Haven museum in Kentucky.

Chuck Close

Chuck Close

A travelling exhibition that visited the CAC comprised of Close's large scale dot drawings. The show also displayed works in progress to help viewers better understand the creation process.

1977

Proposals for Sawyer Point

Proposals for Sawyer Point

"We [the CAC] present this exhibition hoping to call to the attention of the people of Cincinnati both the potential of the site itself and the potential contribution which contemporary artists can make to the design of public spaces. The proposals for Sawyer Point Park not only complement the city’s concept for the park, but also provide us with an exhibition of current artistic interest”

1978

Robert Stearns is director

Arabesque

Arabesque

“This exhibition presents an assessment of the recent interest on the part of selected contemporary artists in patterns, ornamentation and the complexities of organically based design."

The work in the photograph, entitled Stahahe Sphere and Solomon Palm Arcade, inhabited the center area of the Mercantile Center

1979

de Kooning 1969 - 1978

de Kooning 1969 - 1978

A visiting exhibition that focused on the artist's most recent 10 years, linking his recent canvas works to his sculptural pieces.

Logo

Logo

1982

Permanence

CAC acquires a permanent lease through a city bond for its location on 5th Street.

1983

Body Language

Body Language

A show focusing on the reemergence of the figure in artists' works throughout the 1970s. Works included paintings, photos, sculptures and drawings from artists such as Cindy Sherman, Robert Longo, Richard Prince and Julian Schnabel.

Dennis Barrie is director

1984

Disarming Images

Disarming Images

Disarming Exhibitions was put together by the rt Museum Association for America.

"As we approach the middle of the decade it is becoming increasingly clear that the consciousness of the '80s is being shaped by the threat of nuclear war . . . each work [in the exhibition] simultaneously addresses the issue [of nuclear war], either directly or indirectly, and also reflects the ongoing aesthetic concerns of the artist" (Nina Felshin).

1985

Segments IV: Nam June Paik Video Flag X

Segments IV: Nam June Paik Video Flag X

A moving painting comprised of 84 television monitors. The images on each TV were taken from Paik's own archive of videotapes and collectively resemble the American flag.

1988

Sawyer Point

Sawyer Point

The Center commissions Andrew Leicester to create a public sculpture for the entranceway to the newly constructed Sawyer Point Park on the riverfront. Leicester's design draws criticism and becomes part of the ongoing national debate on public art. At a hearing in the City of Cincinnati Council Chambers, the public voices its resounding support for the work.

Metrobot

Metrobot

The CAC's iconic Metrobot is installed as a commission for the 50th anniversary of The Center and the bicentennial of Cincinnati. The sculpture, designed by Nam June Paik, is an abstract electronic robot which gives the time and temperature, relays arts information, has a public telephone in its leg and a glowing pink neon heart.

1989

Encore I and II

Encore I and II

To celebrate our 50 year anniversary a double exhibit called Encore I and Encore II is held to represent significant artists shown at the CAC during the 1970s and the 1980s. The goal was to select artists from this time period who were exhibited at a pivotal point in their career.

Looking Towards a New Space

Early ideas begin for relocating the CAC. Preliminary suggestions included the former Ohio Mechanics Institute - College of Applied Science Building (now the Emery Center) and moving into the then-recently constructed Aronoff center. The first location even had a preliminary “adaptive re-use concept” drawn up by an architectural team called Morphosis (Michael Rotondi and Tom Mayne). Both suggestions were shelved and delayed due to the event surrounding the Mapplethorpe exhibit.

1990

The Mapplethorpe Exhibit

The Mapplethorpe Exhibit

The CAC hosts the 20 Year Robert Mapplethorpe retrospective. Sherriff Simon Leis Jr. charged the CAC and director Dennis Barrie with pandering obscenity and sought to shut down the museum. The charges were dropped. The CAC voluntarily withdraws from the Fine Arts Fund donation (accounting for 17% of its income). Nearly 81,000 people visited the Mapplethorpe exhibition

1991

Mechanika

Mechanika

"Since the Industrial Age and particularly the 20th century, artists have examined the impact of the machine upon their societies. Paintings from the 19th century for example, celebrated the industrial might of nations. In the 1920s and '30s the Futurists found inspiration and hope for a new world order in the metaphor of the machine . . . Mechanika, an exhibition organized by the Contemporary Arts Center, takes a look at how a number of contemporary artists are currently using machine-based imagery to explore the issues of contemporary society" (Dennis Barrie, Mechanika).

1992

South Bronx Hall of Fame: John Ahearn/Rigoberto Torres

South Bronx Hall of Fame: John Ahearn/Rigoberto Torres

"This exhibition celebrates the body of work John Ahearn has made in collaboration with Rigoberto Torres since 1979 when they met at Fashion Moda . . . It was the process of molding masks and disguises for film characters that turned him [Ahearn] to casting sculptures . . . In Torres' case, he learned to make sculptural casts in his uncle's religious statuary factory in the South Bronx" (Suzanne Delehanty, Director at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston).

1993

Elaine A. King is director

Walton Ford and Julie Jones

Walton Ford and Julie Jones

"When I became aware of the work of Walton Ford and Julie Jones nearly three years ago, I was struck by the similarity of their styles as well as their choice of subject matter. During a time when most contemporary artists shunned the figure in their work, Walton and Julie each elected to use the figure . . . to tell a story" (Jan Riley, Walton Ford and Julie Jones).

1995

Charles Desmarais is director

1996

Humongolous

Humongolous

"Predictably, over the past several years artists have reacted against the perceived slickness of the neo-Pop eighties . . . Unquestionably, Tim Hawkinson's work, too, responds to the history of art of the past three decades. Equally important, however, is its implied critique of the two key social structures it emulates: the worlds of art and of industry" (Charles Desmarais, Humongolous).

1997

In Search of Significance: A Symposium on Building Greatness

“ ‘I know of no other time a program like this has existed . . . This is the first time . . . that an institution has mounted this kind of public event at this stage of the game, at this part of the process - at the very beginning. We are all here not to be the architectural equivalent of Monday-morning quarterbacks, and that . . . says a huge amount about the seriousness with which the CAC and Cincinnati are going about this business’ ” (Paul Goldberger in Zaha Hadid, Space for Art, 21).

1998

A Final Design

A Final Design

The Board of Trustees awards Zaha Hadid with the commission of the new CAC building design. Also, the purchase of land at 6th and Walnut is approved.

1999

A Name for the New Building

A Name for the New Building

After a contribution by Lois and Richard Rosenthal to the new CAC building the CAC is voted to be named “The Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for the Contemporary Art”.

2002

My Reality

My Reality

"My Reality: Contemporary Art and the Culture of Japanese Animation explores the notion of the invented communal or personal reality that functions as an avenue of escape from contemporary social circumstances. For both the Eastern and Western artists participating in the exhibition, escape derives from fantasy and play . . . My reality, your reality - it's all just an illusion" (Jeff Fleming).

2003

Grand Opening

Grand Opening

The new Lois & Richard Rosenthal Center for Contemporary opens in the spring, featuring 85,000 square feet, including a black box performance space and an education center known as the UnMuseum

Logo

Logo

2004

Andree Hymel Bober is interim director

Linda Shearer is director

Beautiful Losers

Beautiful Losers

Beautiful Losers is an exhibition of multimedia art and design that explores the recent work of a diverse group of visual artists who participate in or are inspired by aspects of the street culture loosely organized around skateboarding, graffiti, punk, and hip hop subcultures in U.S. urban centers. The core of the project involves painting, sculpture, and photography, as well as film, video, web-based projects, performance, and clothing and product design by more than fifty individuals who have emerged in the last decade??"some now established figures in the art world, but many receiving their first broad exposure here.

2006

Cynthia Goodman is interim director

Bunch Alliance and Dissolve

Bunch Alliance and Dissolve

Bunch Alliance and Dissolve investigates the structural potentialities of a group exhibition, and the temporal nature of correlations that are drawn by third parties between artists' works. The show includes approximately twenty-five international artists. While a number of the participating artists have exhibited extensively, the majority are early-career artists, for whom this will be their first museum exhibition.

2007

Raphaela Platow is director

The Blues Quartet

The Blues Quartet

This installation by artist and musician João Paulo Feliciano features two multi-media works and two graphic wall installations filling the expansive windowed Kaplan Hall with an array of sound and light. Because the effect is unpredictable, the installation is truly part sculpture, part event. This somewhat random system takes on a personality, changing its form and quality of light in sync with its environment and surroundings.

2010

Shepard Fairey

Shepard Fairey

19 works by Shepard Fairey are installed around the region in parallel to his upcoming show. One piece, Duality of Humanity 4 Pike Street, is painted over in less than 48 hours after its installation. During the exhibit, free Google-endorsed SCVNGR mobile applications are offered to the public to explore the murals.

2013

ON! Handcrafted Digital Playgrounds

ON! Handcrafted Digital Playgrounds

ON! Handcrafted Digital Playgrounds (conceived, curated and launched to coincide with OFFF Cincinnati) is a fully interactive exhibition celebrating our intuitive attraction to play.

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