Last week I had the privilege of joining some friends for a tour of the iona rozeal brown : all falls down exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) Cleveland. Megan Lykins Reich, Director of Education and Associate Curator at MOCA led our group on an incredibly informative journey through the colorful and dramatic narrative of iona rozeal brown's hip hop mythology. (Click here for a podcast of Megan Lykins Reich discussing the exhibit.)
This was a fantastic contemporary art exhibit for the art aficionado and uninitiated skeptic alike. Touring the exhibition with the curator and having the benefit of her insider knowledge about the art and its every detail certainly helped hook the non art-lovers among us, but the images themselves were compelling advocates for an appreciation of contemporary art. The images were at once very familiar and utterly strange, transporting the viewer from a world we know, to one we have never seen before. It was as if we had gone through iona rozeal brown's own personal looking glass to a place where good battles evil with turntables and tricycles.
The oversized panels and striking diptych drew all of us closer and closer to the artwork, until we were standing well beyond the museum-appropriate viewing distance, seemingly sucked into the story and wanting to touch the artist's creative genius. The inspired storytelling referenced modern hip hop culture and traditional Japanese woodblock prints in a fantastic juxtaposition of style and theme. It was visually stunning, funny in places, and frightening in others. Certainly a must-see. Unfortunately, there are just over two weeks left to catch this one-of-a-kind show, which closes Sunday, May 9th.
If you get a chance to visit MOCA before May 9th, also check out From Then to Now : Masterworks of Contemporary African American Art. Drawn from collections around Northeast Ohio, thought-provoking pieces confront visitors at every turn. Once again, most of the pieces in the exhibition were accessible compositions, stimulating contemplation and raising questions even in those viewers without a vast contemporary art vocabulary.
Finally, anyone interested in iona rozeal brown's show in the front gallery should not miss her installation in the Dr. Gerald and Phyllis Seltzer Rotunda Gallery-- the rear gallery at MOCA accessed via the contemporary African American art exhibit. Earlier this year, rozeal brown worked with high school students from the Progressive Arts Alliance's 2009 RHAPSODY Hip Hop Summer Camp and the Visual Communications Arts Class at East Cleveland's Shaw High School to create a larger than life mural and multipanel Japanese style screen. Original painted vignettes in the mural and written narratives on the screen reflect the students' culture, experience, and desire for a better tomorrow. Moving and raw, the compositions generate hope that art really can change young lives.
With something for everyone in the galleries, there is no doubt that now is the time to make it to MOCA. Hurry down to the museum before iona rozeal brown's caped heroine Yoshi rides her magical big wheel off into Cleveland's sunset.
A very special thank you to Megan Lykins Reich for her captivating tour, Jessica Goodworth for letting me join her group of fab friends, and Carin Rockind for inviting me to the event.