Art Review by Dawson Steeber
EXHIBIT CLOSING: October 17, 2014
Descending the stairs to enter Kent Sate’s School of Art, a dear friend and I couldn’t help but comment on the current façade of the building—it’s like a picture postcard of a rundown, post-punk show bar or flop house. One might expect to hear the muffled sounds of a local noise band, instead the doors open to a typical bright, antiseptic university hallway busy with art students.
A woman was minding a table at the entrance to the gallery suggesting we write a message on a colored piece of plastic ribbon, which was then to be tied to a net, which would later be displayed outside the new building. Neither my friend nor I could think of an appropriate message, so we passed and made our way into the gallery. I use the term gallery loosely, as the room is no larger than a standard campus house living room. That notwithstanding, there is a wonderful, if small, array of works from Kent’s own Robert Wick to Picasso to Warhol.
The exhibit boasts some wonderfully engaging pieces, seemingly moving from darkness into color. The first to grip our attention is the 1908 etching “The Prisoners” by Käthe Kollwitz. It’s perfectly disturbing and dark, much like a Goya sketch. Then there’s the almost psychedelic Rorschach-esque etching and aquatint “The Wreslters” by Robert Day.
My friend’s and my sensibilities lean heavily toward the disturbing and darker things. So it was with no great surprise that we were next drawn to Elmer Novotny’s oil on board “Boy in Red’. It’s innocent enough, and ironically full of light, but there is something darker hiding behind all the bright colors depicting a boy in red shorts and shirt and cowboy boots sitting on his bed. Behind him, on the bed, are a pair of fringed chaps and a cowboy hat, and in the corner is his rocking horse. Ostensibly just a boy in his room, but his expression and the red gear seem to suggest something almost malevolent. It seemed to set the tone for the other portraits, most specifically Barbara Morrow’s color woodcut “Boy Holding Cat”, which gave us the sense we were looking at the childhood portrait of a future serial killer.
As we made our way around the four walls (and less than 30 pieces) the tone of the works grew brighter, as exampled by Alexander Calder’s 1969 gouache on paper “Sea Creatures”, which, I decided, will be the cover of my band’s first album (should I ever actually have a band). Then there is Paul Klee’s playful untitled serigraph, which looks as though he painted it first on a burlap sack and then pressed it onto paper. Then the great poster art from Picasso for Exposition Vallauris circa 1952, with its enormous goat’s head. And Ben Shahn’s ’68 litho “To Roads in Unknown Regions”, which made me think of Paul Bowles’ Let It Come Down, and finally there are two Warhol prints, “Truck” and “Cowboys and Indians: Annie Oakley” to round it all out. And I suppose the exhibit works, because we left feeling bright, if a little cutoff and wanting.
The exhibit closes on the 17th, and though it’s small, it’s definitely worth popping in to check it out. Don’t miss it.
Art Building, 400 Janik Drive, Kent OH 44240, 330.672.1379
Hours: Tuesday through Friday, 11am – 5pm
Dawson Steeber holds an MFA in Creative Writing and teaches Composition and Rhetoric at the University of Akron. His writings appear or are forthcoming in MUSE, TONGUE, quickly, Rubbertop Review, and elsewhere. You can reach Dawson at dbs7@