Art Review by Leann Schneider
From Ohio to Thailand, oil paintings to sculpture, “From the Vault” at the University of Akron is a unique sampling of art objects from the Myers School of Art’s permanent collection. The exhibition celebrates the rich 40-year history of the Emily Davis Gallery showing pieces by alumni, former professors, and previously exhibited work.
The upper level introduces the show with an overview of the gallery’s history: exhibition brochures and pamphlets from years past, a wall timeline of events and shows, and a brief history of the gallery’s namesake, Emily Davis. While fairly sparse, the history of the gallery will interest anyone with a curiosity about the history of art and art patronage in Akron.
Upon entering the lower gallery, a diverse landscape of art greets the eye. Surrounding a handful of pedestals with ceramics of various shapes and sizes the walls are covered in paintings, prints, and photographs. Many works in the exhibition are from homegrown Ohioans and graduates of the University of Akron, giving “From the Vault” a local interest edge. The exhibition highlights certain artists originally from the area like William King, recipient of such prestigious awards as a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and an NEOA Individual Artist Grant.
The most interesting aspect of the show is the diversity of subject, mediums and periods presented. King’s vertical black vinyl sculpture of a humanoid titled, Health Food, from 1978 offers striking visual contrast to the surrounding pieces such as Lori Nix’s faux-disaster photographic work Ice Storm from 1999. A bright, busy, wall-length painting at the end of the room draws the eye to the back of the space. Even at a quick glance the fiery canvas is obviously set apart in style from the other works; it is a 16th – 17th century painting from the royal courts of Rajputana, India.
Other works presented include street photography from United States in the 1970s and Thai and Chinese ceramics from the 15th century. While most of the works in the gallery showed no real connection or theme, aside from being part of Emily Davis Gallery history, a group of diverse prints was very well connected. Andy Warhol’s two late prints, probably the most recognizable pieces in the gallery, were presented with 18th century printmaker William Hogarth’s series Four Stages of Cruelty and Karen Shaw’s 1975 work 77=Hogarth=Warhol=Parallel… The juxtaposition of the pieces showed an interesting connection through printmaking as a medium, illustrated quite bluntly through Shaw’s mixed media work.
Truly diverse in nature, “From the Vault” will be a pleasure to anyone interested in a mixed collection of unique pieces, and especially those who wish to see local art and artists who trained or taught at the University of Akron. The exhibition is relatively small, runs through February 6th, and is open from 10am – 2pm, making it a lovely spot to stop during a lunch break to liven up the cold winter day.
Leann Schneider is a graduate student at Kent State University pursuing an MA in Art History and an MLIS with a concentration in Museum Studies. She also works as a curatorial assistant at the Kent State University Museum. You can contact Leann at firstname.lastname@example.org.