Three must-see exhibits at the Cincinnati Art Museum

A trip down the Mississippi River would be an eye-opening experience for anyone, but for Sohrab Hura, it was a glimpse into the soul of America.


Hura is a native of India who still lives in New Delhi and is a contemporary photographer who documented his 2016 excursion through the lower Mississippi in a series of images that are being displayed for the first time outside of India at the Cincinnati Art Museum.


His exhibit, titled “The Levee: A Photographer in the American South,” is one of three special exhibits now on display through the holidays at the Eden Park museum.


The three exhibits, as well as the museum’s permanent collection and its café, make it a good place to destress from the season’s bustle and take the family or out-of-town guests during the holiday period.


General admission to the art museum’s permanent collection is always free and so is parking.


The Cincinnati Art Museum is the first American museum to exhibit Sohrab Hura’s work and the first public institution to collect his photographs.


The photographs were made as part of the Postcards from America project, a collaboration in the form of a photographic road trip, first conceived by American photographer Alec Soth in 2011. Over the course of six years, the project has produced a rich documentary of contemporary American life.


Hura’s trip resulted in a suite of 83 black-and-white photos, including landscapes and portraits. Hura also had a personal connection to the region: Just before his trip along the levees of the Mississippi, his father had traveled the river while at work on a container ship, but was unable to step onto land. The photographer’s journey became a metaphor for his relationship with his father, some of which is documented in the display.


“Artists like Sohrab show us the edges of what we believe photography can be and do,” says Nathaniel Stein, the museum’s associate curator of photography.


“The Levee: A Photographer in the American South” will be on view to the public for free in gallery 105 through February 2, 2020.

Sohrab Hura (b. 1981), India, untitled inkjet print from “The Levee,” a suite of 83 photographs, 2016 (negative), 2018 (print), Gift of Sohrab Hura and Experimenter Gallery, Kolkata.


“Women Breaking Boundaries”

Another special exhibition explores the role of women in art and art history and highlights works from the museum’s permanent collection created by female artists from the seventeenth century to today.


“Women Breaking Boundaries” is a cross-departmental selection of 38 artworks from Europe, North America, and Asia, ranging from oil on canvas, metalwork, ceramic, and prints to photography and fashion.


Prominent artists represented in the exhibit include Georgia O’Keeffe, Lorna Simpson, Kara Walker, Mary Cassatt, Julia Margaret Cameron, Elizabeth Catlett, and Chiyo Mitsuhisa.


“Women Breaking Boundaries” is the museum’s main contribution to a larger project, Power of Her, a citywide initiative of Cincinnati arts organizations to mark 100 years since Congress passed the Nineteenth Amendment. Led by funder ArtsWave, Power of Her has included more than a year’s worth of community programs and events at organizations including Cincinnati Opera, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Shakespeare Company, Cincinnati Ballet, and others.


The exhibit is also a reminder of role the art museum’s female founders played in the birth of Cincinnati’s arts scene. In 1877, the Women’s Art Museum Association was formed to promote the arts in Cincinnati. The group was adamant about bringing the social and economic benefits of an art museum to Cincinnati, and its advocacy and support for the cause led to the Cincinnati Museum Association being incorporated in 1881.


“Women Breaking Boundaries” will be on view in the Vance Waddell and Mayerson Galleries (Galleries 124 and 125) through April 12, 2020. Admission is free.


“Treasures of the Spanish World”

The third special exhibit, “Treasures of the Spanish World,” explores the visual cultures of Spain and Latin America over a period of 4,000 years.


The exhibit, on display through Jan. 19, features Copper Age ceramics, medieval metalwork, Renaissance sculpture and portraits by Velázquez and Goya, Mexican featherwork mosaics, Colombian lacquerware, rare early maps of the Americas, and the light-suffused paintings of Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla made at the turn of the twentieth century.


The Hispanic Society Museum and Library in New York, which houses the greatest collection of Spanish and Latin American art and artifacts outside of Spain, has loaned its works to the Cincinnati museum for this special exhibition while its building undergoes renovations.


A significant number of these works have not before been exhibited outside of the Hispanic Society, and some have never before been exhibited, museum officials say.


The display is a survey of some of the great artistic traditions of Europe and the Americas, says Peter Jonathan Bell, the art museum’s associate curator of European paintings, sculpture and drawings, who is curating the exhibition in Cincinnati.


“We aim to bring these treasures and their stories to new audiences,” he says.


The exhibition first appeared at the Museo Nacional del Prado in Madrid, Spain, in 2017. It also traveled to the Museo del Palacio de Bella Artes in Mexico City and the Albuquerque Museum in New Mexico. After its presentation at the Cincinnati Art Museum, the exhibition will travel to the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas.


Tickets for “Treasures of the Spanish World” are free for museum members and are available for purchase by the general public at the Cincinnati Art Museum front desk and online at cincinnatiartmuseum.org.


“Treasures of the Spanish World” is on view in the Western & Southern Galleries (232 and 233) and The Thomas R. Schiff Galleries (234 and 235).

Read more articles by David Holthaus.

David Holthaus is an award-winning journalist, Cincinnati native and father of three. When not writing or editing, he's likely to be bicycling, hiking, reading or watching classic movies.
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