"NOW-ISM: Abstraction Today" offers comprehensive look at 21st Century artists

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

The Pizzuti Collection's current exhibition, "NOW-ISM: Abstraction Today," flawlessly distills what this institution is all about: Bringing contemporary art that you wouldn't see anywhere else to Columbus.

"One of the things Ron [Pizzuti] is known for is supporting new artists or discovering new talent and the 'NOW-ISM' show is right in line with that. [Our] mission is to present contemporary art and promote new conversations. And this is some of the hottest new things from around the country, and around the world, really," said Rebecca Ibel, director and curator of the collection, during an early October phone interview while she was in Los Angeles looking for new talent to exhibit.

"NOW-ISM" boasts nearly 100 pieces from 51 artists, with works as diverse as 21st century painting, sculpture, video and furnishings representing the newest abstract work by the hottest artists working today. The goal is to showcase all artists currently inspiring new ideas. As Ibel put it, it's "world famous [artists] elbow-to-elbow with up-and-coming."

Some - but in no way all - of the big names include young, emerging artists like Sarah Cain, Diana Al-Hadid and Florian Meisenberg, and established creators, including Columbus native Ann Hamilton, Jim Hodges, Jason Middlebrook, Carrie Moyer and Pia Fries. While these names may not be as recognizable to the average person as Jackson Pollock or Andy Warhol, that makes the exhibit accessible.

As visitors browse the galleries inside of the Short North museum, they'll be mesmerized by many artists, based solely on aesthetics, including the work of Cain, whose massive abstract painting guides viewers into the third-floor main gallery that also houses two other striking installations, "Vertigo (Sotto in su)" by Teresita Fernandez and "Untitled" by Jacob Hashimoto.

There are references and odes to the previous masters, too.

"If you had an art history book of 20th century painting, you'd have Pollock, Warhol and all kinds of masters, and they'll all be cited here in some form or another," Ibel said. "The fun thing about contemporary - and some of these are from the last year - is that you don't need a history book to understand them. Anyone can walk in at any age and have an experience … [because] they relate to our culture and our visual world. If you come to this show, you will be able to know what's going on in contemporary art."

"NOW-ISM" is filled with artists who're looking to continually find new paths by "breaking rules and constantly experimenting," Ibel said. Cain is one of the best examples of that in this exhibition, which is open until June 20, 2015.

"I think Sarah Cain is our poster child for many reasons," Ibel said. "She's a young, L.A.-based artist, and what I really like about her is she's just a badass. She takes chances as an abstract painter, and I think you have to be willing to fail and be audacious. And she tries things. … she does these wild things and they work beautifully [by combining] installation and graffiti-like elements into painting successfully. I think she really has her own voice, and that carries over to all of these artists - a distinct voice that makes them unique."

While Cain, or any number of the artists in "NOW-ISM," could serve as the poster child, it's the group as a whole that creates the exhibit's endless appeal - regardless of the viewer's experience and knowledge of contemporary art. The exhibit is intended to be visually pleasing, but also user-friendly, with more in-depth information on many of the artists on the Pizzuti Collection website and a comprehensive catalog available at the gallery.

"I want to demystify the art world," Ibel said. "I think a lot of people think they don't belong in the art world, they don't understand it, and there are all these ridiculous portrayals in movies and TV about what it's about. I thought if we just give people more information, they can figure it out for themselves."

Pizzuti Collection

Through June 20

632 N. Park St., Short North