Year-In-Review: Best exhibits of 2014

Jesse Tigges, Columbus Alive

There were so many fantastic exhibits in Columbus this year. The local artists created some very impressive shows that captured the immense potential of our arts community. There were also a number of artists from outside Columbus and Ohio who came through in 2014.

It was incredibly difficult to narrow down all the amazing work and exhibits from this past year, so I decided to go with 12. All are worthy of recognizing, and it's my list so I'll do what I want.

"Cruzamentos: Contemporary Art in Brazil," Feb. 1-April 20 at the Wexner Center for the Arts

While "Transfigurations: Modern Masters from the Wexner Family Collection" - the current exhibit at the Wex (through Dec. 31) presenting a must-see collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings by Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, and Jean Dubuffet (and additional works by Edgar Degas, Willem de Kooning and Susan Rothenberg) - is amazing, I'd have to go with "Cruzamentos" as my personal favorite. (And I wanted to choose only one exhibition from each institution/gallery/space.)

"Cruzamentos" was the culmination of years of work by the Wexner staff and curators to bring some of the most exciting contemporary work in the world to Columbus. The result was a complete transformation of the center inkling work from a group of 35 stellar and thought-provoking Brazilian artists.

"The Art of Lustron," March 8-30 at Tacocat Cooperative

Tacocat member Brian Reaume lives in a Lustron house, and loves it. So he decided to create a group show where artists use the 2-by-2-foot panels that make up the exteriors of the houses as a canvas. Working with sheets of old, painted and/or coated metal isn't an easy task, but all the 35 artists that participated turned out some astoundingly creative and striking pieces. The artists' diversity of approaches, styles and concepts make "The Art of Lustron" a comprehensive showcase of the endless possibility and creativity in Columbus' art scene.

"This is Your Golden Age / Life is an Adventure of Our Own Design," July 1-31 at Wild Goose Creative

Local artist Vanessa Jean Speckman brought together artists from Columbus and around the country to create art inspired by legendary musician Patti Smith. The 30 participating artists took any number of approaches to as many mediums, and "This is Your Golden Age" was all the better for it. The pieces ranged from direct homages to Smith to more abstract representations of the artist's words, music and spirited approach to everything.

"Reno + Nocera: A Print Show," July 5-31 at Rivet Gallery

Clinton Reno and Nicolas Nocera, two local artists and printmakers, came together for this exhibit where each created eight different designs (for 30 number prints) inspired by music -whether a specific lyric or entire song - that resonated with each artist. The result was some stunningly beautiful prints that captured the imaginative approach each took in visually representing the music. Each print is an intrinsically personal adaptation to the artists, but it's easy for others to find their own personal meaning - much like we do with music too.

"Erik Swenson: Ne Plus Ultra"/Diana Al-Hadid/Inka Essenhigh (July 10-Oct. 11) and "Tom Burckhardt: Full Stop" (Aug. 28-Nov. 20) at CCAD's Canzani Center Gallery

This four artist showcase taking place mid-summer through the fall was utterly breathtaking. Burckhardt's "Full Stop" was an incredibly fun and conceptually brilliant - a recreation of an entire artist's studio made entirely of cardboard and black paint that visitors could actually walk through. Al-Hadid's massive, magnetic installations represent an artist at the peak of her technique and acuity. Swenson's sculptures were a wonderful combination of bizarrely macabre and strikingly beautiful. And (CCAD alumna) Essenhigh's innovative and imaginative paintings were an ethereal trip down the rabbit hole.

"Dangerous Impermanence," Sept. 5-Oct. 5 at Fort Hayes Shot Tower Gallery

When Columbus native (and Fort Hayes graduate) Stephanie Rond decides to do something, she always thinks big. And her most recent solo show "Dangerous Impermanence" is conceptually and thematically massive. Rond's mixed-media pieces (street art, paintings and dollhouse pieces) were incredibly powerful mediation on a number of issues: gender dynamics, feminism, innocence (and loss of), the role of an artist and process of creation, community engagement and accessibility.

This collection of pieces showed Rond at her finest; bridging her street art designs with fine art aesthetics, and capturing the diverse array of mediums the artist is incredibly agile moving between. Throw in the documentary "Tiny Out Loud" - co-created with local artists Andrew Ina and Dan Gerdeman - and you could easily see how Rond put everything she had into "Dangerous Impermanence."

"Exposure," March 15-26 at CS Gallery

The second "Exposure" exhibit - a collection of mobile photography from both Columbus shutterbugs and others around the world - didn't have any of the unfortunate occurrences that took place the first year. But it did have some carryover.

The inaugural "Exposure" exhibit was hit with a power outage during the opening reception (and a few days later a car crashed through the front of the gallery, ending the exhibit early). To commemorate the first reception, this year's opening turned the lights out for the first hour because the experience during the initial opening - people using the light on their phones to view the photos - was a strange way to view art, but also a wonderful experience.

Thankfully a car crash didn't happen this year, because if you missed the remarkable experience of the reception you still got the opportunity to see some fantastic photography-a diverse collection of hundreds of images.

"Of Body," April 12-May 15 at Second Sight Studio

An exhibit by four young women (Ruth Burke, Chelsea Bornheim, Kade Conklin and Jessica Willis) shows how Columbus just keeps churning out artists from its universities. The mixed media sculptures and installations in Second Sight were wholeheartedly original - a spectrum of works ranging from whimsical and impulsive to haunting and provocative.

The abstract pieces had a litany of objectives using the body - human, animal and even imaginary - as representations for socio-political issues, gender dynamics and the complex nature of human existence and communication.

"Now-ism: Abstraction Today," Sept. 6-June 20, 2015 at the Pizzuti Collection

This exhibit focuses solely on art from the 21st century, but that doesn't mean it isn't expansive in both scope and size. Housing nearly 100 pieces "Now-ism" demonstrates the multitude of styles, mediums and techniques from the next wave of groundbreaking artists. While the list of artists (including Sarah Cain, Diana Al-Hadid, Columbus native Ann Hamilton, Teresita Fernández, Jason Middlebrook, Carrie Moyer and Pia Fries) are clearing carving out their own place in the art world, they do share a characteristic. "These artists are breaking rules and constantly experimenting," said Rebecca Ibel, director and curator of the gallery.

"Possible Impossible: Terry Allen Study Drawings for Public Works," Sept. 25-Nov. 8 at OSU Urban Arts Space

Terry Allen is an artist working on a number of levels and has an extensive portfolio of public sculpture commissions. With Allen being commissioned by the City of Columbus for a piece on the Scioto Mile, the Urban Arts Space showed the thought process the artist puts into his public sculptures - which is truly incredible. Allen's sketches are filled with notes about the many ideas - from intelligence and challenging to hilarious and occasionally puerile - he's contemplating about sight-specific installations. It's the incredible detail and candor in these notes that had me spending hours inside the downtown gallery.

"In __ We Trust: Art and Money," Oct. 3-Mar. 15, 2015 at Columbus Museum of Art

This is one of the most challenging and compelling exhibits of the year, as contemporary artists from around the world examine our relationship with money. Money is a part of life; something that can be both mundane and imperative, depending on the circumstances. These pieces assess the many ways money has an effect on our lives on a macro and micro level.

Attempting to describe the goals/explorations/themes of all the pieces in this exhibit would require an exhaustive dissertation. But "In__ We Trust" is open until mid-March, giving Columbus the chance to take part in the important conversation are having with something "that rules the world."

"Fear Hundred 4: The Mystery of the Haunted Carnival," Oct. 31 at 400 West Rich

Some of the best work from locals this year came out of Franklinton's 400 West Rich. It was extremely difficult to decide on my favorite, but I'd have to go with the freaky, fun work at this year's "Fear Hundred," an annual Halloween-themed art show. To be frank, I have a strong affinity for weird, so many of these pieces hit the sweet spot for me. But the carnival-focused exhibit had such strong and wonderful art that anyone would have been amazed. Throw in that the group of 400 artists organizing "Fear Hundred" turned the entire thing into a living, breathing carnival show setting makes this one unforgettable.