Artists Remix and Riff Off Oberlin’s Architecture

Sep. 25, 2018

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OBERLIN, Ohio — While the primary hub of the inaugural FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art offered a diverse range of interactions with the city of Cleveland, the three-site offshoot of FRONT, based in the nearby college town of Oberlin, unified its offerings around the broader theme of architecture. The Oberlin programming centers around a commission of a site-specific Barbara Bloom installation in the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, titled THE RENDERING (2018). In creating one of the many special exhibitions hosted by the Allen (such as Fred Wilson’s 2016 collection intervention, Wildfire Test Pit), the artist decided to feature selected objects from the museum’s prodigious collection — but Bloom was also inspired, upon arriving in Oberlin to begin her process, to engage with the challenging and unusual confines of the Ellen Johnson Gallery, where her new work would be shown. Created in the 1970s, the space was named for Oberlin modern art professor Ellen Johnson, and designed by the architect Robert Venturi. It includes a large picture window wall, a glassed-in reading room high above the main floor, an elevator bay, a small corridor, very few 90-degree corners, and numerous other elements that make the architecture an unavoidable consideration for artists working in the space.