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Transformations in Cleveland Art
explores the intersection between art and events during a period of extraordinary, sometimes disorienting change that transformed Cleveland from a canal village into a major industrial city. The authors reconstruct Cleveland’s artistic life from its origins to the mid-twentieth century, when regional schools declined relative to the ascent of national and international art movements.
Rather than a vague reflection of national trends, Cleveland art is studied within the context of the specific milieu in which it was created. The authors also examine how Cleveland artists interpreted themselves and their city, expressed the hopes and aspirations of their fellow citizens, and responded to rapid urbanization and industrialization. Particular attention is given to the various ways in which Cleveland artists confronted the challenges of the modern age while struggling to secure a niche in the economy of a city in the process of inventing itself. At the same time, the authors consider whether Cleveland art converges or diverges from national culture. This methodology has never before been applied to Cleveland art, and we believe it will challenge long-held assumptions about regional art production in America.
Transformations in Cleveland Art culminates years of effort to locate, document, research, and interpret the city’s distinguished yet understudied and underappreciated artistic tradition. The curators of the exhibition tracked works of art through research in newspapers, exhibition catalogues, dealer records, and archives as well as through interviews with artists and their descendants. Although critical attention has historically focused on painting and sculpture, the curators expanded their research to include prints, photography, and decorative arts–areas of notable artistic production in Cleveland.