Marcel Rozek's "#57"

‘Continuum: Historical Resonances in Contemporary Art’

This Akron Art Museum exhibition highlights the visual connections between classic works and present-day ones. 

Layers of color span the canvas, plunging down in the center like a valley between mountain peaks. Artist Marcel Rozek created the abstract work by thinning oil paints with solvent and dripping them on the canvas. Simply numbered “#57,” the piece is part of the Akron Art Museum exhibition “Continuum: Historical Resonances in Contemporary Art,” which runs through Feb. 27.

“I number the paintings so they don’t give any type of preconceived notion of what it might be,” Rozek says. “Each viewer is invited to really find their own experience within the work.”

His approach fits well in the exhibition, which pairs works by five contemporary artists with pieces from the museum’s historical collections. “Continuum” also features works by Diana al-Hadid, Hildur Ásgeirsdóttir Jónsson, Lori Kella and Antwoine Washington — all artists with ties to northeast Ohio.

Each piece is reminiscent of the historical work it is displayed alongside. The colors in Rozek’s “#57” echo those in “Landscape with Yellow Clouds” and “Bordner Mural,” two paintings created by Cleveland-based artist William Sommer during the first half of the 20th century.

The exhibition strives to achieve two goals, says Seema Rao, deputy director and chief experience officer at the Akron Art Museum, who co-curated the show with assistant curator Jeffrey Katzin. It shows how paintings and styles of generations ago influenced contemporary ones, like the color connections in Rozek’s and Sommer’s pieces or the similarly detailed portraiture present in both contemporary artist Antwoine Washington’s “Powernomics (Woman)” and “Powernomics (Man)” and Elmer Novotny’s 1938 oil painting “The Artist and His Wife.” It also adds a diversity of perspectives to a historical-focused gallery that held only paintings by white men prior to “Continuum.”

“Art is relevant on so many levels and sometimes you see something different by putting it with a different work,” says Rao. “You might have any ingredient in your house, but when you put it with something else, it changes the flavor of it. It’s all about finding new ways to contextualize artworks.”  — Ilona Westfall

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