Isn’t it tragic that art museums aren’t a more routine part of life? Think about it: thousands of years of artistic evolution, thousands of pages of history and criticism, thousands of dollars spent on one-of-a-kind pieces that represent specific and monumental historical moments, social movements, and cultural identities are centralized in small, frequently lovely, immaculately preserved spaces for the benefit of…whom, exactly? Tourists?
It’s sad but true––even in a city like Columbus, which is known for its vibrant artistic communities, locals don’t always have the flexibility to check out artistic offerings on a regular basis. There are always places to go and people to see, and sometimes experiences of art fall through the cracks.
Which is why, when someone tells me that they have a few free days to spend in Columbus––a friend anticipating an obligation-free semester break from his regular life as an Ohio State Law School student, or a relative spending a weekend layover in the city––I always suggest that they visit the Pizzuti Gallery, and as often as not invite myself along.
We know that natives don’t always take advantage of local art institutions, so a new-in-town or just-passing-through friend is the perfect excuse to get out and make the most of it. And the Pizzuti, a small but dynamic collection of “artist-centric contemporary” art featuring seasonally rotating exhibitions, is the perfect bite-sized space to immerse yourself in all of the art you’ve been missing out on.
All of the exhibitions mounted in the gallery space come from the personal collection of Ron and Ann Pizzuti, noted art collectors; individual shows examine the oeuvre of a single artist (as with the Summer 2018 display of Alec Soth’s photography) or focus on a specific moment of contemporary art history, like pre-revolutionary Cuban figurative art (Fall 2016). The museum also houses curated shows hinged on socially urgent themes, such as “Us Is Them” (Winter 2015-2016) which highlighted “enlightening and thoughtful works that challenge and rearrange stale notions of identity and obsolete notions of difference” and featured works by Nick Cave, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, and Kehinde Wiley.
Whatever the subject matter, the collections curated in and for the space are often complex, reactionary, joyous, profound, even upsetting; they are always dynamic, provocative, imaginative, and representative.
Currently on view is “Driving Forces,” a compilation of artworks by more than 75 artists from more than 20 countries that explores the ways in which contemporary-art movements have shaped global culture. “Driving Forces” features twentieth-century masters like Frank Stella and Susan Rothenberg alongside of-the-moment iconoclasts like Zhang Huan and Zanele Muholi and incorporates photography with sculpture with fiber arts, inspiring and embodying an inter-generational, inter-cultural conversation about the making and meaning of art today.
The museum itself is small; the curations therein are ideologically and aesthetically specific. These characteristics alone make the Pizzuti Collection a worthwhile visit: rather than surveying the surface of the Western canon, as you might in a larger, more institutional museum in our or another city, you can measure a concentrated dose of truly incendiary art in a quick visit to the Pizzuti, allowing your focus and imagination to sync spectacularly with the works you are viewing. It’s impossible to become vulnerable to museum-drain or late-afternoon sleepiness in the halls and galleries of this petite treasure: not only is the art too exciting to hypnotize or bore, but the museum’s small, compact size makes it a loaded but zippy visit.
So much of the mundane interferes with experiences of art; we spend whole days shuttling from home to work and back again without interacting meaningfully with the beauty around us. What a waste. Art, and art museums, provide light, color, texture, shape, culture, history; they represent opportunities to engage, confront, question, react, connect, and play. Experiences of art are as such invaluable; I can’t think of one person I know who would not benefit from engaging with art more regularly. Luckily, we live in a city in which opportunities to do so are abundant, and those opportunities begin at the Pizzuti Collection.
Free for the Future
Be sure to make a stop at the Columbus Museum of Art to visit the “Driving Forces” from the Pizzuti Collection, which is open until March 8th, 2020. CMA provides free general admission for museum visitors, each and every Sunday and the Pizzuti Collection is now included in the Free Sundays Program. This program helps to increase accessibility for all residents of Central Ohio, regardless of their ability to pay.
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