Friday, November 18, 2011

Cleveland Museum of Art: Brian Ulrich Buyer's Remorse Event (@ClevelandArt)

When I frist walked through Brian Ulrich's Copia-Retail, Thrift, and Dark Stores 2001-11, the exhibition in the East Wing Photography Gallery (through January 16, 2012) it immediately struck me and captured my attention and interest

Divided into three sections, the exhibition visually explores the retail boom and conspicuous consumerism (Retail), the inital recession and rise of Thrifting, into the era of Dark Stores: Cavernous buildings once bustling with goods and people now sitting idle and empty. In that first section, the number of nondescript homogeneous scenes that could be "Anywhere, USA" (A line of cash registers from a Target in Granger, IN, for example, could just as easily be found in any Target in the country) and in the sheer expanse -- the foreground starts around Register #10 and you approach the softly-focused horizon at Register #32 leads you to wonder how we got to the point where a retailer would need 32 registers.

Likewise the completely absent expression on shoppers faces is uniquely disturbing -- and eerily uniform, be it a woman eyeing groceries, a child in a toy store, or a man selecting a fishing rod. Are we really in there?

While Thrift didn't appeal to my senses in the same way as the outer movements, Dark Stores is perhaps where I lingered the longest -- a shot of long-abandoned escalators in the infamous Dixie Square Mall has a strangely unique context for what is quite possibly the most photographed scene in the Dead Mall world; nearby a sign in an abandoned store announces a "Over 100 year" history -- and you can't help but to wonder what did them in? What about the people who worked there? What about the craftsmen whose work is now visible in the form of naked walls?

But that wasn't the reason Rachel and I were at the museum tonight. One of a rapidly growing number of exciting events the museum is hosting on the Wednesday and Friday evenings (when the galleries are open until 9pm), tonight's Buyers Remorse Young Professionals event featured cocktails and a DJ spinning tunes with casual conversation in the Museum Cafe (where one of Rachel's robots watched from the sidelines as part of the 2011 Staff Art Show in the same space) and the photographer Brian Ulrich in the Photography Galleries with his photographs. By the time Rachel and I made it from the Cafe to the galleries, Mr. Ulrich was in the tail end of talking about the project, and gladly fielded a stream of questions from a gallery full of curious attendees and provided humorous yet detailed answers to each question.

While the physical distance between galleries and reception is a bit of a hurdle (at least until the atrium opens in the Fall of 2012) to creating the ultimate event, events like these certainly gives both regular museum attendees and those who may be living in Cleveland blissfully unaware of the treasures we have a unique and hands-on experience with the art...and in this case, the artist.


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