There’s the Rub

Until a few months ago, Timothy Rub was the director of the Cincinnati Art Museum. Then he was swiped by the Cleveland Museum of Art to head up an even larger institution in the opposite corner of Ohio. So it wasn’t a complete surprise when I started to listen to an audio tour at the Cleveland museum about art in Barcelona between 1868 and 1939 and heard Rub’s erudite voice as the narrator.

Not a bad idea to position him as an authority for the thousands of folks who are flocking to see this magnificent exhibition,which will be running through Jan. 7, 2007. CAM might think about using its new director, Aaron Betsky, in a similar mode for one of its upcoming shows.

If you happen to be in Cleveland’s University Circle area during the next month, I highly recommend taking some time to check out BARCELONA & MODERNITY: PICASSO, GAUDI, MIRO, DALI. It’s a fascinating retrospective of visual art that’s interwoven with politics and world history — and it’s an alternative perspective to the dominance of French impressionism that we might think is all that went on during the late-19th and early-20th centuries in Europe.

There’s was lots of experimentation in images, furnishings, sculpture and architecture. It stopped abruptly in 1939 with the end of the Spanish Civil War and the advent of a repressive government. But this exhibition uses more than 300 works to show the dynamic ferment that fueled modernist creativity for seven decades.

Rub and two curators share time on the portable listening devices that guide you through about a dozen galleries and give you a sweeping sense of how artists and thinkers influenced one another. It’s an impressive collection of material, but an even more memorable demonstration of how an historical epoch can be characterized through the art it generates. (For more information: www.clevelandart.org)

The exhibition has captured the imagination of residents of northeastern Ohio, who are lining up to see the show. (On the day after Thanksgiving, a long line snaked through the museum’s lobby and doubled back on itself several times.) Perhaps they’re also eager to see what’s going on at CMA, where a lot of construction is under way. Rub was likely hired there because he showed a propensity for building and expansion at our own Cincinnati Art Museum — he has a big project ahead of him in Cleveland.

And his successor in Cincinnati, Betsky, is beginning to make his own mark as he talks about the directions CAM will be taking in the next few years with its own expansion plans.

All in all, it appears to be boom time for the visual arts in Ohio’s two cultural centers.

— RICK PENDER

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