On Saturday Kish and I visited the Pizzuti Collection. It’s Columbus’ newest art museum, housed in a former insurance building directly across from Goodale Park in the Short North area. With three floors of prime display space as well as an upstairs patio and surrounding grounds, it’s a perfect venue for art exhibitions.
As its name suggests, the museum displays some of the personal collection of the Pizzuti family. It’s only a small fraction of their holdings, because the Pizzutis have an enormous private collection with thousands of pieces; one of the museum employees said they are among the most active acquirers of art in the world. The curator of the museum periodically goes through their collection to develop themes that then become shows.
When we visited the museum on Saturday, the theme was “Us is Them.” The selected artwork all had distinctive societal messages, with topics that ranged from race to religion to general alienation from society to being defined, or straitjacketed, by ancient or modern culture or social mores. With sculpture, paintings, ceramics, and photographs, the exhibition showed that there are many different ways to convey social commentary. It was a very powerful show with lots of interesting pieces from both American and international artists. My favorite was a series of nine gigantic photographs by artist Zhang Huan called Family Tree, some of which are shown with this post. Huan took the photos of his tight-lipped, staring, impassive face as three friends progressively covered it with Chinese characters, and in the last photo, blurrier than the rest, his head is completely awash in black ink, with only his unblinking eyes unaffected.
The Pizzuti Collection’s tag line is “Contemporary art that feeds the spirit, challenges the mind, and stimulates thought.” It’s an aspirational but important goal, and one that the PC reached with “Us is Them.” You know that you’ve been to a good show when you walk away from a museum talking about the artwork and the ideas behind them.