Oklahoma Contemporary Art Center Hosting Unique Exhibits | Community

It could have been set on Krypton, Superman’s home planet. From Oklahoma City’s Broadway facing east, it seems forbidden. Shining with odd angles, it’s unlike any other building in Oklahoma.

This is the Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center, living up to its name inside and out.

Even the long concrete promenade leading to the east entrance of the building has interesting features. Incised into the surface is a quote from John F. Kennedy, “I look forward to an America, which will reward achievement in the arts as we reward achievement in business or politics.”

“I look forward to an America that will steadily raise the standards of artistic achievement and steadily expand cultural opportunities for all of our citizens, and I look forward to an America that commands respect around the world not just for its strength but also for its civilization too.

On the north side of the promenade is a wire rope and concrete installation by Maren Hassinger, “Paradise Regained”.

The piece features rows of tall, winding wire stems resembling reeds or grasses blowing in the wind. Hassinger strives to raise awareness of the connection between man and nature.

Take the time to let this piece sink in and hear its words, as it has been quoted saying, “Nature, politics, and people are linked.”

The building itself is a work of art, created by architect Rand Elliott. The facade is made of semi-reflecting, mostly recycled aluminum, which reflects changing light and sky conditions.

It, along with a nearby studio for larger projects, not only hosts art exhibitions, but offers a wide variety of classes, camps, and rental areas.

Inside, the lobby is spacious with an area that will eventually be a small cafe or coffee bar, a tiny but worth a visit gift shop, and classrooms and the creative lounge, a space for small gatherings and an art books library.

Also in the lobby, don’t miss the vending machine which, instead of cigarettes, distributes small works of art for a minimal price.

An interesting feature of the hall is a statement of appreciation and gratitude to the Native Americans who originally inhabited this land.

The main gallery space is on the second floor. The current exhibition, John Newsom’s Nature’s Course, features 31 large, colorful paintings that are both realistic and whimsical. Leopards bask in grim landscapes and giant insects and flowers are depicted in flowery colors.

This is where I confess my ignorance. I’m a fan of realistic art. The symbolism and deeper meaning escape me. I loved these paintings for the color and the subjects. Explanatory graphics provided information I would have missed on my own.

While Newsom is an artist from New York, he was born in Kansas and raised in Enid, Oklahoma. I can imagine that the vast skies, vast grasslands, and native wildlife of this area played a major role in its interest in nature. Nothing reflects this more than the newest piece in the collection, Nature’s Course.

This monumental painting features bison poking straight out of the canvas, their hooves pounding against a sea of ​​sunflowers. Above, the sky is full of eagles. From the reverence for these animals by Native Americans to their adoption as national symbols, nothing could be more American.

Interestingly enough, it was the French artist Edouard Manet, whose painting of racing horses charging headlong towards the viewer (Les courses à Longchamp, 1866) provided an incentive for this painting.

Once you’ve enjoyed the artwork, enter the Learning Gallery, a space meant to complement the great exhibit. Special features currently include a kiosk examining the connection between music and art. Three examples of artwork by John Newsom are associated with music playlists invoked by the images. A large screen with opening panels allows guests to switch parts of two of Newsom’s paintings, producing interesting variations.

On another wall, a gallery of photos of Newsom at various ages and stages correlates with a display of artwork showing the variety of his artistic development beginning with one of his earliest childhood attempts. A creation station allows visitors to create their own works of art. Allow plenty of time to explore these options.

The Newsom retrospective will be on display until August 15.

Another exhibit, Off the Wall, which runs through June 2, features large-scale installations by three Oklahoma artists.

Sarah Ahmad’s artwork, Jaali: “Only with the heart can you touch the sky.” (Rumi) is composed of panels and pieces with motifs referring to its Pakistani origin.

A statement from the museum describing the work says, “This ‘remix’ brings history and identity into the gallery, but the language of abstraction ensures that meaning remains elusive.” It’s definitely elusive to me. That said, the work is beautiful with its lacy patterns and mesmerizing shading.

Romy Owens’ installation, a construction of polyester thread and nails, involves an intricate network of lines defining a form within a form. Again, I had to rely on a graphic with a possible explanation – a “Western interpretation of a mandala, a geometric configuration in Asian art that represents a spiritual journey”.

I love Owen’s big installation in Enid, Under Her Wing Was the Universe. This piece was harder for me to appreciate beyond admiring the persistence and precision it took to create it. It’s works like this that make Oklahoma Contemporary so interesting. The art is stimulating and the abstraction compels viewers to think for themselves.

The remaining four works by Marium Rana consist of large scrolls with paintings that tell stories in the style of 16th-century Mughal Empire scroll art. Incorporating a plethora of mediums, the colorful works on paper are displayed draped, making them look more like fabric.

The rest of the third floor is given over to performance spaces – a black box theater and a dance studio.

Admission to the museum is free, but call about timed admission. Free guided tours are offered on Saturdays at 1 p.m. To reserve your spot, go to oklahomacontemporary.org. The website also lists upcoming exhibitions and events.

Even if you’re not a fan of contemporary art, visit the museum. As the old ad said, “Try it; you’ll like it.”

Julia P. Cluff