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The Cleveland Clinic Arts & Medicine Institute celebrates its newest commission. Cuyahoga, a series of twenty photographs by artist Barry Underwood. This work stands as only the latest example of Underwood’s prodigious talent and the latest step on his remarkable career.
What is art to be if not exceptional, extraordinary, removed from the everyday realities that bow our heads and remind us of our mortality? What is art to be if not a volley launched in our insurrection against the limits of this material existence?
Taking a cue from theater and film, Barry Underwood transforms the world into a place of surprise and unfettered possibility. Accomplished not through digital chicanery but through a force of will that smacks of Herculean effort or Sisyphean endurance, Underwood’s photographs are the visual equivalents of literature’s Magic Realism. Here we have stumbled on a place where the physical fabric of space and time fold and tear to reveal other dimensions and parallel realities. This place teeters on the edge of the sublime and pulls us over into what it promises.
Teams of assistants achieve the magic behind the curtain, always within the deadlines of place and condition. Over the course of his career Underwood has trudged into frigid waters; climbed up and over the rocky crags of gasp-inducing mountains; spent long nights within the treacherous confines of a construction zone; and stood with cameras and lights on the daunting and often artic-blasted streets of Cleveland. In making work, Underwood deals with the very real and often very perilous circumstances of his locations. It is not hyperbole to say that these projects, executed with a ticking clock in mind and with the same demands of a general taking troops into battle, present more than the metaphorical risks of art-making. Producing these works requires meeting the same challenges faced by the crew of any major film production – including securing financing, meeting the logistics of moving material, people and equipment to locations distant and inaccessible as well as directing the execution of the shoot itself – but Underwood accomplishes these feats not through the resources of a major commercial company, but through the industry of an individual artist.
Generosity marks this work. It transcends a mere image of the extraordinary and becomes rather a document of a remarkable event. It is, in other words, the evidence of a truly transformative moment. This work does not present a world altered through metaphor or idea but in fact through human endeavor, – the same effort, the same vision and the same ambition that brings any great art into being and which makes its contemplation worthwhile.
On Wednesday, April 17, 2013 from 5:00 to 6:30 pm, the Cleveland Clinic Arts & Medicine Institute opens Cuyahoga in a public event with the artist. This free event requires reservations. Reserve your spot at:
Lane Cooper has the pleasure of working with Barry and other great colleagues at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
Lane Cooper, an Associate Professor at the Cleveland Institute of Art and practicing artist, holds an MFA in Painting. View more articles by Lane Cooper.