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A Curve of Color: Art and Fashion of Samuel Butnik and Bonnie Cashin
January 5, 2017 @ 5:00 pm - February 23, 2017 @ 5:00 pm
The Artists Archives of the Western Reserve in collaboration with American Greetings and the Western Reserve Historical Society is proud to present the exhibition A Curve of Color: Art and Fashion, of Samuel Butnik and Bonnie Cashin, to be held at American Greeting’s Gallery W from January 5th – February 23rd, 2017. The event will be celebrated with an opening reception on Thursday, January 12th, 2017. 5:00 – 7:00pm. Gallery W. American Greetings Creative Studios. Crocker Park. One American Boulevard, Westlake, OH. 44145.
A Curve of Color was curated for Gallery W, the public art gallery at the new American Greetings Corporate Headquarters in Crocker Park, from the collections of The Western Reserve Historical Society’s History Center and The Artists Archives of the Western Reserve. It features the fashion of Bonnie Cashin and the paintings of Samuel Butnik. Butniks large scale, iconic paintings from the 1960’s and 1970’s play off Cashins clothing designed for Coach in the same decades.
A native Clevelander, Samuel Butnik (1920 – 2004) was a celebrated artist whose works were shown across the country at various points in his career. Butnik was very reticent about describing his work in words and very little information has been recorded except that written by interviewers. From the time he was young Butnik was interested in pursuing art as a vocation. His studies at the Cleveland School of Art were interrupted by his enlistment in the Army at the start of World War II. At this time, he was stationed in Santa Ana, California where he was inspired to paint the canyons and deserts so different from his home in Ohio. Thus began his lifelong fascination with travel and use of the landscape as inspiration in his art. After his return from the Army, and graduation from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 1947, he began travelling and living by turns in; Taos, New Mexico; New York City; Tumbridge Wells, England; Paris, France; Athens, Greece; Torremolinos and Ibiza, Spain. Each of these stints produced a distinct body of work, but all of it retains a reliance on recognizable subject matter. In 1957 he returned to Cleveland and began painting in what is described as his “soft Expressionist” style. In 1970 he married Barbara Blossom and moved to providence Rhode Island for many years. Following this he returned once more to the Western Reserve, where he lived in Oberlin until his death in 2004.
Butniks time spent in NY was the same time period when the young Abstract Expressionists were active and Bauhaus teachers such as Hans Hoffman were influencing the New York art scene. He continued exhibiting work in New York while he lived in Cleveland and was included in the prestigious Art USA show at Madison Square Garden in 1958, where his painting was purchased by NY Herald Tribune Art Critic, Emily Grenauer.
In 1966, inspired by a documentary of Stonehenge, he began reducing his paintings down to archetypal imagery. He created works using large vertical bands of undulating paint based on the positive and negative play of stones and light. These later progressed into hard edge geometric shapes (circles, X’s and V’s) and the interaction of color became the focus of his work. This masterful use of color is the thread that is found throughout the different distinct series of paintings that mark his maturity as an artist from the 1960’s until his death in 2004. In a statement for The Midwest Painters Invitational he pointed out that his painting in rejecting nostalgia, sentiment, and myth, was an effort toward the “realization of new experiences.” Historically this work can be placed firmly within the context of geometric abstract painting. Butnik was also influenced by his contact with other Cleveland artists who worked in a similar vein, were known to each other and often exhibited together. Of these ‘Op Artists” who are still living, Julian Stanczak, John Pearson and Ed Mieczkowski, have recently seen a national resurgence in their careers.
AAWR is a unique facility and regional museum that preserves bodies of work created by Ohio visual artists. The Archives was founded in 1996 by David Davis who, along with other prominent regional artists, felt that it was important to preserve Ohio’s unique visual artistic heritage. Their goal was to create a ‘living” archive where works, along with oral histories and other documentation of artists’ lives would be made available to the public on a regular basis. Today the Artists Archives of the Western Reserve has 71 Archived Artists, a growing membership, an exciting schedule of exhibitions, and a long list of outreach and educational programming. Its location on the Davis Foundation Campus positions it within the vibrant and growing community of University Circle. Samuel Butnik became an Archived Artist in 2000, and AAWR is honored to have over 200 of his paintings, drawings and prints as part of its permanent collection. The AAWR proudly continues to enhance its role and that of its artists in the Ohio community.
Bonnie Cashin (1908-2000) was a pioneer of American sportswear, celebrated for her use of color, texture, and layering. From the 1940s through the 1970s, she designed richly hued garments and accessories in luxurious leather, suede, and wool. Trained as an artist, Cashin once said, “I can only think in color. I look at everything in relationships.” With these garments as her canvas, one can imagine Cashin flinging swaths of bright color and stippling each wooly texture.
Historians credit Bonnie Cashin with the modern concept of layering, although she adamantly credited the Chinese and their expression, “today is a ten-layer day,” as her inspiration. As a Californian, she chose to design clothes not for the seasons but for different activities and temperatures. Cashin hoped that wearers would arrange and rearrange the beautifully colored and textured garments, which she considered “simple art forms for living in.” In 1962, tired of fussy mid-century handbags, she created coin purses within the pockets of her clothing and then “carriables” for a new company called Coach. They quickly became part of her layered look. Although Bonnie Cashin may not be a household name today, her use of the brass turnlock as a fastener for her famous Coach bags lives on.
The garments on view are from the collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society’s Cleveland History Center, which sits in the cultural center of University Circle. As Cleveland’s oldest cultural institution, the museum has documented Northeast Ohio’s past and present since 1867, preserving stories of politics, technology, culture, and everyday life. The costume and textile collection contains over 40,000 objects ranging from quilts to Dior gowns and spans over 200 years of history
The Artists Archives of the Western Reserve would also like to thank Ohio Arts Council, Cuyahoga Arts & Culture, Ohio Art Dealers Association, the George Gund Foundation, the Bernice & David E. Davis Foundation, the William Bingham Foundation and the Zufall Foundation for their continuing support.