Home Entertainment Beloved regional artist takes a fresh look at his Wolfs gallery

Beloved regional artist takes a fresh look at his Wolfs gallery

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BEACHWOOD, Ohio – Winslow Homer was inspired by the surf-filled coast of Maine. Claude Monet admired the ripples of the pond of lilies at Giverny. And Joseph Oski found artistic nirvana in the dappled shade of his garden in Twin Lakes.

In his five decades on the job, O’Sickey (1918-2013) has become one of the most beloved artists in northeastern Ohio, in part because he found inspiration close to home.

Instead of the Côte d’Azur, where painters like Henri Matisse and Pierre Bonnard bathed in the hues and colors of the Mediterranean, O’Sickey found a visual paradise on Route 43 just outside Kent, where he taught for many years at Kent State University.

In the barn-like home and studio where he lived and worked alongside his wife and muse, artist Algesa O’Sickey (1917-2006), O’Sickey created several colorful panels of flower-dotted wicker chairs and tables overlooking his property. Golf course nearby.

For a generation of collectors in Northeast Ohio from the 1960s through the 1990s, purchasing O’Sickey packaging was a must as both an expression of cultural aspiration and an affordable alternative to Bonnard or Matisse packaging, to name a few of O’Sickey’s flagship products. style sources.

Works by the late Joseph Oskey are on display at Wolves in Beechwood in March.Stephen Litt, cleveland.com

Now on display at the Wolfs Gallery at 23645 Mercantile Rd., Beachwood, through March, a major exhibit provides an opportunity for a fresh look at O’Sickey’s career. The exhibition, one of the largest dedicated to the artist in recent years, fills two rooms with dozens of paintings and works on paper hanging on the walls, as well as several boxes filled with watercolors and stamp drawings.

The exhibition was organized by a bequest of artwork from the O’Sickey estate to the Cleveland Institute of Art, where O’Sickey received his bachelor’s degree in 1940. The donation allows the CIA to sell the artwork. In favor of a scholarship named after Joseph and Jesse. Oski.

Making history versus getting it

The show cemented O’Sickey’s reputation as an artist who delivered high-quality, competent, and powerfully entertaining work, but which nevertheless failed to generate much excitement outside the region. This is true even though it is represented in New York by the prestigious Kennedy and Seligman Galleries.

The reason for this is that while some artists make history, others absorb history without moving further into the conversation in a way that generates widespread interest among critics, curators, and historians, creating books, exhibitions, and museum excitement among collectors.

This is how art history works. This is not necessarily fair, and it is true that some important figures, such as the early twentieth-century Swedish abstractionist Hilma af Klint, were ignored during their lifetime. (The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York presented a major exhibition of F. Clint, as it’s known, in 2019 called “Paintings for the Future”).

But unlike af Klint, who is said to have defeated other famous artists of the 2000s by making the first truly abstract paintings, O’Sickey pursued a regressive art.

Over the decades as Northeast Ohio artists grappled with pop art, minimalism, and suspense art, O’Sickey developed a soft, colorful, and nostalgic style that drew heavily on early 20th-century modern business ideas drawn from sources such as Matisse and Bonnard. .

I am happy

O’Sickey’s art embodied a gentle desire for pleasure without high demands on his audience and perhaps on himself. It was easy to appreciate his art. The question posed by Wolves, in which the actions of one contract are equated to another, is whether Oski made a bet on himself.

During the turbulent 1960s and 1970s, and the decades that followed, O’Sickey’s main goal was to seek out designs in which he could express his love of rich colors, fruits, and ornamental patterns, such as tiger stripes or clusters of flowers. His still lifes focused on landscapes and other subjects, including portraits of horses and riders in rural Ohio, zoo animals, and circus scenes.

At his best, his work offers a hilarious escape for a mental vacation. Other times, he seems strangely out of touch with his time and ours.

Works by the late Joseph Oskey are on display at Wolves in Beechwood in March.Stephen Litt, cleveland.com

If that sounds harsh, it’s good news for the artist’s estate and for the CIA that collectors with big wallets still love his work, no matter what the art critic says.

The gallery’s red-dotted posters indicate that some of the gallery’s largest and most expensive paintings sold in the close to five figures. It’s a level that few Northeast Ohio artists have achieved in recent decades, and indicates that O’Sickey’s art still has a loyal following.

entry point

O’Sickey’s art was a stepping stone to greater things. Shaker Heights collectors Joseph and Nancy Keathley began their ambitious collection of modern and contemporary art more than 20 years ago by purchasing paintings by Oseki, who also became friends with them.

The Keithleys later purchased major works by Bonnard, Georges Braque, Joan Mitchell, and others. In 2020, they donated their collection of over $100 million to the Cleveland Museum of Art. Today — Sunday, January 8 — is the last day of the museum’s large exhibition to celebrate this gift, which includes Oseki’s work.

Cleveland Oseki Museum of Art

Joseph Osky’s work is on display at the Cleveland Museum of Art in the recently donated Joseph and Nancy Keathley Collection.Stephen Litt, cleveland.com

The museum proposes placing O’Sickey in a context that allows his work to confront some of the sources that inspired it. It also shows that no matter how his work is judged as a whole, the always good O’Sickey can please the eye, use the power of walls, and display the intelligence of a great painter.


Besides the familiar and typical O’Sickey’s garden scenes, the wolf show includes a few surprises.

One is a large vertical composition from the early 1960s depicting a Maine swimming beach with pine trees and puffy clouds running through a crescent of purple sand surrounding a small facade painted in contrasting acid tones of yellow, green and turquoise.

Women in trendy swimwear wade in knee-deep water with young children while older children play in the sand in the foreground.

With its nods to modern life and fashion, New England flavor, and its quintessential French character, the painting is comparable to contemporary works by New York-based artists such as Fairfield Porter and Alex Katzky who later painted similar subjects.

But while Katz and Porter sought national fame by distilling their work through a rigorous process of stylistic refinement and a greater focus on substance, O’Sickey settled into a routine that, while certainly productive, lacked the same intellectual subtlety.

Also of note in the show is another large vertical composition from the 1960s, a semi-abstract painting of a peacock at Cleveland’s Brookside Zoo, and later the Metroparks Zoo. O’Sickey evokes exotic birds in jagged black shapes arranged in a field of deep blue—an approach that derives heavily from Matisse’s collage cutouts of the 1950s.

Joseph Oskey Wolves exhibited and sold for the Cleveland Institute of Art

Works by the late Joseph Oskey are on display at Wolves in Beechwood in March.Stephen Litt, cleveland.com

Close to greatness

The secret to O’Sickey’s art is that while he was close to greatness, he was never able to take the leap himself.

During the 1950s, Algesa befriended a young man named Roy Lichtenstein, who had moved to Cleveland after graduating from Ohio State University under the legendary Professor Hoyt Sherman.

The O’Sickeys introduced Lichtenstein to Isabel Wilson, an interior designer who worked on a gallery run by Algesa and whom Lichtenstein married in 1949.

Ideastream recently explored this history in an excellent documentary, “Isabelle and Roy” and the Wonderful Gallery at the Columbus Museum of Art last year traced the development of Liechtenstein, Ohio, in the 1950s.

At the time, before moving to New York and helping start the Pop Art movement, Lichtenstein explored themes based on American history, medieval knights, mechanical devices, planes, and other motifs that would later appear in his Pop paintings.

At the time, he filtered his subjects through primitive, primitive cubism, characterized by childlike artistry, rough handling of paint, and a dark palette of browns and greys.

Roy Lichtenstein's Early Years at Ohio

“The Horseman (Self-Portrait)”, c. 1951, by Roy Lichtenstein, illustrates the pseudo-naive approach adopted by the artist in the early 1950s.Cleveland Museum of Art, Roy Lichtenstein Estate.

Interestingly, as seen on Wolfs, O’Sickey himself gave Lichtenstein’s proto-style a whirlwind. In a 1950 gouache painting on paper called “The Sand Mine,” he reiterated Lichtenstein’s interest in mechanical devices.

But he didn’t seem to get what Liechtenstein was achieving, including refusing to settle in their technical comfort zone.

Joseph Oskey Wolves exhibited and sold for the Cleveland Institute of Art

Works by the late Joseph Oskey are on display at Wolves in Beechwood in March.Stephen Litt, cleveland.com

As Oseki said in an interview I did in 2012, he and Lichtenstein felt the need to reject the orthodoxy of Abstract Expressionist painting, the dominant style of the 1950s.

After a day of touring New York galleries together, they got tired of seeing so many artists imitating the gestural brushwork of artists like Franz Kline and Willem de Kooning, or the drops and smudges of Jackson Pollock. They wanted to do whatever they wanted.

Lichtenstein eventually decided to imitate and parody contemporary comics, Disney cartoons, and advertising, adopting mechanical techniques such as Ben Day’s use of dots to distance his paintings from his personal sense of touch. It was a radical and revolutionary choice.

Osiecki went in a different, more traditional direction, based on his daily practice of making observational sketches.

“My feeling,” he said, “was that as long as I was making drawings in reaction to what I was seeing, I wasn’t interacting with anyone else’s work.” I felt that as long as I was in the process of drawing, there was no way my drawings could look like anyone else’s. »

In other words, O’Sickey slalomed while Lichtenstein slalomed and made history.

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