At the corner of Sixth and Main in downtown Cincinnati stands the quadratic masterpiece known as the Contemporary Arts Center (CAC 513-345-8400). World-renowned female architect Zaha Hadid's visionary design perfectly suits the vibe of unconventional art circulating within. Lofty ceilings, sky-high glass, floating staircases and curved walls of polished concrete invite visitors to explore this avant-garde urban landscape.
Jenny with 'Martial Tune'
My sister Jenny and I ventured to the CAC on a Thursday afternoon to survey the peculiar work of sculptor Matthew Monahan, on display until October 30th. Our friends Bryan and Valerie joined us in the lobby, and together our group ascended the stairs towards the second level. We were immediately drawn to the large, warmly-lit showcase sculpture, strangely titled, "The Martial Tune". The piece seemed more maternal than military, featuring a large woman with a head resting on her stomach, bound by straps crossing her body. Reminiscent of a "Pietà" of sorts, she evoked an almost reverent feeling. Another favorite, the "North Star Supplicant" was comprised of two separate parts, that from a distance appeared like a single reclining figure with its head resting on a pillow. Since Monahan designs at such a large scale, each form has multiple meanings when viewed at various angles.
Monahan's work juxtaposes a variety of materials and textures to unite the ancient and organic. His media includes both polyurethane and floral foam, fiberglass and gold leaf. Several of his other pieces appeared warrior-esque, utilizing harsher hues and masks, and some appeared to be extra-terrestrial in nature. We marveled at the detail of his creations and the time taken to shape these forms from nothing. Hate it or love it: either way, you will feel a reaction to Monahan's work. Jenny and I appreciated exploring the exhibit and we didn't allow the eccentricity of his work to intimidate us. It's important to interpret the pieces however you wish and never be afraid to discuss or engage in debate. No one will judge you, because art is about accessibility, not snobbery.
Once finished, we wandered through other exhibits, including the scandalous Keith Haring, and then we climbed the stairs to the sixth level, appropriately titled "The UnMuseum". Interactive and unexpectedly fun, we scaled topsy-turvy floors and boarded a trailer that was made to rock -- a great place to let loose and feel like a kid again.
Since the museum closed at six, we crossed the street to the upscale Mexican restaurant, Nada, for some south-of-the-border libations. I ordered the "Skinny Girl" Margarita (sugar-free) and Jenny chose the Sparkling White Sangria. Nada was buzzing with activity, so we decided to chill at the bar and graze on appetizers: Guacamole and the delicious Chicken Taquitos on a bed of salsa verde. The chips were housemade, the guacamole, tangy and the salsa, smoky. As the day came to a close, our group toasted to a vibrant, art-filled evening with friends.
Jill & Jenny at CAC Margaritas & Guac Stairs at Nada
Tickets: $7.50 adults (Mondays free 5-9pm)
Hours: Mon 10am-9pm; Wed-Fri 10am-6pm; Weekends 11am-6pm