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FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art reveals 2021 details

Gods of Dust, Rainbows, and Ohio

FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art reveals 2021 details

Left to right: Tereza Ruller, Lo Smith, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, Courtenay Finn, Meghana Karnik, Murtaza Vali, Tina Kukielski, Prem Krishnamurthy, Evelyn Burnett, Dushko Petrovich, Emily Liebert. (Paul Sobota/ Courtesy of FRONT)

FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art has announced the theme and artistic team for the sophomore edition, which will run from July 17 through October 2, 2021. Entitled Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows, the exhibitions will showcase contemporary works from local and international artists across the Northeastern Ohio cities of Cleveland, Akron, and Oberlin. The theme of FRONT 2021 will focus on modes of collective healing and agency in the regional context of Cleveland’s complex industrial history. Through environmental degradation and hazards to economic transformation and precarity, FRONT 2021 will approach art as a way for a community to reckon with its own changing social landscape. 

The exhibition takes its name from a poem by Langston Hughes, who spent his formative years in Cleveland: 

Two Somewhat Different Epigrams (1957)

I

Oh, God of dust and rainbows, help us see

That without dust the rainbow would not be.

II

I look with awe upon the human race

And God, who sometimes spits right in its face.

“This poem, a meditation on adversity and a prayer for transformation, inspires FRONT 2021’s curatorial approach. The exhibition’s title extends Hughes’ original invocation to signal a plurality of beliefs, stories, places, and people,” said the artistic team in a statement announcing the launch of the 2021 edition of FRONT. “FRONT 2021’s curatorial framework connects Cleveland’s storied past with a polyvocal present, exploring healing as an ongoing cycle of repair, spanning crisis and recovery. This approach treats the exhibition as a process of long-term change, embracing the region’s range of cultures in need of attention, investigation, and care.”

A green computer-generated slice with "Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbows" in front of it
FRONT’s 2021 edition Oh, Gods of Dust and Rainbowstakes its name from a 1957 Langston Hughes poem. (The Rodina/ Courtesy of FRONT)

 The co-artistic directors are Prem Krishnamurthy, founding principle of Project Projects and director at Wkshps, and Tina Kukielski, executive director and chief curator of Art21, who will work in collaboration with the artistic team of Evelyn Burnett (ThirdSpace Action Lab, Cleveland), Courtenay Finn (MoCA Cleveland), Emily Liebert (Cleveland Museum of Art), Dushko Petrovich (SAIC New Arts Journalism, Chicago), Kameelah Janan Rasheed (artist, Brooklyn), Tereza Ruller (The Rodina, Amsterdam), and Murtaza Vali (independent curator, Brooklyn/Sharjah), as well as associate curator Meghana Karnik and curatorial assistant Lo Smith. 

The artistic team has also revealed its first commission for the upcoming triennial, a public dance space in Akron designed by the Stockholm collective Dansbana!. With the success of FRONT’s inaugural triennial in 2018, which included 120 international artists and over 90,000 visitors, expectations remain high for the upcoming edition.