Commissioned in 1990, Kushner’s 9-by-27-foot triptychs hung in Tower Place’s atrium more than two stories above the food court. Maybe you never noticed the murals, or you recall them but not the mall’s stores and eateries. Tower Place opened in 1991 but in recent years became a ghost town, and plans were recently set in motion to turn it into a garage with street-level retail that will be called Mabley Place.
At eye level in the Solway Gallery, Kushner’s The Four Seasons paintings can be (re)appreciated as works of art and not remnants of a dying retail landscape. For the first time, it’s possible to see the bits of glitter and sequins used. No longer does each composition feel like a flat banner.
Kushner agrees that the paintings look better viewed head-on.
“I’d forgotten about the layers of paint, the translucence,” the artist says. “You can get your nose up to them.” Indeed, you can almost smell the evergreen needles in “Winter” and breathe in the frosty air.
It wasn’t easy to bring the outdoors in. The three 9-by-9 panels that make up each season were too wide to fit through the Solway Gallery doors. Associate director Anita Douthat says the stretcher on the back of each had to be cut so the canvas could be gently folded
Four Exhibits (Re...Modern LoveConstructed Paper...Fall Arts Preview...Walls, Floors and...Fall Arts Preview: Visual Art">
Visual ArtROBERT KUSHNERThe Four SeasonsTower PlaceCarl Solway GalleryCincinnati art
. Their removal and transportation was a two-day process with development company JDL Warm Construction.
The Four Seasons commission grew out of Kushner’s visit here for the Contemporary Arts Center’s 50th anniversary in 1989. (Kushner was part of the CAC’s 1978 show Arabesque.) He met then-director Dennis Barrie, who was scouting for Tower Place’s developers. In addition to the murals, Kushner created a bronze flower sculpture for the food court fountain, which was not saved before demolition.
Kushner remembers the optimism surrounding Tower Place. “We all assumed it would be there forever,” he says. He compared its eventual unpopularity to “a 20-year-old car that’s not yet vintage. You no longer want to drive it.” The removal of commissioned pieces happens a lot, he says. This is his third experience.
Once the paintings were moved from Tower Place, there remained the matter of finding walls big enough to hang them, even in the 12,500-square-foot former warehouse building that constitutes the Solway