Founded by Ohio-based patron Fred Bidwell and curated by Milwaukee artist
, this year’s debut installment comes with the apt title “An American City.” The duo invited artists to respond directly to Cleveland, a city Bidwell refers to as a “Ground Zero for the issues of our time.”
“In the past couple of years, I think we learned that we need to look beyond coastal-city bubbles to better understand America; that the towns and cities in ‘flyover country’ are facing very different ideas, issues, and conflicts than those on the coasts,” Bidwell told me. “We need to deal with that.”
Many of Front’s 100-plus artists—hailing from places as far-flung as Beijing and as close as Chicago—embedded themselves in Cleveland. Other artists are decidedly more local; Johnny Coleman lives in Oberlin, Ohio, while Kelley O’Brien and Lauren Yeager hang their hats just minutes from some of the show’s venues. Indeed, the triennial’s strongest works acknowledge this midsize, middle-American metropolis’s history, landscape, or contemporary culture, while also questioning (or in some cases, celebrating) conditions that reverberate across the country and world.
“Worldliness, locality, and regionality together shape the cultural character of American cities, and they shape this exhibition,” Grabner said during Front’s press preview last Friday. Below, we highlight six must-see works across Front.