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More Art Of Burning Man Comes To Cincinnati

The second phase of No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man opens Friday. The exhibit spans the entire Cincinnati Art Museum and includes interactive sculptures, large-scale installations, photography and artifacts from the annual summer festival in Nevada's Black Rock desert. 

While some may view it as that weird thing that happens in the desert, Burning Man continues to thrive as an experiment in community each summer, and the art that comes out of it can be radical and push boundaries.

The Cincinnati Art Museum first brought the cultural movement to the Queen City when Phase One of No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man, opened April 26. Phase Two features fashion, photography and more room-sized installations that play with patterns and light. Marketing and Communications Director Jill Dunne says the exhibit is a hit with visitors. 

"I think people are really falling in love with the first phase and (Phase Two) will definitely add to it," she says. 

For the uninitiated, Burning Man is a week-long event where participants erect a temporary city outside of Reno that explores concepts of community and artistic self expression, culminating with the ritual burning a of giant "man" sculpture. It attracts some 70,000 participants each year.

Credit Photo by Ron Blunt
Marco Cochrane, "Truth is Beauty," 2017.

Dunne says visitors have been coming from around the world to see the exhibit. "We've had an amazingly great response," she says. "I think people are really intrigued with Burning Man; they've heard about it but they don't really understand it and they want to understand it."

The exhibit features large-scale sculptures, jewelry, video and photography and takes over "much of the museum, exploring the maker culture, ethos, principles and creative spirit of Burning Man," the museum said in a January statement. It also includes "giant mutant art vehicles," costumes and "immersive gallery-sized installations."

Dunne calls the exhibit exciting because of that immersive quality.

"This is going to be one of the most interactive exhibitions we've had at the Cincinnati Art Museum," she says. "Visitors are going to be able to feel and experience the art that usually you have to travel all the way to Nevada to see in person."

That's right, feel. Visitors are able to touch some of the art. 

"It is one of the most influential movements in contemporary American art and culture," says Museum Director Cameron Kitchin. "The visual culture created in conjunction with the Burning Man gathering each year is a democratic and inclusive model of artistic expression. Working with the thinkers and artists who create the culture challenges the very notion of an art museum."

Dunne says the setting also makes for some interesting juxtaposition.

"We're going to have some of these modern works next to, [for example], a Degas, and you're going to be able to see it in that context and really appreciate what contemporary artists are doing now," says Dunne.

In keeping with the Burning Man ethos, the exhibit is free. It's also kid-friendly. 

Credit Photo by Ron Blunt
Michael Garlington and Natalia Bertotti, "The Paper Arch," 2018.

To see additional photos from the exhibit, click the photo at top. 

This story was originally published January 8 and has been updated.