Image: (Left) Stephen Balkenhol, Man Lying on Platform, 1998, Cedar wood and paint, Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas, Gift of Marti and Tony Oppenheimer and the Oppenheimer Brothers Foundation; (Right) Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Altgeld Gardens), 1995, Acrylic and collage on canvas, Collection Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas
Often as we formulate plans for weekend stays and quick getaways, we consider the larger cities nearby: Kansas City, Tulsa, Little Rock, Dallas. But between these spaces are incredible finds and overlooked gems. One such place is the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art sitting on the northeastern edge of the Johnson County Community College campus, just a little south of Kansas City in Overland Park. On the first floor, there are rotating exhibition spaces including a smaller gallery focusing on regional artists, but the permanent collection is worth the trip alone.
While wandering the galleries on the second floor, visitors can find an impressive collection of contemporary masterworks. A thickly layered, dreamy painting by Allison Schulnik spans across one wall. A Kehinde Wiley painting depicting a young black man as timelessly regal hangs just a few yards away. In one room sits a lifelike depiction of a man laying on his side, carved from what seems to be a single piece of cedar at least eight feet long, a weighted work by Stephan Balkenhol. Sitting in the center of one of the final galleries, a massive cloak made from old army dog-tags holds itself up, arms outstretched in an impressive feat of engineering by artist Do Ho Suh.
This world-renowned collection continues to grow each year with new acquisitions. Here, large artworks are given room to breathe, uncrowded. Because of this, viewers are encouraged to take their time with each piece, to think about each giant they encounter.
Danny RW Baskin is a 2018-2019 Oklahoma Art Writing & Curatorial Fellow.