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Issue Date: October 2008

The Best of Cleveland - Retro-Futurist Art

You’re walking through the Cleveland Museum of Art’s new, ultraglassy wing, marveling at its sleek, avant garde spaciousness, the way it makes you feel like you’re in a much bigger city. Then you abruptly step into the neoclassical 1916 wing and face a painting that looks like a put-on. A guy in 19th-century clothing and futuristic green eyeshades looks at you, coolly and googly-eyed. Your mind wonders if it’s a joke, like a Mohawked Mona Lisa. Check out the plaque: It’sNathaniel Olds, an 1837 portrait by Jeptha Homer Wade, a traveling portrait artist who changed careers, moved to Cleveland, founded the Western Union telegraph company, became wildly rich, and got Wade Oval named after him. The glasses? People wore them often 170 years ago to shield their eyes from the piercingly white light of argand lamps, which burned whale oil. The curator says it’s by accident, but the painting provides a strange welcome by straddling past and present at the spot where the museum itself time-warps.11150 East Blvd., Cleveland; (216) 421-7350;

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