Thursday, August 16, 2001

"Sea Key" Matt Berg - Indianapolis Museum of Art - Aug. 16, 2001 - 1 star

"Sea Key," a sculpture by Matt Berg on display in the third floor of the IMA is just a little too close to the Modigliani for my tastes. The IMA has offered Berg as their current artistic talent in a monthly rotation of the finest contemporary Indiana art. This flavor of the month scrap steel and kiln formed glass piece is boring and kind of phallic. it is girder assemblage meets large-scale oven baked blue drug store craft glass. A rusty patinaed steel beam is a sculpted base for what looks like a large keyhole encased in the same rusty steel. Berg should stick to his large-scale, readily identifiable pieces that are not as design challenged. His artist statement that accompanies the piece is completely convoluted and, as an art history professor of mine in college used to say, "cosmic." Is "Sea Key" supposed to be a conceptual puzzle, or is Berg trying to make his art something it's not? His 10-ton "Bear" created for Galyans in Minneapolis is a very common image yet is wonderfully executed. The very cool brushed stainless steel Broad Ripple Village Neighborhood kiosk at College Ave. and the canal is another of his commissions, utilizing the BRNA's house row logo, to top off his construction competency. Berg is capable of more than what is displayed at the IMA. Unlike most, at least he can say he's exhibited at the IMA now. Through Sept. 2. 317-923-1331.

Thursday, August 09, 2001

Delbecq Sisters - City-County Building - Aug. 9, 2001

Whoa est moi. The devil speaks French and I know this to be true on such a sultry afternoon in the sun-savaged Circle City. My quest to clip the Delbecq duo was fruitless. On the advice of self-assurede city employee found on the other end of my Ameritech tightrope line at the City-County Building, I speed-walked through the downtown's sweaty fog air, my shirt clinging to my shoulder blades. Yes, I called the number listed in NUVO's calendar, for art voyeurs like me to call and inquire about the whereabouts of this mysterious show. In all, I made seven phone calls to three different numbers (requested the information desk twice) and spoke to nine City-County Building employees about the exhibition location. I waited 15 minutes for three different elevators (this is typical adn expected), nothing short of an amusement park ride (I enjoyed the elevator hopping), to take me to the 28th floor where I had been told the exhibit of Delbecq photos was located(seven employees didn't know what I was talking about, two directed me to the 28th floor). I found myself on the observation level among a tourism and state trinket exhibit that the cultural tourism division of our city should spend some time modernizing. What a view! What potential! And how embarrassing that children take field trips to this locale. it wouldn't take $10 million to clean it up. From this vantage, our city, on this unfathomably non-ozone day, was clouded in an ethereal nimbus of overcast conditions. I couldn't find the photos despite my a la Indiana Jones meets Sherlock Holmes investigative style. I intend to go back to the observation level and get a full tour from the lovely older gentleman who oversees that floor. - Mary Lee Pappas

"I See Rhythm" Michelle Wood - Indiana Historical Society - Aug. 9, 2001 - 3 stars

Various forms of African-American music are interpreted in the acrylic works by Wood. All of the pieces on display are originals from her book, I See Rhythm. "Jazz Women" is a piece achieved by collaging blue monochromatic action vignettes of portraits of ladies of jazz like Sarah Vaughan, together in one painting. African masked musicians carry a brilliant primary range of color as they sit among these female greats. The masked faces are a motif in many of her storytelling pieces, with unmasked faces sometimes taking on a tribal facial structure. Quick-drawn strokes of wavering, solid-colored stripes mix as they are cast across the paper canvases, creating genuinely inspired energy and adding to the atmosphere of the pieces. The paint is not pushed or overworked but is layered and easily, comfortably applied. "Ragtime" is perhaps the most sophisticated of the paintings by Wood, on exhibit with its simple flat blocks of solid color and patterns. These works effectively capture the soul of each musical style represented with a traditional African tribal aesthetic reflecting the musical derivation. Through September 3, 2001. 317-232-1882. - Mary Lee Pappas

"Apron Strings: Ties to the Past" - Indiana Historical Society - Aug. 9, 2001 - 2 stars

One hundred aprons should demonstrate the shifting work roles of women and men over the century. Aprons traditionally have been tools of women's labor and consequently women's history, which is often overlooked - as it is in this exhibit. The aesthetic range of the apron collection is great, from ruffle-trimmed organdy and gathered tulle numbers of the to Aunt Bee bibbed styles. They hang too clustered together like campy flags of kitchen coats of arms. The collection reflects fashionable trends and some leisurely church bazaar creativity in the mid-century while overlooking most of the rest of the century (only a few examples from the early part of the 20th century are present) and is not representative of all female lifestyles. The opening exhibit script states, " Aprons are more than kitsch," and suggests ceremony and knuckle-bloody hard work, but does nothing to elaborate on how the apron, as a utilitarian protective garment, was an essential tool to the wife and unpaid domestic laborer. Kitsch is pushed in the collection and in the design of the small exhibition with its clumsy wire arched garden borders, suggesting a mythical happy whimsy. The few exhibit scripts slip sideways (you could crick your neck) in the clothespins that too cleverly hold them to the apron display forms. Women's history is represented with a much more discerning eye in other displays in the Exhibitions Gallery at the IHS. Through December 2, 2001. 317-232-1882. - Mary Lee Pappas

Thursday, August 02, 2001

"Dresden Expressions of Paul Putzki and Caroline Harrison" - The President Benjamin Harrison Home - Aug. 2, 2001 - 3 stars

Putzki was a talented watercolorist with a school in Indianapolis were he taught the conspicuous Victorian ladies of leisure the fine art of the era - watercolor and china painting. Women, like the former First Lady Caroline Harrison, lead this fashionable Arts and Crafts hobby of the wealthy on millionaire row. True to Victorian form, Putzki and Harrison's paintings of floral blooms and sparrows are romantically realistic and accurately detailed though not quite the work of one with naturalist's sensibilities like another Victorian, Edith Wharton. Putzki followed Harrison to the White House so that she could continue her painting studies of seemingly stock suspended floral bouquets that typified the genre. Of particular beauty was a delicate and translucent image of orchids that grew in the White House conservatory. When the history of this prim epoch is explored in the Harrison home (a tour is a must to see the exhibit) alongside the wispy lifelike Valentine Day card appropriate pink cabbage rose compositions, the notable artistic talents of Harrison are vividly more apparent. Realistic nimble swabs of color, perfectly applied, effortlessly piece together idealized segments of a proper garden. Blossoms are bona fide in these floral illustrations. Through October 12, 2001. 317-631-1888. - Mary Lee Pappas