Wednesday, February 25, 2004

George Michael Bell: "Discovery and Explorations" - White River Gardens - Feb. 25, 2004 - 1 1/2 stars

Boring and forgettable. Only sometimes beautiful when independent of each other, this exhibition of color photography is the stuff found in a generic travel brochure. Overall, little artistry is demonstrated in these shots that are more homage to technical prowess than individual style. A point and click feel exists without any compositional consideration. A great shot looks like good luck. It doesn't help that most of the photos are matted in unflattering black set in stock metal frames. The most radiant image, "Sunset with Clouds," has a suitable, colorfully complimentary blue mat that enlivens and enhances the quality of the image. Sunset sky colors reflect neon pink, red, yellow and rich purple off of a field of clouds. It's heavenly. However, "Vultures in Trees," shot at the Indianapolis Zoo, doesn't benefit from its well-chosen color mat. The primary vulture's beak, the picture's focal point, is out of focus while the back of another vulture, half out of the scene, is sharp. Through March 3, 2004; 317-630-2001. -Mary Lee Pappas

"The Art of Healing: The Wishard Art Collection" - Indiana Historical Society - Feb. 25, 2004 - 4 1/2 stars

Having once adorned the walls of Wishard Memorial Hospital, these works by prominent Indiana artists at the turn of the cerrtury are a who's who treasure trove. Outstanding examples by TC. Steele, William Forsyth, Wayman Adams, John Ottis Adams and William Edouard Scott were created in an ingenious public art project - to decorate the then new hospital wings (around 1914) for the benefit of uplifting patients' spirits. Forsyth's thoughts on this project are included in the exhibition: "Perhaps the best work ever done by most of these artists is to be found on these walls; and it is no exaggeration to say that it is a monument to their accomplishments." Pieces hang on the first floor in the Lacy Gallery and in the fourth floor hall of the IHS. Three season-themed, 60-inch-by-111-inch paintings by Steele of the Brown County countryside have an expressionistic grace and grandeur though two of the three, "Autumn" and "Spring," are blocked by column obstacles in the narrow space, preventing a proper view of the works. Steele's signature has been chopped to make way for framing. "Whitewater at Brookville," an atypical landscape by Adams, is clouded behind an ancient varnish and nicotine film like so many pieces on display from the hospital. Conservation is required. A test cleaning in a corner revealed a lush light blue true color that had turned green from the pollution. The sale of exhibition mementos from the IHS gift shop will generate funds for the conservation needs of so many of these historical works. Instead of reinventing this city's history, perhaps this 90-year-old public art effort can serve as an example to the powers that be that art in public spaces is age-old and a win-win situation. To make a contribution to the Wishard Memorial Foundation visit Through May 23, 2004; 317-232-1882. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

"What's New?" - G.C. Lucas Gallery - Feb. 18, 2004 - 4 stars

Always consistent in presenting quality, G.C. Lucas now delivers work by more homegrown artists up to snuff with his national fare and very much in keeping with his keen aesthetic sense. John Reynold's farm animal paintings are beautiful beyond their subject matter. Using old bed linens, paint and a multitude of other devices, Jen Swearington's works are sophisticated autobiographical narratives. Quilted scenes of powerlines, bears and cars assemble to symbolically conceptualize her life experiences and create unique visual treats. Eric Jacobsen and Angel Mercado join the impressive fold of outstanding artists represented at G.C. Lucas as well as the notable Debra Delbecq. New works by Lorraine Sack are on view also. Through Feb. 26, 2004; 317-255-4000. -Mary Lee Pappas

Kristen Lee Florey - Amici's Italian Restaurant - Feb. 18, 2004 - 3 1/2 stars

Florey's work - the energy, colors and the execution of her encaustic paintings - is such a breath of fresh air. These are real action paintings. A propane stove, woodcarving tools and a blowtorch are a few of the tools that assist in these spontaneous abstracted creations. Broad applications of beeswax and rich pigments to her canvases create lush, thick and deep textured surfaces. "Flexing Muscles," a steal at $250, contains a pure Zuni turquoise blue tone that practically flashes against the subdued orange and black it shares the canvas with. Her energetic process gives life to the deconstructed forms she paints. The word "Liberty" resonates as a descriptor for the overall visual appearance of this show ripe with gesture. Through Feb. 29, 2004; 317-634-0440. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Justin Cooper - Vic's Downtown Expresso Bar - Feb. 11, 2004 - 3 1/2 stars

Cooper's work, a small selection of painted panel pieces and large canvases, are a good fit for this space. The panel pieces are of distorted, definable female portraits. There is no model and there's no need for one as facial features, are broken down and defined by balanced forms. The forms independently float and stack like puzzle pieces, seemingly disassociated from one another, combining foreground and background. This merge, enhanced by the colors, is reminiscent of cubist style, "Ma Jolie" color scheme (though not Picasso at all) and conceptual execution. Forms are done in washed sienna and tawny tones, executed on white, and are surrounded by brown stained board. Terrazzo marble-like squares decoratively set the physical forms off and are sometimes set on top of mazes of Greek key designs. This work is about the art process and how an artist perceives the world through an art geometry, constantly dissecting what they view into colors and shapes and light. Through February 2004; 317-951-0335. -Mary Lee Pappas

Rich Clarkson "The Champions: Portraits from the NCAA Arena" - NCAA Hall of Champions - Feb. 11, 2004 - 4 stars

* Pictured - Pete Maravich by Rich Clarkson, 1968.

Considered one of the 50 most influential individuals in American photography, Clarkson's sport portraits and action shots on exhibit at the NCAA are supreme. An exhibit display explains that his portraits are "Slices of the emotional ride through which sports take us." And so true this is upon surveying the unglamourized, unheroic or idealized images of sports greats through game candids and portraits from the 1950s to now. "Pistol" Pete Maravich's 1968 portrait as a player for Louisiana State is one example. The beautiful, true-to-life color and technical expertise of the shot allows the viewer to see Maravich's ruddy knuckles and the tender little boy looks of this super star with a way-out-there jump shot. Though beautiful, this piece, like all of the pieces in the exhibit, also reflects a triumphant sense of success. There is an emotional sense of drama within the tiny exhibition space. The images are approximately 24-by-40-inches, a large size that only enhances their lifelike crispness. Clarkson's images have appeared in Sports Illustrated, Time and Life magazines. He, like his subjects, is the best of the best. Through April 24, 2004; 317-916-HALL. -Mary Lee Pappas