Wednesday, April 28, 2004

"Greatest Generation of Sports Artists in War and Peace" - National Museum of Art and Sport - April 28, 2004 - 3 stars

Sometimes the themes of shows at this museum, located at the University Place Hotel and Conference Center on the campus of IUPUI, feel like a stretch. The "museum" is essentially in the corridors of the convention-heavy facility. This art should create a point of destination for visitors instead of being an afterthought for those who attend one thing or another. This show focuses on artists who, during World War II, served as combat artists, correspondents or were members of the armed forces who happened to be artists. Some of the art is on loan from the U.S. Army, Navy-Marines and Coast Guard. Donald Moss, a combat artist in the Marines and longtime illustrator for Sports Illustrated, served as chairman for the exhibit, which is testament to the quality of work on display. Germain G. Glidden, Ray Ellis, John Groth, Fletcher Martin, Ogden M. Pleissner, Cecile Johnson, Peter Cook and Kipp Soldwedel (a pilot during World War II, he was commissioned to paint a mural for the memorial at Pearl Harbor - "The Day of Infamy") are the wartime artists represented. A very thoughtful and responsible exhibition. Through May 31, 2004; 317-274-3627. -Mary Lee Pappas

"Art Deco" A Decade of American Design" - PH Sullivan Museum - April 28, 2004 - 1 1/2 stars

A humdrum tour of American mass-marketed utilitarian objects in the 1930s. Certainly the parameters of Art Deco are broad, with something for every Modernist's taste and pocketbook - then and now. But this show hovers toward the unremarkable Fiesta ware end. On the high-end of Le Style, an enameled and wood inlaid Kodak camera by Indiana born industrial designer Waker Dorwin Teague is quite nice and significant in contrast with the content of the rest of this small show. Overall, this peek at a decade of design mass marketed to mainstream America reflects a very limited aesthetic of chromed-out, inexpensive daily accessories, like the spun aluminum relish rosette by Russel Wright. It is not a well-rounded representation of Art Deco by any stretch, but serves as reminder of how the ordinary can be taken as art. Through June 26, 2004; 317-873-4900. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

New Works By Indiana Artists - Editions Limited - April 21, 2004 - 3 1/2 stars

Thirty-two local artists working in 32 different genres comprise the first show at the new Broad Ripple location of this 35-year-old local gallery institution. A fresh red front door, natural light, the location and an intimate gallery space are definite improvements. Notable local favorite Lois Templeton gets ample wall space with one large washed abstraction that employs a decidedly brighter than usual palette executed on paper. The gestural quality of her work is emphasized on this surface and appears brasher as well. This is a welcome, energized evolution. On the other end of the scale, a tactile and chalky landscape on panel by Amanda Presnell, an EL art consultant, is calming and deceptively controlled with dark, cool colors. Everything is lovely, of note and worth a visit. Through May 7, 2004; 317-466-9940. -Mary Lee Pappas

"Brickhead #3" - Massachusetts Avenue - April 21, 2004 - 2 stars

Outside of Elements restaurant in the Davlan building at the corner of Alabama and Massachusetts sits "Brickhead #3," a large ceramic sculpture by Indiana native James Tyler. It's a colossal head, sculpted and sliced apart into many hundred brick pieces only to be reassembled. The symmetrical facial features, swollen lips and sanguine expression remotely recall a Fourth Dynasty Egyptian look and some may say that's a stretch. Is there supposed to be an ancient context here of keeping the head away from the body after death? This big terra cotta-colored head, neckless and bodiless, does compliment the brick facade of the Davlan building and the grassy courtyard where it resides. Of better quality and more interesting than most of the publicly displayed sculptural works along the avenue, it still lags. Funded by the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission, "Brickhead #3" feels a bit more like a gimmick than a sculpture. Sounds are supposed to emit from the head as people wander by, only, unfortunately, it was difficult to decipher if this feature was working. "Brickhead #3" is missing some of the fluidity and detail found in other works by Tyler, making this piece appear to be a second-best effort. Through Sept. 30, 2004; 317-634-3114. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

George Murff "Figurative Expressions - College Avenue Library - April 14, 2004 - 2 stars

Upon walking into the library with Murff's work encompassing the upper periphery of the walls, your eyes are diverted to the primary bright yellow barren background of "Survivor," a portrait recently exhibited at Dean Johnson in No Boundaries - A Multicultural Viewpoint. It may be the best of the bunch. A collection of oil paintings, pastels and watercolors, this body of work has a graphic sensibility to it, not a surprise considering Murff has designed banners and posters for local government, including "Shower your baby with love." Compositions look too extracted from photographs, as does the wavering realistic approach to the work. There is something a little amiss - some trepidation in the depiction of faces - that gives the portraits and figurative scenes in the painted works a stiffness instead of a lively lightness. The style in some pieces isn't personally distinguishable. Though passionate in subject matter, emotion isn't fully realized in the overall finished products. Through April 30, 2004; 317-269-1863. -Mary Lee Pappas

Itza Pizza Art - Itza Pizza - April 14, 2004 - 2 stars

Itza' Pizza usually serves up fresh, hand-tossed crust pizzas with dough made daily. An 8-inch pizza is a mere $6 and a 16-inch is still only $12. Better yet, sandwiches and pastas are all under $5. Open Monday through Saturday, 4-11 p.m., it's also currently serving up art with a portion of the sales going toward the little eatery situated smack dab in the middle of the Fountain Square arts district - one with more art than retail shops. Collectively, the grouping is of pizza-themed artworks - from ceramic vessels and photography, to styrofoam slices. Prices are very low, from around $25 on up. Though tiny, this is a funny, quirky display that does require a basic sense of humor. Through May, 3, 2004;, 317-635-6252. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

Ugly Dolls, a toy review - April 7, 2004

Ugly Dolls
Toy Review
Mary Lee Pappas

Matt Booher, assistant manager of Comic Carnival’s Westside location.

Forget Kestner, Kewpie and Madame Alexander, the Ugly Dolls are the cuddly wuddly antidoll dolly of today. And they are soooo cute even though they are soooo ugly. “That’s the mentality,” Matt Booher, assistant manager of Comic Carnival’s Westside location, said about their uncommon irresistibility.

Ugly Dolls are adorable dorky alien creatures made of baby soft polyester fleece. They aren’t jointed or multidimensional, but rather flat and pillowy, with appliqued perfect circle felt eyes with itty-bitty pupils. Their simplistic facial features and linear body design give these plush stuffed Martians a charming vulnerability that make them practically spontaneously huggable. Couple that with a few involuntary simpering, “Ahhhhs,” and other loving coos and you’ve got a typical tender reaction to the cartoonish Ugly Dolls.

Though well-suited for a little baby, adults are the primary consumers of Ugly Dolls. “I don’t know why they haven’t caught on with kids. They’re a lot cuter than Beanie Babies,” Booher said. Comic Carnival has been selling out of the dolls at their four Indianapolis locations since they started carrying them six months ago. “They’ve been pretty good for us,” Booher added, saying that both men and women have been charmed to bits by these freaky cuties. “It’s been a mixture. Guys have probably been buying them as gifts.”

People across the country have been buying them, from the artsy-fartsy likes of the Whitney Museum of American Art and the MOCAs in Cleveland and L.A. The success of their design is unquestionable. To learn more about Ugly Dolls visit Ugly Dolls are available at Comic Carnival’s four locations: North, 253-8882; South, 889-8899; East, 898-5010; and West, 293-4386. Dolls are $19.99.

Gym Stoffer- Joe Reuzers Deli - April 7, 2004 - 2 1/2 stars

A graduate of Herron School of Art, Gym Stoffer has worked in the medium of collage for the past 20 years. An accurate statement read, "He reconfigures commercial imagery into surrealistic dreamscapes filled with hybridized archetypes performing bizarre comedies." His precision cut and paste magazine paper-pieced works take disparate images and transform them into bizarre and dimly colored, somewhat creative compositions. Most are rather amusing with titles like "Robo Eskimo Expo." Looking meticulously conceived, they are quite curious, but don't require stellar leaps of the imagination as most are dependent on visually comfortable and identifiable elements. Nevertheless, the work has definite merit. 317-916-DELI. -Mary Lee Pappas

"Everything Goes Better with Alcohol" - Everyday Inventors - April 7, 2004 - 1 1/2 stars

"An art show about painting and getting drunk," a show description read. This show just can't be taken seriously when the premise was to get drunk and paint the contents the evening before the opening. It was hardly an exploration of process, self-discovery or losing inhibitions to loosen up the creative mojo. The theme is a turn-off, the art is mediocre and you can't tell what artist painted what piece. "The show has legitimacy beyond the brash and garish paintings that may have been influenced by alcohol." This appears to be a statement about an ill-conceived show that may have been written under the influence of alcohol as well. A very disappointing venture from Everyday Inventors, a usually quirkier, inventive and more capable bunch. Through April 17, 2004; 317-955-7577. --Mary Lee Pappas