Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Humdrum hodge-podge - Herron Alumni Show - June 30, 2004

Humdrum hodge-podge
Visual Arts
By Mary Lee Pappas

This sixth annual Herron Alumni Show maintained the hodge-podge sameness of shows past, though this time around the collection of very unlike works were exhibited in a hodge-podge setting — the vast warehouse lobby of Midland Arts and Antiques Market. Basically, the setting was as drab as the art.

Several pieces in the show were individually deserving of praise, such as John Gee’s “Co-Folco,” executed in 1963. It was out of place it’s so good — triangles and half circles formed from fields of multicolored pattern that looks modern for the time. “Public School #57” by Harry A. Davis (former faculty) and “Seated Nude” by Frank Downton, executed in 1963-’64, were among the exceptional pieces on view.

Most of the work, however, was humdrum and forgettable, hanging by wires from a makeshift-looking metal pipe-rigged hanging system. Hung too high for a comfortable view, they lost color against the brick wall background. At least everything was centered properly. Is this all that lone juror Greg Lucas of G.C. Lucas Gallery had to pick from? His aesthetic sense is such that it can be trusted blindly, so it’s a reasonable guess that entries weren’t quite up to snuff.

Though an unfortunately uninteresting and uneven show, it is indicative of a larger cultural conundrum Indianapolis falls victim to: innumerable shoddy art shows without vision that forsake quality for just another exhibition opportunity.
Indianapolis has had a constant visual arts scene predating any political cultural initiatives. Local visual arts culture has not been recently generated as campaigns might make it appear. Yes, there is more art now, but quality has never been more in question.

Herron has been a major contributor to local art history — its sheer longevity deserves praise. Herron also has substance beyond the citywide promotion of the arts … and beyond this exhibit. But if this is the best that Herron alumni can share publicly, then how can an Indianapolis-based art school expect to compete on a national level?

The 2004 Herron Alumni Show was at Midland Arts and Antiques Market and closed June 25.

Lauren Yoho - Two Sisters Trading Co. - June 30, 2004 - 3 stars

Yoho creates well-versed abstractions with color and compositional balance that keep the eye happy and in motion. There is no illusion of depth and no trace of reality to decipher in her larger works composed of mostly like-sized chunky color blocks that neatly appear to interlock with each other in Abstract Expressionist fashion. The cool color palette enhances the tactile look and appealing visual sensations. "Birds," a series of four small paintings, are exceptional little pieces. The birds, made with one dab of the brush, are ocher toned against hot orange surrounded by a two-toned taupe and deep plum sky. Simple and elegant, this is artwork that artists can appreciate for the technical command of materials, the unique vision and her understanding for the substance of color. This is yet another discerning fine art show from this humble little Broad Ripple shop. Through July 8, 2004; 317-255-0027. –Mary Lee Pappas

Laura "Dinkie" LaForge: "Sassy Ladies" - Stutz Gallery - June 30, 2004 - 1/2 star

The artist's statement for this show of rigid, ill proportioned, cartoony-looking painted women reads, in part, that the work "strives to reveal beauty of empowerment that exists in all females," which only furthers the visual arts Spinal Tap experience. All the female figures have the same, stylized, flat poofed lips, oversized and elongated eyes, a line for a nose. Flat on many levels, and painted with acrylics that look right out of a jar, the pieces actually all look alike - only the blanks have been filled in with different colors. Static, stale and following a base, dated design formula, the dressed up girlies resemble what an early '80s Valley Girl might aspire to. Through July 16, 2004; 317-833-7000. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Robert Teckenrock - Vecino's Coffee Gallery - June 23, 2004 - 2 stars

This is detailed doodling with an outsider spirit and a comic book, heavy metal style. It's a thinking man's Beavis and Butthead and that's not a bad approach. "Still Life Kaleidoscope," a doodled rainbow landscape with banana, is meticulous and shows the artist's soft color sensibility that unfortunately didn't find its way into most of the works (black and white) on display. Red ballpoint ink abstracted floral doodles frame a purple monochromatic segmented scene of floating fruit in this piece, showing that this artist, despite technical drawing challenges, has a keen sense of value. This is further framed by blue ink flower doodles framing a continuum fruit scene in light blue. "Football Church" features a scene set into an incongruously naive gymnasium-church hybrid where cheerleaders (her kicking leg appears to come out of her shoulder) and nuns are side by side. Stained glass windows are sports teams. A wonderful commentary on cultural fanaticism and personal priority, the painting is elementarily flat and ill proportioned ... but who cares? Sense of humor and intent give worth to this work. Through June, 2004. –Mary Lee Pappas

Johnathan McClure: "Unstill Life" - The Bungalow - June 23, 2004 - 1 star

Tempera swathed on paper isn't too far of a stretch from finger painting in these paintings, with titles like "Underneath it All," "Mattie," "Ripple Effect" and "Afterglow." Muddied tones of lifeless periwinkles, rusts and Army greens sweep down revealing wine bottle-like forms of bald paper. This work lacks the aesthetic presence, color space or spontaneity to be taken too seriously as the abstracts they are supposed to be. An instant-artist state of mind is reinforced with the stack of prints available next to the work. Through June 30, 2004; 317-251-2782. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Minature and Small Works - Woodburn and Westcott Contemporary Fine Art Gallery - June 16, 2004 - 3 1/2 stars

The miniatures of M. Jan Schroeder anchor and inspire this particularly nice show featuring the work of W&W represented artists: Fick, Vlasek Hails, Line, Hampton, Morrison, Leslie, Kivela and von der Lohe among them. Schroeder's aptitude for the miniature certainly would have won her the favor of royalty in a past life. Technically sophisticated and astonishingly executed, her images of fruit, boats and animals recall the realistic Baroque approach of this tradition that requires a magnifying glass. The itty-bitty pieces reflect a craft of the past combined with a personal style that is something entirely new. Let the French miniaturists roll in their graves. Anchoring every show at this gallery is the supreme presentation. The lighting is always superior and enhances the work as does the arrangement of work and inviting environment. Through July 17, 2004; 317-916-6062. –Mary Lee Pappas

Desiree Beauchamp: "What is a Home?" - Duke Realty Corporation Atrium - June 16, 2004 - 1/1/2 stars

1 N. Capitol office. Kudos to Duke Realty Corporation for providing a student sculpture competition that awarded Desiree Beauchamp, Herron School or Art student, a $3,000 scholarship and a year-long exhibition opportunity for her winning entry, "What Is a Home." The piece, composed of multitudes of little felt houses suspended from the ceiling, is inferior in design, execution, and purpose. The last point is especially true when compared to comparably themed successful installations by Jenny Elkins at the Harrison Center for the Arts of card houses set in sand as a statement on the fragility of home and home life, or "Suberburbia" by Emily Kennerk at the Stutz Gallery. Ceramicist Barbara Zech presented a series of same-sized and shaped homes in an installation last year which also lined a wall in the Harrison Center for the Arts Gallery. Design-wise, the houses feature intentionally childlike constructed box home forms of synthetic felts with two flat square windows and a door flat on front. It's iconic signage for home. Only, this 3-D derivation is ineffectively childlike with its perfect 90-degree angles and unappealing, hard to look at color combinations - white with brown, blue with maroon. With some felt houses collapsing in, not maintaining their form and sloppy machine stitch work perfectly visible, this "playful" and "happy" vision of home further fizzled. -Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Art in the Garden - Garfield Park Conservatory - June 9, 2004 - 2 stars

Scattered through the lush tropical setting of the conservatory, pieces displayed are mostly accomplished, but don't meld with the escapist environment. Extreme juxtapositions reign. An assembled metal sculpture of a flamingo by Amanda Keller with its Honda gas tank, Chevy front fender body and flu pipe neck sticks out like a sore thumb. The work doesn't quite match the setting. Functional, decorative, original, local items intended for a garden setting would be better placed in a Midwestern woodland backyard than this Indianapolis oasis. Of note were drawings by Jason Kishell on bleached wood panels that were a combination of naturalist's studies and sci-fi fantasy. Alan Reinhard's pebble and tile mosaic tables were beautifully envisioned. Work by Ruth Stoner, C. David Schumaker, Randy Johnson, Jolee Rene Chartrand and Kevin L. Houppert are also on View. Art featured in this show will be for sale. June 13. Through June 18, 2004; 317-327-7221. -Mary Lee Pappas

Kevin Johnson: "The Outsider" - Fountain Square Library - June 9, 2004 - 1 1/2 stars

Five paintings made for this exhibit in the wall space above the book shelves. Carefully and skillfully rendered, the three portrait pieces lacked inspiration. They were too cautious, so much so that they have an outsider, or untrained quality due, in part, to the subject matter and symbolism. In one piece, a seductive magazine ad-looking woman borders the side, melding into a band of blue paint. To the right of her, on a flat black canvas, a large rose is blooming while below that a blue marble world just floats, like the rose, in blackness. In another painting, a person is crying with an image of an apple as the world below. My advice to this artist is to just start sketching people in informal settings and break loose from the restrictive style. Johnson has the skills for a more individualistic approach. Through July 31, 2004; 317-269-1877. –Mary Lee Pappas

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Curious, amusing and ingenious - Stutz residents - June 2, 2004

Curious, amusing and ingenious
Visual Arts
By Mary Lee Pappas

*Pictured: Work by Greg Hull is part of the Stutz ‘Return of the Residents’ exhibit.

The Stutz Art Gallery, a corridor of crooked walls, is a space that lends itself to installation. Any visual encounter in this small space has an element of unpredictability to it due its incongruence. It’s especially enticing with the current efforts of former Stutz resident artists Greg Hull, Larry Endicott, Susan Watt and Emily Kennerk, on view in an exhibit called Return of the Residents.

“Supersuberbia,” a miniature stenciled landscape scaling the length of the south walls by Kennerk, is conceptually ingenious. Intellectually embodying Indianapolis’ contemporary suburb culture, it speaks volumes about home, family, work and conditions of the American way of life, or as Kennerk’s artist statement reads, “The transitional state of our current modernity.”

Beige prefabricated housing bordering I-65 plays the protagonist in the scenes set off by little clusters of green trees. Mass produced with neutral siding and roofs, the rows of cookie cutter box homes recede in skewed perspective into the horizon line suffocated by a vast, overcast Indiana sky. The repetitive, yet very specific, panorama bends around the walls as if they were turns on a highway. It’s a many-sided meditation on the literal and figurative illusion of home and the new, real Indiana landscape. Kennerk’s installation, an intrinsic quest to explore neoteric Midwestern culture, is both fascinating and effective in surveying this human experience. Demonstrating that art is more than trivial play or aesthetic escapism, this is art for life’s sake.

Suspended from the ceiling, Hull’s mechanized sculpture “Indeterminate Volume” employs a Minimalist aesthetic. Ordinary black umbrellas open and close intermittently, abstracting time more than space. Rhythmically, the kinetic gizmo swiftly transitions from one umbrella to the next with the nylon material creating a quiet swooshing sound reminiscent of an ocean wave. The theatrically imagined large spherical object appears to breathe as if mimicking something cellular or organic. Curious and amusing, this piece successfully interacts with viewers and its environment. It’s a spectacle that’s cause for conversation.

Watt’s installation, composed of cassette tape film and other similar rubbish from obsolete technology, climbs to the ceiling from the floor. The spiderweb of shimmering brown ribbons merges with the architecture and winds its way around the air conditioning vent. The plastic cassette sheaths are staggered through the netting as if technology is its own black widow. Watt’s ability to embrace space and meld it thoughtfully to a concept is unparalleled locally.

Two separate wall sculptures by Watt, “Logo Landscape 1” and “Logo Landscape 2,” composed of blue Astroturf, multicolored neon cable and twist ties, electric tape and an assortment of hardware store accessories (Watt works exclusively with discarded materials), are assembled similarly to a latch hook rug. Visually booming, the abstracted canvases demand attention. Emblematically puzzling, a certain subordination to product and lifestyle branding is raised by these neutralized, color heavy signs. It’s a subtle commentary on how, visually, these lifestyle labels ultimately capture our attention.

“Nucleus Origin” by Endicott, a photographer, is a series of six color transparencies of a glowing girl against downtown Indianapolis settings that include Mass. Ave. and the Mapleton Fall Creek Neighborhood. She looks as though she’s disconnected or isolated somehow from the active surroundings she inhabits. The conceptual grouping maintains the glossy look that defines Endicott’s work, including stylistic lighting devices and an overall commercial appearance. Displayed in wall-mounted SPI light box fixtures, the ghostly female figure in each vignette looks like energy, the essence of an apparition. She is the embodiment of a nucleus from which all else stems — whether that is in the form of a past life or one that has yet to be.

Four very different approaches to space and environment are presented well by this local all-star cast. The Stutz Gallery serves as an excellent venue for this work and for offering artists the residence opportunity. Return of the Residents continues at the Stutz Art Gallery through June 11; 833-7000.

Applications for the 2004-2005 Stutz Residency are available at