Art by architects 

Visual Art

The Art Formerly Known as (Blue)Prints Harrison Art Gallery Through Aug. 28 The Harrison Art Gallery teamed up with AIA Indianapolis, the Indianapolis chapter of the American Institute of Architects, to put together a “design-inspired” exhibit of art by local architects. The Art Formerly Known as (Blue)Prints has a great title going for it, and lots of promise behind it (the Harrison is know for putting on shows with “fun” titles reflecting clever themes; I’ll even forgive the puns), but the promise of cleverness and fun is only partially delivered in this case. Its greater merit perhaps lies elsewhere.
Craig McCormick's 'Fountain Square 1' is part of the show 'The Art Formerly Known as (Blue)Prints' at the Harrison Gallery.
The show is a curious mixture of the expected (modern furniture, line drawings, scale models made of foam core) and unexpected, such as Kipp Normand’s blue print-based, retro collages, which truly make use of the theme, and Craig McCormick’s compelling if dated photographic manipulations of building and landscape. The exhibit also includes a number of competition entries submitted as art, some efforts at traditional painting and drawing (some stronger than others) and even a bit of the innovative edginess one expects from architects. There are some truly lovely and outstanding pieces here, mostly in the furniture department. One gets the feeling, though, that all comers were welcome; and certainly this offers plenty of room for comparison — the stronger work comes across all the stronger. But before you decide not to go, wait and consider: Here’s an opportunity to learn a little something about the curatorial process, and to make your own judgments about what does and doesn’t an art show make (and by extension, of course, an architect doesn’t always an artist make). Selection of art may have to do with balance of styles or media, and innovativeness; it may also have to do with inclusiveness. It should always have to do with quality — unless there’s another point to the show, say, a fund-raising or educational effort. While this show offers a unique perspective on architecture as art — which is distinctively different from architects making art — some curatorial heavy-handedness could have done the trick in honing the focus and trimming the excess. Another perspective might have been to actually exhibit blue prints as art (granted, it takes a certain eye to understand this rarified language), thus delivering on the title’s promise. There’s definitely art behind creating boundaries for three-dimensional space, and the unique sensibility of this mind-set is certainly worth exploring artistically. Architects are often driven to become architects because of an artistic nature — one they hope will turn to profit rather than something they do when they’re not waiting tables. (One could say this about certain types of artmaking for its sake as well.) Overall, this is a worthwhile effort that offers room for dialogue — dialogue that may suggest more similar, perhaps more tightly focused efforts that strengthen the public discourse and therefore the awareness of our built surroundings and the art and sweat that contribute to their creation. And perhaps this is where the highest value of this effort lies — one for which AIA Indianapolis should certainly be recognized. The Art Formerly Known as (Blue)Prints is on view through Aug. 28 at the Harrison Art Gallery, in the Harrison Center, 1505 N. Delaware, phone 396-3886. Hours: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. and Saturday, 12-4 p.m.

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