The term “multicultural” has lost the impact of its original meaning as it has become mainstream. Threatening to be a relic of affirmative action or an idea to which the corporate world gives a mercenary nod, and as ethnic diversity becomes assimilated rather than celebrated, artists are in a unique position of maintaining the real value of holding individual cultural expression high as a community value.
‘Survivor’ by George Murff, on view at Dean Johnson Gallery
The exhibition No Boundaries — A Multicultural Viewpoint, on view at Dean Johnson Gallery, pays homage to multiculturalism by exhibiting the works of Indianapolis artists representing a variety of ethnic backgrounds. Eastern European, Latin American, African-American and many other backgrounds are represented here, and the art either seems to spring from these places or it doesn’t. In other words, there isn’t always a clear sense of artwork representing a certain cultural background, and this, perhaps, is as important as recognizing how cultural heritage can result in differences of expression. The beauty of No Boundaries is in its inclusion of lesser-known artists among the work of those whose work we’ve seen in a variety of venues. Orlando Pelaez’s work is strong here and reflective of a rich cultural heritage. Fred Shields, another known name, exhibits faces in various states in the series “COLORED People,” revealing the complexity of being colored as a deeper reflection of self than skin color. George Murff offers some lively, largely celebratory figurative works that are a surprise and a delight. And there’s so much more. In the end, such an effort on the part of a commercial gallery can be applauded. The quality of the art may be inconsistent along the lines of accomplished expression, but no matter; in this case, all comers are welcome. No Boundaries is on view through Nov. 6 at Dean Johnson Gallery, 646 Massachusetts Ave., 634-8020 or www.deanjohnson.com.