Breaking out of the box: 2015 in visual art 

The artists, pop-up shows and sculptures that changed Indy

click to enlarge The Yellow Bikes by Jerome Neal
  • The Yellow Bikes by Jerome Neal

It was a year in which old art spaces in Indianapolis were reconfigured, new ways of curating (and selling) art were conceived, and new spaces popped up out of the blue.

For some it might have been a sign of the apocalypse when the exhibit entitled Hoosier Salon vs. iMOCA juxtaposed artwork of Hoosier Salon members and Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art members, without letting patrons know which artist belonged to which group. This brainchild belonged to Richard Anderson, gallery manager at the Carmel Hoosier Salon, who approached iMOCA executive director Paula Katz with the idea. They put it into motion at iMOCA at the Murphy in August. Both Katz and Anderson, new in their positions, were looking for increased membership and increased buy-in from their members.

RELATED: The public art that fought back against RFRA

It was a strong year for iMOCA. The Stutz-based Philip Campbell's Your Catfish Friend, in January, stood out — a work that seamlessly blended woodcarving and painting. And Marco Querin's December exhibit There is a Child in me, insured that iMOCA would close out the year on an exuberant note.

click to enlarge "Figures Attacked & Rescued" - ANTONY WILL LAKEY
  • "Figures Attacked & Rescued"
  • Antony Will Lakey

Across the street from the Murphy, the artist-run space General Public Collective (GPC) also started the year with a bang. I Will Wake in the Real featured the work of two MFA candidates at the University of Minnesota, Kristy Childress and Will Lakey. (Lakey's drawing "Figures Attacked & Rescued" was a compelling mix of image and abstraction.) But GPC wasn't just hanging art on its walls. This year Erin K. Drew curated Saturday morning cartoon screenings at GPC while offering coffee and cereal to patrons. Cartoons serve as inspiration for Drew's engagingly playful art. (This art, currently part of the Doing It Themselves exhibit at the Indianapolis Art Center's Winter Series exhibition, features Drew and five other locally-based artists.) With its blend of out-of-town and Indy art-makers, GPC could serve as a barometer of local and national art trends.

The Circle City Industrial Complex's second floor came alive this year with exhibitions like October's Still Working, A Feminist Exhibition, featuring works by 10 artists associated with the Herron School of Art and Design. Among them was Heather Stamenov with a ceiling-attached watercolor featuring a female tightrope artist as seen from below. Artists with studios at CCIC consistently showing strong work include Katrina Murray and Ron and Julie (Satch) Kern.

Another artist with studio space at CCIC, Blasko (aka Steven Edwards) had a one-night show of his wildly colorful paintings at an office building off Virginia Avenue in June while the Collective had a second pop up show at 5910 N. College in April. The Collective include Constance Scopelitis, Lobyn Hamilton, Steve Paddack, Heather Stamenov and others who want to work on their own schedule rather than continuously face 12 First Friday deadlines. Look for another Collective show sometime in early 2016.

Parklets in Big Car's Spark pop-up - BIG CAR
  • Parklets in Big Car's Spark pop-up
  • Big Car

But the biggest pop-up — as it were — was Big Car's project Spark, which turned Indy's Monument Circle into one big art hub in August.

Monument Circle was just one of the many subjects for 74-year-old Indy painter Jerome Neal, who made a big splash with his exhibits Circle City 360° at Gallery 924 (one of many great shows at this venue). While this Chicago-born artist had previously exhibited his cityscapes in group shows in Indy showcasing outsider artists and/or African-American artists, this was his first large-scale solo show.

And that old stalwart, the Harrison Center for the Arts — which renovated its Harrison Gallery this year — still managed to serve up a super-diverse selection of artists almost every First Friday in 2015. The group show with Ways of Seeing, and Tasha Lewis's Stitched – featuring lifelike cyanotype sculpture – were two of the standouts.

  • MIchelle Craig

Most notably this year was the blow felt against Indianapolis when RFRA hit the legislature. Several artists directly responded in their work, but Visit Indy and local artist Brian McCutcheon took the lead when they installed the INDY sculptures scattered through downtown and landmark locations. The public art became a testament to the city's new commitment to protection and were voted Best New Public Art by NUVO readers.

And, finally, you might possibly have heard that the Indianapolis Museum of Art instituted an entrance fee in April. In order to balance the books, they say. The museum, at the same time, is looking to diversify its activities – hence November's "Internet Cat Video Festival." It's also looking to diversify its audiences. Only time will tell whether or not the IMA can increase audience diversity while charging entrance fees. But elsewhere in the city such diversity is continuously being achieved.

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