Scott Johnson, one of the principals of Dean Johnson Design, would appear to be unabashed about his advertising background when it comes to expressing himself artistically. His piece "Conversations With Myself, 1992-2002," among roughly 50 pieces by as many artists in this winter"s One Piece Show at Dean Johnson Gallery, is a study in ad motifs and imagery stenciled on a totem-like wood sculpture: the word "BUY," a steak, a vacuum cleaner and the letter "A" (for advertising no doubt) are among the images.
"Welcome to Iraq: The Human Toll" by Dave Lesh
Is this art? Artists often respond to consumerism, contemporary culture and a full range of political and social issues. But in the context of the One Piece Show, the gallery is clear with its intention: Artists must make a living, too, and often this living is garnered through the selling industries. The gallery wants to celebrate the talent among commercial artists. Nothing wrong with that. There is no debating the prolific talent among commercial artists - or fine artists who also do commercial work. (Most of us who create for the sake of creating must have a day job.) So while this may not be a new spin on an age-old debate, the larger question remains: With so much talent out there, why is so much of it funneled into the selling of an automobile or a can of soup? Creativity is indeed a commodity. In the current One Piece Show, the art spans the media from traditional pastel to funky sculpture. Most of these are not obviously works by commercial artists. (And it is unclear how many of them are primarily commercial artists.) Joe Vondersaar"s "From the White River Series" is a lovely happenstance of nature captured; the photographer"s sharp eye and lighting facility found the branches of a tree crossing those of another in a neat pattern of black over white. Minda Douglas" "Bi Polar Unity" is a textile of fabric squares with a faint floral pattern forming a sort of frame around the center panels; these are adorned with delicate swirls. This provides a nice accompaniment to the more studied "Cold Mountain Stitches," a subtle but complex textile by Rebecca Lyon. Jeffrey Martin"s free-standing work, perhaps the edgiest of the lot, "360 minutes, 240 drawings," is a self-explanatory title for the piece which is composed on the surface of two large plastic cube-shaped objects made up of tiny cubicles in which the artist sketched city scenes and everyday objects in black. Dave Lesh"s politically-inclined "Welcome to Iraq: The Human Toll" is perhaps the most timely of the lot: In this cartoon-style graphite and watercolor piece, stick-figure humans are dropped from a plane like so many bombs. How these artists piece together a living is not the point here - creativity, whether it is bought, sold or expressed solely at the artist"s behest, is alive and well in Indianapolis. Dean Johnson Gallery"s One Piece Show closes Jan. 9. For hours and information, call the gallery at 634-8020. The gallery is located on the ground floor of Dean Johnson Design at 646 Massachusetts Ave.