Conceptual art at iMOCA 

Peripheral View
Jamie Pawlus and Ryan Wolfe
iMOCA
Through Aug. 19


I can’t even pretend to understand the mechanics behind Ryan Wolfe’s exquisite computer-driven installations undulating along the walls of iMOCA (Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art) — but I can offer you this: Each blade of wind-blown grass in a field of synchronized wind-blown blades of grass has a mind of its own — or rather, a tiny little computer of its own. And each one works in tandem with its neighbors because it is aware of its neighbors, even though each has its own tiny computer telling it what to do. The whole apparatus was designed on Wolfe’s laptop — God, if you will, of all the tiny computers. A lovely metaphor for “all things are connected.”

The day I visited the show, Wolfe, a San Francisco-based artist conjured to Indianapolis by iMOCA curator Christopher West, was working out some of the kinks in the aforementioned installation, “Field (Biaxial),” as the work is, at least to my eyes and ears, exceedingly complex. But Wolfe seemed unfazed, tirelessly connecting wires here and there and offering this bit of wisdom, “The nodes have to know where they are in relation to one another.” Indeed. There are 42 nodes in all.

On a nearby wall, Wolfe’s “Study for Still Life with Birds” is also moving but darker, literally: Suggesting a flock of birds, black feathers twitch back and forth from their own mechanical apparatuses, these not as delicate and contemplative as “Field (Biaxial)” or its smaller companion, “Sketch of a Field of Grass (Night).” But this piece is still in its experimental stages, Wolfe told me. And good for iMOCA for giving it a chance.

As our natural spaces dwindle, re-creating them mechanically is certainly not out of the realm of imagination. Wolfe’s imagination re-creates nature’s movement without being ironic, instead holding forth a serene moment that caused me to wonder at how something mechanically driven could be so beautiful. Nature itself, perhaps, is far more technical than we can pretend to understand.

You could say Indianapolis artist Jamie Pawlus also causes us to examine our propensity to take things for granted. Pawlus’ conceptual works are intended to be site-specific, and expressed in a public setting, but here, in the small spaces of the fledgling iMOCA, her work is largely out of that context and yet we’re still hoodwinked.

“The Other Side Sign” (cement, steel) has nothing on it, on either side. And that’s the point. Another sign, the kind you see on the Interstate flashing detour instructions or street closings, implores us “Don’t Be Afraid of the Space Rays / Don’t Be Afraid of the Space Race” (the text spawned from a misunderstanding, I was told). And “Merge” and “Escape” are re-fabricated Enter and Exit signs — in their proper locations. Pawlus suggests if we think we’re already looking closely, we’re not.

Peripheral View: New Installations by Jamie Pawlus and Ryan Wolfe is on view through Aug. 19 at iMOCA, 340 N. Senate Ave.; 317-634-6622 or www.indymoca.org.

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