Herron's Public Sculpture Invitational
Herron School of Art and Design
Work by James Wille Faust is part of the Herron School of Art and Design Public Sculpture Invitational.
Herron School of Art and Design is making the most of its new space - inside and out. The shiny, mod new digs on the IUPUI campus have certainly lost the worn charm of the school's former home, but Herron is looking to make up for what's lost with the gain of a much more visible face and the blessings of the added breathing room and technology the new home affords (never mind the parking - which is, unfortunately, more of a hassle now). To this end, you can take some of it in without actually parking your car - just drive by real slow for a peek at Herron's Public Sculpture Invitational (although making the effort to park is well worth it). Reading like a who's who of some of today's hottest sculptors, Herron's first sculpture invitational mixes the known with the local (and also known), and the result, overall, is compelling, even a tad controversial. Indianapolis has had its ups and downs when it comes to public sculpture, but the Herron Invitational is bordering on redemptive in this regard; most of the 15 pieces which dot the still-somewhat-barren landscaping are strong examples of contemporary art.
Certainly, though, "Trophy," by internationally known Wim Delvoye, is strategically placed at the back of Herron - even when Delvoye is arguably the best known of the 15 sculptors. I'm tempted to leave it at that, with hopes that curiosity if not genuine interest will get you downtown to check out the goods; but alas, there's more to the story that should be told.
First, some background. Belgian artist Delvoye is perhaps best known for his poo machine - "Cloaca" is its name. Literally, the contraption eats, digests and craps, just like us lowly humans. Delvoye has also created art from X-rays of his friends engaging in sexual acts, and from cold cuts made to resemble marble floors. Needless (perhaps) to say, the art has both made waves and has been controversial. Here in Indianapolis, looked at in that larger context, Delvoye's "Trophy" can be construed as another commentary on humanity - err, life - as the sculpture depicts the act of copulation. Truly, though, there is more to it than meets the eye. The buck who is mounted upon the doe looks as if he is either kissing her or biting her mouth, which begs the viewer to ask, is this what they really do? Do animals kiss while they have sex?
This is where Delvoye gets our attention. We, the viewers, are forced to look at something "natural" in a direct way. Yes, we are endless producers of shit, his "Cloaca" reminds us; and we endlessly copulate and reproduce. But perhaps there's soul in it, whether or not we're human or beast - and truly, there's no difference. (Delvoye is a vegetarian, which suggests his belief that all life does indeed come from soul.)
Certainly, to talk only about Delvoye does somewhat of a disservice to the other 14 artists included in the Herron Invitational - Judith Shea, John Ruppert, Edward Mayer, James Wille Faust, Greg Hull, Katrin Asbury, David Bellamy, Barbara Cooper, Eric Nordgulen, Casey Eskridge, Don Gummer, Arny Nadler, Tom Sachs and Tom Otterness, whose work is part of a citywide exhibition right now. There's plenty of work that's of genuine interest here, from Edward Mayer's ingenious "Bloculus Quarter," a grid of tomato cages made to resemble the chemical structure of, say, a crystal (a scientist helped me out with that one); to John Ruppert's "Orb," which resembles an oversized wheel constructed out of chain link fencing, turned on its side. Then there's Barbara Cooper's waves of metal that emerge from the knot of a tree, and Casey Eskridge's aluminum "Torso Fragment" that is all too human.
But of all of these, Delvoye's "Trophy" is most likely to generate talk in town, if it hasn't already. And that's not only OK. Unsettling as "Trophy" may be, unsettling is good. Unsettling makes us think. (And certainly, even more of us would be thinking if "Trophy" were placed on the front lawn instead of the back.)
Herron's Public Sculpture Invitational is on view outside Herron through October. While you're there, if the building is open, check out the galleries inside - and pick up an information sheet on the sculptors. Herron School of Art and Design is located at 735 W. New York St., www.herron.iupui.edu, 278-9418.