Next In the Gallery
Herron Gallery's David Russick came up with what is now turning out to be a brilliant idea. Next In the Gallery shows the work of national (often international) artists alongside, and overlapping, the work of local/regional artists.
Andres Serrano's 'The Morgue (Fatal Meningitis) III'
The result? An opening every two weeks, and the opportunity for the public - not to mention Herron students - to see the work of artists who have gained significant recognition in the world of art. What makes this approach brilliant is that it juxtaposes artists who have "arrived" on a larger scale alongside those who are well-known locally or regionally, or at least are based here in Indiana; and the viewer may not be able to tell the difference. This, of course, calls into question the notion of just how an artist becomes famous in his or her sphere, and what makes a work of art, or a body of art by a particular artist, noteworthy.
The Next In the Gallery series marks the final year of exhibitions in Herron Gallery's current location before the school's move to the IUPUI campus. Herron School of Art will celebrate its move officially in June of this year when it reopens on the campus at 750 W. New York St.
Meanwhile, over 40 contemporary artists - six at a time - are being shown throughout the year; and we near the end of the run with the current offering of Riva Lehrer, Cybele Young, Louise Bourgeois, Andres Serrano, Betsy Stirratt and Kim Knowles.
It's certainly worth noting that, among these artists, there's the infamous Andres Serrano - infamous, initially, for the NEA controversy his nude photographs of children generated years ago, and in more recent years, for the equally infamous "Piss Christ." In this context, one is called to question once again whether or not Serrano is making art or waves. Herron exhibits photographs from Serrano's "Morgue" series, which - you guessed it - are of dead people. The photographs are disturbing. These are not elderly men and women who have lived long, full lives; they're young people, including children, who have died of devastating diseases such as meningitis or AIDS. (No doubt Serrano received consent from the loved ones of his subjects - those who died obviously could give none.) One could look at the art in more than one way, of course: There's the purely aesthetic angle of Serrano's photographic eye, which is sharp; and then there's the context in which he creates, or what his intentions are.
When does art cross the line between unique expression - and possibly the creation of something beautiful, although the notion of beauty can be complex - and an unwelcome intrusion? It should be noted that Serrano also makes pornographic photographs (clearly with the consent of his subjects). Certainly there's an argument on both sides here, and Russick is right to bring this dialogue to our attention.
Other work in this Next installment is less challenging in the controversial sense, and perhaps more edifying aesthetically speaking. Betsy Stirratt's paintings, which capture emotions in abstracted, dreamlike environments, are lovely to behold and are beautifully complex. Paintings such as "Sea," "Deluge," "Glow" and "Air" evoke feelings on the part of the viewer that are suggested visually by the artist, without being concrete (emotions, of course, are anything but concrete). Things fall from the sky in Stirratt's work, and yet there's a central point at which something stops and commands our attention: a cluster of dots or tiny strings, and a stylized flower or other object at center.
Cybele Young's constructions of miniature scenes in Japanese paper are carefully wrought and delightfully provocative. "A Little Off the Top," for instance, includes a miniscule razor and feather wig; and "Where's My List?" includes a shopping cart being carried away by a balloon - or the suggestion of it. All is crafted of paper.
Other artists include Louise Bourgeois' crocheted works (Bourgeois continues to be one of today's best-known contemporary women artists), Riva Lehrer's quirky portraits and a video (which was not in operation the day I visited the gallery) by Kim Knowles.
For a complete schedule of Next In the Gallery, with new individual installations rotating on a biweekly basis through May, call 920-2413. Herron Gallery is located at 1701 N. Pennsylvania. Gallery hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday until 7 p.m. Visit www.herron.iupui.edu for more information.