The Contemporary Landscape Show
Gallery 924 at the Arts Council through July 3
★★★★ (out of five)
Phil O'Malley's mixed media "Myers Lake," is a very different sort of landscape than most, as it is painted on an upright tube. The boldly-colored features of the landscape connect up with one another like a rolled up panoramic photograph. Unusual media abound in this group show of 38 artists, such as in Jan Martin's mixed media "Rustic Bay," where the depiction of a landscape is achieved through a reductive process. It takes a while for the eye to become accustomed to the carved-out surfaces of this painting, but it slowly reveals itself to be a landscape with dimensionality and depth. This exhibition succeeds in challenging traditional ideas about landscape with contemporary twists on the subject. Yet there's also room for more traditional landscape (or cityscape) type painting such as Jane Corbin's oil on canvas "Indianapolis Star," depicting a lonely newspaper dispenser on an empty street.
click to enlarge
Jake Lee: Vulnerable Villains
The Attic, by appointment
The mixed media on wood works in this exhibition represent the seven deadly sins with the help of some iconic comic book villains. And yet these portraits are also autobiographical. For me the standout is "Missing the Target," which depicts the comic book psychopath Bullseye (wearing a target on his head) against a collaged backdrop. The painting deals with Lee's abortive attempt to make it big in New York. (The relevant sin here, if you haven't guessed it already, is pride.) The collaged backdrops of newspaper clippings and similar materials approximate the turmoil in the subject's thoughts, as he holds his head in his hands. Lee's busy backdrops — like the surfaces of old buildings papered over with flyers — occasionally result in a lack of clarity in the foreground portraiture, but you can't deny the energetic and engaging nature of this work.
Natura: New Works by MaryAnne Nguyen
Primary Gallery; closing reception and artist's talk, June 27, 6-9p.m.
In MaryAnne Nguyen's oil on canvas painting "Bluebird," you see a bluebird: you also see what the bird is standing on, which happens to be the head of a toddler. And the toddler's head is also tinted blue. The details of this composition are stunning, and everything is set against a white background. It's tempting to read deeply into Nguyen's work, but meanings can also emerge quite naturally from her compositions. The toddler subject seems oblivious to the fact that she has a bird standing on her head. Likewise, many of us seem just as oblivious of nature, except when it turns around and bites us in the ass.
Circling the Camp: Wendy Red Star
Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA) through July 19
Wendy Red Star grew up in a multicultural family on the Crow Reservation. Her mother is Irish and her father is full-blooded Crow. Going to, and participating in, the annual Crow Fair near Billings, Montana was a big part of her childhood. These memories are revived, manipulated and displayed on iMOCA's walls with help of her dad's old slide collection. Red Star took old slides that her dad took of the vehicles, riders, and participants in the Crow Fair parade and edited out the backgrounds in Photoshop. This editing process creates some surreal effects, such as in the composition "Paint Horse & Sunglasses," where you see a man on a horse in the distance, seeming to float in empty air, much smaller than the horse and sunglasses-wearing-rider in the foreground.
As I followed these photographs around the gallery, circling the camp as it were, I pondered the meaning of these distilled images, all of them set against a backdrop as white as the gallery wall. What is the meaning of such imagery when the context is not a parade ground, but a contemporary art gallery? What is the place of Crow culture in consumerist American society? Also on view in this exhibition are the kind of garments you might see at the Crow Fair parade, like a dress decorated with elk teeth. There's also video of an actual Crow Fair parade.
Matthew Davey Studio and other studios at the Circle City Industrial Complex (by appointment only)
Matthew Davey's "The Geologist" (oil on linen) at 75" x 171' is such a huge painting that you might wonder how you might get it out the door, let alone display it in your living room. While more renowned for his sculptural work than his painting, "The Geologist" demonstrates that he is equally adept at both. The subject is a geologist performing surveying work while standing in the middle of a creek. The clarity and realism of the composition are startling: the geologist stands out from the environment in his blue and yellow parka, yet we also see him again reflected in the creek water. If you want to reflect upon what's essential for sustaining life on earth, and what mankind is doing to undermine it, ask a geologist, not the idiots on Fox News.
The geologist of the painting is an actual friend of Davey's and together they tramped around Indy's northeast side, with Davey helping the geologist do his work while gathering reference material for his composition. Davey's painting is part of the multi-studio "Bellwether" collaborative show (work centered on the theme of our threatened planet) organized by Martha Nahrwold of Five Seasons Studio, involving multiple studios at the Circle City Industrial Complex.