Fit for a queen ... or Madonna 

Convergence & Contrast and Passion & Persistence
Indianapolis Art Center
Through Aug. 23

The rich and famous have to buy their linens somewhere. It just so happens that Walter Knabe is the go-to guy for sumptuous surface design … from linens to wallpaper, wall hangings, scarves and even neckties. Knabe’s Indianapolis-based studio churns it out for the likes of Michael Jordan, Madonna, Andre Agassi and even Spike Lee; and the late Andy Warhol and Keith Haring were also private collectors.

Knabe’s work, on view with architecture and design giant Michael Graves’ furniture at the Indianapolis Art Center, offers a glimpse into the netherworld of aesthetic indulgence, and yet, it’s not all glitz and gratuitous richness.

It’s true that most of us mortals can’t afford a $1,100 duvet cover, as stunning as it is. Or rather, if we had an extra thousand, we’d probably use it to pay off some debt or take a much-needed vacation.

No matter; Knabe offers a rarified world of surface designs fit for a queen (or king), and there’s no use in denying the allure of a jewel-toned fabric hanging ceiling to floor, rich with an almost random, oversized pattern of leafy medallions and other flora-inspired motifs. And if this kind of thing really moves you, there is a price point closer to most of our budgets, even if it would still be considered a major splurge: A Walter Knabe limited edition photo frame (in turquoise, magenta or gold) can be yours for $175.

Hang that precious image above a Michael Graves chair, reminiscent of his bubble-shaped flatware, toasters and other miscellanea created for Target, and you’re sitting pretty. Graves and Knabe designs make excellent bedfellows: Not only does this stuff look good, but it feels good, too (well, it looks like it does … as much as I wanted to, I didn’t crawl into the fully-appointed bed on display).

Down the hall, less functional designs await: “Passion & Persistence, Focus on Studio Furniture” is a delightful combination of furniture-inspired art. Purdue University design instructor Maura Schaffer’s fabric-covered, wire sculptures are funny but meaningful: Anthropomorphic “chairs” are going at it in “Kama Sutra Position 3.” Schaffer’s tables and chairs are decidedly, and delightfully, dysfunctional — just like the humans they mimic.

Indianapolis artist (and Art Center instructor) Myra Perrin’s furniture and sculpture are more serious, making the most of Perrin’s woodturning skills and eye for simple elegance. “4 Challenged” is a simple wood disk, hugged by a coil of graphite.

Finally, Jennifer Costa, assistant professor and gallery curator at Illinois Central College in East Peoria, rounds out this local/regional show with unconventional interpretations of conventional designs: A cubist assemblage of wood pieces are the basis of a wall shelf, playfully titled “A Lesson in Tedium.”

Taken in together, Convergence & Contrast and Passion & Persistence form a satisfying blend of functional to fine art, allowing us to make the final distinctions. Both exhibitions are on view through Aug. 23 at the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St. Call 317-255-2464 or visit for hours and information.

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