The Stutz building was my first stop on an IDADA First Friday stuffed to the brim with art, with too much art all over the place to write or blog about it all. But the Stutz was a must.
I was at the Raymond James Stutz Art Gallery on Friday night for their exhibition entitled Changing the Story, which combined the resources of College Mentors for Kids and the Stutz Artists Association to display photos by kids side by side with the 2D and 3D work of Stutz artists thematically linked with College Mentors' Mission.
College mentors, a 20-year-old nonprofit based in the Stutz, describes itself as "college students with the most to give to kids who need it most," and it now has programs on 32 college campuses across the Midwest, and one of those mentors was IUPUI grad student Aaron Pierce.
Pierce's objective as a college mentor was to help a group of eight Indianapolis kids from IPS schools on the southeast side get acquainted with photography. And the photographs by these kids are on display in a looping slideshow at the Stutz Gallery. But the kids were hands-on in helping Pierce curate their photo diaries that would appear in the slideshow of their work.
Though many of these children come from challenging circumstances, there are a lot of smiles captured in their photography.
"The whole goal for College Mentors was to show the intimate view of the program from the kids' perspective." says the 26-year-old Pierce who also has a photograph of a bus bench in the exhibition. The bench is covered with an advert that he's not particularly fond of, to say the least. It’s an advert for wholesale caskets. The bench is located on the southeast side of town, where most of the kids in the College Mentors program - the kids Pierce worked with - live. Pierce, a grad student in geography at IUPUI, eventually wants to geomap all of these types of benches throughout the city.
"It's a great platform for bus advertising but can be abused," he says.
Some of the other work by other artists - some of them Stutz artists, some not - encouraged reflection. Some reflected back at you.
Chad Hankins' "Blinding Hope in the American Dream," is a hanging sculpture based on the "Impossible Staircase" conceptualized by Robert Penrose after a drawing by M.C. Escher. There was a version of this staircase in the film Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan. But the particular staircase in this exhibit has mirrors on its surfaces so if you look up you see your own reflection on stairs that don't lead anywhere. Ponder that in the context of whatever your particular American dream may be.
This is another one by Chad Hankins, a box with a mirror with a section cut out so you can see another set of eyes where yours are supposed to be. In this case, I'm the dude with the camera, Hankins is the dude with the eyes:
And here's a painting by Amico, entitled "However it Grows," inspired by Tupac Shakur's poem "The Rose that Grew from Concrete."
I had a brief conversation with Jeremy Amico; he told me that he had just started out as an artist. It turned out that our conversation was too brief. I regret not talking to him more because I see great potential in his work. And this particular work more than anything else in the exhibition, seemed to speak to the mission of College Mentors for Kids.
My mission, however, was to make it to at least four or five venues that night and write about them, and after staying at the Stutz until around 6:30 pm, I needed to leave in order to make time.
The next venue on the agenda was the Harrison Center for the Arts.
A definite highlight of the evening for me was seeing the exhibition Ways of Seeing at the Harrison's Gallery #2, curated by artist and director of the Art for Change Foundation Stefan Eicher. This exhibition is an outgrowth of the Harrison's Global Art Exchange Program.
Eicher is of European extraction, but he has spent much of his life in India. He starting to work towards an M.F.A. in Painting at the Herron School of Art and Design this fall.
This exhibition, which he curated, features the work of a group of Indian artists responding to a variety of daunting issues such as oppression of women and poverty. This took place in Gallery #2 and will be on view through the month.
I caught up with Eicher and asked him to talk about one of the paintings in the exhibition, "Beauty in a Broken World" by Oinam Dilip.
"This artist, he's young, starting to show in India," Eicher explained to me. "And he's been out of college for a couple of years. He came and joined us for a residency. So we picked a topic or a theme and the overall purpose of what we're doing; we see that art plays a role in every society, in creating and shaping culture. At one level being even a conscience of society. So we particularly look at things that trouble us like violence against women and government violence. But for this particular residency we said, let's just take a step back and look at the other side of it: where's the hope? Let's look at our lives and the world around us and create something that reflects the beauty that we see."
"So here in this work, he's got these things in the background," says Eicher about the painting. "He's got the chair. And that face with the crown.... In India the chair means authority. The president sits in a chair like that... So in this world where there's all this abuse of power, and all this other stuff going on, there's this innocence, and this child who's holding a doll which is in itself a symbol of innocence but there's a slightly morbid feeling to that doll but he's captured both sides..."
Eicher named the exhibition after John Berger's classic book of art criticism Ways of Seeing which argued that art cannot be talked about without talking about the society from which the art came from. Just talking about the paint and the palette - and not talking about the society context from which it came - is obfuscation to Berger. And this especially irks him when there is a particular message that a given painter wants to get across that the critic ignores.
What I find great about this particular exhibit is that there are many lovely paintings that can be appreciated for their great beauty and craft as well as their social relevance.
Nathan Foxton's was on view in the Harrison Gallery in a show called The Hunt: New Work by Nathan Foxton. Foxton clearly had an expressionistic, even abstract expressionist, thing going on in a lot of this work that was also representational - to a degree. Lots of bold colors, strong contrasts, thick brushstrokes, and vigorous movement.. in work here that often dealt with subjects from Greco -Roman mythology. So there was a lot to talk about, and admire, if you wanted to talk about palette and paint. But not a whole lot of figurative detail. So I couldn't help but wonder if these were painting studies, works in progress. Then again, maybe this was an aesthetic choice to present this as a complete and finished body of work in which case fine. I respect that.
But what made me wonder is a portrait of a young man simply entitled "Jack" - included in the exhibit - showed that Foxton is perfectly capable of detailed and lifelike representation on canvas. And the acrylic on canvas "High Life Nocturne with a Cyclist" that Foxton had on display at the Harrison back in July, depicting a young man and woman talking on a porch; the woman wearing cycling tights.There is a lot going on in this painting; it's colorful and expressive, and there's quite a lot of sexual tension. You can practically see the heat coming off their bodies, as if the photo reference for this painting had been taken with an infrared camera.
Would his other paintings currently on display here be even better if they had this kind of detail? Or would the vigorous energy that you see in them now somehow be depleted if he went down this path? Whatever Foxton is going for here, he is clearly someone who enjoys the act of painting and this enjoyment is contagious. "Pegasus Rising" was one that I found particularly striking:
It was great talking to Heather Stamenov at the Circle City Industrial Complex; she is another artist who very much enjoys the act of painting. Stamenov, a painter and art instructor at Herron, helped organize a group show consisting of work by assorted Herron students and faculty using the vast 2nd floor space of the Circle City Industrial Complex as their gallery space. The title of the show is "Still Working." Despite the vastness of this space, there wasn't an obvious place for Stamenov to hang her own work so she chose the ceiling. Of course painting on a ceiling is nothing new - think of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling - but Stamenov's six panel (watercolor and gouache on paper) painting deals with both heavenly and earthly issues. You can see the heavens and feral cats running around, and you can see up a tightrope walker's skirt, emphasizing her vulnerability.
But there's other things that Stamenov is pondering with this work as well. "Making decisions, walking the tightrope, figuring out where you are going," she says.
And, as if this particular show wasn't enough, then there was an exhibition of German poster art taking place at CCIC, entitled Das Plakat, the Art of the Poster, 1910 -1921 Berlin, curated by Julie Kern, an exhibition that wouldn't have seemed out of place at the Indianapolis Museum of Art. In fact, the IMA's Marty Krause assisted with some technical aspects of the curating. Julie's husband Ron wrote the introduction for the poster book that they published in time for their the opening of their exhibition on Friday, and it will be up through November's First Friday.
This isn't the first time their finds in the art auction world have led to exhibitions of long-neglected work. Consider last Spring's Style, Elegance and Wit: The Artwork of James Spencer Russell at the Indiana State Museum.
But back to the subject of the exhibition: Das Plakat was a journal published in the early years of the 20th century by a German dentist by the name of Dr. Hans Josef Sachs, who had Albert Einstein as one of his patients.
"It was his attitude and what he did in Berlin by publishing this journal Das Plakat," Ron Kern told me, "which basically took graphic arts from just being something in advertising... to becoming an art form. And then this magazine started off with only 200 copies and ended up - some people say - by the end of it with 15,000 copies. He had poster artists from all over the world submitting work. So he actually took poster art across the world. So it was a watershed moment in graphic arts design. And then, he was the pre-eminent poster collector. He collected 12,500 paintings."
But when the Nazis came to power in Germany, most of his work was confiscated. Because he was Jewish, he was also put in a concentration camp.
"His wife got him out," continued Kern. "And then his wife and him and his son went to London and then went to New York City." He ended up going to a school in Boston to get his dentistry degree and then practiced in American and lived his life here. "
Although supposedly his poster collection was burned by the Nazis, there was some material that still remained.
"In 2003 or something like that his son, after Hans had passed, he began work to get his poster collection returned and he finally did," Kern said. "So they ended up giving the posters out to 300 different museums and different institutions. They kept a few for the family and they auctioned the rest out. Hans wanted them to go out to collectors. So Julie collected this grouping of disjointed pages, sheets, and put together different examples of poster art."
One particular print from the March 1920 issue of Das Plakat, entitled "Winderhitzer,' by artist Karl Herman Schaefer, was an advertisement for a German industrial company, based in the coal rich Ruhr district. It features depictions of a hot blast stove that was used to process steel and iron using coke as a fuel. (Winderhitzer is the translation of "Blast Furnace")
Says Julie Kern about the print: "I love the strong graphics on it. It's very bold and straightforward. It takes a very industrial subject matter and makes it beautiful, she said.
And many of the prints in this exhibition seem to betray an optimism about industrial processes - processes that we are all dependent on now - as well as modernity in general that we no longer share. It's somewhat fitting that such an exhibition is taking place at the CCIC, where "Industrial" is included in the name of the venue.
Something is clearly going on at the CCIC. Just a year ago, coming up to the second story space at CCIC could be a somewhat scary experience but now it's a big IDADA first Friday destination.
Great work by Barbara Stahl at Gallery 924:
Final stop of the evening was at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art (iMOCA) where I had a talk with Sam Jones whose exhibition After Fred Wilson had just opened up. Of course, the Fred Wilson sculpture controversy is now in Indy's rearview mirror. Wilson's "E Pluribus Unum" was a proposed sculpture of a slave that was never realized in this city thanks to the controversy that ensued in the wake of its proposal. But there are plenty of other racially-tinged controversies that Jones addresses in his work that incorporates discarded covers and spines of law books as media. His concerns in this exhibition might be addressed by asking the questions: Who makes the laws? Are the laws just and are they justly enforced? Good questions, in a year where Youtube videos have proliferated showing abuse of citizens both black and white at the hands of authorities. An ongoing concern for Jones, from Marion, Indiana, which has a sordid history when it comes to race relations, and one of his works "Poplar Trees" specifically references that past.
"The reference of [Poplar Trees] is a reference to the lynching that happened in Marion, IN. in 1930," Jones told me. "And one of the persons who was lynched was a great uncle of mine. And this piece, the materials are primarily law books. A couple of pieces, the black rectangles are actually from encyclopedias. The black ones represent the two figures that are hanging in the trees because there's a very well known photograph [of the lynching]. And then the white ones at the bottom are representative of the onlookers to the event that happened."
I hope I gave you all an idea what was going on Friday night and some gallery hopping ideas for later in the month, as most of these shows will still be up. But I've written this blog in the margins of my day and now it's time for me to go to work (my other job, besides freelancing) So as this blog is a work in progress, click on it later and see how it's progressing. Adios for now.