Ed Funk: Ode to Clara
Through June 16
Veteran Indianapolis artist Ed Funk's current exhibition at Galerie Penumbra, the new Fountain Square gallery occupying the space once occupied by the beloved Woodburn & Westcott, offers more than a peek into Funk's (current) driving passion, at least from a visual standpoint: a woman with the initials "SN."
Work by Ed Funk is currently on view at Galerie Penumbra.
If you go, don't be surprised when you look at the titles of the prints and paintings and almost all of them are ... "SN." Funk's passion with SN, visualized through woodblock prints and paintings, is realized to our great delight. Funk isn't usually associated with figurative work, and this is a successful departure for the artist, who, by the way, hasn't abandoned his characteristic playfulness with abstract shapes and hieroglyphic-like symbols. He simply incorporates them.
In a series of woodblock prints, which, I'm told, are run through 10 differently cut blocks, "SN" sits on a chair, legs crossed, arms high. Each print is deliciously different from the next, employing a different set of colors, a different set of abstractions, a different number of layers. "SN" is a contemporary woman, wearing a knee-length skirt and high-heeled boots. And yet she reminds us of the female sitters who posed for Renaissance artists, whose paintings were intended to give the viewer the pleasure of the woman's gaze. This isn't to say "SN" is seductive, but she is familiar. Female portraits have obviously changed over the centuries, but their allure remains. For the painter, it's the never-ending quest to give reverence to and interpret beauty.
"SN" is like Raphael's "La Fornarina" (which happens to be on view now at the Indianapolis Museum of Art). The artist's, as well as the subject's, knowing, loving gaze brings the figure to life. Modernist Alfred Stieglitz photographed Georgia O'Keeffe with the same obsessive vigor.
In "SN," the painting, we see SN's face only, rendered in a brilliant palette of oils. The huge canvas is stunning both up close and from the far window of the gallery, looking in from the street. We meet her gaze and are not self-conscious: SN watches but doesn't intrude, and at the same time, we are not made uncomfortable looking back.
Sometimes a portrait painter (or photographer) renders his subject with too much subjectivity, giving her (or him) either not enough space or its opposite, too much distance. The trick is to retain some of the subject's mystery while giving the viewer enough of him or her to be invited in. Funk succeeds on both counts, and he's a master printer and painter to boot.
Ed Funk's Ode to Clara is on view at Galerie Penumbra, 1043 Virginia Ave., Fountain Square, through June 16. Gallery hours: Wednesday-Friday, 5-8 p.m.; Saturday, 12-5 p.m.; and by appointment. Call 508-8043 for information.