The exhibits aren’t connected, at least not intentionally. One has to wonder, though, if it’s a coincidence that two galleries are now presenting exhibits celebrating the beauty of the human form — and all it represents. I, for one, believe there’s meaning behind such synchronicities.
‘Ex Nihilo’ by Frederick Hart. Hart’s work is on view at the Masterpiece Gallery (see review).
G.C. Lucas Gallery, Indy’s high-end gallery primarily representing original art by American realist painters, is showing the figure paintings (or figure-inspired) of 13 living artists in its December show. Masterpiece Gallery, offering high-end prints and some original works by national artists, is showing the work of the late Frederick Hart (1943-1999), perhaps best-known for his “Three Soldiers” at the Washington, D.C., war memorial. Then again, comparing master sculptor Frederick Hart to most living painters today is unfair. Hart signified excellence on the scale of universal appeal, but with a depth and thoughtfulness few artists of today aspire to, let alone achieve. Hart, the self-taught, American-born artist whose work has been celebrated alongside that of European great August Rodin, continues to gain posthumous notoriety for his “Creation Sculptures” that grace the façade of the Washington National Cathedral. When the Cathedral and publisher Chesley made available the release of limited editions of details of these sculptures in bronze, including casts from Hart’s maquette and working model for “Ex Nihilo,” it meant that money could buy what was once perhaps considered sacred public art. Selections of these, along with other Hart sculptures in acrylic resin, are on view at Masterpiece Gallery through Dec. 31. Hart, it must be said, had a lofty vision for art, and believed that contemporary art was in a state of moral and aesthetic decline. Viewing his full-scale figures in all their agony and ecstasy, I was almost convinced that he was right. His sculptures are, in a word, magnificent — add to that, meaningful. As Hart himself explained, the figures “stand as a metaphor for humankind always ‘becoming,’ ever in a state of rebirth and reaffirmation of all the possibilities in being human.” These intentions are palpable; you can reach out and touch them, and therefore feel it for yourself (I saw one gallery patron do just that). Even a plaster maquette of “Ex Nihilo,” its perfectly chiseled human forms emerging from the plaster as if they were born from Heaven’s ethereal mists, was enough to make me stop and reconsider my own standards when it comes to looking at art. This takes us back to Lucas Gallery’s figure paintings. I hope none of the artists will be offended at the above comparison, or non-comparison, as it were. Lucas has a fine eye for solid realism, the kind we are more likely to encounter. His artists are all fine-tuned in their chosen media, and what they offer pleases the eye and stands above the usual fray. Their value, too, is in their humanness — these are real people; they look like you and me. These artists easily breathe beauty into the human form through their colorful dance with paint. Here is the daily bread of fine art. Art of the “Creation Sculptures” ilk is Sunday worship — metaphorically speaking. Most of us can’t get by without some form of both. G.C. Lucas Gallery is located at 4930 N. Pennsylvania St.; call 255-4000 for hours and information. Masterpiece Gallery is located at 4647 E. 82nd St., www.mastergallery.com. Call 845-9990.