Mixed media, mixed voices 

Visual Arts

Group shows are hard to pull off — especially when the group is a large one. Jennifer Kaye of LAMP Gallery boldly takes on the “group show,” though, time and time again; for one thing, it reflects her philosophy of giving lesser-known artists the opportunity to cultivate an audience in a bona fide gallery setting. And Kaye does not discriminate: Her artists represent numerous media, expressions and levels of experience; a relatively unknown “newcomer” often displays work next to a better-known entity.

The current group effort, on view through the end of this month, is a snugly curated show featuring the work of 10 artists at varying levels of artistic maturity. But what really works here is Kaye’s requirement that her artists each provide a cohesive body of new work for each show, whether or not they’ve shown at LAMP previously. This allows for each artist to challenge him or herself to explore new territory — the only way, really, to strengthen one’s artistic voice.

Agnes Dodart’s digital mixed media pieces, for example, reflect the artist’s fluency with the design media, but with a sci-fi bent. “Turbulences,” though, moves beyond this often-predictable visual genre: Where else but in some imagined galaxy would swirls of space resemble neatly conceived paisley?

Dodart’s spontaneous but scientific approach can be contrasted to the delightfully, if subtly, askew compositions of Dale Kercheval. Kercheval’s almost-naïve, quirky style of impressionistic street scenes and portraits comes across as brilliant in some cases and a little off in others — but the more he paints the more he hits the mark. Kercheval’s oil “Portrait of Chris” in cotton candy pastels and a sprinkling of glitter, displayed in a yellow painted frame, is a joy to behold for its more carefully wrought detail and color.

Contrast Dodart and Kercheval with the precise imagery of Blythe Hager, whose voice is also contained in a particular style or voice. Hager’s dreamlike, symbolic imagery is open to interpretation for its more complex layers: “The Voice” is a neatly painted surreal scene of a caveman in a simple room with a lone ear, a hanging screw and a wishbone.

Also included in the group are the ghostlike, figurative collages of James L. Huntley, the “felt pedestals” of Angela R. Vinson, the almost macabre image abstractions of Erin Swanson, the Caribbean-hued, stylized figures of Marcia Freese and the seemingly quick, but colorfully alive architectural conceptions of Amy Kindred. These are rounded out with the enigmatic, encaustic panels of Susie Starks (although the text is difficult to make out) and Galina Jenkins’ pop-art pictures laid out in neat panels of iconographic imagery. (I couldn’t help but recall the consecutive murals along the Monon Trail just south of 54th Street.)

Art “labs” such as this one are essential to the cultural vitality of a community. While each artist cultivates his or her own voice, audience feedback — for good and ill — stirs up the dialogue and the mix of voices.

Group Show at LAMP is on view through June 27. LAMP Fine Art Gallery is located at 901 N. East St., phone 624-9803 or e-mail Lampartgallery@aol.com for hours and additional information.

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