Not-so-easy easy chair 


At Home with Contemporary Art
through Dec. 30

There’s no ultimate definition of contemporary art, or at least one that can be agreed upon universally. Therein lies the challenge for institutions such our city’s fledgling Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, whose mission is to engage “audiences of Indiana and beyond with the ideas, forms and creators of contemporary art of our time.” Such a niche has been only sporadically filled before iMOCA, the major players being Indianapolis Museum of Art and Herron Galleries.

Cities of our size do well to offer audiences more choices when it comes to art, particularly contemporary art — for here is the place where the most provocative ideas in art are put forth, whether that art is anything you’d even consider hanging above your easy chair.

But iMOCA suggests that contemporary art is made to be consumed, even if such a term is the antithesis of the ideas-first nature of so much contemporary art. So iMOCA put together the exhibition At Home with Contemporary Art, an attempt to turn its modestly sized galleries into a living space, well-populated with the stuff. The art was handpicked by curators from private collections in Indianapolis — and provides ample evidence that this city is no slouch when it comes to understanding and appreciating contemporary art.

In many cases, contemporary art is not about beauty. Lucinda Devlin’s photographs of death chambers, sparse, brightly lit electric chairs and other execution devices are not feel-good images; they’re important, certainly, but not about loveliness. On the other hand, Jeff Koons’ “Puppy” (1998, porcelain), a white, life-sized ceramic terrier, is tongue-in-cheek but accessible (my 2-year-old daughter made a connection to our own dog). Josh Azzarella’s “Untitled #7” (16 mm), a continuously running DVD of the Kennedy motorcade, and a similar piece with footage of a plane flying past the Word Trade Center (pre Sept. 11), are more enigmatic choices.

Other works include prints and drawings, many of them more subtle expressions of big-name artists who are often known for larger-scale works — among these, “Drawing of Campbell’s Tomato Soup Can” and a small-scale work by Kara Walker. More typical, a Chuck Close self-portrait (lithograph) is of wall-spanning scale. These are just a smattering of the numerous works displayed in the two rooms, placed among the spare contemporary furniture on loan from Form + Function. In all, At Home offers a view to how we make space for provocative art in our own homes, whether or not it makes those spaces more comforting. In this case, some of it does; some of it doesn’t. When it comes to collecting, that’s not always the point.

At Home with Contemporary Art is on view through Dec. 30 at iMOCA, in conjunction with the iMOCA 101 series of panel discussions on collecting contemporary art, in the iMOCA space at 340 N. Senate Ave. For hours and information, call 317-634-6622 or visit


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