Outside in 


The Indianapolis Museum of Art has found a way into the puzzle of contemporary art, increasingly bringing in artists and individual works that nudge us into seeing something differently rather than making us feel stupid for not “getting” it.

Internationally regarded Swiss-born artist Adrian Schiess, now living in France, is known for his video installation work and “flat” paintings that re-imagine the notion of painting, and that draw in the viewer organically, without requiring theoretical backpedaling. Rather than being hung conventionally, his large-scale aluminum panels are either propped against a wall or laid flat on the floor. His video projections are also presented uniquely, requiring that space or viewer, or both, collaborate in making the art.

Schiess was invited to Indianapolis to create a site-specific installation, placing panels in several locations throughout the IMA campus — a video installation in a hallway on the main floor, and paintings placed in the first floor entry pavilion and the European Galleries, the third floor Contemporary Galleries and, farthest, in Lilly House on the Oldfields Estate.

The act of placing the work becomes a metaphor for the act of painting; Schiess situates the work as a creative gesture that requires give and take from the space and the viewer. Each painting is fluid; its lacquered enamel surface changes with the light, and reflects its surroundings both outside the windows and in. So the metaphor extends itself as an aesthetic double or even triple entendre, by grounding itself in space rather than time, and encompassing the viewer’s stance as a way of mirroring the artist’s intentions as a unique creative act.

In the contemporary galleries, a series of panels evoke different spatial textures: Each one is an extension of another; and yet by overlapping them slightly, the artist gives them an almost meandering reach into the cavernous gallery. As the light itself changes, so does the image, or images — slick fuchsia, dented white, a super-sized flower. As Schiess himself describes, an image is created, but “you can’t catch it.”


It is indeed ironic that such industrial-looking art would engender such a light-hearted feeling. This isn’t static color field art — rather, it’s something beyond. Its art reaching outside its native habitat, making discoveries as it is being discovered. As Schiess puts it, its best intention is “to give somebody else a feeling of happiness.”


Off the Wall: Adrian Schiess is on view throughout the IMA through April 27, 2008 (maps available at the information desk). Visit www.imamuseum.org or call 317-923-1331 for more information. Podcast interviews with the artist and commentary by IMA staff are available for download or as an audio tour on-site. n


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