Bloomington, Ind., artist Robert Kingsley is well-studied — and it shows. Kingsley received his master’s of fine arts almost three decades ago and has been painting and teaching painting ever since. But there’s something peaceful and beyond the precise lines of academic painting that Kingsley’s work possesses: a natural facility with the brush and palette knife, an ease with finding the right finish to make his canvases shine, an almost casual, but confident, love of what he sees.
‘Red Oak’ by Robert Kingsley, currently on view at Ruschman
Kingsley’s one-man show on view at Ruschman Art Gallery is more of this same idea: idyllic landscapes of Southern Indiana that romanticize its easy beauty. Those of us who have traveled the back roads of Monroe County know that there are hills there and generous expanses of green and valleys where horses graze, and we know the magic they possess. Kingsley’s larger canvases are more impressionistic; the lights are brighter, the lines are not as precise. Stand up close and you see white paint before you see that it is a cloud formation. Stand back, and the clouds speak before the paint. In his smaller canvases, the varnish is slicker and the lines are tighter. There is no mistaking image for paint; it’s all brilliantly real and yet softly romantic. Smaller paintings such as “Sunrise Over Lake Monroe,” with yellow sky, red earth, gray horizon and a gentle suggestion of water, are compact and complete, and stirring enough to generate the muse. Ruschman exhibits Kingsley roughly once a year, and the current installment isn’t much of a departure — there’s something comforting about the solidity of Kingsley’s eye and the steadiness of his brush. There are places we return to again and again if only for the solace there. Robert Kingsley’s Views of Monroe County are on view through Oct. 4 at Ruschman Art Gallery, 948 N. Alabama St., 634-3114, www.ruschmangallery.com.
Juicy fruits of art
Scott Johnson and Bruce Dean offer up a generous portion of art — their own, that is — in a group exhibition of their pieces alongside the intoxicating, kamikaze abstractions and constructions of Bernadette Ostrozovich and David Kleeman. Add in the dreamy yet crisp black-and-white photographs of Joe Vondersaar and the ghostly ones of Dan Francis, and it’s already soup. But that’s not all: Lisa Pelo-McNiece (glass) and Rob Curfman (photographs) offer even more garnishes to this hearty brew of art. What ad execs Dean and Johnson do best in this gallery setting is provide glimpses into the “what if” worlds of commercial/fine artists; that is, what if I were to make art for myself? These artists all step up to the plate, and yet there’s nothing overly compelling here. It’s mostly nicely wrought art in a variety of media; lovely watercolor still life paintings of pears, squash, avocados and the like; sensual nude collages; pastoral sweeps of grass and trees; shiny, candy-bright glass. Ostrozovich and Kleeman are the least neutral of the lot — Ostrozovich’s mixed media abstractions are figuratively flavorful and supercharged with color. They are, in a word, psychedelic and yet layered with symbolic meaning. Kleeman’s playful constructions of found bike seats, random bolts, archaic tools and the like, embellished further with his ceramic body parts, are also figurative in their way — they are the juicy fruits of an artistic imagination. Where we see a piece of junk, Kleeman sees the Holy Grail. Dean Johnson & Friends is on view through Oct. 2 at Dean Johnson Gallery, 646 Massachusetts Ave., 634-8020, ext. 21, or www.deanjohnson.com.