The opening of Katie Lampert’s Cirque de Poupèe Blindèe (Circus of Robot Dolls; at Indy Indie Artist Colony through Dec. 29) featured an odd collection of live actors dressed up as her characters and a popcorn machine complete with her own designs printed on the popcorn bags. But these accoutrements could do little to distract from the fact that there was very little going on here artistically or conceptually.
The exhibition, her Herron undergraduate thesis show, was certainly varied: there was a diorama-style circus installation with small rides and cutouts of Lampert’s characters (pictured), twelve circus posters and a few larger prints, some ceramic robot pieces, and two robot sculptures that are functional printing presses.
Stylistically, however, Lampert’s work feels like a cheap rip off of Tim Burton’s characters, specifically The Nightmare Before Christmas. These character designs would be better suited for the Etsy online marketplace than gallery walls.
The artist statement that I obtained from the gallery director, absent from the exhibition, explains that “Robots, dolls, puppets (and all that is almost-human) interest me for just that reason. They are close enough to being human that I can relate to them, but different enough that I have been able to use them and their creation as an outlet.”
Still, Lampert doesn't justify her interest in robots, dolls and puppets; the titles lend absolutely no clues or context, and the work isn't rich enough to inspire viewers to attempt to answer the question on their own. Creating a successful artist’s circus with little conceptual backing is possible; Alexander Calder did so with his Cirque Calder. But Calder's piece achieved success through an originality, artistic prowess and clarity of vision that's lacking in this exhibition.