Robert Allan James, "Sunday Morning, Mass Ave." (detail)

Robert Allan James, "Sunday Morning, Mass Ave." (detail)

Review: Robert Allan James at Indiana Landmarks Center 


If you're just passing by Robert Allan James' "Sunday Morning Mass Ave.," you'll definitely recognize the foreshortened buildings on either side of the avenue, receding away as they approach the glass skyscrapers in the heart of downtown Indy. But there are some very strange things here — acrylic and collage on Masonite — that take a moment to process. Like the waves of numbers peeking out of the paint. Or the teddy bear mural replacing the one of Kurt Vonnegut. And, most disconcertingly, another bear peeking out at you from the passenger side of a car with beady blue eyes.

In other paintings, it's robots that rule. "Aftermarket" shows several robots on a downtown street; one looks like he's trying to steady himself against the entrance of a bar as he walks into broad daylight. These robots are old-fashioned, and kind of cute in the way robots in Calvin and Hobbes robots are cute, but what's really creepy here (as well as in "Sunday Morning, Mass Ave." as well) is that there are no people around.

It's as if we've lost our bearings; we've been superseded by our computer algorithms. And in "Almost Made It," you see a teddy bear in a dismal rural landscape — as creepy as anything imagined by Goya — unzipping a brownish yellow sky to reveal its innards. It's a teddy bear apocalypse.


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