Speed Racer blows into Carmel 

May 23, the night of the Carmel Gallery Walk, Northwest Indiana native John Leaser will showcase his Speed Racer paintings at the Evan Lurie Gallery. So don’t expect to see the surrealist stuff often displayed there (such work is liable to get blown away in Speed Racer’s back draft).

Pop painters Leonardo Hidalgo, Keith Grace and Burton Morris, as well as sculptor Brad Howe, will also have work represented there, competing with Leaser for pole position, as it were.

“I wanted to bring something exciting and vibrant to the art scene during the Indy 500,” Lurie says. “I think pop art really achieves that.”

Art certainly doesn’t get any more pop than Leaser’s. An officially licensed painter with the company that owns the Speed Racer copyright, Leaser has been painting his portraits of the animated character since the early ’90s. Influenced by the pop iconography of painter Roy Lichtenstein, Leaser found inspiration in the mid-’60s era Japanese animated TV series, which soon became popular in the U.S. After he painted his first Speed Racer painting, he says, “I stood back to look at what I had created. It was almost like Speed came alive and was right there in my studio.”

Leaser may be the man of the hour, with the synergy from the recent Speed Racer motion picture release propelling him forward, but he’ll be racing (so to speak) against Burton Morris, whose commissions include the poster for the 2004 Olympics. Then there’s Leonardo Hidalgo, who, according to Lurie, “brings a Latin flavor to pop art.” In the work of Hidalgo and Morris, Lurie says, “People will recognize things that they’ve become accustomed to seeing in the public eye.”   

If there’s competition here, however, it’s all in good fun. Lurie says, “I tried to really focus on having five artists that all bring something unique and yet have a common thread through all of it.”   

For directions to the Carmel Arts & Design District, go to www.CarmelArtsAndDesign.com. The Gallery Walk runs from 5-10 p.m. May 23. The Evan Lurie Gallery is located at 30 W. Main St., Carmel, 317-844-8400.


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