Ron Isaacs, a recently retired art professor from Eastern Kentucky, has a long history with Indianapolis as an exhibiting artist. He was once represented by the long-gone Patrick King Gallery - one of the city"s first contemporary commercial galleries - and since then, he has exhibited a smattering of work at Ruschman Art Gallery. His art, according to Ruschman, has followed a consistent aesthetic trajectory: three-dimensional objects crafted and painted in the trompe l"oeil style. His current offering, his first one-man show at Ruschman, may be a culmination of his playfully aesthetic ideas. The exhibit is an intriguing, complex, yet ultimately accessible grouping of Isaacs" personal oeuvre at what would appear to be its confident prime.
"Morning" by Ron Isaacs, on exhibit at Ruschman Gallery
It"s up to the viewer, though, to look deeper; otherwise the visual irony is lost. "Day Lilies Arch," for example, is just that: three strikingly real "lilies" forming an arch. These flowers are fashioned from birch plywood and then painted. Other pieces are more multifaceted, resembling found-object still lifes (another tried and true aesthetic). These are equally real, but even more awe-inspiring. Collections of "objects," such as a cardboard mat, a section of picket fence, a weathered plank of wood, a piece of bent metal, all of these look like what they seem - but are not. They are crafted in the same manner of the lilies: Plywood boards are affixed together and the desired shape is cut and formed. Then they are painted. One imagines chipped white paint when it is really just a photographically real rendering by the artist. Finally, in pieces such as "Bird of Paradise," the folds of a dress are painted with the shadows one would expect to see. ("You have to light them from the right," Ruschman explains, in order for the faux shadows to take full effect.) This is all good visual fun, but is there some meaning beneath it all that we are to glean? Not really. "He says he just likes to make things," Ruschman offers. "There"s no hidden meaning in any of the things Ö they"re not even biographical. They"re not message-laden." But Ruschman acknowledges the aesthetic value. For Isaacs, the aesthetic challenges likely make this work of interest. When an artist possesses the technical skill to pull off such feats as these, the sky"s the limit. "He enjoys the fact that people will find imperfection," Ruschman adds, "and it just sets up this whole different dialogue with the work." It could be as simple as Ö things are not what they seem. The work of Ron Isaacs is on view at Ruschman Art Gallery, 948 N. Alabama St., 634-3114, through April 9.