"Shades of Clay: A Multi-Cultural Look at Contemporary Clay
Indianapolis Art Center
Through May 27
Exhibitions are born of many inspirations and resources, not always, as some might assume, generated by the host institution. The Indianapolis Art Center, as a regional presenter of fine art exhibitions in addition to its primary focus as a community-based art school open to all comers, is challenged with presenting exhibitions in several of its venues year-round, from its hallways and gift shop to its dedicated gallery spaces, and even its exterior grounds. Currently on view, in typical Art Center fashion, is a full menu of exhibitions: from Cuban-themed art (an enthusiastic nod to the Indianapolis Museum of Art’s Marìa Magdalena Campos-Pons exhibition and other local institutions’ Cuban offerings) to the ethereal black and white “photograms” by Kentucky artist Anita Douthat.
At the center of this constellation, the imported exhibition Shades of Clay: A Multi-Cultural Look at Contemporary Clay, in the adjoining Clowes and Hurt galleries spaces, may connect most strongly with the imperative of the Art Center: to offer its students — as well as the general public — the opportunity to see professional artists reaching towards the top of their form in a medium that is accessible to the weekender looking for inspiration.
Shades of Clay, though, offers something more: a thematic approach with a conscience. While this exhibition is not generated by an institution — rather, it’s an exhibition-for-hire, one put together by a company whose purpose is to compose exhibitions and loan them to institutions for a fee — Smith Kramer Fine Art Services, based in Kansas City, Mo., did a commendable job in pulling together this omnibus of styles and perspectives, all emanating from the core medium of clay.
Some stunners: Patsy Cox’s “Yellow Conglomerate Vessel” and “Make Green,” single-hued constructions seemingly composed of clay pieces resembling oversized rubber stoppers joined in a magnetic embrace. Similarly, Syd Carpenter’s “Internal Noise” is also voluminous in its snaking perspective, in this case calling to mind a shapely hose — or intestines, perhaps, or even a snake bulging with its latest kill. Ellen Day’s “Passion” and “Cradle Journey II” offer a more angular aesthetic, elegant in its simplicity. Slabs of rectangular, scooped clay come together to suggest a container in the former case and a cradle in the latter.
Paul Andrew Wandless, formerly a ceramics instructor at Herron School of Art and Design, curated this ambitious exhibition, comprised of work from 20 artists from across the country. Wandless is an artist, too, and offers the compelling “Collected Thoughts,” a wooden display box encasing four heads, all in a state of intense thought and/or repose — one punctured through the top with a bouquet of nails. Presented as a “snapshot of the world that exists in my mind,” Wandless’ perspective is perhaps reflective of what this exhibition best achieves: the expression of numerous states of mind, each culled from a lifetime of experiences.
Shades of Clay is on view through May 27 at the Indianapolis Art Center, 820 E. 67th St. Call 317-255-2464 or visit www.indplsartcenter.org for more information.