New Art of the West 9
Through Jan. 1
The Eiteljorg Museum of American Indian and Western Art’s biennial New Art of the West brings together contemporary art that speaks to notions of the American West, while consistently representing the museum’s continued dedication to ever-changing means of expression and points of view. New Art of the West 9 is not a departure, or a disappointment. I’ve viewed most if not all New Art offerings over the years, and the show consistently pulls together top-quality works by both known and lesser-known artists, not all from the West, but speaking to its unique sensibilities.
What the Eiteljorg’s contemporary program does best is embrace audiences with surprisingly edgy work, without relying on bombast or star power. Instead, particularly in the case of New Art and its Fellowship program, expression and its means of getting there — through the fully realized aesthetics of its artists — take priority.
Joe Feddersen’s (Colville Confederated Tribes) understated images appropriate traditional tribal designs in newly suggestive forms: The pattern of a basket weaving, for example, finds itself installed anew as a series of prints spanning an entire wall. Colette Hosmer re-imagines the meaning behind a hot dog in “Dirt Dogs,” spitting images of hot dogs in buns, composed literally from dirt. A series of Hosmer’s cakes are tantalizing until one realizes they, too, are made from earth.
Other notable contributions include works by Flo Perkins, whose “Conedescending” (2004, glass, rubber) is a series of blown glass pylons in various states of decline, the last almost completely deflated. Conceptual art is often no more than a trick, but these are ethereal somehow, lovely in their near-translucency, yet realistic renditions of those ubiquitous street cones — symbols of our time and the tensions between so-called progress, or even disrepair, and nature.
Sharon Strasburg’s meditative monotypes — “Sunrise,” in particular — take a more serene view of the West. Contrast these with Marta Amundson’s fiber-art quilts, which juxtapose the domestic passivity associated with quilting with a hard-edged political statement. “Sacred Cows” includes the words of George Washington, Adolf Hitler and George W. Bush, the latter two shockingly similar in their nation building perspectives. Washington’s is the lone voice of reason.
Two Indianapolis artists made the cut: James Wille Faust and Patrick Manning. Faust’s dreamscapes draw from almost primitive shapes and forms, coming together in highly complex compositions, brilliantly realized in intense hues as symbolic explorations of a reverence for earth, sky and water. Manning’s arresting photographs depict barren Western expanses where life is dormant or put to rest and offer a starker beauty.
In all, New Art of the West 9 is one of the more compelling locally produced offerings in contemporary visual art, speaking to the best our city’s cultural institutions have to offer. Visit New Art of the West 9 at the Eiteljorg Museum, 500 W. Washington St., through Jan. 1. Call 317-636-9378 or visit www.eiteljorg.org for more information and a complete list of the 20 participating artists.