Massachusetts Avenue

Through Sept. 2

NUVO sent our intrepid visual arts critics Susan Watt Grade and Allie Matters to check out the venues and offerings at this year’s VisualFringe.

Ever wanted to show your artwork in a gallery along Massachusetts Avenue? VisualFringe, which opened Aug. 3 and runs through Sept. 2, provides emerging and established regional artists an opportunity to display one to three artworks in galleries and spaces within Mass. Ave.’s cultural district. More than 60 artists’ works are on view in this non-juried visual component of IndyFringe, the third annual Indianapolis Theatre Fringe Festival. Festival Director Pauline Moffat explained the festival is designed to “expose more people to art and local art.” Visual arts exhibitions are free and a schedule is available at www.indyfringe.org. (Some galleries have limited hours, plus show changes near Aug. 23.) Participating locations are denoted by artistic A-frame “Visual Fringe Gallery” signs.

Head northeast on Massachusetts Avenue to McFee Gallery of Modern Art, Mike Loudermilk Photography and Precious Mettles Gallery. Each gallery has dedicated space to a mixture of VisualFringe works curated by Big Car Gallery, which decided what art went where. Individual artists’ works are rarely grouped together. In most cases, conversations were created between pieces. Although quality is uneven, a few fresh surprises appear.

On the ground floor of Beilouny Luxury Properties — former site of the Abbey Coffeehouse, corner of Massachusetts and College — is “Best of VisualFringe” on the back wall. Moffat greeted me at the raw, temporary gallery. LaShawnda Crowe Storm’s two dramatic works — a drawing with the anguish of a Käthe Kollwitz and a politically and visually powerful composition of a hanging — stood out. Also noteworthy: Kyle A. Herrington’s consumer landscape, Cindy Hinant’s forgotten animals and Collage Queen’s colorful squares. Display and lighting could be improved for some pieces, such as Tim Ryan’s ceramic sculpture, unintended for a floor.

The Earth House, at Lockerbie Central United Methodist Church, corner of East and New York, presents art and, soon, FringeFilm, a festival within a festival programmed by the Indianapolis International Film Festival (for more information go to www.indyfilmfest.org/fringefilm). A new coffeehouse inside hosts works by students, faculty and alumni of Herron School of Art and Design. The church’s architecture provides contemplative ambiance for brewing and viewing. Narrative photographs by Paula Shoultz-Brown speak to the church’s imagery. Organic sculptures by Quintin Owens and William Scott Shoultz provide 3-D interest. Downstairs, the Artistic Spirit gallery features “original visionary art.” I happily recognized the art of Ontario-raised painter Casey McGlynn, who showed at Galerie Penumbra last December. Other artists leaned towards religious explorations, such as Greg Brown’s floor installation of paintings arranged like a holy calendar. I’d love to see this mounted and mural-like.

—Susan Watt Grade

At the Mass. Ave. Wine Shop, Kyle Ragsdale’s works stand. “Stage Fright” is alluring. A woman hovers center stage — details such as face, hands and feet are not there, but those details aren’t needed to comprehend her beauty. Two more faceless women intently draw a red curtain back, allowing the viewer a glimpse into the world of Ragsdale’s anonymous female. “Midsummer Visions” is another Ragsdale winner, again featuring three unknown women — this time they float in unison in a dark and enchanted forest. White flecks speckle the canvas, suggesting the three-dimensional magic created by a snow globe. Brian Phillips’ “A Night in Barcelona” conjures Picasso’s abstract and jazzy style. The colors yellow, red, black and white constitute the entire palette in this work. The jazz musicians’ eyes are closed, arms exaggeratedly long, and their bodies and instruments are puzzled in the composition.

Franklin Barry Gallery at the Frame Shop features a small array of VisualFringe artists. Stacy Novak’s “Blue Mobile” is infused with soft aqua blues, purples and green — the strokes undulate from the center mobile. “Lemon Drop” suggests a woman hovering on a lily pad, floating across hazy water. Dainty strokes flitter across the painting, adding to the dream-like effect. Paul Baumgarten’s photographs feature Fountain Square’s very own Depew Fountain. Water pours from the fountain as usual, but heavy streams of ice unfurl from the statue’s shoulders and drizzle impossibly toward the ground.

The Dean Johnson Gallery has only a few VisualFringe works on display. “Fluff Girl Burlesque Tour Poster” is a modern twist on the vaudeville tradition. Paul Smedberg’s “Station 39” features a modern urban scene abstracted by varied layers of city scenes — old windows blur into road signs, and then blur into mangled chain link fences, etc.

Finally, the VisualFringe will be holding two special exhibits that open with the beginning of the Fringe Festival proper on Aug 24:

• Orphan Art — Primary Colours Exchange Art at the American Cabaret Theatre, 4010 E. Michigan St., is your chance to peruse the gallery and acquire a piece of art just by writing on a public display why you like the work — accessible artwork at its finest. Open daily throughout the festival.

• And, at Graffiti Art Pit, 646 Massachusetts Ave., viewers can add to the collective wisdom of the Fringe community by contributing to the Graffiti Art Pit. Live spraying demonstrations will be held; see the Fringe Web page, www.indyfringe.org, for more information.

—Allie Matters