Visual arts review | Thru Oct. 27 When Holliday Day put together her final exhibit, Crossroads of American Sculpture, for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis audiences were given a rare treat: a blockbuster-scale exhibit of art of historical significance that provided both a heady look at modernist sculpture with, as synchronicity would have it, an Indiana thread running through it. The Lyrical Constructivist: Don Gummer Sculpture, on view at the new Indiana State Museum, while on a much smaller scale, marks a comparatively smart beginning to an era for the recently revamped ISM.
The work of sculptor Don Gummer is currently on exhibit at the recently revamped ISM.
While the exhibit presents the work of one artist instead of the six in the IMA"s Crossroads, the work of Gummer is compelling along a trajectory of more or less masculine sculptural forms. The six sculptors in Crossroads, all with an Indiana connection that is incidental given their later national recognition, were men, and their outlook was decidedly hard-edged. Gummer"s outlook has a sharpness, too, and yet there"s a sing-song quality that gives his work an aesthetic balance, even as it remains fixed in its medium. Gummer is not breaking new ground necessarily, but his work is both strong and of its time. Gummer, who is married to the actress Meryl Streep and maintains studio spaces in both New York City and in his Connecticut home, also has an Indiana connection. The artist was born in Louisville in 1946 but spent his childhood in Indianapolis and attended Ben Davis High School and the Herron School of Art. His work is included in public collections in the U.S. and abroad. First recognized by the New York art scene in the late "70s and early "80s for his geometric wood constructions, Gummer progressed to metal as his primary medium, using the material to manifest aesthetic ideas that merge structure, shape and movement. The ISM exhibit includes Gummer"s recent freestanding works in this genre. There is a decidedly structural aspect to the work that is reflective of fantastical architectural forms; suggestions of scaffolding, repetitive grid forms that don"t make functional sense, concentric towers, stairways that lead to empty space and the like give the work a playful, Dr. Seuss aspect. Gummer likes curves as well as edges, and this is where he diverges from the more brawny early-modernist heavy metal aesthetic. Or, to put it another way, round carries equal weight to square, as opposed to the dominance of hard over soft. Gummer"s metal forms are constructed from an intellectual predetermination, and yet they reveal an almost childlike fascination with fantasy. Gummer seemingly employs an unseen hand to lift these freestanding works into space: Their movement sweeps upwards into the gallery"s sky. In "Passage," it"s as if the scarf of a giant has been blown by some breeze to wrap around the tower of Pisa. And in "The Fifth Floor," a combination of ladders, platforms and slides mimic a futuristic playground, yet there"s the opposing feeling of an office building either in the beginning stages of construction or after some cataclysm. Gummer"s work, then, leaves much to the imagination, which is, perhaps, its greatest strength. As a first effort at the new museum, the work reflects the grandness of the museum"s architecture. Indeed, as one exits the gallery space, a balcony overlooks a valley of scaffolding spanning three floors, as if Gummer"s aesthetic was manifested in the museum structure itself. The sculpture of Don Gummer marks a solid debut on behalf of the ISM, an institution that shows great promise in combining history, culture and fine art for the state. The Lyrical Constructivist: Don Gummer Sculpture continues through Oct. 27 at the Indiana State Museum, 650 W. Washington St. in White River State Park. Call 232-1637 or visitwww.indianamuseum.org
for hours and information.