Weeds by Ellie Siskind
Tarkington Tower through May 5
★★★★1/2 (out of 5)
Ellie Siskind, a longtime fixture on the Indianapolis art scene, doesn't pull any punches when the occasion warrants. Sometimes her paintings verge on caricature, such in the Day-Glo bright "Winnebago Campers," picturing four retired citizens against a wide Midwestern horizon. Sometimes they go beyond it to shine an X-ray light into the darkest corners of American life, as in "Klan Revealed," where three men are depicted naked, saluting, on a blood red canvas (and where penis size just might have an inverse relation to racist fervor). And sometimes the paintings focus on the sheer joy of being alive - in all its color and intensity and eroticism - as in "Surf Fishing." This retrospective provides a great introduction to Siskind's work.
Portraits by Constance Edwards Scopelitis
Long-Sharp Gallery at The Conrad
Bobby Knight achieved icon status during his tenure at IU, but we know, of course, that he was no saint. Accordingly, Scopelitis conjures a halo of flying red chairs around Knight's head - reflecting his penchant for throwing them - in her pencil on paper portrait.The expression on his face is deflated, perhaps reflecting his fall from his (Hoosier) state of grace. Other portraits include Madame Walker, James Dean, and a timely portrait of Robert Indiana, raised up against a cat-themed collage. While most of these would brighten the most dignified of Hoosier venues, don't expect to see the Knight portrait down in Bloomington any time soon.
Drew Etienne: World 2
Raymond James Stutz Art Gallery through March 28
The late Bob Ross meets George Lucas in Drew Etienne's paintings. Check out the mixed media "Blue Ridge Bedlam," where you see a mountainous landscape being overtaken by what looks like an iPod factory constructed by drones. These days, there's no landscape on earth untouched by man, and Etienne's paintings reflect this. "2052," a necessarily prophetic painting given the title, is one of the bleakest landscapes I've ever seen. Yet there is, perversely enough, excitement and movement in the painting; you can imagine that you're enclosed in a Blade Runner-type pod, in a headlong rush through the bowels of a shit-encrusted suburbia toward a distant cityscape.
Tendered Currency: Shane Mecklenburger
Mecklenburger's diamonds aren't extracted from mines. They're made out of gunpowder, road kill and (believe it or not) pages from the script of Superman III. He also created a single-channel video featuring a river of simulated diamonds. These days, you can have your own cremated remains turned into diamonds. Would these diamonds made from your cremains not be "real" by virtue of the fact that they're manufactured? What would they be worth on the open market? Definitely food for thought in this show - and room for growth. The single channel videos could use some kind of 3D projection, or wider screening area, to achieve a fuller effect.
India Garden: Recent work by India Cruse-Griffin
Harrison Center for the Arts, Gallery #2 through March 28
I suppose the title of this show has to do with some kind of linkage between the artist's name, India Cruse-Griffin, and the Indian food being served in the Harrison's main gallery. In the mixed media painting "The Daughters," however, you see four African-American girls on a picnic in the countryside eating picnic stuff like ice-cream and sandwiches. It's like a childhood memory brought to life, or a page from a vibrant children's storybook. And in the urban landscape "Sunday Morning in the City," it's hard to figure out where the collage ends and the painting begins. A seamless and mesmerizing unity is achieved here.