First Friday reviews, Oct. 2014


Fermata: Richard Mosse

Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art at CityWay, through Dec. 20 

★★★★1/2 (out of five)

The colors are very strange indeed in these large-scale photographs of Congolese soldiers and landscapes, taken in the middle of a long-running civil war, The discontinued film that Irish photographer Mosse used for this body of work, Kodak Aerochrome, gives any vegetation a pinkish hue. The Congo has many lush landscapes, and it's a beautiful setting for a horrific war.

The Africa that I encountered in the Peace Corps didn’t look like this, and when I saw publicity photos for the show, I wondered if this was some kind of Christo-esque provocation. But this is no stunt. Consider “Drag,” where a soldier wearing camouflage is dragging a dead body through the brush. (The body is mostly outside the frame, with only the arm visible.) One is left to speculate on all the possible meanings of the word drag, as both verb and noun.

“Colonel Soleil’s Boys” spoke to me most directly. It shows soldiers on a hillside in front of their commander. Several look askance at the photographer, underscoring his vulnerability, and even culpability, in this conflict. His culpability is our culpability, as the Congo is a major supplier of tungsten and other minerals essential for cell/smartphone manufacture. The civil war is, in part, a war to control said resources. Quite a feat for iMOCA’s first exhibition at Indy's swankest possible venue to bring such unsettling and subversive feelings to the fore.

Monkeys with Guns: New Work by Martin Kuntz

Primary Gallery, closing party and artist's reception, Oct. 31, 6-9 p.m.


I wasn’t quite sold on Kuntz’s prior show at Primary Gallery, 2012's The Fun Machine Died. His Pop art meets Joycean stream of consciousness approach to gathering together as many pop culture figures as possible on the same canvas — from Pee Wee Herman to Pinocchio — lacked focus. His new work is different, more deliberate and intentional.

Consider “The Whore and the Princess” (oil on canvas), which portrays Madonna in grayscale with smaller painted sketches, in red, of various media princesses — Daria, Snow White and Minnie Mouse — in the foreground. Who’s the whore here and who’s the princess? Or princesses? Maybe the whole idea of subjecting women — or media representations of women — to such a dichotomy is just plain wrong. I’m not sure that’s the upshot of this particular work, but the questions begged are intriguing ones.

Lukas Schooler and David Hicks: 2014 Stutz Artists in Residence Program Exhibition

Raymond James Stutz Art Gallery, through Oct. 24


Lukas Schooler’s “Growth Patterns, Fountain Square” may strike you at first as a representation of a Christmas tree nailed to a wall. But not so fast. As advertised, it's a three-dimensional map of Fountain Square complete with Astroturf. Schooler is out to represent the urban condition through both sculpture and video work. In “Our Salutations: 39.7910° N, 86.1480° W,” he uses a GoPro camera attached to his body, repeating the same choreographed movements in nine locales around Indy. The result: a video triptych in which he gives you a guided tour/performance where the landscapes seem to be dancing in sync.

There's also constant movement in the mural-like pastel drawings and paintings of David Hicks, who’s something of an apocalyptic Thomas Hart Benton. Check out “Current History, Center Panel,” where Wonder Woman, contending with the chaotic, open-carry, uber-individualism of 21st-century America, looks just about ready to give up her day job.

Insights: Four Local Artists

Athenaeum Art Space, through October 31


Lobyn Hamilton's portraits, made entirely out of vinyl records, continue to impress. In “Return from Africa,” he achieves a stunning realism, portraying an African woman with a pompadour in the shape of the African continent.

Jerome Neal's work in this Athenaeum group show is just as delightful. One of Indy’s most overlooked artists, Neal's amazing — and amazingly dense — paintings portray urban life, often hearkening back to the Jazz Age. But the untitled painting portraying Monument Circle and a fleet of bicyclists on rented yellow bikes riding past in the foreground gives this collection of Neal's work a contemporary feel.

A conduit for a free surface: Recent work by Tyler Meuninck

Harrison Center for the Arts, through Oct. 31


Much like the Indy-based Amy Falstrom, Tyler Meuninck draws inspiration from the Lake Michigan shore. And like Falstrom, Meuninck seems almost allergic to employing any complementary colors. But anybody who’s ever been up to the Indiana Dunes (Falstrom’s inspiration) or the industry-scapes of Gary just to the West (Meuninck’s territory) will understand why these artists work with muted palettes.

In his oil painting, “November 17th,” the entire sky is gray — Meunick's primary color — except for a forlorn white cloud. There are smokestacks in the distance, and in the foreground, you see disused railcars adjacent to what appears to be a brown slag heap. And then there is a red, ramshackle building that, against all those grays and browns, seems to be on fire. At first glance it seems like Meunick is merely suggesting landscape features, but as you look closer you can see many fine details.

Maybe if you crossed a 17th century Dutch landscape painter with a New York abstract expressionist, this is what you'd get. But, of course, painters worth noting are more than just the sum of their influences. Such is true here.

Julie “Satch” Kern: Sinners and Saints

Funkyard, through Oct. 31


An estate sale up in Michigan gave Julie “Satch” Kern the materials she needed — statues of Jesus, 3D carnival signs and stag films — to create collages “exploring the fine line between life’s choices,” according to her artist’s statement. One piece finds an icon of Jesus attached to a rearview mirror, as if looking back on your poor (or brilliant) choices. Another conjures a carnival peep show via a clown’s mouth that opens up to reveal a pair of breasts. It's interesting stuff, and my only qualm was with the venue, which crammed the work together in one corner like the Paris Salon on steroids. But, hey, at least you can get a cappuccino.


Dan Grossman is NUVO's arts editor.

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