Visual arts: Contemporary Abstraction

Work by Tara Donovan is featured at the Garvey

Garvey|Simon Art Access, which is located on Main Street, in Carmel,

opened in June

Garvey|Simon Art Access, which is located on Main Street, in

Carmel, opened in June. Garvey and co-owner Catherine G. Simon originally

intended to occupy their space just through the summer. But now they're making

plans to stay for a whole year. "It's ninety-eight percent sure that we'll stay

through next summer," said Garvey.

While negotiations are still underway with various parties,

they'd like to have the chance to grow their gallery business and help the

district grow into something much stronger, said Garvey.

This gallery is located in the space formerly occupied by

the Magdalena Gallery, which was previously managed by Magdalena Segovia and

Mary Johnson, but is now on hiatus.

The current show Contemporary Abstraction features the fine art prints of Tara Donovan, Ingrid

Calame, and Dan Walsh — prints that are as cutting edge as anything you

might see in the contemporary wing at the IMA. Incidentally, Tara Donovan had a

major exhibition at the IMA until last Sunday and you can still find Ingrid

Calame's work there.

Donovan makes art out of everyday materials like rubber

bands. Or soap bubbles. In her untitled "bubble etching" print she blows

bubbles into a mixture of ferric chloride and liquid bubble soap, and places

these bubbles on aquatinted plates. The bubbles corrode, or "etch" their way

into these plates. Then they are printed, and the result is contemporary

abstract art to which my six-year-old daughter Naomi can relate.

But still, such intrinsic playfulness is no guarantee that

the average Carmelite (especially the older generation of Carmel residents)

will be impressed with, let alone buy, such fine art prints. Carmel is still a

pretty conservative town, after all, judging by the current representative in

the United States Congress and the right wing blather in any given edition of

the free weekly Current in Carmel. Does it follow, then, that the typical

Carmel resident has correspondingly conservative tastes in art?

This conservatism seems to be reflected by the sculptures on

Carmel's Main Street, the heart of the Arts & Design District. There you'll

find life-size Rockwellesque sculptures by one J. Seward Johnson including a

statue of an elderly woman carrying a bag of groceries and a policeman waving

traffic down the street. (A couple of weeks ago I saw a woman amusing herself

by having a photo of herself taken with her hand on said policeman's butt).

But the Seward Sculptures are starting to seem like something

of an anachronism as you walk through the Arts & Design District. This has

a lot to do with the presence of the Evan Lurie Gallery. The figurative and

abstract art available at this gallery, the anchor gallery in the Arts &

Design District, has gone a long way towards bringing a contemporary art

sensibility to Carmel. So far, at least, Lurie has survived with the help of a

keen understanding of the art market. One thing that Lurie understands, and

that Garvey agrees with, is that they are not just marketing their art to

Carmel residents, but to the greater Indianapolis area.

Elizabeth Garvey also has a good commercial instinct, having

survived as a private dealer for the last ten years, but whether she will

remain in Carmel for more than a year remains to be seen at this point. To

Garvey it's all about "meeting people where they are," both in terms of the art

offerings in her gallery as well as in the range of prices that these works go

for. The price range of these prints is pretty reasonable, according to Garvey.

"Under ten grand, and usually under five," she said. Prices for works at the

Evan Lurie Gallery are often much higher.

While bottom line profitability is the main determinant as

how long Garvey maintains a long-term presence in Carmel, and thus her major

concern as an art dealer, she sees a strong educational component to her work.

In this case of the current show, she's trying to educate

her clientele about fine art prints and how they differ from painting. "It's a

different aesthetic," she said, "because the pigment is pressed into the paper

in the printing process. It's just another medium artists use to achieve an

effect. You can also make them in multiples so it's worth [economically] it for

the artist."

For Garvey, opening a gallery in the greater Indianapolis

area is something of a homecoming. She went to high school at Brebeuf, got her

bachelor's degree at IU Bloomington, and went to Hunter College in New York for

graduate school. She stayed there for the next twenty years, first working at

the Schmidt Bingham Gallery and then as a private dealer. During that time, she

visited Indy on numerous occasions. Having seen the changes going on in Carmel,

she asked herself repeatedly, "Wouldn't it be cool if it became a real arts

district?" She thinks it's possible, she said, to turn the Carmel Arts &

Design District into an arts destination akin to something you might find, say,

in the Manhattan neighborhoods of SoHo or Chelsea.

Garvey had also kept tabs on developments in the Indy arts

scene such as the emergence of the IMA as a museum of cultural import and the

birth of the MFA program at the Herron School of Art & Design. Seeing such

talent coming out of this program, she asked the question, "Why lose it?" That

is, if there are enough galleries around for the emerging artists coming

through Herron to exhibit in, they might stick around the greater Indy area

rather than go elsewhere looking for greener pastures.

While Garvey sees herself and her art business as primarily

New York based, she's looking forward to the coming year at the gallery. She

doesn't, however, want to go overboard with the kind of art you might see in

abundance in her old stomping grounds in New York City despite the fact that

the current show, with its emphasis on contemporary abstraction, might

challenge the more traditional notions of what art should be. "I don't want to

bang people over the head with male nudity or installations," she said. In

fact, the first Garvey|Simon show, in June, featured the still life paintings

by James B. Moore.

In spite of the current economic crisis, Garvey sees

tremendous opportunities in the Arts & Design District not only for

Garvey|Simon Art Access, but also for other parties interested in opening

galleries in Carmel. She credits the city of Carmel, and especially Mayor Jim

Brainard, for their support and encouragement.

About the overall prospects of Garvey|Simon Art Access in

the Arts & Design District, which may serve as something as a bellwether

for the prospects of the district as a whole, Garvey said, "I think it's

viable. Certainly in a year, we'll know more."

For more: 917-796-2146,


Arts Editor

Dan Grossman is NUVO's arts editor.