It’s both ambitious and auspicious. Herron Gallery, anticipating its final year in the soon-to-be former Herron School of Art at the corner of 16th and Pennsylvania, has initiated a series of one-person exhibits that will run from now until the end of the academic year. While the title of the series, “Next in the Gallery,” is oddly anti-climactic, the exhibits promise to be anything but. Herron Gallery director and curator David Russick. Behind him, currently on exhibit (starting Friday), the work of John Pittman. Exhibiting six artists at a time, the series will feature 33 artists in all, ranging from the accessible to the bizarre. Among the former is nationally regarded William Wegman, who is known for posing his pet Weimeraners in comedic poses. (There’s more to Wegman’s work than this, though, if one chooses to look.) In the bizarre camp, Indianapolis sculptor Lori Miles explores “the stories recorded on the flesh” in works such as “Within Arm’s Reach,” a graphite drawing of what looks like hair — or perhaps the two lobes of a brain. Among the more contemplative offerings, Rebecca Lyon’s textile-based sculptures suggest psychological interiors rather than physical ones.

As Herron Gallery director and curator David Russick explains, “In a nutshell, what I wanted to do was honor this last year in our original building without getting morose or looking backwards or getting sentimental … It’s not like the school is closing down or anything.” Indeed, Herron isn’t going anywhere, except across town.

In May of 2005, the gallery will reopen in its new home in Eskenazi Hall in the new Herron School of Art on the IUPUI campus. While the move has been a long time coming, it’s also been a source of much lamentation as well as joy: Cultural icons, after all, are hard to come by and take years to nurture. And Herron has carefully and painstakingly earned a name for itself in its current, classically-inspired space. The architecturally noteworthy structure in the city’s history, home to Herron Gallery, the auditorium, the library and some of the school’s classrooms, was the first site of the Indianapolis Museum of Art (which is a story for another time; or see S.L. Berry’s recently published history of the school).

Herron has presented contemporary art exhibitions for 25 years in its current space, in a building the institution has occupied for over 100 years. Having visited the gallery for a number of those more recent years, I’m struck by how little the museum building and the nearby Herron main building have changed. I’ve both guest-lectured and attended lectures in the school’s unadorned, unchanged auditorium, and I can still recall the clanking of the radiators as I sat in one of the classrooms learning about contemporary art years ago. I can easily conjure up the musty and nostalgic smell of the making of art, from wood shavings to the sweetish smell of turpentine.

Russick, though, is looking forward rather than backward. “In some ways I could have even passed on having exhibits this year and just focused completely on where we’re headed,” he told me recently. “But drawing on my own experiences as an art student, I know there are students here and a year is a lifetime to someone who is 19.” So instead he did the opposite. “I did a 180 … I said, let’s do something completely ambitious and something that people will remember and think is really cool and hints on what is my take on the new space, which is, it’s really good.” With

“Next in the Gallery,” Russick was freed of the usual curatorial constraints. “It allowed me to show work that, frankly, I just really like and I don’t have to justify with some great theme … I’m sort of drawing on my days as a dealer as well, just show artwork and give everybody their little space.”

Each exhibit runs four weeks and overlaps the previous exhibit. For a complete list of openings (taking place every two weeks), and/or a roster of participating artists, visit www.herron.iupui.edu, call 920-2420 or come by the gallery Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or Thursday until 7 p.m. Starting Friday, Nov. 5, artists being exhibited will be Anita Giddings, John Pittman, Michael Smith, Rebecca Shore, Dennis Day and Mary Lou Zelazny. “Next in the Gallery” Series of exhibits at Herron Gallery www.herron.iupui.edu

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