2014 in review: Visual arts

Robert Indiana. Decade: Autoportrait 1961, 2001. © 2013 Morgan Art Foundation / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

This has been a year of breakthroughs, rediscoveries and transitions in the visual arts world.

Three notable exhibitions looked at post-1950 work by Hoosier artists, including a "sign painter" (his terminology) who took on the name of his home state.

The Essential Robert Indiana, the IMA's unprecedented exhibition of the 86-year-old's prints, gave ample space for what are arguably Indiana's greatest works, The Hartley Elegies.

The Indiana State Museum revived the work of James Spencer Russell, who employed the bright colors of pop art in his wall-hanging constructions. Russell, who was on the verge of becoming a major figure in the New York art scene of the '60s, lived out his final years in semi-

obscurity in his hometown of Kewanna.

And the exhibition 431 Gallery: Art and Impact, also at the Indiana State Museum, demonstrated that a storefront gallery that opened in 1984 had a huge impact on the development of Mass Ave as a cultural destination.

Now to the present.

The year's best show was linked to its greatest tragedy. Susan Hodgin's A Limitless Existence opened at the Harrison Center for the Arts on May 2, featuring the paintings and drawings Hodgin worked on while suffering from colon cancer. Her final show gave expression to her daily struggle. She passed away on August 22.

It was just one of several standout shows at the Harrison. Who could forget Anila Agha's Sacred Silence in August, in which a smaller version of her suspended cube-based piece, Intersections, found the Harrison's walls bathed in a magnificent mélange of light and shadow? In August, Agha won $300,000 at the Grand Rapids, Michigan-based ArtPrize for the full-scale version of the piece.

It was also a breakout year for Joseph Crone, whose hyper-realistic film noir drawings on film stock have gained national renown in publications like Colored Pencil Magazine.

Also enjoying national success was Lobyn Hamilton, who displayed his groundbreaking portraiture using pieces of broken LPs in an awesome pop-up show at Amelia's in early November — a show presented by the newly founded artist's collective The Eleven, of which Hamilton is a member.

Speaking of pop-ups, in February a hot tub popped up in the middle of the iMOCA's exhibition The Empire Never Ended. Even those who found the art in that show forgettable had the chance to grab a beer and join performance artists Prince Rama in the Tiki-themed tub. More importantly, this was the year that iMOCA opened a gallery space at CityWay, a multiuse residential and hotel facility near the Eli Lilly campus.

The first exhibition at that venue was Fermata, by Richard Mosse, whose stunning photography employs air surveillance film stock that gives everything a pink tint. The show documented the civil war in Congo, a war driven by the West's insatiable appetite for minerals connected to the manufacture of consumer electronics.

While there's no charge for any iMOCA exhibition, every Indianapolis resident is, in a sense, paying for CityWay because its construction was floated by an $86 million loan issued by the city.

But at least at iMOCA we get to enjoy the benefits of our tax breaks without paying admission on top. Word came down last week that the IMA will charge $18 for general admission starting in April. It's a troubling precedent.


Arts Editor

Dan Grossman is NUVO's arts editor.