Visual Arts They’ve been a long time coming. Doris Vlasek Hails, veteran Indianapolis-and-beyond painter, unveils new work in a dual exhibition with her pal Leonard Zannini of Chicago. ‘Toro’ by Doris Vlasek Hails, part of the current exhibit on view at Woodburn & Westcott through March 27. Vlasek Hails, who in recent years added “gallerist” to her resume when she and her husband, Stan Hails, became proprietors of Woodburn & Westcott Contemporary Fine Art, is known for her large-format, figurative paintings depicting surreal scenes with an edge of humor; well, sometimes more than an edge. Certain Vlasek Hails images are considered classics: among them, her realistic paintings of appliances. In Vlasek Hails’ own words, “I respect well-designed objects manufactured by teams of creative though largely anonymous people.” In the current W&W exhibition with Zannini, Vlasek Hails offers a mini-retrospective of sorts, with vintage works alongside her latest offerings: miniature and slightly larger oil paintings in a similar vein, that is, the “visual pun” category. In a word, these new paintings are a delight. “Hair on Fire” is just what its title promises: A woman looks surprised as her head shoots flames instead of hair. “Guardian Angel” is a trickster of sorts; a clownish figure grins in that classic kid pose of thumbs in ears with fingers waving. In “Monet’s Epiphany,” a well-dressed gentleman stands gazing into a fountain of lilies, a glow of discovery lighting up his face. Two of the artist’s earlier works provide a greater context for such playfulness. Vlasek Hails’ “Toro” is a near life-size painting of a snow blower, which started out as a portrait of her husband, Stan. One snowy day in Chicago, Vlasek Hails asked Stan to pose for her. As Doris tells the story, when Stan went inside to get a cup of coffee, she realized he wasn’t coming back outside. Then she discovered the Toro: “I found a model that didn’t fidget, shift around or drink coffee, but would just remain patiently still for me.” Thus began a new phase of work for Vlasek Hails, one that reflects the artist’s enduring sense of humor. But Vlasek Hails has the talent and the skill to pull off her zany ideas. Who else could get away with “My Ship Comes In,” a realistic painting of a pair of hands gathering in a blanket that contains a body of water and a ship? Alongside Vlasek Hails’ work are paintings of the aforementioned Leonard Zannini, who, unlike Vlasek Hails, remained in Chicago. A long-spanning but spare retrospective work jumps from the ’60s to the late ’90s with some in between. This collection offers a compelling view of an artist’s trajectory. Zannini’s work reflects a linear bent in the early years that he returns to again and again. In one of the strongest pieces here, “Square Dance” was painted and tweaked over a 16-year period, begun in ’74 and completed in 2000. A perfect grid of 16 large squares, each painstakingly worked, the piece is reminiscent of both modernist color fields and Pollock-like abandon. Beneath the squares, tiny drips seem to emerge; or have they been covered over? Old Friends: Paintings by Leonard Zannini and Doris Vlasek Hails at Woodburn and Westcott Gallery, 1043 Virginia Av., Ste. 5, continues through March 27. Call 916-6062.

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