Visual arts review | Through Nov. 2 The painter Edward Hopper (1882-1967) made a point of capturing life"s intimate public moments, and the seemingly detached figures who populated them. Influenced by the Ash Can artist John Sloan, Hopper"s realism captured the alienation of American society. So, too, does Indianapolis artist Red Rohall capture an ironic combination of intimacy and emptiness, but Rohall speaks to a slightly more rural America - and he leaves out the figures.
Work by Red Rohall at Woodburn & Westcott
On view at Woodburn & Westcott gallery in Fountain Square through this weekend, Rohall"s hyper-realistic yet stylized oils are at once friendly and distant. In the restaurants and motels along the desert highways of the Southwest, or the barber shops and ice cream parlors in small towns along back country roads of Indiana, these are places that have been overcome by America"s new leisure palaces. Supersized hotels, shopping malls, and restaurant chains have almost replaced the all-American diner (except as retro novelty). But Rohall is not necessarily wistful. Now and then a humorous subtlety emerges. If a picture speaks a thousand words, then Rohall"s pictures speak volumes about the quirky tastes of fifties America. There is no end to the oddly named ice cream parlors in Indiana, from "Frigid Whip" and "Frostop" (both are names of paintings) in Tell City to the more mainstream sounding "Tasty Treat" in Oakland City. The more Hopper-esque paintings, both in painterly sensibility as well as mood, are among the show"s strongest pieces: "Wheatland Branch Line" suggests loneliness, the kind that comes from the passage of time. Meaning is suggested by the artist"s choice of focus: The train station sits quietly to the side, it shares the canvas with equally cared for trees that resemble neatly spun tufts of wool, all set beneath an almost comic blue sky that caresses the canvas. Rohall"s painting seems lovingly rendered - and yet its edges are sharp. Nearly the same holds true in Rohall"s "Homestead," which takes its mood from the sky. This time, though, it"s dark with a potential storm. The architecture is precise; the home"s windows are opaque, as are most of Rohall"s windows. Rohall"s Southwest scenes are brilliant with the unseen sun"s heat; employing a palette of orange, red, and yellow, Rohall borrows this bright sensibility for the occasional Indiana streetscape as well. It is hard to believe an Evansville Motel has the same lucidity as a desert scene, but artists often capture truth most eloquently through such aesthetic leaps. Rohall knows this America is slipping away, but his glossy realism, the spotlight of his brush, gives it a permanent home on canvas. Indiana Road Trip Ö & Beyond is on view through Nov. 2 at Woodburn & Westcott Contemporary Fine Art, in Fountain Square at 1043 Virginia Ave; call 916-6062 for gallery hours and information.