Visual Art

Julianna Thibodeaux

Yasha Persson

LAMP Gallery

Through January

I can't say enough about LAMP's new space on Massachusetts Avenue: It's accessible, light-filled, high-ceilinged and jam-packed with art. It's not a particularly large space, but it is a generous one, with art hung floor to ceiling, delightfully defying all the conventions. The old building oddly gives LAMP's already edgy spirit, under the tutelage of Jennifer Kaye, an even greater opportunity to shine. And in the case of LAMP's recent offerings, shine it does.

Since reopening in its new space, Kaye has adopted a new approach: She currently represents 41 artists, displaying one to three new works by each on a monthly basis. She's also promoting a rental option - not an entirely new concept for Indianapolis, but not a widespread one. (Some may remember the ancient Alliance Rental Gallery at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.) From Kaye's perspective, it hasn't quite caught on - but that doesn't mean it won't.

What makes all this work - in theory - is that the artwork Kaye exhibits is of consistently higher quality these days; she's still interested in promoting up-and-comers, and this is good, but she seems to have a more discerning eye across the board.

Another component to the LAMP approach is to highlight the work of one artist along one of the gallery walls, allowing for a dozen or so works to be shown (or more, depending on size). While this artist-of-the-month approach doesn't allow for any large-scale shows of new work, it does give LAMP visitors an opportunity to get up a little closer to one of the gallery's artists. For the month of January, that artist is Yasha Persson.

While Persson isn't new to the scene - I've followed her work for several years now - she knows how to keep it original, working within the confines of a well-developed voice. She's shown somewhat recently at the University of Indianapolis and Dean Johnson Gallery, but here she gives us a larger peek into her psyche with characteristic large works and small-scale ones. Those familiar with her work recall the complex darkness she dredges up, with quasi-sinister vintage photographs of unfamiliar faces fading into the woodwork, superimposed with pieces of others - an oversized hand, for example, or a scratched-in set of gaping eye sockets.

Persson's mixed-media photographs, now manipulated digitally, are subtly macabre; they are lovely to behold in a Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas sort of way - only better. They leave more to the imagination. The lights are not out, after all; they're simply dim, with glimmers of light coming up from below.

Persson earned her bachelor's degree in photography from Herron School of Art, followed by an MFA from Indiana State University in Terre Haute in 2002. This chronology suggests recent schooling that didn't interrupt her artmaking, which is as strong as ever. She seems to have taken the best of what schooling can offer, filtering it through a strange but wonderful vantage point. The notion of layering imagery and processing it via digital means isn't new, but it is tricky. Achieving a thing of beauty - especially a challenging beauty - is the ultimate goal; otherwise, it's just another adventure in digital acrobatics.

Persson's images suggest nothing of the digital age, despite the medium. Instead, they look deep into the soul; a murky, often troubled place, but one that contains a bit of hope, however subtle. "Home" utilizes such a scratch and fade to loveliness approach - her own scrawling finds its way onto the paper, as does a nude person viewed from behind, not in full focus. A flower image takes the place of what might instead be the sun; and here is the symbol of hope - the salvation from total darkness.

It's also a touch of the absurd. And this is what elevates Persson's work to the near-sublime: There's just enough darkness, and just enough light. And you can almost hear laughter.

The work of artist-of-the-month Yasha Persson will be on view alongside that of gallery artists through Jan. 31 at LAMP Fine Art Gallery, 719 Massachusetts Ave., 317-624-9803. Hours: Tuesday-Thursday, 12-7; Friday-Saturday, 12-9; Sunday, 12-5.

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