visual arts review | thru august

Group shows are conceived with a number of possible intentions - based on a particular theme, genre of artists or artistic movement, for example - but sometimes, what brings a group of artists" works together is less clear. Such is the case with the group show at Eyeblink Gallery in Fountain Square; but this doesn"t mean there isn"t something intentional to be gleaned from this collection.

"With the Wind" by James Wille Faust, part of Eyeblink Gallery"s current exhibit

Five artists" works are "officially" displayed (with a seemingly random, single offering from Sam Sartorius, plus additional pieces from gallery owner David Kadlec and sculptor Todd Lantz; all of whom are not listed on the gallery"s announcement postcard), representing the drawing, photography, painting and sculpture media. With all discussions of curatorial intent aside, this is a solid showing of work by these artists, most of whom are locally based. Many of the pieces, though, have been exhibited before - whether in this space or others in town. This is not necessarily a bad thing; it"s summer, after all, and the living should be easy. Artists deserve a break like everyone else.

A larger question, then, is begging to be asked. That is, what does a group offering such as this say about the quality of our local creative output? Matthew Davey, James Wille Faust, Ed Funk and Terry Steadham are known to varying degrees by the art-viewing and/or -purchasing public. Patrick Manning, photographer on the Herron School faculty, is new to Indianapolis. Faust and Steadham are the longest-standing of the lot in terms of name recognition. Both artists have contributed pieces here that are reminders of their well-developed aesthetic voices: Faust has perfected the brilliancy of electric acrylics laid down in precise shapes over- and underlapping one another to near-symphonic perfection. These are non-figurative, outer space abstractions that are meticulously and deliciously conceived. The same could be said for Steadham, who also has refined his stroke. His work, though, is of the more subtle, and even more tightly contained, variety. Steadham"s colors are muted and earthy with lots of geometric black lines placed on expansive white as in a mathematical equation, or a constellation in some hypothetical sky.

Ed Funk"s lines are looser, but he is also practicing in the abstract mode. His colors are as bright as Faust"s, but they are decidedly not controlled in the graphic sense. Funk has his way with the canvas, which is alive with spontaneity and an almost uncontained joy of expression. Funk"s overlaying of forms, lines and colors are more like jazz than the equations of Faust or Steadham and they also leave more to the imagination. His "Haiku," though, is a serious departure, with letters and letter combinations placed about the white space precisely and yet randomly in terms of their lack of obvious verbal sense (composing the haiku poem, then, is up to the viewer).

These three artists provide a lovely study in the spectrum of abstraction, but along comes Matthew Davey to throw in a completely different variation. Davey has nearly mastered the figure. His almost hyper-realistic portraits of people and still lifes are real but imaginary. His intoxicating figures are all of us - their passion, their pain Ö in short, their humanness.

The inclusion of Patrick Manning"s large-format photographs of bleak landscapes - a barren, just-plowed field provides an interesting contrast to a desertscape, which carries the same textural value - takes us back towards the abstract mode, as does David Kadlec"s digital photographic wizardry. Kadlec"s "Summer Night" is constellated with flecks of light and implanted lines across an eerily green earth under a blue night sky. Somehow, this image calls together Faust"s space age abstractions, Funk"s wild playfulness and Steadham"s geometries in a (perhaps) accidental, but happily synchronous, spectrum of visual ideas.

But then there"s Todd Lantz. Lantz is loosest with his three-dimensional shaping of found objects into sculpture that is also abstract. Herein lies the bridge between the aforementioned abstract conceptions and Davey"s figures: Lantz"s forms are figuratively suggestive, and this is made more clear by way of contrast.

We are, after all, wired to make connections among things that are not necessarily conceived to connect, and whether or not this group exhibition was intended to flow on such a continuum, it turns out to work in just that fashion. The artists may not be forging obvious constellations of aesthetic possibility, but there is a richness here that speaks to the vast frontiers of the creative spirit.

The Group Show at Eyeblink Gallery, in Fountain Square"s Murphy Arts Center at 1043 Virginia Ave., is on view through August. For more information and gallery hours, call 636-6363.


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