Storied narratives

 

Rick Rivet: Mappings

Ruschman Gallery

Through Oct. 31

A circle is among the most universal of symbols, encompassing the sun and all its regenerative strength, the moon and its cycles, the notion of eternity, completeness, beginnings, endings. Canadian artist Rick Rivet, a Metis (First Nations People) of the Northwest Territories, brings his universal understanding of this and other symbols to Ruschman Gallery in what could be seen as a departure for the gallery.

Rivet’s exhibition Mappings, a concise collection of just 10 paintings, offers a perspective that is at once broad and complex, and allows for the depth of his experience as an indigenous North American to combine with his knowledge and respect for the belief systems of many ancient cultures. Ruschman departs from usual territory — that of showing mostly Midwestern artists — with this exhibition of Rivet’s work: decidedly spiritual, decidedly nondecorative and yet divinely lovely, and easily appreciated outside of any symbolic analysis.

Rivet sees the artist as the inheritor of the shamanistic tradition, the ancient practice of a tribal representative bringing back revelations from the spiritual world. The artist probes realms that are not material, carrying forth meaning through symbols and, perhaps, their narrative connections. Even a color represents something more; and in combination, Rivet’s compositions — airy, large canvases with acrylic paint applied in watery swaths — embody a sort of narrative of their own, a story in layers. A canoe, an ancient mound, a figure floating in limbo, snaking pathways and even text; all of these present themselves as evidence of symbolist and mythological leanings.

Influenced by artists as diverse as Matisse, Gauguin, Robert Rauschenberg and Jasper Johns, Rivet’s approach reflects all of these sensibilities, from an impressionistic sense of color to the spare deliberateness of modern art. But Rivet’s sensibility is clearly his own.

“Shining Path #2” could be a Buddhist meditation in the form of a mandala; it could be a Jungian’s path to the Self. Of course, these are connected; and no doubt Rivet’s exploration radiates in many directions. The concentric circles guide the eye towards the center, where the outline of one foot rests, as the other stands just outside of it. Other elements stand out: the center as the yolk of an egg, clipped pencil markings cutting a vertical path through the circle, a color palette reflecting the sun in orange, yellow and red, with the entire circle floating in an ethereal cradle of sky blue. It is unity, almost realized.

Rivet, who is well-known throughout Canada, first connected with Indianapolis audiences when he received an Eiteljorg Fellowship from the Eiteljorg Museum in 1999. His exhibition at Ruschman is evidence of an ever-widening circle of much-deserved recognition.

Mappings, new paintings by Rick Rivet, is on view at Ruschman Art Gallery, 948 N. Alabama St., through Oct. 31. Call 317-634-3114 for gallery hours.

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