Visual Art

Shade, Shadow, Spirit

Ed Sanders and Marty Sharp

Harrison Gallery

Through May 1

The current exhibition, Shade, Shadow, Spirit, a two-person exhibition of the drawings and paintings of Ed Sanders and the sculpture/installations of Marty Sharp, possesses telltale ethereal flavor: not so subtle in the darkly allegorical crucifixion drawings of Sanders. But these are not new for Sanders; and he's ventured into other aesthetic territory since first creating these drawings years ago. No matter, Sanders' spirit is on fire when he makes art, and it's especially apparent in the Christ drawings. Ed Sanders' 'The Sanguine Crowd' is part of 'Shade, Shadow, Spirit' at the Harrison Gallery.

Sanders' large charcoal drawings are literally and figuratively dark renderings of Christ on the cross, as if the crucifixion were fixed in time and space. His more recent paintings, on the other hand, are welcome relief but anything but cheerful: Instead, Sanders evokes a seemingly theoretical world of figures in fanciful rooms that are not surreal but not real, either. These are dream space and psychic space simultaneously - we can go there and maintain our sense of the concrete and yet it's not a place we've been to. The perspective is off-kilter, the colors are muted, but the figures are powerfully present representations of the artist's and perhaps the collective psyche. Think Picasso meets Gauguin meets DeKooning on an overcast day.

And even here, in Sanders' oil paintings, Christ appears to hover somewhere, reminding us of his ever-presence in Sanders' psyche; he sits satyr-like with a bullet wound, or is it the stigmata? Or he hangs outside a window, cross-bound.

It's difficult, though, to aesthetically connect Sanders' powerfully layered work with the more deliberate subtleties of Marty Sharp's adorned mannequins, or mannequin parts, and women's underclothing. But on a more suggestive plane, one could say that these are the angels or their adornments, the afterwards of Sanders' darkness born on the cross; but the angels are not stylized any more than Sanders' Christ figures are caricatures. Instead, Sharp's muslin-encased figurative suggestions are broken but not in the literal sense: A woman's undulating torso is draped in feathers (her impotent wings?); or a garter is depicted on a woodcut. Indeed, the spirit and its manifestations are complex.

Sharp's angels are inaccessible, though - they are encased and we have to strain our eyes to see through the muslin, metaphorical skin. And yet, through the fabric, the delicately stitched suggestions of femininity are lovely and spirit-filled, waif-like imaginings; vulnerable and necessarily protected.

In all, this is one of the Harrison's more daring shows - and for this the gallery should be commended. While there's an unspoken attachment to Redeemer Presbyterian Church, who owns the building, this doesn't mean the art here should be pigeonholed as religious. Instead, it gives the gallery license to pursue religious or spiritual issues in an open-minded fashion, which adds to the dialogue (a good thing to be sure).

Shade, Shadow, Spirit, mixed media works by Indianapolis artists Ed Sanders and Marty Sharp, is on view at the Harrison Center for the Arts through May 1. Also on view, in the gallery annex, are the provocative, surrealist-inspired collages of Indianapolis writer-artist Jim Walker - a fine complement to the work in the main gallery (in the interest of full disclosure, Walker is a NUVO staffer). The Harrison is located at 1505 N. Delaware. Call 396-3886 for hours and information.