Thursday, January 14, 2010

Top 10 art events in Indy - 2009 edition

Omer Fast, The Casting, 2007. Four channel video installation; 14 minutes.
Carmen & Mark Holeman Contemporary Fund, Henry F. and Katherine DeBoest Memorial Fund.
Installation view from 2008 Whitney Biennial, via James Wagner

Yes we are a couple weeks into the new year, but with all the changes happening in the local art scene (make sure to read the always brilliant David Hoppe's State of the Arts address) I've been thinking a lot about 2009. As hard hit as we were, there were some definite highlights. Obviously opening my own gallery was my biggest personal highlight so I will leave that one off and concentrate on what was happening in the rest of the city. I'm also hoping some of the other local arts bloggers will add their own opinions. With no further ado, here's my list:

10 - Adaptation: Video Installations by Ben-Ner, Herrera, Sullivan & The Rufus Corporation at the IMA. This exhibition, organized by the Smart Museum in Chicago, brought the work of four prominent contemporary artists that (as far as I can recall) had not been seen in Indiana. One of my fondest memories of the year was watching Guy Ben-Ner's video with my girlfriend and her two sons. Spanning the ages from 5 to 37, we were all enthralled.

9 - Installation Nation by Primary Colours. Primary Colours was certainly not the first group to show art in shipping containers, but they were certainly the first in Indianapolis and the best example of showing work in a non-traditional venue in 2009. Keep it up PC and I'm looking forward to more innovative thinking in 2010.

8 - George Rickey: An Evolution by the Indianapolis Arts Council. I wasn't expecting to like this show. We've all seen Rickey's kinetic sculptures in museums across the country and in our back yard. But to see them in an urban environment - that was different. And it was beautiful.

7 - Optical Popsicle by Know No Stranger. What happens when a group of smart art students get together and want to do something different in this city? Optical Popsicle happens and it was brilliant. If you didn't attend the event, click the link and watch the two minute video - you'll be sorry you missed it.

6 - Bootleg Exhibitions. Highlighting some of the strongest local talent and combining them with great artists from elsewhere. Yeah, we need more of that!

5 - Jen Davis at iMOCA. Jen Davis is good. Real good. And we got to see this rising art star early in her career in Indianapolis first. Her explorations of self are powerful and compelling. As an aside, there was another exhibition by a photographer who like Davis received their MFA from Yale - Craig Doty at my gallery. I know I said I wasn't going to include my shows at the gallery but it was a great one too so I'll leave it at that.

4 - Mt. Comfort (a space for champions). Truly a labor of love for Casey Roberts who dedicates part of his studio to host exhibitions from artist both near and far. Experimental, exciting and fresh. Thanks Casey.

3 - European Design since 1985: Shaping the New Century at the IMA. Apparently when the IMA hired Craig Miller as Design Curator they also decided his first exhibition in Indy should be a blockbuster. This didn't disappoint. For me this exhibition was truly an inspiration and a look into design's potential here in Indianapolis. I probably visited the show a dozen times during it's run here and sat amazed at the speakers during the symposium. If you missed any of it, you can watch the speakers on ArtBabble and go buy the catalog. Fingers crossed that Craig and the IMA can keep the spotlight on Indy a little longer.

2 - Herron School of Art and Design. Initially this might seem like an odd choice given that Herron has been around for a long time, but a closer inspection shows 2009 as a banner year for the institution. I've consistently said that if the arts are going to thrive (or, for that matter, even survive) in Indy, Herron needs an MFA program. As they are slowly making this happen by rolling out graduate programs over the different departments we are starting to see the fruits of their labor. It seems that this is paying off big time. The students and the faculty are turning out better work and this trickles down to all layers of art in the city - from the exhibitions at the school itself to the smallest local gallery. Couple this with the smart programming of curator Paula Katz and the bar has been raised. Hallelujah.

1 - The Casting by Omer Fast at the IMA. This is why we love museums. And, in my opinion, the most significant purchase by the contemporary department not only of the year but maybe of the decade. A beautiful and disturbing piece that completely sums up the first decade of the new century. As much as I love visiting this piece about every other week (I'm sick, I know) I'm almost looking forward to the time when it goes into storage, lays dormant for awhile, and then is displayed anew so I can recapture that feeling I had from the first time I saw it. Thanks Lisa Freiman and keep 'em coming!

I know I didn't see all the art in town over the past year but I did see a lot. Feel free to add any of your favorites in the comments.

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