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Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Indiana Art

William Merritt Chase, Self-portrait, 1915, Indiana's most famous artist.                  
Love, Robert Indiana, Indiana Museum of Art,
based upon a 1964 Christmas card for
New York's Museum of Modern Art.
In continuing my series dealing with the indigenous art and artists of the fifty individual states which are (more of less) united to make up our American nation, I continue to move clockwise around my home state of Ohio, this time to the state of Indiana. Indiana is west of Ohio, east of Illinois, making it the poster child for what most people think of as bland mid-western art. That's a false stereotype, of course, but not one that's altogether surprising. I've had to poke through a good deal of pretty bland (pretty, but bland) art to choose what you see below. In beginning, when we contemplate famous Indiana artists, we think mostly of just two names, William Merritt Chase (top, born in 1849) and Robert Indiana, the latter of whom was actually born Robert Clark but adopted the name of his home state early in his career.
New Harmony on the Wabash, 1842, Karl Bodmer
(German, but he once slept in Indiana).
Nik Daum, Mude 5, (Moody Nude).
As I've found so often in pursuing this series on the various states, quite often the best artists the states have produced no longer live in their home state. That was the case with Chase (born in Indianapolis) as well as with Robert Indiana (now eighty-six, born in New Castle, Indiana). Another favorite son artist, William Forsyth, was born next door in Cincinnati (Ohio) but spent his life living and painting in Indianapolis. Among other Indiana-born artist who have deserted the state are Red Skelton and his clowns, Daniel Garber and his Impressionist landscapes, John Rogers Cox and his stormy wheat fields, and more recently, Nik Daum and his moody nudes (mudes, right).

The Indiana Museum of Art--not what you'd call "mid-western bland."
Of course the place to see Indiana art is, of course, the Indiana Museum of Art (IMA, above). Outside you will find Indiana's Love, and and inside, works by the others listed above, as well as that of lesser-known artists such as Antreasian Garo (below), Ghada Amer, Tara Donovan, Kate Gilmore, Robert Irwin, Sol LeWitt, Maya Lin, Nam June Paik, and Heather Rowe.

Mural of Indianapolis, 1952, Indianapolis Children's Museum, Antreasian Garo
Just north of the museum is one of the largest sculpture parks to be found anywhere--one-hundred acres. Besides work by Indiana's Mr. Indiana, I was especially captivated by the suspended sculpture known simply as the IMA Rings (below), a collaboration between New York conceptual sculptors Adam Ames and Andrew Bordwin and the IMA staff featuring two steel rings suspended from poles and nearby trees (you can hardly see the thin cables). The rings align with the sun during the summer solstice to form a single shadow on the ground. The rest of the year they seem like eerie UFOs hovering over the seasonal landscape, their shadows as fascinating as the rings themselves.

Align (the IMA Rings), Adam Ames and Andrew Bordwin.
F1 Blue X Yellow,
Mina Papatheodorou-Valyraki
In exploring the art and artists of Indiana, I'd be remiss if not mentioning Indianapolis' greatest sporting attraction. Just as Kentucky races horses at their famed Churchill Downs, Indianapolis races horsepower at the "Brickyard"--the state's Indianapolis 500. Although "Indy Car" racing does not dominate the culture or art of Indiana as do horses in Kentucky, it's not hard to find and for the most part very reflective of the various art styles and eras since the founding of "The Five Hundred" in 1911. F1 Blue X Yellow, left by Mina Papatheodorou-Valyraki (not a very common name in Indiana) captures the roaring, whiz-bang, rough and tumble atmosphere of the race. (She's Greek, by the way.) A far more calm, pastoral landscape, then and now, is depicted by Indiana artists, Jacob Cox, with his Pogue's Run Swimming Hole (below, left) from 1840, and present day artist, Dan Woodson with his The Old Mill (below, right) from 2013, winner of the Best of Show award at the 2013 Indiana Artists Club Art Exhibit. (Does every state have an old mill just for artists to paint?

Pogue's Run Swimming Hole,
1840, Jacob Cox
The Old Mill, 2013,
Dan Woodson

Pre-release artwork for Raiders of The Lost Ark, 1981, Richard Amsel,
depicting Indiana's most famous archaeologist.


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