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weekly art forecasts from Central Iowa

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Images and Things

Emily Newman's Sightings, FLUXX Gallery 

February 2013

“Visible and mobile, my body is a thing among things; it’s caught in the fabric of the world, and its cohesion is that of a thing. But, because it moves itself and sees, it holds things in a circle around itself.”

― Maurice Merleau-Ponty

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Close up of “The Misperception of Objects On Carpet" Photo: FLUXX

Review by guest contributor Benjamin Gardner

March 5, 2013

My first experience with Emily Newman’s exhibition at FLUXX could be taken as a simplistic read, though I think that it is actually a poignant one; it feels like Newman is invested in making work about what predominantly happens in our peripheral vision—the fleeting moment that you think a brown paper bag is actually a small mammal, the perceptual mixing of images (what is reported to our brain), objects (the three dimensional-ness of that image in how we can navigate within it), and meaning.  If there is a rabbit in my periphery, I might walk more slowly as to not scare it away.  If there is a brown paper bag, my reaction is obviously much different, and hopefully I walk over to it and pick it up for proper disposal or reuse. 

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Close up of "I Thought It Was a Bunny' Photo: FLUXX

The way that Newman’s work does this, however, is by asking the viewer to look on an instinctive level that is counter-intuitive in the gallery setting.  More often than not, we are forcing meaning and understanding upon work in a gallery.  Newman’s work in the exhibition unfolds infinitely when one can look at them with normal cognition—the looking and thinking that we (within Merleau-Ponty’s "fabric of the world”) accomplish while driving, walking, and multi-tasking.  This unfolding is found in the meaning located within the context of the ways that we see objects and assign meaning to their form.  In the piece Misperception of Objects on Carpet, for example, not only do the three sculptural forms sticking up from the carpet have their own image/objectness, but their cast shadows also create an additional image of each; were the viewer looking only at the shadows, those shadow-images could reference an entirely different form.   What we anticipate would make a shadow on a carpet (which is domestic and familiar) is undoubtedly different than the crab claw or jawbone and teeth that are actually casting the shadow.  The piece is both familiar and out of place; quite stunning and ephemeral, and creates a sort of loop of perception and interpretation. 

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Installation shot Photo: FLUXX

Photography, too, is an added complexity to the relationship between image and object; the camera pretends that it understands the three dimensional space which we inhabit but it only does so by an averaging of light and shadow.  In the installation of photographs titled Pilgrimage and the single image Mistakes on Salt Lake Newman is working with the image as a signifier of reality in a physical manifestation.  It smoothly takes some of the cognition required for the three-dimensional work and applies it to the material of photography.  Additional image-reality relationships are formed in Pilgrimage by using two images, separated by a border, of the same scene and different manifestations of symmetry throughout the piece.  In most places the gold and silver leaf work perfectly—snapping the viewer out of a believable space, but in a few areas it was more difficult for me to make the leap and see it as more than material addition. 

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“Beauty In The Daily Pick-up" Photo: FLUXX

Newman’s exhibition is incredibly well thought out and transforms the gallery space in a way that many artists yearn for—by asking us to be cognizant of the work in a different manner.  The pure ephemerality of the exhibition is incredibly fitting; we don’t always see Beauty in the Daily Pickup of dog feces, but aesthetic moments, images, and objects are a standard structure of our understanding of reality.  

Benjamin Gardner is an artist living and working in Des Moines, Iowa.  He is also an Assistant Professor of Art + Design at Drake University where he teaches drawing classes as well as courses that explore personal identity theories, existentialism, and ideas of place, space, and living.  Additionally, Ben spends a lot of time growing food, looking at the sky, and reading about folklore and superstition.  He maintains a website that collects artist’s writings (Methodsofbeing.com).  You can see Ben’s studio work at benjaminagardner.com

Mouthful of Art, First Weekend of March

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Dora Malech’s “Began & Begins”. See more of her work here.

Art shows and art talks are a plenty this weekend. Mars Cafe is promising a multi-dimensional experience with poetry, film & art tonight. Also, be fancy at the Hoyt Sherman for the 105th Women’s Group Exhibition. Tomorrow, there is a large group show at The Fremont. And Sunday, a special dialogue called Mindful Museum with DMAC docents, Madelyn Mayberry and Jon Oakland. Hanging with those two is a good time, speaking from experience. They are opinionated and passionate art lovers. Really excited about Mindful Museum. Would be a good time to see the new Transparencies show, too. Here’s all the info for these events:

Tonight, Friday March 1:

5 PM - Hoyt Sherman - Des Moines Women’s Group 105th

7 PM - Mars Cafe -  Film, Poetry, & Art:  Dora Malech & Jason Livingston

Tomorrow, Saturday March 2:

Happy artting!

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Rachel Buseblog
Finds Light in the Dark

Kindra Noel’s “Shades of Gray”, Genus Landscape Architects

February 2013

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Noel’s “Beautiful View" Photo: Nicci Simon Cooper

Review by Alissa

February 27, 2013

A brief disclaimer:  You know you are in trouble as an art critic when you walk into a show and, before you have so much as snapped a photo or jotted a note, you have whipped out your wallet and purchased a piece. 

This was exactly my knee-jerk reaction to Kindra Noel’s show, “Shades of Gray”, currently on display at Genus Landscape Architects.  I walked through the door, my eyes locked on a gem, and I absolutely had to know it was mine before I could process another thought or take another step.  Whether this completely discredits me as a “serious” reviewer or totally exults Noel as an artist is beside the point.  This type of raw response to art does not come along every day – at least not for me – and I think it is worth noting.

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Photo: Nicci Simon Cooper

“Shades of Gray is an exploration of hope, an illustration of joyous journeys through troubled times,” Noel writes in her artist’s statement. I have never met the artist, and so do not know what sort of “troubled times” her statement refers to.  Even the symbolism she uses has universality to it – in one series, dark skeletons take on a vulnerability that could be interpreted as a health scare, a heart break, or a terrible loss. That Noel does not specify her struggle serves the collection well, making it that much more relatable and easily accessible to anyone who has survived a trial while still “embracing the magnificence of life”.  

Viewing the show through this lens of Noel’s allows viewers to take in a seemingly everyday subject – say a simple landscape of the East Village or a camera - and infuse it with a sense of gratitude. The artist’s play between the ideas of light and dark – be it the colors chosen, the imagery used, or just simply the weight of a brushstroke – is evident throughout.  These contradictions are subtle enough to work aesthetically, but pronounced enough to be conceptually arresting.  The fact that Noel can convey such depth of emotion through her art without further verbiage is a testament to the promise of this young artist.

“Shades of Gray” is currently on display at Genus Landscape Architects at 325 East 5th Street in Des Moines and may be viewed during business hours.  For more information on the artist, visit kindranoel.com.