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weekly art forecasts from Central Iowa

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Video of Allison Safford’s Hello Goodbye, cast plaster hands, metal rods, wrire. 2012. 

Response by Cat Rocketship

March 18, 2014

Des Moines’ newest gallery opened with a party last Friday night – it seemed like all of the city came out for the first show at Viaduct Gallery at Des Moines Social Club. 

The show was good. It features a strong mix of local and national artists whose work touched on themes of interaction and the intersections of viewer and artist. Interface includes a number of new media works, including a pirate radio station, a booth in which the viewer overhears a phone conversation, and an image which reacts to live postings on Craigslist personals. 


Work by Rob Stephens (Source: ohnobody)

With the strength of the exhibited work, Elise Goodman and her Viaduct Gallery crew set a high standard of original concepts illustrated with quality workmanship.

The gallery has room for improvement in the areas of wayfinding and event logistics. Some work is separated from the larger body, and is easy to overlook, especially when clumps of happy art fans crowd the room. PA speakers obscured the exhibition titles. Although the space still feels like a firehouse worn a bit thin, I am excited to see how it becomes an exhibition space as it settles into its home, throws more shows, and reacts to its art.   

Interface remains on view at Viaduct Gallery through April 13.

Visit Viaduct Gallery’s page
Juice Magazine’s gallery of photos at the opening of Interface

Look Up at The Work of Van Holmgren

Look Up, The Lift

On view June 1 thru July 27, 2013


Untitled. Image courtesy of the artist.

Review by Jon Pearson

In Van Holmgren’s latest show at the Lift we are presented with the balanced opus of his artistic pursuits. Holmgren’s process has been distilled here into the most proportionate and balanced show I have seen at the Lift in a while. As I encountered the work for the first time at the opening  a couple weeks ago, I was impressed with the color palate first and foremost. He is a master of color and, the body of work is unified by excellent color balance. As with much of Van’s past work, the concepts are usually secondary to his designer’s sense of composition and construction.


A Friend of Plants. Image courtesy of the artist.

Much of the work dwells in the land of the aesthetic effete. Cliche Chic abounds and the work tugs at the pleasure centers of my brain like a blue tongued child. I enjoy the simplicity and style of the work. Lightening bolts are implemented along with symbolic shapes for the leaves of plants, water droplets, stars, and triangles. These characters have been mainstays in the artist’s work for years and have been used in the work as functional devices. The works tend to be figural typically with a primary subject within the composition tagged to the surface using a spray can and stencil. The canvases are constructed through the use of found wood, cupboard doors and other raw materials.


A Clear History. Image courtesy of the artist.

The construction of the painted surfaces has reached a new plateau of balance and beauty. It is nearly more interesting to view the back of one of these works to see how the artist built the foundation on which to create. In some of these works it is almost as if separate iterations of the piece were created and then rearranged to create the final composition we see. The raw beauty of the wooden pieces and their conversation within the composition with the paint and designed elements is striking.


Shine Through. Image courtesy of the artist.

Ultimately, the work should reward a closer inspection. When I get up close to one of Holmgren’s pieces I want to behold the evidence of the care devoted to the surface, and to see more history of the artists’ hand. The downfall of using stencils as that primary source of content and representation in a painting is the loss of the sense of painting. The images become chosen and designed compositions rather than explorations of a medium, and the flatness of the paint underwhelms me. That said, Holmgren has always had a certain eye for depicting dimension through the use of flat shape. Almost all of his work is derivative of the silk screen process and built from layering several solid stencils of color.


Mask Method. Image courtesy of the artist.

The show at the Lift is the product of a great talent with the skill for a balance and cohesion that the eye appreciates. The newer work flirts with emotional profundity through the inclusion of figures that have torrid swirling (and hand painted) masses subsuming their heads. It is an advancement in Holmgren’s work, depicting density, motion, and clutter with loose strokes. It may serve future work to explore more looseness. This show feels like a comfortable statement of balance from an artist in complete control of a medium.

Van Holmgren’s work will be on display at the Lift until the end of July. The Lift is located at 222 4th Street in Downtown Des Moines.

Innovative Art Paves the Way for Skate Park


Polk County Heritage Gallery

Silent Auction and Exhibition on view until June 20th, 2013


James, age 8, posing in front of custom skate decks on view at Shove It! (Photo: Heath Hardage Lee)

Review from guest contributor Heath Hardage Lee

June 12, 2013

Friday night my eight-year-old son James and I were on our own for the evening.  Dad/husband was out of town, and tween daughter was at a spend-the-night party.  What cool and creative night out could a cartoon and skateboard-loving boy and art-obsessed mom both enjoy?

Shove It! was IT….image

The Baykid Army Amasses!! (Photo: Source)

This extensive paper toy/custom skateboard exhibition opened Friday night at the Polk Country Heritage Gallery in downtown Des Moines.  The show is the brainchild of photographer and artist Beau Scott who grew up the Newport Beach, California, (remember the T.V. show the O.C.?), skateboarding.  Scott enlisted the aid and expertise of Ian Miller, owner of the Thee Eye Gallery, to put together the show.  The co-curators created a laid-back, So-Cal vibe where everyone ages eight to eighty was warmly welcomed. 


Curator Beau Scott with Shove It mascot (Photo: Heath Hardage Lee)

The goal of the exhibition and related silent auction Friday is to generate funds to build a Des Moines Regional Skatepark.  Scott and Miller used Kickstarter, an online funding tool to raise money to create the show.  90 percent of the proceeds from the event will go towards funding the proposed Skatepark. 

Now to the art…

Artists from twenty-nine different cities and five continents contributed pieces to the show.  The artists’ charge:  create two works of art:  a custom skateboard deck and a coordinating paper toy.  The results were dazzling.  Our favorites: 


Sacred Diamond Tattoo Mike Diamond’s Great Gatsby-flavored flapper image. (Photo: Heath Hardage Lee)


Beau Scott’s black crow silhouettes, inspired by one of his photographs.  The stylish Penny Knox is posed next to her son’s work here.(Photo: Heath Hardage Lee)


James’s pick:  the Dan-Flavin-esque light sculpture skateboard by Neon Specialties. (Photo: Heath Hardage Lee)

Scott hopes that Des Moines will continue its ascent from flyover zone to stop-over-and stay-zone through original art and attractions like the proposed Skatepark comments Scott.  “The civic openness and creativity we have here is what makes Des Moines a great city.  If the park is built, it will be like a jewel in our crown.”

Heath comes from a museum education, historic preservation, and writing background.  She started her museum career at the Levine Museum of the New South in Charlotte, North Carolina, as the Program and Education Director.  Heath has since worked as a consultant for significant southern historical museums such as Stratford Hall, Robert E. Lee’s birthplace, and Menokin Plantation, home to Francis Lightfoot Lee.  She has written for numerous magazines, newspapers and blogs. Heath is currently under contract for her first book, Winnie Davis:  Daughter of the Lost Cause, abiography of Varina Anne “Winnie” Davis, daughter of Confederate President, Jefferson Davis.  Heath holds a B.A. in History from Davidson College, and an M.A. in French Language and Literature from the University of Virginia.  She lives in Des Moines, Iowa and loves being a docent at the Des Moines Art Center.  Her favorite pastime is exploring all the super cool art museums and galleries across the Midwest.