ReviewArt

Art Experiences in Bloomington, Indiana, and elsewhere

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Velvet Underground in Bloomington

As I was walking with a friend around Bloomington, one hot summer day, I chanced upon the new art complex at the corner of Rogers and Fourth st.   An industrial scale garage door was open, and inside, instead of heavy equipment to be seen, were giant velvet pillows and balloons, all seemingly inscribed with complex diagrams that might be suitable for crop circles...

I couldn't get a better picture, because my camera ran out of card space, but I did notice that the exhibit is going to have a closing reception this weekend ...
... on Saturday, July 26.  The show is by Carrie Weaver and is called Velvet Equilibrium.

Bloomington's   famous NYC art critic manque,  and trend consultant, was intrigued...

Today was a good day for seeing textures while walking.  Sometimes a building looks like it might be more interesting while it is being built...
I especially like the snaky wire wrapping the fence pipe.

Interesting mystery objects are left around on construction sites...

It's interesting too to compare wild graffiti...
... with more tame graffiti (just as fun though)...
Sometimes one cannot resist an impromptu fashion shoot...
Bloomington - not for the feint of art...

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Fire into Dark

Yesterday was Taste of Bloomington, in Bloomington ...

What a festive occasion it was.  Human beings looking so beautiful were heading in droves to the plazas around City Hall for a celebration of human sensuality, of food and music.  Cover bands' music was booming through downtown, and it sounded great too.  So many people were out and about.  Bloomington was booming.

 As marvelous as all that was, it was a relief and a joy to find a more quiet place where people were creating and finding new delights, rather than well rehearsed ones.  As the evening softly fell through the fragrant air, full of voices and food smells and tree blossoms, I found my way through the darkening to the Fluorescent Gallery, for a collaborative installation show called Summer Solstice Freakout...

  The 'Fluorescent Gallery' is  a raw, cinder block basement space underneath The Back Door club.  I've seen two shows there now, both involving the installation art collaborative Cloud Preaser, with others, and three shows altogether involving  Cloud Preaser.


 Each has seemed more transformed and transformative.

 One of the members of Cloud Preaser talked to me before I went into the gallery.  He was  a painter who took a  leap of faith  towards a way of making art that he felt would be more involved with the community  and more collaborative.  Cloud Preaser's next project, he told me, will be a traveling piece.  Large circular pieces of fabric - parachutes - will be covered by people in various locations with spontaneous outpourings of creativity, using tools such as markers.  In each location, more creative energy will gather to each circle, in one way or another, as more people add their markings.  The ultimate result will , presumably, be some kind of collective mirror.

A circle seems to be a perfect form for the expression of collective energy.  One thinks of a dance circle...
 ... one of the most important themes in art ...
Summer Solstice Freakout participants included:


Sitar Outreach Ministry
John Flannelly
John Dawson
Dunsten Kissinger
Colin Jenkins
Cloud Preaser
Nathan Warrick
Brick Daniel Kyle
Bethy Squires
Lillian Rushlove



The stereotype about installation art is that it is usually confrontational in some way.  One can even feel a bit intimidated by installation art.  The moment I entered Summer Solstice Freakout, though, I felt that it was very loving.
Right by the door as one came in was a kind of hearth, a glass window decorated with colored paper and plastic and blinking lights and foil to look like a softly burning fire.  Going into the room behind this decorated window, one could see how intricately achieved the soft affect of the light was...


... the ambient light of the room was filtered through a shroud of golden mylar, which seemed to create a kind of sacred chamber.

Fire seemed to be a common theme of the Summer Solstice show.  On the wall to the other side of the door as you came in a video of a fire in a hearth was projected on the cinderblock wall...

I love this side view, where one sees lights on the side wall and can barely tell that it is flames in a hearth.  Beyond that, on the far wall, is a glorious sunset, seemingly crafted out of various materials, such as brown packing paper and gold foil, overlaid with a projected image of sun rays.  This was the backdrop to a stage (a cloth laid on the floor) where two groups played.

At first a sitar group played, Sitar Outreach Ministry.  Their music was intricate and gentle, like breezes constantly moving through the tall grasses and flowers of a wild field.  Later an electronic group played noise music, much louder.  Their sound was harsher,  and roaring, but at the same time, it was a sound one could float into, as though one were floating on vibrations of the universe.  As I listened to it, and floated, I thought about the surging emotions inside a person, a maelstrom that goes on even when one is seemingly calm and peaceful.

One of my favorite things in the installation was a giant, golden Stone Henge that stood in the center of the room.
This seemingly massive piece gave the whole installation a center of gravity.  At the same time, it echoed the reinforced concrete pillar and lintel construction of the room, playfully mocking its utilitarian ethic. 


Also humorous was the play between the miniature Stone Henge and the massively overscaled fireplace.  One began to feel that if a relentlessly plain cinderblock room could be revealed to hold so many dimensions within it, how could anything ever be boring?
A whole corner of the room was taken up by one of the strongest pieces.  
This was the one piece in the show that had a somewhat confrontational air, in that a tower made of children's pool toys beckoned to the viewer, but was surrounded by a slightly threatening thicket of sticks hanging from the cieling, Sword of Damocles style, Snow White style.  Few ventured under these sticks, but perhaps that was just as well, since the tower of toys, resplendent and luminescent from a distance, might not have seemed as magical close up. At the very top, a couple of inflatable rafts with lobster arms were rigged to look like  a fiery cartoon beacon.
It's hard to convey in photos how charming and playful this display was, despite the slightly threatening hanging sticks.  I thought of Calder, as I watched the twigs slowly twirling  and dancing on their strings around the magical plastic toy tower they seemed to guard...
... or more particularly, Jason Middlebrook ...
I also thought of a magical forest, noticing that if you weren't particularly watching the sticks, they seemed to hang still, but if you focused more on them, you saw that they were continually moving.

Another really charming piece was one of the simplest - overlapping transparencies laid onto an overhead projector and projected onto the wall...


A wall collage seems to celebrate childhood memories of Egyptian art ...


There were three small side rooms, each of which was arranged as if it were a sort or chapel.  In one of them, my pictures didn't come out, but it seemed to me to be a meditation the chatter that fills a mind even at rest.  Next to it was a room with more light in it, and one of my favorite objects in the exhibit:  a tiny television was set up like a classical altar, and draped in flowers and beeds, the whole thing creating a cacophony of textures, especially taken together with the noise pattern on the television, which looked like it might be broken down and abandoned (like a television that was, tellingly, stowed on a life raft in one of the other displays).

 A mirror sat on a chair opposite the television, suggesting something about the human mind that is bombarded by media messaging...



This room also had a beautifully decorated window...


Which brings us full circle to the first thing one sees on entering the exhibition...
The room behind this window had a kind of sacred hearth and a table for making life requests...

Summer Solstice Freakout.  The fiery sun, and the beginning of summer, was celebrated well, on its longest day, with love, and humor and a bit of social commentary.  A spoken word performance piece exhorted us, by leading the audience in chant, and in the telling of stories, to seize the notion of change from winter to summer as a chance to change from a less positive to a more positive way of living, one more informed with empathy and understanding.  It is a good time for change, and this was an exhibit that sent that message lovingly.




Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ears Exploding

A couple of nights this week, I had a chance to go to free concerts.  One was at The Bishop ...

 and one was at the Root Cellar Lounge ...
The Bishop seems to have, at least in part, taken over from Second Story as a venue for rising and underground bands, both touring and local.  On Monday night, The Bishop offered four bands for free!  One might go into such a night with low expectations, but if you did on this occasion, you were bound to be 'disappointed'.  All four bands were great, and where they were on the bill didn't seem to matter.

First up was Indigo Wild.  
Indigo Wild, an Indiana band,  had an understated but  intense stage presence.  They only played five songs, but they made a strong impression, with driven songs full of yearning. 

http://vimeo.com/30907867

Next up was The Bonesetters...
photo by C.B. Lindsey
Like Indigo Wild, Bonesetters is an Indiana band.  They too offered hard driven music, but with  more introverted stage presence, which seemed appropriate to what seemed to be an emphasis on themes of social angst.

http://bonesetters.bandcamp.com/

The third band was Catfish and the Bottlemen.  
http://asoundreaction.walesonline.co.uk/2013/08/06/swn-festival-announce-plans-for-radio-station-as-80-more-acts-are-unveiled-for-this-years-festival/

When Catfish and the Bottlemen came on stage, one felt that one was seeing an apotheosis, some sort of  iconic post-Zeppelin English band.   They are from Wales though, and the name of the band comes from Australia.  Catfish is a band that places a lot of emphasis on its lead singer, who - as it happens -  has more than enough moxie to carry the weight and relishes the role.  He sang my favorite line of the night "you don't know how it feels ... to lose ... something you never had ... and never will."   Catfish's music is bleak and angry and a million miles away from giving up.

http://catfishandthebottlemen.com/videos/

Finishing a night of hard driven rock was Jeff and the Brotherhood, a Nashville band, who filled the room and tore the doors off.  I actually liked the other bands that night more, but it was certainly Jeff and the Brotherhood that drove the crowd into a frenzy of moshing.  
This was party music to make one forget about deadlines and morning alarms!

http://www.jeffthebrotherhood.com/

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Friday night at the Root Cellar Lounge was Bass:Mental.  Also a free show, Bass:Mental offered local/regional djs Origins, Psynapse and Tabali Tigi, along with Detroit Dj Karnage. 
This is the only photo in this article that is                                                                                                 from the actual event - ty Clayton Hicks.

The Cellar Root Lounge, located in the basement of Farm restaurant, is a large space that is a small space at the same time, because of the way it is divided up.  Necessity has been turned into virtue here, it seems, as the small side rooms of a cellar area have been  turned into cozy lounges where one can still hear the music from the (surprisingly small) main space.   I can see how it could be annoying from a DJ's perspective at times, since you can't really see half your audience!

Origins is duo whose focus is on reminding listeners of what dubstep really is.  

https://soundcloud.com/originsdub

Unfortunately, I only caught the end of their set.  I liked that Origins' music seemed to have an unusual softness to it.  

Psynapse, an Indianapolis dj was up next.
Psynapse's set was funky and relaxed, but lively and layered, soaring and rumbling through alien sonic landscapes.  More than any other dj, he dances while he plays, his movements adding to the  expression of the music.

https://soundcloud.com/psynapse

After Psynapse came Karnage.  
Karnage's sound was less dense than Psynapse's sound.   It seemed to me driven, and a little bit dangerous, but also somehow majestic.  You could tell that this was a dj who didn't want to stop.

https://soundcloud.com/carnagedabs710

The last dj to play was ...
Tabali Tigi brought things back to an organic, percussive level, bringing everyone back to earth, energized and transformed.


All part of  a good week of music and artistic community in Bloomington.








Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Awake to a Dream at the Bellevue Gallery

Lena Burkett has never had a painting show before, but you would never know it, based on her first show, up through July at the Bellevue Gallery.
Burkett may not be the most skilled painter in terms of ability to delineate form 'realistically', but her command over the vocabulary of painting (color, line, texture, configuration, association, symbolism, etc.) is assured.  Possibly her best painting, shown above,  may recall on one side languid figures of pre-Raphaelite painting ...
Waterhouse
... and Chagall on the other...
... but it has a mood and an emotion that is all its own.  Lena's painting makes me think about the connections between earth, flesh and spirit.

Another painting by Lena also makes me think of the relationship between flesh and spirit...

When I look at this painting I think of aurora borealis...
Rockwell Kent

The figures floating in the water in Burkett's painting strike me as perhaps shamans who are traveling out of body in  order to gain spiritual understandings.  The red streaks seem to me to be questions, sent out into the cosmos.  They seem protected, but not safe.  Their work is challenging.

Another painting by Burkett makes me think of a kind of paradise...
These strange flowers seem full of life, dancing even, like flowers might be when Tom Bombadill is singing about them in Tolkien's Hobbit, or in Perelandra, where vegetation floats, as these plants seem to do.  They also remind me of tole painting ...
... or the paintings of Juan Miro...
Perhaps it is a painting about play, but if so, there might be a dark edge to it, and there might be some kind of struggle going on too.  

Another painting by Burkett features an unusual motif, a main figure who is facing into the painting, away from the viewer.  This immediately establishes a sense of mystery, and questions about where the figure is gazing/going and why.  The figure seems to be a woman, and perhaps young - though her hair may be grey, so she may be more lithe than young.
In fact,  a ghostly face looks back at us, which is surely not young, and seems to emanate from the 'girl', who seems to clutch  a cloth, or a sweater, or a black cat, as if anxious, or even afraid.  But the figure strides with purpose, in swift-moving waters that could be those of Lethe, towards a mist-opaqued further bank, surrounded by flowers - is this a practitioner of magical arts that we are seeing?  



There is a strong wind.  Whatever is happening in this painting seems momentous, in some way.

Four small paintings by Burkett suggest some kind of ying and yang.  Two small paintings evoke despair, relating to financial insecurity one one side (a fanged mouth with a dollar sign for a tongue) and heartbreak on the other (a heart broken in two seems suspended on a vine).  


The paintings in the middle seem to offer counterpoints to this.  Three vases next to the fanged dollar mouth suggest security.  Next to the broken heart on a vine is a painting of two friends, or lovers, whose glories seem to be complementary.  One has flowers for hair and the other has many tentacle-like legs.  Contentment can, it seems, balance despair.  

Lena  Burkett's paintings are both lovely and deep.  Her show at the Bellevue is worth seeing, and once seen, will be remembered.






Followers