Big Tent Shows

Robert Heischman
at the Bevier Gallery at R.I.T.

December is the month of the art fairs in Miami, and the idea of a warmer climate and all that visual stimulation motivates me to go out and see what’s up in our area.  I didn’t have to go far, because there is a faculty exhibition at the Bevier Gallery where I teach at R.I.T. and this show has some attractive aspects.  One of my favorite pieces in the show welcomes close inspection: a carved and sanded wood plate by Rich Tannen that employs a kind of Sol Lewitt design of cubes divided into parallel lines on a subtle wavy panel of glorious simplicity.  Robert Heischman paints the streetscape of India, complete with sacred cows, while on the other side of the partition there lurks a glass block with what looks like a cast of an ancient trilobite.

installation view at MAG
of “Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3”

If you want to open a new avenue of art exploration you must see “Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3” now on view at The Memorial Art Gallery.  There are so many new things to see, and such a vital call for your attention, we are honored to have this traveling exhibition here in our midst. You can also learn a lot by noting how this exhibition is arranged: three categories, art is aligned with a point of view – 1.  Evolution and Exploration  2.  Natural Selection  3. Historical Provocation/ Decoding History.

Native american contemporary art has not been given this kind of forum often, but things are changing and a market is developing for these artists.   Some of the featured artists carry over craft traditions from the trade goods of the 19th century – updated and upgraded – an example of which I found in the works of Dawn Walden ( Anishinaube (First People)) and Jeremy Frey (Paint Basket).

I haven’t been in many museum shows that include decorated heavy weight punching bags ( Jeffrey Gibson’s “Everlast” ) or a chain of animals made out of packaging tape by David Hannan.  There are delectable objects in this exhibition that capture my eye like Dan Townsend’s amulet “Speaker of the House/Warrior made out of mother-of-pearl oyster shell that both recalls Mayan Art and Keith Haring at the same time.

Alan Michelson at  MAG
part of the Changing Hands exhibition

The political angle of being effective as a Native American artist is explored in some powerful ways, just go see this show and find Alan Michelson’s “Phoenix” made out of handmade paper, or Shan Goshorn’s “Educational Genocide: The Legacy of the Carlisle Indian Boarding School” made out of a sliced up historical photo of Indian children in front of the notorious school.

I was glad to find the products of G. Peter Jemison in this show -his signature decorated shopping bags were found in a long vitrine.  Last year I had Peter come to R.I.T. to speak to students about some of the same artists that are in this show.  Buy the catalog to read the essays and you come away from this gallery experience with new respect – and you will want to see more!

Peter Jemison at MAG in
Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation 3

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