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March 24th, 2011 |


Art Extra


By J D Larson

Weiss and Grand View: sublime form and weathered glory

Grand View University is situated in such a way that you could be distracted for a few seconds and drive right past it. But about two years ago it seems like Grand View became tired of being easy not to notice. The institution, quietly plunked in the middle of an old east side neighborhood, has had a good few years of late. It dropped “college” in favor of “university,” added athletics like football and opened a superb art gallery that is now the best space for viewing modest-sized exhibitions in the city. The new venue occupies the south end of a building full of painting studios for art students. It is only two years old and is open seven days a week with evening hours on weeknights. You could hardly ask for a more accessible space.

Daniel Weiss of Des Moines, an artist with a long history of juried shows and who recently participated in the Iowa Artists show at the Des Moines Art Center, is currently exhibiting. I have viewed his work in a few different settings in recent years, and the current one is the best I’ve seen. It is a must-see for anyone interested in operose, high caliber art being created in our city.

Weiss is a scavenger and savior of old wood, glass, poles, handles, rusty scraps of metal and the like. These he transforms into modest sculptures or framed assemblages that hang like paintings. An old board with faded paint and weathered surfaces is cut to size, carefully arranged, framed and thus rebuilt into a new object with solely a visual, sensory function. The resulting object takes something old, makes something new and coaxes aesthetic reverence seemingly out of thin air.

“Manchild Toy” is an old saw blade combined with a block and small wood wheels, looking like a bizarre plaything strangely menacing yet harmless. One untitled piece uses two abandoned bird nests. They’re carefully fused into a new shape that makes you think of the original object (nest) but also beyond into a new visual form. Other works employ previously functional things like worn-out broom handles, old panes of glass and even denim trousers. The manner they are used anew appears like a tribute to their retired functionality, as well as an appreciation for the visual appeal that lives on after that everyday function has ceased.

Daniel Weiss is in peak form. He completed a master’s program a couple of years ago, and that — combined with his artistic skill, teaching experience and extensive success in juried exhibitions nationwide — could pull him out of Des Moines, one has to believe. Let’s hope not.

The gallery is inviting, intimate and nicely laid out. Large windows allow natural light in abundance, and the view outside of zooming traffic on East 14th Street adds an urban verve to the quiet interior space. And the extensive hours that the gallery is open make it easy to visit. CV

Caption: Daniel Weiss, “Pivtol Places” through April 3. The Gallery At Elings-Wood Center For Art & Design, Rasmussen Center For Community Advancement Professions, Grand View University, 2800 E. 14th Street, Des Moines.