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Sept 22 , 2011
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A sobering September

By Jim Duncan

Thomas C. Jackson "Child's Play #42" at Moberg Gallery.

September is a virtual second Lent for Des Moines' art scene, a sobering season that follows a Mardi Gras summer filled with big festivals and light entertainments. At the Des Moines Art Center, "Survival Does Not Lie In The Heavens" takes the Lenten theme to existential lengths. That major show of Texas conceptual artist Dario Robleto opens on Sept. 23 to explore longevity and extinction.

Metro Arts Alliance and Des Moines Social Club take the post-Mardi Gras theme more literally with "Sweeping Up the Mess" opening this Friday at White Carpet Gallery at Hillyard (4267 109th St., Urbandale). That juried exhibition of painting, sculpture, poetry and other art forms requires the use of custodial supplies and highlights Iowa's refugee community. Rex Haussmann, Deb Seeger, Jennifer Rivera, Jason Barr, Katherine O'hara and Yarn Dawgz will exhibit.

At Moberg Gallery, Thomas Jackson's "Child's Play" continues a 40-day run providing an ironic look at the ambiguity of American character. For a decade now, Jackson has been composing stacked images that consider a subject from seemingly incongruous points of view. His choice of subjects has been influenced by Robert Frank's mid 1950s series, "The Americans," which reduced 28,000 images into a seminal look at the national character in mid century. Jackson has been trying to do the same thing for the new millennium. While most of his imagery began as a photographic safari, he now translates much of it into paintings and ink brush drawings. His most dramatic painting, "Photo Op," stands on its own and translates a famous film image of George W. Bush hearing the news of the 9-11 disaster into giant pixels.

The dominant ambiguity of Jackson's new show stacks images of child's play with deadly serious stuff like handguns, violence, sex and advertising. "American Cypher 40" places a dollhouse under the image of an actual row house that barely looks real. In another, a messed up hotel bed is stacked over another dollhouse. Clenched teeth of an anxious lady stand above symbolic ruby slippers. Several works use handguns and rifles juxtaposed with the toys of little boys. Toy trucks collide in one ominous childhood scene while another toy truck graces a dashboard in an eerie dessert. Wedding cake figures of a bride and groom lurk over dancing senior citizens in another. One collage of photographic images compiles roadside attractions that fight for tourists' attention. This show plays through Oct. 1.

Other area artists have been busy with large public commissions. Frank Hansen's three-story mural on the side of a Des Moines Street building has been turning heads for much of the summer. People love it, and people hate it, with equal fervor. Des Moines artists Thomas Rosborough and William Barnes won commissions by the Army National Guard and the United States Army Reserve to paint a giant mural in the new Armed Forces Reserve Center in Middletown as part of Iowa's Art in State Buildings program. Also in that program, Sarah Grant is currently in residence at Iowa State University creating an installation within the atrium of Horticulture Hall, as part of the Horticulture Teaching and Research Greenhouse Complex.

Locally works by William Barnes, Scott Charles Ross and John Preston will be shown at Olson-Larsen Gallery through Oct. 8. New, more whimsical works by Jamie Navarro are on display at Pegasus Gallery, along with large paintings by the late Don Dunagan. Hilde DeBruyne-Verhofste and John Schwatzkopf are showing through at the Polk County Heritage Gallery. An opening reception will be held on Sunday, Sept. 18.

Two Iowa artists are showing in America's first and second cities. Anthony Pontius opened last week in "Shirts & Destroy," a major group show at Tara Mcphearson's "The Cotton Candy Machine" Gallery in New York City. Brent Houzenga's show "Remixed Media," continues at Pawn Works in Chicago. CV



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