Crack houses and a ghost dance8/14/2013
Moberg Gallery’s current group show includes four artists of considerable demographic range, from octogenarian Sandra Perlow to 20-somethings Jordan Weber and Stephanie Brunia, with Lynn Basa in the middle. Perlow, a Chicago artist making her Des Moines debut, is a Philip Guston disciple who turns abstraction into a nearly cartoonish set of playful relationships between animate and inanimate objects.
Brunia, a University of Iowa arts professor, exhibits a series of digital prints, “The Space Between,” which depicts the artist and young man in a series of intimate positions without showing even the slightest hint of emotional intimacy. It’s a radical departure from Brunia’s last exhibitions in Des Moines, at both Moberg and the Des Moines Art Center, in which she photographed nymphs in underwear reenacting classical scenes such as the death of Ophelia. Basa, a Chicago artist whose work is featured in Des Moines’ new bus terminal, shows paintings she calls “Rorschach tests full of metaphors” about survival and struggle.
Weber steals this show with a breakout exhibition that is also reminiscent of Guston, particularly in the way caricatures and cartoons comment playfully upon serious subjects, such as race and drug addiction. In two pieces, Weber uses Japanese kana to sign himself as “Little Black Sambo.” Two sculptures in the show are constructed out of materials he salvaged from Des Moines crack houses — walls and foundations as well as sneakers and basketballs. One includes the neon signature of a relative who has recovered from crack addiction. His painting “H&M” depicts a crack addict from the neck down, her face distorted into that of a clown twisting from side to side, as if denial was a joke. Homer Simpson and other cartoon faces make cameo appearances.
Weber, who also owns Fluxx Gallery, decided last year to sign with Moberg and keep his own work separate from his gallery. It’s been a promising move as the gallery has challenged him to produce on a grander scale, literally and figuratively. This show will be exhibited through Aug. 31.
Grinnell’s Faulconer Gallery is showing two complementary exhibitions by Cedar Falls artists Scott Robert Hudson and Margaret Whiting. Hudson is a former U.S. Forest Service worker who is consumed with the history and preservation of public spaces. In this show, “Wild Horse,” he pays homage to the Native American ghost dance by hanging 20 horse skulls on fired, salvaged wood from the ceiling to create a circular herd spot lit to produce dancing shadows. The skulls are painted, by the artist and by young artists, 18-year-old Sigrid Walter and Malina Amjadi, age 9. They use paints Hudson believes would have appealed to 19th century Sioux warriors. Subjects include magpies and turtles from ghost dance shirts of the Sioux and Paiute, ants and bullet holes.
“The Sioux scouted the new religion of the ghost dance out of desperation. Life as they knew it was doomed so they turned, much like fatalistic evangelicals today, to the rapture religion of the ghost dance. Wounded Knee was the Seventh Cavalry’s response to the ghost dance,” Hudson explained.
Whiting is a medical technologist concerned with both human and environmental health. In her “U.S. Geological Survey” she juxtaposes old maps and anatomical drawings to comment on the intermingled destinies of the humans and the lands they settle. Her “Deforestation” consists of a dramatic roomful of tree stumps constructed out of law books that are woven to show rings and shredded to expose their frailty. The symbolism is obvious yet powerful. This show plays through Sept. 8.
Touts Richard Black, Joel Elgin, Paula Schuette Kraemer, Johanna Mueller, Larry Welo and Amy Worthen are featured in Olson-Larsen Galleries’ excellent “Works on Paper” exhibition, through Aug. 30… Tim Dooley and Aaron Wilson’s “Midwest Pressed” studies the clichés of pop culture at the Des Moines Art Center through Oct. 13. CV
Jim Duncan is a freelance writer who has penned nine different columns for Cityview and its sister publications beginning in 1987.