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Versatility of June


Beller’s installations at Bankers Trust in Cedar Rapids. Exhibiting artists include: Justin Beller, Derrick Breidenthal, Tibi Chelcea, Frank Hansen, Thomas C. Jackson, Larassa Kabel, Thérèse Murdza, Travis Rice, Scott Charles Ross, Conn Ryder, Rob Stephens and Jay Vigon.

Versatility and diversity dominate the art scene in Des Moines this June. Moberg Gallery is currently presenting a summer show with 12 artists from all parts of America and Europe. Justin Beller is a young Omaha artist best known for his shows at Anderson O’Brien in Old Market. He works with geometric forms and colors to create both real and illusory impressions of dimension. Omaha Magazine credited him with helping develop the lively studio scene in Benson. Derrick Breidenthal is a Kansas City landscape artist in the tradition of J.M.W. Turner: mother nature overwhelms the Midwestern landscapes with otherworldly colors.

Tibi Chelcea is an electronics and digital design professional from Romania whose printmaking is influenced by those disciplines. Frank Hansen is a popular Des Moines artist whose paintings, often on found objects, always have a story to tell, however absurd. Larassa Kabel is a Des Moines artist best known probably for her series of airborne horses and her intimate portraits of human vulnerability.

Thérèse Murdza is a painter mostly associated with Oregon, North Carolina and Maryland. She dazzles with blobs of color and lines. Travis Rice is a peripatetic artist who works in painting, sculpture, installations and drawing. His professed intention is to deromanticize Modernism by reducing it to data and byproducts of algorithmic culture. Scott Charles Ross is a local painter whose landscapes and abstractions glow with the results of an elaborate process that includes layers of charcoal, oil painting and wax on linen stretched over wood. Conn Ryder is another Midwestern artist who mostly works now in colorful abstractions.

Rob Stephens is a painter, silkscreen artist, comic illustrator and giant woodcut artist who tells semi-autobiographical stories. He has taught at both Graceland and Mission Graphica of San Francisco. Jay Vigon is a graphic designer who has worked with some legendary projects at Warner Brothers. He also currently is showing album covers at Mainframe Studios. Thomas C. Jackson is perhaps the most prolific Iowa artist. He explores American themes, many on the dark side, through photography, 80-second drawings, painting and graphic design. This show will play into July.

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Beginning June 9, the Des Moines Art Center will host a show by one of the world’s most versatile artists. Sterling Ruby works in ceramics, painting, drawing, collage, sculpture, video, interior design, haute couture, quilts, flags, stoves and architecture. Declared one of the most interesting artists to emerge in the 20th century by New York Times art critic Roberta Smith, Sterling correlated the architecture of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art with that of the California penal system.

He also designed showrooms, dresses and coats for Rah Simmons’ debut collection with Christian Dior and collaborated with Simmons on a menswear collection for Paris Fashion Week. He designed logos and runways for Calvin Klein’s collection during New York Fashion Week. His quilts take inspiration from both the quilters of Gee’s Bend, Alabama and Boro Textiles of Japan. In his video “Transient Trilogy,” Ruby plays a bum crafting art from string and trash and fingernail polish.

While his ceramics, inspired by German Hot Lava vessels and the California Craft Movement, are likely his most popular art form, his paintings are the most formally stylized. He has done large installations in many of the world’s most famous museums and public places.

As influences, the former construction worker has credited schizophrenia, paranoia, urban gangs, hip-hop, craft, punk, masculinity, violence, prisons, globalization, American domination and decline, waste and consumption. Whatever ends up in this show, it is certain to be controversial and fascinating. “Sterling Ruby: Ceramics” is a major coup for the Des Moines Art Center and its well-connected director Jeff Fleming. The show plays through Sept. 9. ♦

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