Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Sobering September

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 September 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 forty days 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 - 1950’s series “The Americans.” That work, 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 hand guns, violence, sex and advertising. “American Cypher 40” places a doll house under the image of an actual row house that barely looks real. In another, a messed up hotel bed is stacked over another doll house. Clenched teeth of an anxious lady stand above symbolic ruby slippers. Several works use hand guns 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 October 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, Iowa, 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 October 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 this Sunday.

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.

August Is the New October for Color

Three new exhibitions in Des Moines examine color from different points of view. Less (color) is more in Steven Vail Fine Arts current exhibition “Selective Color in Printmaking.” Curator Breianna Cochrane talked about the show’s forefather.
“Barnett Newman, a color field painter, came under fire when the National Gallery of Canada bought one of his works for $1.8 million in 1989. A nearly monochromatic piece of blue and red, it was mocked for its simplicity and extravagant cost, to the point where it was slashed with a knife by an angry viewer. Without innovations like that, the path to selective color might never have been explored.”

The Vail show, which h. In this show their works explore how minimal uses of color - black, as drawn attention from the New York City art media, includes works of such pathfinders from five different countries, some with big names: Rita Ackermann, Kamrooz Aram, Carlos Amorales, Donald Baechler, José Bedia, Ross Bleckner, Robert Cottingham, Eric Fischl, Wayne Gonzales, Antony Gormley, Beverly Semmes, Josh Smith, Pat Steir, and Donald Sultan. They demonstrate how restrained use of just black, white, gray and the primary colors can have major dramatic impact in reductive art. Using a variety of print media, their works communicate more through texture, pattern and balance, avoiding the use of color as their primary expressive tool.

“The simplicity inherent in primary colors is often reflected in the pieces themselves,” Cochrane explained.

Matt Corones designed this shirt to match his window installations.

Less (volume) is also more as the Des Moines Art Center’s “Iowa Artists 2011” continues with just two works by Matt Corones- large-scale “stained glass” windows in the museum’s lobby and Pei wing. These were each built with three patterns, based on photographs of flowers, and digitally-created patterns influenced by Middle Eastern decoration and by "Matisse Camouflage," - brightly-colored riffs on the Modernist master’s cut-paper collages. Each pattern was printed on large sheets of transparency film, which were then layered on top of one other and adhered to the glass. The effect is anything but minimal color wise - it dazzles entire rooms. These windows will be on exhibit through October 2.

In a separate exhibit under the “Iowa Artists 2011“ umbrella, Matthew Kluber presents a series of abstract “paintings” that also reference Barnett Newman. They profess an additional debt to the color studies of Joseph Albers, in which one color changes by its association or proximity with another. Kluber fuses color, line, digital formations, and projected light to create dramatic visual spaces with more of an embrace of new technologies than the works at Vail. His exhibition continues through October 2. Corones and Kluber will both speak at the museum on September 1.

Road trips to two Iowa art museums offer far more traditional experiences. Mason City’s MacNider Art Museum is exhibiting forty original photogravure prints by Edward S. Curtis, through October 29. That selection provides an overview of Curtis’s legendary “The North American Indian Collection.” Famous images like “Geronimo” and “Cañon de Chelly – Navaho” mix it up with lesser known but equally intriguing images like “Bear Bull – Blackfoot” and “Wichita Grass-House.” Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is preparing for a September 3 opening of its exclusive showing of “An American Masterpiece: Charles Wilson Peale's George Washington.” Commissioned by John Hancock , this was Peale’s first portrait of Washington to portray him as commander in chief of the Continental Army. America’s daddy will hang around until New Year’s Eve.


Ames artist Peter Goché’s “Water Hutch,” has been on exhibit this summer in Omaha’s Bemis Center for Contemporary Art… Moberg Framing plans a September opening of the their new shop on Ingersoll… Frank Hansen will auction several of his paintings at The Mansion September 24 in a “Paint It Black” event. Any painting that does not receive a minimum bid will be painted black and recycled. The Snacks will play.

Fall Arts 2011

For Des Moines‘ fine art scene, autumn is the sobering, back-to-work season that follows carefree summers filled with big festivals and light entertainments. This year‘s fall calendar supports such sobriety with a preponderance of deadly serious exhibitions. “Survival Does Not Lie In The Heavens,” a major show of Texas conceptual artist Dario Robleto at the Des Moines Art Center (DMAC) explores longevity and extinction. Another DMAC exhibition “Black White Gray Blue” revisits the horrors of American slavery. A third DMAC show studies the psychology of portraiture with a title nod to dementia a la Vincent Van Gogh.

“Mingled Visions: Selections from Edward S. Curtis's ‘The North American Indian‘” revisits the extinction of the Plains Indian way of life at the MacNidar while The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (CMA) goes to THE founding father for gravity, showing “An American Masterpiece: Charles Willson Peale's George Washington.” CMA also studies photography‘s effect on grave social conditions in “Shout Freedom! Photo League Selections from the Columbus Museum of Art.”

The gallery scene is also filled with deep stuff. Mary Kline-Misol’s long awaited series of portraits of homeless Iowans comes to Moberg, as do Thomas Jackson’s ironic reflections on serious matters. William Barnes will show his latest meditations on ephemerality and wistfulness at Olson-Larsen while Steven Vail Fine Arts will continue to show “Selective Color,” a nationally acclaimed exhibition that demonstrates how subtle uses of color can make dramatic statements.

For levity, fall also brings annual celebrations with Art Stop, Quilt Walk and the fall studio tours of arty Winneshiek County highlighting that genre.

(*APT* indicates a special Art Pimp tout)

Recurring Events and Family Attractions
Thursday Night Art Walks in downtown Newton

First Friday Art Walks, Fairfield Town Square
Open houses at Studio 100 (304 Fifth St., 778-8768,
James Elwanger plans on monthly open houses, mostly on the last Thursday of each month, but subject to change. Check website for latest details.

Special Events
September 8
Pecha Kucha VI
The international anti-Power Point movement takes on the arts and creativity this year, in the Des Moines Art Center courtyard.

September 23-24
Art Stop - (, )
A two day visual and performing arts event, with shuttle busses to Valley Junction, East Village, Ingersoll, Gateway West and Roosevelt, but not Drake.

October 7-9
Northeast Iowa Artists Studio Tour (Winneshiek County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-463-4692, ) APT
Iowa’s original art studio tour takes places around Decorah‘s autumn majesty.

September 28 - October 1
“Quilt Walk”
Nine Historic Valley Junction merchants feature quilt-related exhibitions and demonstrations, and hosting opening receptions with artists. Special open house events on September 29.


Art Dive (1417 Walnut St., )
Des Moines’ original alternative gallery plans alternative exhibitions. Be surprised.

2AU (200 Fifth, West Des Moines)
Pearls reign this fall in Au‘s effort to provide Art Deco comforts in a troubled year.

Finder's Creepers (515 18th St.
Alternative to alternative.

Kavanaugh Gallery (131 5th Street West Des Moines, 279-8682,
Specializing in purchased estate collections, there’s no telling what you might find here.

Susan Noland Studio Gallery (902 42nd St.)
The psychological properties of gems are front and center in this master goldsmith‘s repertoire.

Teeple Hansen Gallery (108 W. Broadway, Suite 206. Fairfield)

University Museum (3219 Hudson Road, Cedar Falls,

Special Exhibitions
Olson-Larsen Galleries (203 Fifth, West Des Moines, )

Through September 3
“Three Takes on Photography”
Peter Feldstein, David Ottenstein, Dan Powell.

September 9 - October 8
“New Works by John Preston, Scott Charles Ross, William Barnes” ATP

October 14 - November 26
“New Works: Sarah Grant, Thomas Jewell-Vitale, Paula Schuette-Kraemer”

December 2 - January 7, 2011
“Debra Smith, Tilly Woodward” APT

Moberg Art Gallery (2921 Ingersoll Ave., )

August 26 - October 1
“Thomas Jackson” APT

October 7 - November 26
“Mary Kline-Misol” APT
Historical realist Kline-Misol reveals her long awaited series of homeless portraits. Coincidentally, her portraits of George Washington Carver and Mohandas K. Gandhi will also be unveiled at the World Food Prize headquarters.

December 2 - February 2011
“New Works by Bill Luchsinger & Karen Strohbeen” APT
Creating their first prints in 1970, Karen and Bill were among the nation’s digital print making pioneers, even before David Hockney made it cool. The exhibit will showcase new work on paper, canvas, and ceramic tile.

Heritage Art Gallery (111 Court Ave.,

August 29 - October 9
To Be Announced

October 17 - December 1
“Ten Year Exhibition”
Featuring 31 current and alumni artists of Paintpushers, a Des Moines artists collective. Reception - Saturday, November 12 from 3 to 8 pm.

December 5 - 2011
“Des Moines Exhibited”

Steven Vail Fine Arts (300 E. Locust St., 309-2763, )

Through December
“Selective Color” APT
Works by Rita Ackermann, Kamrooz Aram, Carlos Amorales, Donald Baechler, José Bedia, Ross Bleckner, Robert Cottingham, Eric Fischl, Wayne Gonzales, Antony Gormley, Beverly Semmes, Josh Smith, Pat Steir, and Donald Sultan demonstrate how minimal color in reductive art can have a dramatic impact.

Des Moines Art Center (4700 Grand Ave., )

Through September 4
“Surface Value”
James Gobel, Alison Elizabeth Taylor, and Mickalene Thomas present visions of American life and lifestyle, exploring pop culture influences, issues of racial and sexual identity, and the varying subcultures that make up our diverse population.

Through October 30
“Single Channel Two Melodrama” APT
Split screen high definition video features Christopher K. Ho’s Lesbian Mountains in Love.

Through September 18
“The Fashion Show”
An examination of how clothing communicates who we are and who we wish to be through the ages.

Through October 2

“Iowa Artists 2011: Matt Corones” APT
Corones created two large-scale “stained glass” windows in the museum’s lobby and Pei wing, each with three patterns, based on photographs of flowers, digitally-created patterns influenced by Middle Eastern decoration and "Matisse Camouflage," a brightly-colored riff on the master’s cut-paper collages

“Iowa Artists 2011: Matthew Kluber” APT
Kluber projects an ever-changing computer generated image onto a field of multi-colored stripes, resulting in a work that constantly changes form over time. You have to see this to believe it.

September 23, 2011 — January 15
“Survival Does Not Lie In The Heavens “ APT
Dario Robleto’s recent exploration of longevity and extinction through his incorporation of 19th-century folk traditions used to create visually arresting objects. This is a major national art event.

September 23 — January 29
“Black White Gray Blue”
Revisiting the horrors of slavery in the US.

October 7 - January 25
“Vincent van Gogh and the Psychology of Portraiture” APT
Portraits from the Des Moines Art Center's Permanent Collection, including the recent Vincent van Gogh acquisition.

Ankeny Art Center (1520 SW Ordnance Rd., )

“Jacklin Stoken and group”

“Works by Ben Schuh”
“Works by Marry Rork-Watson”

“Works by Heather and Nicole from Studio3”

Octagon Center for the Arts (427 Douglas Avenue, Ames

Through October 15
“Linda Lewis & Annick Ibsen” APT
Sculptures of irony and human nature.

Through October 23
“Iowa Watercolor Society Exhibit”

Brunnier Museum of Art (University Museums, 290 Scheman Bldg., Ames, 515.294.3342, )

Through December 30
“French Art Nouveau”
Decorative arts, particularly glass and tapestry, are featured in this exhibition.

“The Age of Brilliance”
Twenty nine cut glass pieces from the Brilliant Era of American glass, circa 1876.

“Relationships: Interstitial Connections”
Studio faculty make connections to other disciplines.

“ Fragile Thread of Glass”
Thirty centuries of glass as aesthetic objects for utilitarian uses.

“Priscilla Sage: Contemporary Sculptures”
Textile sculptures.

“Iowa City and Keota Glass”
Works from two 19th century Iowa glass companies that were directed by J. Harvey Leighton.

“NC Wyeth: America in the Making”
Saturday Evening Post illustrator’s works chronicle 20th century.

“Ulfert Wilke: Words to Be Seen”
German immigrant to Iowa, Wilke’s art was heavily influenced by Asian calligraphry.

Christian Petersen Art Museum, Morrill Hall, Iowa State Campus

Through December 16
“Subject to Change: Art & Design in the 20th Century”
Rotating show from the permanent collection.

“Commissioning a Collection: 75 Years of Public Art”

Anderson Sculpture Garden, around Morrill Hall, ISU campus

Through August 2012
“Realities: the Lyric Sculpture of William King” APT
Pop Artist’s work commissioned for ISU.

The Vesterheim (523 W. Water St., Decorah,

September 1, 2011 - September 3, 2012
“Sigvald Asbjørnsen, Sculptor”
Works by the renowned artist, including portrait busts of famous Norwegians and Americans.

Through April, 2012
“Polar Exploration” APT
Featuring Roald Amundsen, Richard Byrd, and Bernt Balchen.

Through April 7, 2012
“Norwegian-American Lutheran Colleges”
Institutions of higher education shaped by religious and ethnic identity.

Faulconer Gallery (Grinnell College,

Through September 4
“Liz Steketee - Family Albums” APT
"Reconstructed memories" offer creative insight into the act and the art of taking family photos.

September 7 - November 30
“Chinese Propaganda Posters”
Exhibition of posters will open on September 7 with a gallery talk by Yang Pei Ming of the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Center. We don’t make this up.

September 23 - December 11
“Walter Burley Griffin and Marion Mahony Griffin in Iowa”
Renderings and models of Griffin works, focusing on those in Iowa, will put the College's Griffin-designed house, Ricker House, in regional context on the centenary of its construction

September 23, 2011 - December 11
“From the Book Forest: Commercial Publishing in Late Imperial China”
Commercial printing during the Ming and Qing dynasties (15th-19th centuries), this exhibition will feature visiting artists from China who will demonstrate traditional woodblock printing techniques.

Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (410 Third Avenue SE, Cedar Rapids),

Through September 4
“Shout Freedom! Photo League Selections from the Columbus Museum of Art”
Non-profit organization of photographers committed to the transformative power of photography to effect social change. Its members included Berenice Abbott, Lewis Hine, Lisette Model, Aaron Siskind, W. Eugene Smith, Paul Strand, and Weegee.

Through October 9
“A Show of Hands: Ceramics from the Collection”
Studio ceramics from the 1970’2 and 80’s.

September 3 - December 31
“An American Masterpiece: Charles Wilson Peale's George Washington”
Commissioned in 1776 by John Hancock, president of the Continental Congress, this was Peale’s second full-scale life portrait of Washington, and the first to portray him as commander in chief of the Continental Army.

September 24 - January 15, 2012
“Seeing and Remembering: Portraits and Their Stories”
Exhibition looks at the different types and situations within portraiture.

Blanden Art Museum ( 920 Third Avenue South
Fort Dodge, 515-573-2316, )

Through October 29
“Don Heggen: Master of Luminous Watercolors”

Through January 21
“Joyce Blunck: Assemblages & Paintings”
Venerable found object artist retrospective.

MacNider Art Museum (303 2nd Street Southeast, Mason City,
641- 421-3666,

Through September 10
“A Series in Progress by Larry Gregson”
Winner of Area Show: 42 exhibition gets a solo show.

Through October 29
“Mingled Visions: Selections from Edward S. Curtis's ‘The North American Indian‘” APT
Photogravures include famous images like “Geronimo” and “Cañon de Chelly – Navaho” and less well-known images like “Bear Bull – Blackfoot” and “Wichita Grass-House.”

November 10 - January
“Iowa Crafts 40”