Adam Ekberg

Nuvo Indianapolis by Susan Watt Grade

A Midwest aesthetic
by Susan Watt Grade Mar 12, 2008

Focus: Midwest
Midwest Museum of Contemporary Art
Murphy Arts Center
Through March 29

“Welcome to Focus: Midwest,” the recorded voice of curator Scott Grow said through the receiver of the red, push-button phone in Hoyun Son’s audio installation. The installation is located at the back of the newly rehabbed gallery space hosting the second exhibition by Midwest Museum of Contemporary Art, aka MiCo. Without a permanent home, MiCo has the freedom to bring contemporary art to various Indianapolis venues. Founder and arts infuser Jeremy Efroymson has funded the renovation of two spaces in the process. MiCo’s first exhibition and gallery upgrade was in January at the Harrison Center. This one, in the Murphy Arts Center, is the former site of Alias Gallery, which moved to Galerie Penumbra’s old location.

Focus: Midwest, planned as a biennial show of leading Midwestern artists, features work by Son, Adam Ekberg, Debbie Reichard, Kay Westhues, Mayumi Lake, Steven Skinner, Jonathan Gitelson and Jamie Kreher. Heavy in photographic imagery and absent in painting — except for Skinner’s refreshingly simple watercolors — the exhibition, thankfully, does not pigeonhole Midwestern art or artists. Instead, it brings up questions: Is there a contemporary Midwest aesthetic or outlook? What is the current culture and landscape of the Midwest?

Jamie Kreher’s photographs introduce an intriguing aesthetic discovery: an archipelago of Midwestern islands — traffic islands. Each of her c-print images, such as “Shop and Save Island,” show a meticulously landscaped median centrally placed and surrounded by a white sea-like border. The islands seem to sigh in relief given the breathing room of the borders. Kreher makes us study these landscapes as if they were our own groomed gardens.

Mundane green garden hoses create “Pisces 2” by Indianapolis-based artist Reichard. The green tubes outline two open box forms, then stretch, swirl and merge into a white plastic bucket. Water spouts from one end into the pail, creating a calm fountain.

Returning to Son’s audio work: “FYI, For Your Information Site Responsive Interactive Voice Installation” is composed within a wall-hung INFO booth. My friend had to direct me to pick up the receiver of the phone in the display. More direction is needed with the work. After lifting the receiver, I was locked into a push-button dialogue that ultimately led to the recorded voice of a woman with an Asian accent, maybe the artist’s. With static noises present, she asked me to repeat tongue-twister-like phrases and scolded me for not pronouncing words clearly. “I’m having a problem understanding you because of your accent,” she said. The installation worked to frustrate me, as intended, and succeeded with its clever message regarding technological and cultural communication and understanding. A message we all could stand to hear.

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