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2011 Round up

Some of Danís favorites from 2011

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


The exhibitions, artists, and individual art pieces produced and exhibited in Fort Wayne, throughout 2011, contained a number of fascinating aspects. Not only did we see the physical aspects of the art world shift with further of expansion of the arts campus along Main Street with the opening of the Auer Center, and Artlink's new location, but we also saw a new group of artists begin to exhibit highly respectable work. Even more fascinating is that these new faces are not all from our local schools. Given these two developments, between the cultural producers and the locations of production, the art exhibited seemed to be a bit stronger as well, exploring new avenues of expression and conception. After reflecting on 2011, and having enough time to sort it all out and pursue a critical analysis, here are some of the highlights that would seem to continue to make large impressions on one's notion of our local arts scene.

-Best Artists:

Certainly the most difficult task is to define which artist stood out throughout the year. With the inclusion of a lot of great new faces like Thea Muessling (shown at Conspiracy), Carly Schmitt (multiple venues), Patrick Gainer (multiple venues), and Hannah Burnworth (shown at Artlink, "100 Years of Connectivity"), as well as seasoned veterans showing new sides of their work like Rebecca Stockert (multiple venues), Justin Henry Miller (multiple), and Justin Johnson (massive output in multiple shows) the activity of individual artists was a very exciting thing to witness. And the always stellar Arthur Cislo seemed to be particularly active this year, with multiple pieces in group shows and his large show at the University of Saint Francis.

All this being said, IPFW Fine Art Chair, and painting and drawing professor, John Hrehov stepped up the competition to an incredible degree with his work in the exhibition, "John Hrehov: Charcoal," at IPFW in September, 2011. Hrehov's compelling allegorical images of angelic characters, interesting architectural structures, various winged creatures all have surreal aspects to them which belie their graphic on paper simplicity. With the combination of intricate formalism and conceptual practice, Hrehov's work elicits contemplation months later.

As far as the best student artists to debut this year, the most memorable images were created by two University of Saint Francis students, Lilliana Hoag, and Tanner Wilson. Hoag's photography and Tanner's mixed media paintings easily grabbed the viewer's attention and backed up that initial attraction with significant merit upon further inspection. Both artists will also be exhibiting their work in this year's Student Exhibition, and are both producing high expectations.

-Best Exhibitions/Best Curation:

As far as exhibitions, 2011 was particularly interesting with its strong feminist streak, excellent ceramic work, stronger inclusion of the underground through pop ups and alternative exhibition spaces, as well as an expanded community of curators/artists/art world members displaying a more sophisticated understanding of curatorial concerns. Some of the highlights here include Bambi Guthrie's "Carnivale" at Conspiracy, and Justin Johnson's work as curator of the SOCA galleries at the University of Saint Francis, specifically the Bruno Surdo exhibition, and Arthur Cislo's exhibition with the renowned calligrapher Donald Jackson. Artlink also had a great annual line up with its photography exhibition earlier in the year, the always amazing national print exhibition, its recent line up to promote its new space, and the "Fem-in-us" exhibit curated by the Motherlode collective.

Apparently there was a strong Feminist movement throughout Fort Wayne's arts scene, because just prior to Artlinl's "Fem-in-us," Sarah Aubrey, the Fort Wayne Museum of Art's curator of American Art, produced "Female Forms and Facets: Portrayals of Women in Art," a deeply personal, expansive view of the woman archetype, explored through the lens of the 100+ works of art in the exhibition. "Female Forms" was a great example of the breadth and depth of the Fort Wayne Museum of Art's modern and contemporary works on paper, and a rare instance where a viewer could see that much of the works on paper collection at once. "Female Forms" scored the top marks for exhibition in 2011 not only because of its ambition and quality, but because it did not take itself too seriously, as Aubrey toyed with the viewer in a number of ways throughout the exhibition, including the "wall 'o names" that many viewers doubtlessly walked passed as they entered the exhibition, and were then confronted with as they walked back out of the main gallery. These small curatorial quirks are what allow an exhibition to entertain as much as education and inspire.

-Most missed Exhibition:

It is both a sad thing and a great thing that there were too many exhibitions to visit in 2011, a rather new phenomenon for our city. The most missed exhibition for this writer was categorically "Territorial Markings: DDT", the collaborative exhibition at Conspiracy that happened over the Summer of 2011. "DDT" is the moniker that Dusty Neal, Daniel Dienelt, and Tanner Wilson used for the exhibition, which already has retained a slightly legendary feel. The exhibition was the result of five months of collaborative work from the trio of artists. These are the kinds of exhibitions that make scenes grow and gather fans. Perhaps carrying on the legend by missing the exhibition can provide some value in itself.

-Best singular art pieces:

While it is practically impossible to single out one piece of work which was superior to the rest in a year of amazing exhibitions, one artist created a piece which not only caught this writer's attention, but has held it implicitly since its exhibition because of its uniqueness, and innocent genius. Sean Hottois' "Howard Hughes and Paula Dean," the mechanical "couple" which could be seen jostling in excitement as a viewer approached outside of Artlink at the Auer Center, was an absolute, jaw-dropping, beautiful piece. "Howard and Paula" in an example of new media installation taken to new heights, with the use of LED lights, microchips, and carbon wire, among other media, to produce "living" sculptures which react to the viewer creating "emotive electronics." Hottois then complicates the objects more by giving them a nervous habit of jostling and blinking their lights more and more erratically as the viewer stops and stairs, sending them into a panic. This behavior, if compared to human behavior, resembles agoraphobia-a condition which afflicted Howard Hughes and currently afflicts Paula DeanÖthus the title. The combination of humor, sophistication, formal beauty, "newness", and a concern for the relationship between object and viewer make "Howard and Paula" one of the most fascinating objects this writer has ever seen.

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