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Fort Side Story: Place under pressure

By Dan Swartz

Fort Wayne Reader


The art world is notorious for being a virtual community, adrift in an interstitial space amongst the many art fairs, biennials, and frothy international web of "it" cities, many of which come and go over the years.

The "Place" of the art world, being much less about geography, and much more about the character of its architecture and common language built out of fashion, language, and more subtle visual signifiers. More recently, thanks to great thinkers like Anne Markusen, Anne Gadwa, and Carol Coletta, the role of "Place" has become much more important as an indicator of a community's livelihood. Concurrently, the arts has taken the lead in being a defining factor of how to create, define, and break open "Place" due to the role of the design within the space, and the objects, structures, and social interactions suspending within it. Artlink and Wunderkammer Company have chosen to explore this new role of Place in "Fort Side Story," an exhibition that glorifies the sometimes non-existent differences of Fort Wayne's East and West sides (defined by Calhoun Street running South, and Coldwater running to the north). Artist friends have been pitted against one another, in an attempt to highlight the role for the artist in transforming a space into a place, and the need for our community to recognize the amazing neighborhoods and artists who live in the spaces right around us.

Because "Fort Side Story" is a duel exhibition, viewers are asked to visit both showings, before deciding their fate through a popular vote. Artlink, located on the Arts United Campus downtown represents the East side of town and the artists living there. Wunderkammer Company, located in the former Casa D'Angelo's building on Fairfield represents the West side and its artists. The stakes for this faux competition include the honor of hosting a block party for the entire arts community later in the year during the warmer months, as well as holding the coveted title of "Winner". This is the second set of exhibition of Wunderkammer Company's season dealing competition, and it pairs its portion of "Fort Side Story" with an "Art League Vs. Art League" exhibition as well. "Artlink is excited to collaborate with Wunderkammer Company to showcase talented artists who are proud of their neighborhoods. This is an opportunity for Fort Wayne to embrace it's culture and take ownership of what neighborhoods are and can become, commented Deb Washler, Artlink's executive director.

While the writer would like to be able to say that there is a distinct character and difference between each half of this joint exhibition, distinguishing Eastern and Western artists as highlighting certain skills and practices, but in reality, the exhibition both contains an interesting, indefinable "Fort Wayne" quality, which speaks to the midwestern space in which the works were created, but reaching beyond a wholly midwestern flavor usually composed of more traditional styles. Both sides of this exhibition contain a vast array of artistic styles, with interesting symmetries such as Jeremy McFarren's "Lunch Box Doodles" on the East side and Jerrod Tobias's untitled postcard sketches in his "Love" installation on the West side, both using the grid and small collections of smaller pieces to compose their entries. Some noticeable differences between the show include the age of artists in each show, and the amount of sculpture present in the exhibition. Wunderkammer Company's exhibition trended younger than Artlink's, by including a number of University students from both Saint Francis and IPFW, as well as Alison Resac, a student currently enrolled at Carroll High School. However, Artlink was able to include a much larger number of, and variety of sculptures in their East side show, while Wunderkammer Company only included three pieces, all primarily welded steel. These small differences have allowed the two halves to exist independently and with a flavor, although each subdued.

Interesting enough, both East and West do seem be well represented in a vast majority by painters and photographers, with a smaller section of the exhibitions being drawings. Whether it is pieces like Cara Wade's mordancage masterpiece, or an artistic portrait by Sugar Moon, the photography represented in "Fort Side Story" further demonstrates the success and market that exists locally with our arts community. Similarly, painting and drawing, arguably the two oldest visual art forms, were very well represented in both shows, with a strong focus on work which lends itself to the contemporary dialogue within the art world with post-modern collages like Eric Tarr's "Foothold/Anchor", diverse expressionistic pieces like Theoplis Smith or Alexis Guthrie's pieces, the dark romanticized "Wood-Witch" by John Gruse, and the variety of hyper-realistic drawings of Amanda Joseph with "Ode to Jackson," and Erik Howard's "Waiting". The strongest highlight of these exhibitions is the artist Andrew Dubach, a painting and sculpture student currently receiving his B.F.A from IPFW.

Dubach's large scale mixed media paintings, and small and large scale sculptures represented in the West Side portion of "Fort Side Story" as well as the IPFW portion of "Art League VS" suggest an incredibly sophisticated art practice beyond the scope of an undergrad student, and one while seems to mirror the vomitory nature of human interaction with the internet and the amassed data both at our fingertips and that which we must contain within our devices and our brain. Dubach's understanding of both contemporary art history and the active use of contemporary culture within his work creates a very "sticky" experience where the viewer may not necessarily be visually attracted to a piece, such as "Miley Cyrus," a four foot pile pepto-bismol pink foam, but are nonetheless drawn in with humor and an undeniable control of design principles.

Altogether, Artlink and Wunderkammer Company's "Fort Side Story" is an excellent method for highlighting the uselessness of placing boundaries upon the art world in either a macro or micro level. By creating this faux competition, these galleries were able to highlight the geography of the art world, and carry forward a dialogue about the role of competition within it.

For More Info:
"Fort Side Story"
Now-April 16th
@ Wunderkammer Company
& Artlink

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©2018 Fort Wayne Reader. All rights Reserved.