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Wednesday, May 22, 2024

“Work in Progress: Conversations about American Art” unveils at Newfields

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Newfields unveiled a new 12,000 square foot art gallery in the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA). It focuses on decentering traditional views of art to make way for more inclusive storytelling.

The goal is to present art that gives guests the opportunity to make personal connections. Its objective is for people to see their lived experiences reflected.

“This is one step in a much bigger initiative to update our galleries that hold the permanent collections for the museum. We want to bring it more in line with our guiding principles for the galleries,” said Tascha Horowitz, the director of content and interpretation engagement for Newfields.

“Work in Progress: Conversations about American Art” unveils at Newfields
Kyng Rhodes’ piece “Red Handed” was created as a direct response to another painting in the gallery. He said it took 10 hours total within 2 days to complete. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

RELATED: Where Newfields is 1 year after viral job description led to CEO resigning

The exhibit debuts a refreshed installation of art from the United States. It provides new context to how artists, critics and the public approached American art for over 200 years.

The displays explore the limitations of visual art as a means of understanding U.S. history and culture. It incorporates stories that were not always included in traditional American art.

“Historically American art, especially in the IMA collection, doesn’t necessarily depict a full representation of America. A part of what this project is trying to do is be transparent about that,” said Maggie Ordon, the interpretation planner for Newfields.

“Work in Progress: Conversations about American Art” unveils at Newfields
Kyng Rhodes discusses his response piece “Red Handed” depicting a Black male under American’s gaze to art patrons for the new exhibit. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

Work in Progress

She said what was valued, collected and seen as art in American history may not have been as inclusive.

“One of the goals that we identified early on is that we wanted to work with members of our community to help create some of the interpretation in this project. We researched people in the city who were doing work related to the themes of this project,” said Horowitz.

RELATED: Serendipity for Newfields: ‘We. The Culture’ opens shortly after new CEO begins

Five people, Nasreen Khan, Tatjana Rebelle, Kyng Rhodes, Jordan Ryans, and Bobby Young, chose to call themselves the Looking Glass Alliance.

“Work in Progress: Conversations about American Art” unveils at Newfields
Bobby Young’s contribution from Looking Glass Alliance is an interactive display of individual Indianapolis history. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

Using the concept of a looking glass, the alliance aims to upend the white, heteronormative interpretations of what art is. They want to expand the representation of the American experience that has traditionally been featured in museums.

“We walked the galleries with them to see the collections. Each of them selected the art works that they felt connected to. Then through whatever mediums they chose, they brought stories that they wanted to tell into the galleries,” said Horowitz.

Conversations about American Art

“Work in Progress: Conversations about American Art” unveils at Newfields
An art patron explores The Civil War in American Art: Past and Present piece. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

She said they were very intentional with the name of the project. They hope for it to be the beginning of updates to the museum’s galleries.

“What emerged from their [Looking Glass Alliance] responses were a focus on Indiana and Indianapolis specific stories. So, when you look at the title of an artwork it might say ‘Streetlight’ but that painting is depicting the Meridian Kessler neighborhood a few miles from the museum,” said Ordon.

RELATED: ‘Taking up space’: How the Eighteen Art Collective is changing the narrative

She said that then unpacks the stories of the faces and places and people who would have lived in those places.

Kyng Rhodes, a visual artist with Looking Glass Alliance, is also a part of the We. The Culture exhibition with the Eighteen Arts Collective.

“Work in Progress: Conversations about American Art” unveils at Newfields
A close up of The Civil War in American Art: Past and Present piece. Using a projector to cast shadows against the wall within the museum, it has the outline of African American women showcased. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

He responded to the 1973 painting “Dr. Kool” by Barkley L. Hendrix, by creating an up to date version of his concept.

Called “Red Handed,” Rhodes said his piece depicts a Black male in the same way that Hendrix depicted himself in his painting.

Responses to the gallery art

“In my painting, I depicted a younger male who looks closer to today’s youth. My work always has spotlights present in it. I use them as devices to call attention to something. In this case I put spotlights on this young man to represent America’s gaze on him and their constant criticisms,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes said he is currently the only living or dead contemporary artist that has five works in the major art museum.

The gallery consists of mostly paintings with a few sculptures, contemporary art, and furniture.

The exhibit is free with a general admission ticket for the museum.

“Work in Progress: Conversations about American Art” unveils at Newfields
Art patrons explore the interactive contribution piece by Bobby Young with Looking Glass Alliance. (Photo/Jade Jackson)

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at 317-607-5792 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON

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