It’s halfway through 2016. So it’s time to take an accounting of the best art shows I’ve seen in Lincoln so far this year.
1 “It Was Never Linear,” Sheldon Museum of Art. The most significant contemporary painting exhibition in Nebraska in more than a decade, “It Was Never Linear” isn’t a showcase of art stars. Rather, it showcases the work of a dozen artists who are now becoming prominent, some figurative, some abstract and some operating in the space between. “It Was Never Linear” is on view at Sheldon through July 31.
2 Molly Zuckerman-Hartung, “Timeshare,” Fiendish Plots. Molly Zuckerman-Hartung’s show of paintings on cloth demanded examination and thought and rewarded both as she presented something of a language using dye and bleach to create abstraction and paint for figurative elements. The Brooklyn artist’s works hinted at everything from the opening of a Hitchcock movie and a film strip to a punk take on Robert Rauschenberg’s silk screens.
3. “Cell and World!: A Renegade Exhibition”. At 5 p.m. May 27, an old house at 22nd and R streets became, for a few hours, an art gallery, the site of a guerilla installation by nine artists who filled the rooms with ceramic figures climbing on ropes, abstract floor and wall pieces, and a giant pipe that ran out of a second floor window. When darkness fell, “Cell and World!: A Renegade Exhibition” closed -- for good.
4. Jay Kreimer and Wendy Weiss, “They Gave Us Directions,” Lux Center for the Arts. Kreimer and Weiss created a chaotic, never overwhelming installation in response to and drawn from spending much of the last two years working in India. The installation included wall pieces, paintings and photographs that captured Indian street life and architecture, some rolling sculptures, a loom and a vendor cart that played Indian street music in the gallery.
5. Katie Merz, “MEAN/TIME,” Fiendish Plots. New York artist Katie Merz made “MEAN/TIME” in three nearly sleepless days and nights after she arrived in Lincoln, using a white oil stick to create a series of graffiti-like images that ran across giant sheets of tar paper. The images, arranged in horizontal lines, came from Merz’s nearly word-by-word reflections on or illustrations of a poem by Lincoln’s Grace Bauer, who read the piece at the show’s opening.
6. Paintings by Stephen Dinsmore, Lux Center for the Arts. This show brought together 47 pieces, large and very small, that provided a provocative sampling of Lincoln painter Dinsmore’s work. Despite their thematic and subject matter variation, was unified by Dinsmore’s vision and the evocative painting style of a master of the medium.
7-8. Frank Hansen, “Postmark Shenanigans” and Mark Kneeskern, “The Last American Hitchhiker,” Iron Tail Gallery. Des Moines artist Frank Hansen and Texas-based Mark Kneeskern were friends and collaborators through Kneeskern’s death in 2014.
Hansen’s June exhibition of surreal, paintings on old pieces of wood covered with imagined figures with large heads and distended arms, layers of paint and scrawled text was dedicated to Kneeskern.
Hansen’s show was followed by an exhibition of Kneeskern’s work. “The Last American Hitchhiker was drawn from Kneeskern’s archives and Hansen’s collection of his work along with the book recounting his hitchhiking adventure that gave the show its title.
A representative sampling of Kneeskern’s work, the show included wild, cartoonish paintings, explorations of skulls in paint and pencil, black-and-white sketches, found wood sculptures and boxes filled with bones, photographs, pill bottles and macabre one, a stuffed bunny strangled by a plastic cord.
The connections between the work of Hansen and Kneeskern are obvious and illuminating and the shows together served as a fine memorial for Kneeskern.
9. Bri Murphy, “Cast Study: BiMolar,” Tugboat Gallery. Murphy is the star of 2016 so far, having curated the four Lux Center shows, participated in “Cell and World!,” filling the bathroom of the house with her work and delivering another bravely provocative exhibition at Tugboat. Recording her own behavior for a year on a long scroll to document her life with bipolar disorder, Murphy combined videos of her taking prescriptions, pill bottles, porcelain casts of her wisdom teeth and a curiosity box into a very powerful, personal show.
10. “Redux: Unseen Works by Lana Miller," Lux Center for the Arts. Lincoln’s Lana Miller hadn’t had a show in years before Murphy put together this sublime collection of small drawings, many done with ballpoint pen, and a handful of large oil-stick on paper paintings created from the late ‘90s to a couple years ago. The work blended abstraction and realism, incorporated text and meditation, balancing chaos and comfort throughout.