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Review: Choose Your Own Adventure at iMOCA

Thoughts on the new exhibit by Justin Chase Lane in Fountain Square


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4 stars 

I walked into the swank Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art gallery at CityWay and it was completely empty: No patrons whatsoever.

For Justin Chase Lane's Choose Your Own Adventure, the emptied-out ambience couldn't have been a more perfect setting to contemplate Lane's handmade miniature dioramas that are the subject of his photography.  And like the gallery when I entered into it, the photos are devoid — save for one photograph — of people.

The evidence of human habitation, though, is everywhere in his work. One of the most striking — and disconcerting — is one called "Starless Night," which depicts a sort of Japanese rock garden without the rocks and a container full of red liquid. I'm morbid enough to think that the liquid is blood. And the overhead sky is completely black. Maybe it's the model for a future Quentin Tarantino samurai flick.

 A revealing pair of works with the same name, "Puzzle and Paper Chair, Funhouse" are illustrative of Chase's process; one of the works is a black and white gelatin silver photograph, the other is charcoal and spray paint on paper. And the drawings are the starting point for his photographed dioramas. The setting of both the drawing — one in the same — is claustrophobic, not unlike the postcard photograph for this exhibition, "Last Supper in the Bomb Shelter" in which you see cans of beer and foodstuffs on a table in the middle of a shelter lined with shelves, but with no humans around.

Anyway, it's hard not to admire the inventiveness in which Lane went about making his model bomb shelter, even if it seems very makeshift, low-rent. It's also easy to let your imagination run free here. Were the inhabitants killed? Or were they forced to leave? Asking such questions, I guess, is part of the adventure here.  And with nineteen works on display here, there's ample opportunity for many adventures.

Through Dec. 31. at iMOCA, CityWay


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