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Review: Kyle Ragsdale, 'Costumerie'

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Kyle Ragsdale, "Maestro" (from "Costumerie")
  • Kyle Ragsdale, "Maestro" (from "Costumerie")

The Harrison Center for the Arts; through Nov. 25

Costumerie is a fairly predictable exhibition of impressionistic paintings, some very large and some very small, all striving to evoke nostalgia according to Ragsdale’s printed text. The paintings depict hazy scenes full of Ragsdale’s familiar top hat-clad gentleman and seem to be plucked from dreams or children’s books. Costumerie is successful throughout at conjuring a haunting sense of nostalgia. This exhibition also shows Ragsdale expanding the range of his paintings in a very safe manner — there is more action, expanded color palettes and more detail, as compared to his previous work.

Ragsdale makes a lot of art, and he sells a lot as well. This becomes a bit troubling when one considers the fact that his entire ouvre consists of exactly the type of work that most people who have only a passing interest in art love to hang in their homes — rather drab, inoffensive, pretty paintings that feel nondescript and could go with almost any decorating style or furniture imaginable. He's one of the most oft-exhibited artists in Indianapolis, yet his artwork almost always fails to provoke any thought about contemporary life or art. It feels indulgently rooted in the past and divorced from its time.

There is a bit of growth here, and most of the art is well-executed and visually appealing. Overall, however, this is really more of the same from Ragsdale.

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