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Review: Perry Riley Jr. at Dewclaw Gallery


Perry Riley Jr.'s gourd.
  • Perry Riley Jr.'s gourd.

Perry Riley Jr. lives on a rural Indiana farm and makes art in a variety of media that connect him with his rural roots. But it is his work growing, drying and making art from gourds on his farm that is front and center in this show, which spreads across two galleries in the Circle City Industrial Complex' s South Studios. Many of the works in Litmus Gallery are inspired by the imagery found in the art of Northeast Woodland Indians. Riley burns such images - birthing mothers, running deer - into his gourds.

In the Dewclaw Gallery space, on the other hand, you see the full range of Riley's work. The single gourd in the space features an image inspired by the Paleolithic cave paintings found in Lascaux, France. The antlers of the animal on the gourd show up as a motif in a number of Riley's paintings in acrylic and oil. The landscapes in these paintings, at first glance, look alien. The sky is dull yellow and green, the plateaus seems as if constructed out of 3D puzzle parts and the trees are uniformly conical.

All the places Riley has traveled, from Texas to Canada, seem to merge into one in his dreams and work: he refers to his landscapes as mindscapes. And some of these paintings contain self-portraits in the foregrounds that seem inspired by 20th-century modernism. But perhaps it's Riley's most organic work - his pieces made using gourds - that will prove most edifying for future viewers: After the environmental apocalypse, farmers like Riley may have more to say to us than artists using newer technologies.


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