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Regional artists in downtown South Bend

Brigid Mangano | Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Most students at the University of Notre Dame have never set foot in downtown South Bend’s art galleries. If they feel an urge to experience art, they might pay a visit to the Snite Museum on a non-football weekend or stroll through the Isis Gallery in O’Shaughnessy Hall between classes. Although that’s certainly time well spent, students are nonetheless missing out on the vibrant arts community only a few miles south of campus.

A perfect example is “Undiluted: Paintings by Julian Alcantar and James Palmore,” a show currently on view at Artpost Gallery featuring the work of two regional artists. The title is somewhat misleading, because although Alcantar is represented by a series of large-scale, abstract paintings, Palmore contributed a number of mixed-media works that incorporate both found objects and common building materials.

Most of Alcantar’s paintings are untitled, giving viewers little hint as to how one might interpret these bold exercises in color. Sometimes his brushstrokes seem haphazard and uncontrolled, while at others they seem much more intentional, creating organic shapes that are pleasing to the eye. In one particular painting, shades of bubblegum pink and baby blue predominate, and the viewer can discern a shape resembling a long-necked stringed instrument.

“Katz,” one of the only paintings Alcantar chose to name, is also the artist’s personal favorite. When asked about the significance of this mysterious title, he acknowledged that the word is his own coined term, which he formulated letter-by-letter. The square canvas is filled with swooping curves, the largest of which calls to mind a yin-yang, and pseudo-alphabetic characters scrawled in every direction. Although Alcantar intended for these symbols to evoke a system of writing, they also serve the practical function of filling up space.

A diverse sample of Palmore’s work is on display at Artpost. Many of his abstract paintings bear playful titles such as “Wasn’t Me” and “You Can See It Too.” These phrases inevitably arouse the curiosity of the viewer, who wonders what wrongdoing is being shirked or what object he should be seeing. One of Palmore’s favorite motifs is a series of dots, usually in a single band of color. Sometimes the dots seem as though they might lead somewhere, but often they are purely decorative.

Easily the most eye-catching piece by Palmore is a monumental painting of someone’s right hand, set against a midnight blue background. At first glance, the hand conjures up mental images of the humanoids Cuban artist Tomas Esson is wont to paint. B/elow the canvas are three plates, covered with uncooked rice, rusty nails and lentils, respectively. The hand and nails are meant to suggest mankind’s incredible capacity to build and create, while the oxidation of the metal reminds us of the need to rebuild and begin anew. The rice and legumes signify the sustenance mankind depends on.

Several of Palmore’s mixed-media works draw upon traditional Christian iconography. “Redeemed Innocence” consists of a red apple laid atop a miniature altar and set within a roofed, wooden platform adorned with a vegetal frieze. Nails of varying dimensions point toward the fruit, an age-old symbol of Eve.

This spring, students should venture beyond the campus perimeter and explore the colorful arts scene in downtown South Bend. A good place to start would be “Undiluted” at Artpost, which will remain on view until April 29.

In The Bend

What: “Undiluted: Paintings by Julian Alcantar and James Palmore”

Where: Artpost Gallery (216 West Madison Street)

When: Now through April 29

How Much: Free

Learn More: www.artpostblog.com