Midwesterners are known as “friendly, hardworking, honest, morally upright, pragmatic, resourceful, self reliant, and straightforward,” according to the catalog essay written for “Midwestern BLAB!” an exhibition of five regional graphic artists who regularly illustrate BLAB! magazine. Allegedly, this current exhibit “boldly affirms the positive view of Midwestern culture.” But yikes! This is the psychic landscape of alienated and lonely misfits often doing cruel, perverse and violent things to each other. Are those really our core cultural values? Maybe not, but at least it’s comic-book culture, and ever since Ivan Albright, Hellish Imagism has dominated our local art world. The artists themselves are probably “friendly, hardworking, and honest,” however, especially “hardworking,” as all five artists in this exhibit demonstrate an exceptionally high level of craft. For example, Tom Huck’s rambunctious 4×8-foot woodcuts are masterpieces of that medium. And nobody sketches figures, or paints on black velvet better than Don Colley. His figure drawings are so strong they don’t even need a story, and can be displayed in all their cluttered glory just as pages torn from his sketchbook. Midwestern life does have its dark and creepy side, but I do wonder whether it continues to deserve this much devotion and celebration. Is this really Midwestern culture, or just the lack of it? (Chris Miller)
Through July 22 at A+D Gallery, Columbia College. 619 S. Wabash.