INDIANAPOLIS — The power of paper as a fine art is on full display in Long-Sharp Gallery's newest exhibit, "Front Page."
Fourteen artists from around the world have taken the delicate medium of paper art and redefined its limits in the form of sculptures, portraiture, collages, abstraction, and more in the downtown Indianapolis exhibition.
Front Page champions paper-made art by taking the fragility of the material and turning it on its head, daring viewers to confront its delicate power, that the medium is a fine art.
In the Foreword of Long-Sharp Gallery's catalog for Front Page, Rhonda Long-Sharp writes, in part:
"The Front Page story, as told by the fourteen artists participating in this exhibition, is that paper as a medium is the equal sibling of canvas, metal, and stone... As a collective, these artists and this body of work are a testament to artists who take a fragile piece of paper and, with their vision, empower it, redefine it, and make it their own."
"It is a view that is broad rather than narrow."
One of the 14 artists featured in Front Page is Nicole Pietrantoni. She's an experimental paper installation artist who began her career in printmaking and book art.
"Printmaking, book arts, they often have been second-class citizens of the art world," Pietrantoni told WRTV. "Painting, sculpture, those are the ones everybody thinks of as art with a capital A."
Pietrantoni says paper artists don't have a long history in the art world, much less the fine art world.
Rhonda Long-Sharp, a fine art collector, gallerist, and owner of Long-Sharp Gallery, confers and says paper is only now beginning to be taken seriously in the world of sophisticated art.
"It's really a recent advent that you see even auction houses having auctions that are devoted to works on paper. There are a few art fairs that are devoted to works on paper. Now, we're seeing museums that talk about craft and design," Long-Sharp said.
Art made on or with paper started to be seen as equal in the fine art world as the industry and its gatekeepers diversified, according to Long-Sharp.
"Fine art used to be only canvas created by dudes. And usually, dudes that looked a particular way, and had a particular background. And that's changed," Long-Sharp said. "It is a view that is broad rather than narrow."
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"It's kind of magical what you can do with paper," Pietrantoni said. "This everyday material that we toss around, receipts and labels, and the paper in your office," she continued, "artists are doing really innovative things with."
Pietrantoni, whose work is represented by Long-Sharp while based in Prague, says the Indy-based gallery is truly championing the movement and its artists. She says, "it was a dream" when Long-Sharp found her work at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic through an online exhibit and asked to represent her.
"I just, right away, thought, 'These are people who get my work and want to champion and support my work.' And you don't find that every day with a gallery," Pietrantoni said. "They love art, and they love the artists they work with and the work they make, and they just want to see you make more of it."
Ambitious Conscious Choices: Curating Front Page
From Front Page's conception to opening night on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022, it took Long-Sharp and her daughter, Nicole ML Sharp, the gallery director, three years to complete.
In 2019, the mother-daughter duo saw the work of Colombian artist Miriam Londoño for the first time and were amazed by the sculptures she created with paper. It was then that Long-Sharp and ML Sharp began seeking out more paper artists and creators all over the world.
"We were looking for artists who were creating in different ways," Long-Sharp said. "And then looking at what they did and how they did it. So, printmaking, lenticular printmaking, the sculptures, the portraits, the collages. There are all kinds of aspects in here of how art is made using paper, and then the compositions also take a linear view, if you will, of different types of compositions."
Front Page was an ambitious project, Long-Sharp said, and every detail of the exhibit was cognizantly thought through.
At least half of the artists in Front Page are represented by Long-Sharp, but the other half were invited. The featured artists also represent a wide scale of career standings, as some are established artists, while others are emerging.
"We decided consciously not to limit the selection of artists," Long-Sharp said.
From the style of paper art to the underlying themes of each piece, Front Page is sensibly diverse.
"I hope that there's a little sense of wonder, and I think a lot of people will probably have that as they approach a lot of the works in the Front Page exhibition," Pietrantoni said.
For anyone who experiences the Front Page exhibit, watches the films the gallery made about each of the featured pieces, or checks out the exhibit's respective catalog, Long-Sharp hopes you are lifted up in some way by the art.
With Love From London
When Long-Sharp Gallery first exhibited at the Masterpiece London Art Fair in 2012, Long-Sharp spent a good portion of time helping people pronounce Indianapolis.
After a few too many mispronunciations, Long-Sharp decided she would begin giving an incentive to learn the city better by saying, "well, actually, Indianapolis is the art mecca of the world. And if you come back here next year and you remember that and you say, 'Indianapolis is the art mecca of the world' we will give you a bottle of champagne. And we made good on those promises," Long-Sharp said. "So, to some, (Indy) is the art mecca of the world. I assure you we heard it in London," she joked.
In the prestigious fine art world, cities like New York City, Paris, Los Angeles, and Palm Beach come to mind, but, to keep it real, Indy...not so much.
"I'd like to say Indianapolis is the mecca of the art world — we should be — but we're not," Long-Sharp said.
With that said, however, Long-Sharp notes that Indianapolis is seeing an explosion in its art scene right now like never before. The connoisseur of fine arts notes just a few of the many organizations elevating Indy's artists and bringing artists to the city, such as PATTERN magazine, GANGGANG, Newfields, and the Indy Jazz Fest.
BUTTER, for example, just had its second annual showcase. The city saw two brand-new music festivals this year. And both emerging and established artists from across the country are being showcased in exhibits all over the city, from the Indianapolis Art Center to the Herron School of Art + Design and now even Gainbridge Fieldhouse.
"If you pick an area of the arts, this city's got it," Long-Sharp said.
Long-Sharp urges anyone frolicking about on a First Friday, taking pictures in front of a mural, or attending a showcase, to think of the artists. She hopes art lovers consider investing in art and supporting the careers of those artists.
"Imagine a world without art," Long-Sharp challenges.
"It's gray. It's just gray," she said. "And, you know, we need them (artists). Let them know. Let them hear from you."
To learn more about Front Page, you can order a detailed catalog of the exhibition or view it online at www.longsharpgallery.com. To see Front Page, you can make an appointment by emailing email@example.com. To learn more about Nicole Pietrantoni, you can visit her website or her Instagram.
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WRTV Digital Reporter Shakkira Harris can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter, @shakkirasays.