Artists News

Before Moving to Milwaukee, Michelle Grabner’s Oak Park Garage Gallery, The Suburban, Makes a Pit Stop in Indianapolis

Outside of The Temporary Suburban (L to R): Participating artist's Kris Komakech, Nathaniel Russel, Tricia Paik, Emily Kennerk, Marco Querin and The Suburban's Brad Killam. MICHELLE GRABNER

The participating artists stand outside of The Temporary Suburban, from left: Kris Komakech, Nathaniel Russel, Tricia Paik, Emily Kennerk, and Marco Querin and The Suburban’s Brad Killam.


Last Friday, the Indianapolis Museum of Art opened The Temporary Suburban, a pop-up gallery in the institution’s Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park. The Temporary Suburban is at once an extension of the museum’s current exhibition (“Michelle Grabner: Weaving Life Into Art”) and a testimonial to The Suburban, the beloved Oak Park, Illinois alternative space founded by Grabner and her husband Brad Killiam in 1999 that is moving to Milwaukee this fall.

The Suburban—which in its Oak Park form is an eight-by-eight-foot garage gallery with cinder-block walls—is recreated inside of the museum’s sculpture park as a 10-square-foot structure. For the next three weekends, it will feature solo exhibitions from Indianapolis-based artists. It opened with work from Nathaniel Russell, and September will see Marco Querin (September 4–6), Emily Kennerk (September 11–13), and Kris Komakech (September 18–20). The content of each show will be a surprise.

“With Marco, Emily, and Kris, I intentionally didn’t ask how they were going to engage the space,” Grabner told ARTnews over the phone. “That is in keeping with our longstanding philosophy that we fully trust artists and we want to support the exhibition or project that they need to make,” she said over email. “The Suburban has always been more akin to the studio in that way.”

Grabner’s show at the museum—the artist’s first large-scale exhibition at a collecting institution, up until November 15—keeps things squarely in the heartland, showing new pieces directly influenced by both the city of Indianapolis and the state of Indiana.

One new body of work features photographic pieces inspired by the Indianapolis Colts’ 2014 season. Grabner explained that she was “thinking about football,” and that all of the images are appropriated from the sports pages of The Indianapolis Star, blown up “so they become these abstractions.” The end result is something that feels like homespun Pop art, like a jock-approved Lichtenstein.

Among other work on view is a series of weavings that deploy a new palette for the artist: rainbow. As Grabner tells it, this was directly inspired by the political turmoil happening in the state surrounding the Indiana Religious Freedom Law debate, which was widely read as an act that gave businesses, landlords or employers the legal groups to treat LGBT people differently based on the tenants of certain religious group’s opposition to homosexuality. In the wake of that, Grabner said that she wanted to represent the “full spectrum of the rainbow.”

With The Suburban moving to a new city altogether—it is taking over a laundromat in Beer City and opening with Irish painter Fergus Feehily—the pop-up also serves as a transitional homage to 16 years of programming in Oak Park.

“The fact that The Suburban still exists in a sculpture park in Indianapolis is kind of nice,” Grabner said.

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