The unique nature of abstract paintings offers viewers the freedom that very few other artwork does.

In the cacophony of colors, lines and shapes, people can see what they want. Everyone might take something slightly different from the piece.

“The use of color, the use of shapes and textures. It’s an opportunity to see things in a totally different way than you’d normally see them,” said Duane King, president of the Southside Art League.

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The Southside Art League will celebrate some of the country’s best artists during its annual National Abstract Art Exhibition. Now in its 13th year, the show is a chance to focus specifically on abstract art, which tends to be underserved in art circles.

While criticisms of “anyone could do that” are often lobbed toward the style, organizers of the show believe that if more people understood it, they’d see the skill that it requires.

“A lot of people have an initial negativity about abstract art. They don’t understand it, so this a great way to do a show that focuses on it,” King said. “It’s an opportunity to give southside artists who don’t have a venue a place to exhibit their work, and to put abstract art up.”

Even under the umbrella of “abstract” art, the pieces in this year’s show employ a variety of approaches to entice the viewer. A gauzy scene of lightly blended color and shading is hung near work where the shapes come together to resemble something closer to street graffiti.

Ethereal, airy approaches offset angular approaches full of sharp lines and jagged corners.

“In my personal opinion, abstract art is a little more interesting than all of your floral paintings or your landscapes. They’re harder to get together as far as composition and color combinations that catch the eye,” said Bob Aichele, an abstract artist and member of the art league. “And they’re harder to do, to get that composition that you like and will get someone to buy it and look at it every day.”

The Southside Art League, which has been supporting the arts in Johnson County and southern Indianapolis for more than 50 years, started the abstract show in 2005.

Aichele, chairman of the exhibition committee, partnered with the Johnson County Museum of History to host the first abstract exhibition.

At the time, the Southside Art League was hosting other fine arts exhibit, but nothing specifically focused on abstract art.

“We have a number of artists who enjoy abstract art, so I thought it would be a good place to start in terms of showing our art in the community,” Aichele said.

The exhibition moved to the University of Indianapolis for its second year, before finding a more permanent home at the Garfield Park Arts Center on the southside.

The work is hanging in the center’s main gallery, with natural lighting in a spacious setting. More than 150 entries came in to this year’s show, which was judged by John Berry, an art professor from DePauw University.

Of those entries, Berry chose 50 pieces for the exhibition.

The show is the only non-member exhibition that the Southside Art League does each year.

“Abstract shows are pretty rare everywhere,” said Steve Warner, treasurer for the art league. “It gets the Southside Art League’s name out in front of the public. There are a lot of people who don’t even know we’re there. It’s really nice to see our little organization represented by this, and get more people involved.”

The art will be for sale throughout the show, which hangs until Oct. 27.

While the main focus of the exhibition is to provide an opportunity for abstract artists that they might not normally have, the show is also a chance for the Southside Art League to reach out to the community in a bigger way.

Extending its reach from its Greenwood-based campus, where a small gallery features monthly exhibitions and classes are held next door, it important to the growth of the organization, King said.

“We’re hoping it helps the art league as far as building up our reputation,” King said. “We’re taking it to a national stage, bringing in national artists from around the country.

At a glance

Southside Art League National Abstract Art Exhibition

When: Through Oct. 27

Where: Garfield Park Arts Center, 2432 Conservatory Drive, Indianapolis

Cost: Free and open to the public

Exhibit hours: 2 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday,  Thursday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday

Information: southsideartleague.org or gpacarts.org

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Ryan Trares is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at rtrares@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2727.