For the casual appreciator of art, a good gallery show is like a bonbon—small but deliciously rich. The Twin Cities have no shortage of interesting gallery shows, but two exhibits currently on display in Minneapolis are particularly worth a pop-in.
The importance of the Weinstein Gallery is belied by its unassuming location on a quiet street in Southwest Minneapolis. Its residential milieu, however, is particularly appropriate for its current exhibition: photographs of ordinary Germans by the legendary photographer August Sander. For Sander, who was active in the first half of the twentieth century, capturing farmers and bakers and children in characteristic settings was a matter not just of aesthetics but of politics. He sought to document and dignify the common citizens whose voices were being ignored and whose lives were being wasted by the totalitarian regimes ruling his native land, and it is only because of his careful efforts to preserve his negatives from wartime destruction (accidental or deliberate) that his remarkable images survive today.
People of the 20th Century, an exhibit of photographs by August Sander, on display through April 12 at the Weinstein Gallery, 908 W. 46th Street, Minneapolis. Criminales di Cromatico, an exhibit of new work by Shawn McNulty and Michael Sweere, on display through March 30 at the Rosalux Gallery, 1011 S. Washington Avenue, Minneapolis. Admission to each gallery is free. For hours and more information, see weinstein-gallery.com and rosaluxgallery.com.
On display at the Weinstein, in an exhibit titled People of the 20th Century as a nod to Sander’s own title for the series of portfolios that constituted his life’s work, are 23 large prints of Sander’s photographs recently created under the supervision of the artist’s grandson Gerhard. Those who are unfamiliar with Sander’s work will be moved and amused by his sympathetic photographs of intellectuals (an artist at work and his daringly androgynous wife), laborers (farmers in their Sunday finery), and entertainers (circus performers posed unsmiling for a group portrait). Those who have seen these iconic images reproduced in books or online will have their eyes opened by the level of detail visible in these pristine prints. In images like the classic “Bricklayer,” the contrast between dark and light is so stark that you’d almost believe you could feel it with your fingers.
You’ll also have to resist the temptation to touch the shimmering textures of Michael Sweere’s collages, a dazzling array of which are now on view in a joint exhibit with abstract painter Shawn McNulty at the Rosalux Gallery in the Open Book building downtown. Sweere repurposes the surfaces of discarded commercial packaging materials in mosaics that place illustrations of blushing Victorian girls, bow-wielding Native Americans, stag heads, and myriad others in unexpected juxtaposition to one another. Even when bitingly ironic, these glossy, meticulous mosaics convey an oddly moving respect for the commercial illustrations—simultaneously manipulative and naïve—that litter our lives.
Jay Gabler is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.