Art note: Northeast Minneapolis home becomes surreal gallery for a night

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Even with the nonstop Stars and Stripes hoopla of the long Independence Day weekend, for the local art cognoscenti there was only one spot to be on the night of Saturday, July 5th: an innocuous, working class home located at 2531 Quincy Street N.E. in Minneapolis. However, any preconceptions of normalcy were dashed upon arrival.

Maybe it was the faux picket fence and the purple velvet ropes on stanchions defining the dark sidewalk approach. Or maybe it was the light projection of a London theater marquee announcing a 1978 David Bowie concert—audio intact—that flickered eerily across the structure’s façade, throwing fence and rope into high contrast. Or maybe it was the slot belching a torrent of mail that buried much of the porch.

2531 Quincy, the residence of artist Gudrun Lock, had been commandeered as temporary exhibition space. Lock (responsible for the mail slot modification) and seven of her edgy, perspicacious colleagues—Cecilia Aldarondo, Katinka Galanos, Alexa Horochowski, Mary Johnson, Janet Loebbrecht (fence), Patty Healy McMeans (marquee), and Sarah Petersen (velvet ropes)—created more than 20 site-specific temporary art projects dispersed throughout the house’s three floors.

Why host a short-lived, 16-hour art exhibition in a house instead of a serene exhibition space? According to Lock, 2531 was a spontaneous, organic project. The project was conceived over brunch by eight artist friends who decided to make work “on, in, for, and about a house.” The concept had to do with a confluence of factors including Lock’s new baby (who kept her close to home), her recent move into 2531 Quincy, and her discovery of curious detritus left behind by previous owners. There was little discussion among the artists about the nature of each project and none of the artists saw each other’s work until the night of the show. “I looked forward to seeing what this space and our collective energy inspired in each of us,” said Lock.

Although all the artists are women, 2531 is about far more than issues of gender and domesticity. Unlike a conventional gallery space, “the house comes with all kinds of other contextual burdens—inhabitants past and present, the notion of privacy, the range of purposes of the various spaces,” says Aldarondo. “A kitchen is supposed to be for cooking, not for art!” However, Galanos and Aldarondo’s shared interest in notions of memory and found materials, particularly photographs, found traction when Lock announced she had found a cache of photos left behind by the previous owner. Installed in the basement, the video Spirits of the Wicked Dead compared found photos of various people with domestic objects, such as a teacup, left in the house. Galanos and Aldarondo wanted to discover if different sorts of objects—photos vs. tableware—“remember” their histories differently. “We wanted,” explains Aldarondo, “to explore how objects can be said to testify to the events they have participated in.”

Some projects addressed the theme of domesticity—for example, Johnson’s macabre piece Cooky. With a nod to Pee Wee Herman, Cooky is part sculpture, part robot, and part culinary purgatory. Here, a child’s play stove has sprouted arms and stands firmly on yellow waders. Its cook top is littered with messy dishes, and a plate of spaghetti has been dumped on its boots. Similarly, Lock’s Laundry also suggests a dark side to domesticity: a mountain of clothes rising to the ceiling sits on the basement floor next to an overhead pipe leaking water into a bucket. Like domesticity itself, these pieces are both humorous and repellent.

“I saw this exhibit as a celebration of the home and the opportunities it creates,” says Horochowski. “There aren’t any delusions of grandeur or attempts at sanitizing the work. It is as much about celebration as art. It is summer, after all!” Horochowski installed two video loops shown on separate small, wall-mounted screens mimicing action film conventions. Planet Eden is derived from scenes taken from the original Planet of the Apes; the other film, Run Barbara, features scenes from Night of the Living Dead edited into a black-and-white panic.

The event rocked into the wee hours of the warm summer night. Part art exhibition and part party, the two entities combined seamlessly into one multimedia event, appropriately accompanied by the avant-garde jazz band Baby Demons and titillating beverages served in 150 of Lock’s handmade rose-colored glasses. Lock’s small white Made in China stickers were inescapable, stuck to everything from ice cubes to light switches to the toilet seat.

“I think visitors to this event did not immediately know where the art was. They gradually discovered it here and there, and may even missed some of it altogether, or found art where no artist intended it to be,” says Horochowski. “In that sense the viewer becomes the artist.”

For the more than 100 men, women and children who attended, 2531 was just what the art gods of summer ordered.

Mason Riddle writes on the visual arts, architecture, and design. She has contributed to publications including Artforum, Metropolis, the Star Tribune, and the Pioneer Press. She is guest editor for the upcoming Public Art Review #39: Between Rural and Urban, which explores public art in the suburbs.