REVIEW: Colin Matthes: Instructional and Flood Resistant Work

One of the curses of contemporary art is that too many artists, and viewers believe that irony – the ironic gesture, the ironic moment, the ironic image or thing – is a doppelganger for ideas, content and technical skill. Worse yet, irony functions too often as a surrogate for meaning, even quality- those abstract notions where ideas, materials and skill merge to create a resolved work of art. In Colin Matthes: Instructional and Flood Resistant Work, the Milwaukee-based artist largely avoids these pitfalls by employing irony more as an existential platform from which to respond to today’s social climate, rather than as an endgame unto itself. More a comprehensive installation than a show of discrete works, Instructional takes as its starting point the notion that most of us act as if all is well with our world, and that we are immune to all of the global trauma. After all, our lifestyle is too sophisticated and too propped up by technology for us to need basic survival skills. Continue Reading

Minnesota Artist Exhibition highlights the cross-cultural and the unseen

As a society, we are often ignorant of the deeper ideas, the larger events and even the items of material culture that serve to connect us to other global societies, a complicated condition that the installations “ATTENTION!” by Pao Her and Near and Far by Shana Kaplow address in unorthodox and insightful ways. That such links are oblique or overlooked rather than obvious, abstract or intangible rather than specific is the point. As discrete but complementary projects, “ATTENTION!” and Near and Far innocently unite to create one of the most quietly beautiful and intellectually resonate MAEP offerings in recent memory. With the recent 40th anniversary of the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, Her’s installation “ATTENTION!” is salient. It comprises ten archival ink-jet prints of Hmong Vietnam war veterans from California, Minnesota and Wisconsin who wear military dress and stand stoically before a curtain of rich burgundy brocade. Continue Reading

Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison

April 17 marks the passing of Minnesota artist George Morrison (1919-2000) 15 years ago. Seeing the exhibition Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison on view through April 26 at the Minnesota History Center in Saint Paul, reinforces his powerful, although under-recognized, voice in the aesthetic arch of 20th century art. Comprising some 80 works, Modern Spirit makes relevant the deep well of ideas that Morrison explored and refined over a six-decade career.The Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) in Saint Paul, and Arts Midwest, Minneapolis, organized Modern Spirit, and much of the work is from the museum’s collection. W. Jackson Rushing III, the Eugene B. Adkins Presidential Professor of Art History and Mary Lou Milner Carver Chair in Native American Art at the University of Oklahoma nimbly curated Morrison’s paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture into an evocative, comprehensive whole. This is the final leg in a five museum-tour that began in June 2013 at the Plains Art Museum in Fargo, ND.Morrison’s life is a peripatic journey that takes him from Minnesota to New York City to France and back again. Continue Reading

VISUAL ARTS | Day in, day art: “Common Sense: Art and the Quotidian” at the Weisman

Aaron Copland’s 20th century American classic Fanfare for the Common Man kept scampering through my consciousness like an already known back story to the Weisman’s new exhibition Common Sense: Art and the Quotidian, on display through May 23. The show’s thesis, borne out through a range of historical and contemporary works drawn from the museum’s collection, is to demonstrate that art often depicts—or embodies—common aspects, ideas, and a purposefulness found at the center of much of what we call life. Ours is not necessarily a world frosted with rarified fine art, but rather a world with a visual language of commonly shared elements and understood things, some of which happen to have been transformed into art. In other words, art is not separate from, but a part, of life. The exhibition—the second in a planned series of three exhibits exploring themes of art and the commonplace—is introduced with a text panel exploring the complexity of the word “common” (common ground, common behavior). Continue Reading

VISUAL ARTS | Rich Barlow and Regan Golden venture into the woods at Bethel

The woods, dark and cool, have long exercised a palpable force on the human psyche and are assocated with a range of often contradictory meanings. A beckoning place of great proportion, the deep woods can evoke feelings of mystery, dread, and fear of the unknown (“To the woods! Oh, no, not to the woods!” or Little Red Riding Hood’s travails), or can be a site of sanctuary, mysticism, and awe (California’s redwoods, Italy’s ancient Basco Sacro, or the medieval Sherwood Forest). The mythological rings of meaning encircling these sylvan backlands are boundless. Continue Reading

VISUAL ARTS | An appreciation of George Morrison, a brilliant local artist who hung out with Jackson Pollock, who taught at Cornell and RISD, and who happened to be Native

It has been almost ten years since George Morrison (1919-2000) died. Thus, seeing eight of his paintings on view at the Bockley Gallery, all culled from the collection of the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA), was like embracing a dear old friend. Artist. Ojibwe. (Although George preferred the name Chippewa.) Teacher. Continue Reading

VISUAL ARTS | When the dead came alive in Bloomington: “The Mummy Paradox” by Denise Rouleau and Mark Roberts

Now that the holidays are over we can get down to some sensible business. Like mummies. You can never have too many mummies, and The Mummy Paradox proved it. An exhibition of recent work by the team of Denise Rouleau and Mark Roberts, The Mummy Paradox, which recently closed at the Bloomington Art Center, featured more than two dozen labor-intensive sculptural works that conveyed the power, intrigue and mystique surrounding our notions of “mummy.”Fabricated from clay, Rouleau and Roberts created hundreds and hundreds of small mummy figures that were placed in boxes of various configurations as if jars of spice sitting on a shelf. The organic, tactile quality of the mummy works accrued a disconcerting, if not eery aura that was only intensified through countless repetition.By employing the box form in which to house the protagonist(s), Rouleau’s and Roberts’s work is a contemporary heir apparent to the idiosyncratic personal boxes of the 20th century artist Joseph Cornell. But instead of carefully arranging an encyclopedia of—often found—objects in small boxes in order to create mysterious, personal narratives, The Mummy Paradox seemed to embrace the ancient practice of mummification in all of its forms. And then some. Continue Reading