I’m glad I made it to St. Paul artist Chris Larson’s Deep North at the Chambers Hotel’s Burnet Gallery, and you should go, too—but you’ll have to scamper, as the show closes on Monday, June 14. Despite all the publicity the show’s garnered, it was not what I expected.
The photo at the top of this article is the signature image associated with the show in promotional material; I was also familiar with the still from Larson’s film Crush Collision that the Walker Art Center used to promote the opera The Making of Americans. They’re both eerie, beautiful images.
At the Burnet, however, the representational photos of Larson’s ice-coated shotgun shack are hidden on the other side of dividers that make them visible from the street but take some exploration to find from within the gallery. What are most visible within the gallery are photos of pellet-ridden black-painted plywood and sculptures cast from blocks of clay into which guns had been fired. (In fairness to the gallery staff, I understand that Larson’s decision to showcase this work rather than his more conventional photographs was made only shortly before the show was installed.)
There’s a certain Discovery Channel fascination to the sculptures, which resemble upended icicles, but neither the sculptures nor the plywood photos exercise much pull beyond their clever concept. Much more involving is the exhibit’s eponymous video, which—as the press release explains—“depicts a surreal, fantastical world where bundled-up characters repeatedly pass tubes of ice from one end of a shotgun house to the other.” The video is very much in the Matthew Barney mold, and I mean that as a compliment: evocative setting, bizarre-looking characters who undertake cryptic tasks with great solemnity, and stately photography featuring slow, steady panning shots. It’s like our own little Cremaster, with ice instead of Vaseline. All too perfect.
Jay Gabler (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.
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