2000 Best of the Twin Cities
BEST GROUP ART SHOW
Radiator’s UltraNormal at the MinnPar Building
Oh, to be a new “nomadic” arts organization like Radiator bursting on the scene, heart all aflutter with its first show! This exhibition from late September of last year was a colorful, energetic, and witty conglomeration of work by ten young local artists. And its mere existence indicates that good art continues to be made in the Twin Cities despite the relatively difficult time young artists have in making their mark. The work in all manner of media–painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, installation, and points in between–was vibrant and humorous, full of exuberance and color. Curator Lee Anne Swanson’s smallish paintings were dense with cake-frosting-colored swirls and depicted ironically idealized scenes of ducks, ponds, and the like; Carol Swiszcz’s faux-naif scratchy drawings–on paper, on the wall, on whatever was at hand–presented personal stories culled from her own Middle American life. That the show was exhibited in the far-off and grimy confines of an empty warehouse, the MinnPar Building, is indicative of the lack of money available to new art groups and young artists–and their ingenuity in facing that fact. That not much has been heard from Radiator nearly six months later gives one pause–and inspires prayers for another such burst of fresh energy in the often staid local art scene.
2001 Best of the Twin Cities
BEST NEW ART TREND
Invasion of the Young Turks
Much like the fin-de-siècle Ottoman Empire, today’s art world is stagnant and unproductive, a victim of the bloated success at the upper echelons (Manhattan’s art scene being a distant and inaccessible sultan’s palace, so to speak). Fortunately for the Ottomans, a collection of transnational army officers, dubbed the Young Turks, led a successful coup and after 1908 instituted a sweeping program of modernizing reforms. Our dismal local art scene is ripe for just the same sort of updating, so it is fortunate that a new class of brash young artists and gallery owners–Jo Del Pesco, John Corrigan, J. Heikes, Jennifer Murphy–are settling into town just as indicators point the fine-art world toward oblivion. Our Young Turks, like those of yore, come from all over–New Jersey, Delaware, Oregon, Georgia–apparently attracted to the high local standard of living by a sense of adventure, and, perhaps most important, our local sultanate of arts-funding institutions. The past few months things have been looking up in the art scene, as the Young Turks have opened new galleries such as the Waiting Room and the Radiator Art Exhibition Co. In the process, they’ve reinvigorated the exhibition options for an artist pool eager for new places to show work. We can only hope that our Young Turks stick around longer than the originals, whose ten years of inept rule eventually helped bring about World War I and the dissolution of the Ottoman state.
PULSE – of the Twin Cities
Central Air Opens in Uptown
BY NATASHA WALTER
Illustration by John Diebel
When John Corrigan noticed that the quaint space beside Lucia’s on 31st Street and Hennepin Avenue was for lease, he jumped on it. Not many people could seize such opportunities with so much ease, but it’s just that kind of zeal that makes Central Air, Uptown’s newest art gallery, unique. The name was chosen because, according to curator and owner Corrigan, “the energy it takes to cool is much greater than what it takes to actively heat a space.” Indeed, Central Air regards its artists’ work with a cool gaze, keenly curating just the right combination to make a successful show.
Central Air’s first exhibit, The Mayor of Uptown, is a quirky take on the man who lives upstairs from the gallery and owns numerous buildings in the Uptown area. The exhibit name aptly fits the spirit of the gallery. “As a curator and observer,” Corrigan says, “my intentions are to bring together seemingly disparate artists.”
With more than a dozen artists representing a multitude of genres, this grand opening group show is an extravaganza of artists with a message. An expressive junk sculpture dangles beside nature photographs; intimate collages hang next to vibrant paintings.
In small but expressive collages, artist John Diebel plays with the image of a gloomy fat man. In one piece, the character’s miserable fate finds him crouched on all fours with a cigarette butt snuffed out on his back. Another character Diebel uses is a mischievous bird-like critter. In one image this creature sits in a box on the kitchen floor, innocently gazing up, much like a playful cat who finds intrigue with an empty paper sack. Through these warm and cutting designs, Diebel resurrects a poignant quality reminiscent of youth’s raw expressiveness, but with a sophisticated twist.
In contrast, Clea Felien’s paintings, which were created by her non-dominant left hand, exude a stunning innocence. Though Felien has worked in classical-style painting, these works were produced in response to the positive reception of a few experiments. Each painting is childlike in approach (one depicts a small boat, for example), but sophisticated in content. Like Diebel, Felien’s work connects to childhood, but her results illicit a significantly different response from the viewer.
Add to the mix the husband and wife team of Michael and Abigail Mouw for even more diversity. Their rich, large-scale nature photographs are part of the collection now hanging at the newest light-rail station at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. These scenes expand the tradition of nature photography by adding eerie touches, such as the dark shadow of an ax reaching across an immense stump. Striking for their dazzling colors and sheer size, the images bring to the gallery nature’s struggle with mankind.
Bubbling on the surface of the exhibit is Jon Nelson’s raucous, hanging junk sculpture. Spilling out of this concoction are film reels, bent glasses, light-bulbs, flowers and various other accouterments. Nelson’s work reaches out and tries to wrap itself around the paintings and the viewers. The sheer energy of the sculpture’s physicality as a veritable life force kicks the show into gear, adding introspection and contemplation of all things junk.
Central Air is one of the newest galleries in town. But with a popular Uptown location and the extreme variety and one-of-a-kind charisma of this opening show, it’s likely to become a popular destination.