The Tenacity of Art
Wednesday 25 September @ 10:25:11
Rosalux Gallery Takes a Licking and Keeps on Kicking
by Donny Doane
I remember the last time I was in California visiting relatives. One morning, as I prepared to set out for a day at Laguna Beach, I donned my Speedboat Gallery T-shirt and drew an immediate reaction from my aunt. I explained what Speedboat was all about, to which she replied, “Well you’ll just love Laguna then. It’s a very arty community and has tons of wonderful galleries.”
“Cool,” I thought.
In previous visits, I had found California to be one of the most artless states I had ever been in, second only to the culturally arid waste that is Arizona, which is more or less the appendix of the Golden State—vestigial and useless. I looked at my day trip with new anticipation that Laguna might actually hold some artistic redemption for a place where everything looks the same, and nothing stands out. Sadly enough, it didn’t happen that way.
After checking out five or six galleries, my mind was numb and my stomach unsettled. Nonetheless, I had some good laughs. And though I’m no highbrow, what I beheld was either foof, poop, utter schlock, or all of the above. I mean this stuff made the “corn art” at the State Fair look like the work of near genius, to say nothing of spin art, and provided one more good reason why art courses should be abolished altogether.
Basically it was anything but art. It was more like design, and suitable only for such commercial functions as pimping, because it reeked of packaging. Naturally, I spent the remainder of my afternoon puffing some killer buds and body surfing some rad tubes. As they say, it’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there. No siree. I’m glad I have Minnesota, and even more glad that Minnesota has art. And despite a recent City Pages story that dealt with the mass exodus of local artists frustrated with the area’s glass ceiling and the attitudes of such fickle, fair-weather phonies in general, some folks are content to be here and carve out their own little niche.
Enter Rosalux Gallery, one of Northeast Minneapolis’ newest and most promising collectives, whose inception came a mere seven months ago. Much like St. Paul’s Speedboat, Rosalux is a highly independent entity. See, we live in a culture dominated by big shooters on high who do their very best at making the little people feel small. This, however, does not daunt those of individuality; in fact it adds fuel to the fire. For those of lesser discrimination, or adventurous taste, to say the least, a trip to your local realtor’s office just might provide the fascination and satisfaction with what kind of crap they might have hanging from their walls. And if that’s what you like, there’s always Laguna Beach, or Grand Avenue for that matter.
Despite its relative youth, Rosalux has quite a history, and a colorful one at that. It narrowly survived a four-alarm Mother’s Day blaze that gutted the neighboring automotive shop, the cause of which is shrouded in suspicion, and the result of which was profound loss without any hope of financial or material compensation. Local mainstream media provided only topical coverage of the disaster, however, it’s safe to surmise that the owner of the auto shop who “burned his own hands trying to subdue the fire he caused due to his own negligence” was operating a meth lab and not changing points and plugs. Due to this rodent’s criminal activities and complete lack of any comprehensive insurance policy, Rosalux had to close its doors after sustaining smoke and water damage, and a couple of local rock bands who were renting out the galleries’ basement for practice space lost all their gear, as it was flooded with seven feet of water used to fight the fire.
But owing to a number of factors, tenacity being only one of them, the heart of Rosalux didn’t stop beating. And due largely to the determination of Rosalux main man Terrence Payne, the doors are open once again after a costly cleanup and remodeling that anyone should know no independent artist can easily afford. Payne and his cohorts weren’t about to let the misbehavior of some two-bit crook dampen the dream they worked so hard to make come true, and with that strengthened resolve, they’re right back at it.
The fire however, was only the first in a set of tribulations that beset Rosalux. Not long into the cleanup, a car slammed into the back door of the gallery. When I asked Terry if the driver was intoxicated, he replied, “I don’t know, they never caught’em. But obviously they were together enough to remove all traceable information. I mean the cops didn’t even show up for two hours after the call.”
When asked what kind of car it was, he shrugs, “It had mags.”
In an attempt to redeem the cops’ lackadaisical response and attitude, he added, “Well maybe it was just an hour. I like to exaggerate. It makes for a better story.”
If that weren’t enough, to add insult to injury, the gallery also fell victim to burglars whose only quarry seemed to be Terry’s Macintosh computer, which was sitting in a highly visible location right inside the front door and might as well have had a “Steal Me” neon sign above it.
“Well, it’s not like anyone’s going to steal art,” he quipped, and further redeemed the police, adding, “They were pretty cool after the break-in, though. They at least tried to find whatever it was that was thrown through the window. The funny thing is, is that we had been talking about getting security at the monthly meetings, but just kept blowing it off. I also know now not to replace steel doors with glass ones.”
“So yeah,” he continued, “after the meth lab, the pit bulls, the crying mothers at the Otter Bar, the Batmobile…it took us about two months to get up and running again. And since we couldn’t afford another space at a different location, we had to stay here.”
Artist Scott Neff added, “We were wondering if we should just paint a big bull’s-eye on the side of the building.”
Their latest opening, which was also the official reopening, took place only days after the lowly and tedious Uptown Art Fair (take the “f” from Fair, tack it on to Art and you get the picture) an event at which Payne had a booth last summer, but failed to make a solitary sale. His only comment on the Lame Minnesota Get-Together that is home to driftwood sculpture and other such crafts was, “It isn’t art and it isn’t fair.”
The event was billed as a meat raffle, a phenomenon particular in its choice of setting, namely the type of bars that populate Nordeast and suchlike working-class type neighborhoods. Rosalux, however, put its own spin on it by serving meat and raffling off the art. A nominal 5 dollars per ticket bought the chance to win any number of member’s contributions, all meat-oriented and so dripping with the spontaneity the evening called for. As Terry explained the night before the show, “Yeah, we’re raffling off the art and it all has to be about meat. Come to think of it, I haven’t even started mine yet. I should probably get going.”
In defiance of the hardships and setbacks they’ve endured, Rosalux has seen more than marginal success at its openings both in terms of enthusiastic attendance and actual sales. Not to cheapen the motive with dollar sign figures that often require commas, but it is highly gratifying to earn that extra buck when the value of that buck is applied to what one loves doing.
Payne’s work lightly recalls that of Dutch Renaissance painter Hieronymous Bosch. Though not as pessimistic or demon-addled, he employs themes of commonplace torture and routine rigors by utilizing everyday objects and devices such as gasoline cans, mufflers, toilets and furniture much like Bosch peppered his visions with the alchemical implements of his time, perhaps in an attempt to both offset and complement the more frightening aspects of the horrors of existence and the dread that lies beyond it. Corpulent, puffy marshmallow-like shapes and faces abound, and the prevalence of olives, maraschino cherries and dainty parasols might suggest that Terry has been working in the service industry a wee bit too long. His use of colors can be stunning, and clash only to the point where the eyes of the beholder don’t quite jump, but rather teeter on the brink of doing so. Instead of sprawling, swarming psychodramas, Payne studies something with a diligent and attentive sense of proximity, which leads the viewer’s focus toward deciphering something singular rather than a vast overview of something so confounding and complex as the ultimate fate of humanity and its condition.
Amelia Bierwald-Low offers her squishy, pliable latex sculptures of cosmetic surgery gone awry. Gruesome boob-jobs festooned with insane stitching make one tentatively want to reach out and touch them only to retract that reach with a squeezable, queasiness and an audible “Eeewww.”
Collage artists Darrin Mueske and Scott Neff concoct busy cut and pastes that should leave one looking for a center of gravity that no matter how far flung, just might find its way back home amid scattered text and images. And as most openings usually feature two house artists, the most recent, starting last Friday, features Mueske’s collages and paintings by Neff. When Rosalux was closed during the cleanup, they held shows at alternate locations, one of which was another Mueske and Neff affair at Olive Salon, where Terry’s girlfriend Carolyn Cushman trims the tresses of many local troublemakers. Olive, located at 1506 Nicollet Avenue regularly hosts the work of the Rosalux crew as does Rock Star, a trendy new restaurant in downtown Minneapolis.
Other Rosalux artists include Shawn McNulty, Neil Rasmussen, John-Mark Schlink, Mary Sullivan and Dan Buettner. The gallery is located at 628 Central Avenue NE, so if you want to view the work of these fine folks, get the old caboose in gear. The openings are always some type of fun shindig with a unifying theme such as the meat raffle. Beer and wine are offered as well as finger food, and all for a modest recommended donation. And in the same spirit of Speedboat, which hosted tons of great all-ages rock shows in the basement, live local music at the openings is regularly featured so as to make it more of an event with something for everyone rather than just a plain old art opening.
When I conferred with Terry about what images he’d like to use for the story, I almost talked him into using his own mug for the cover from which he later acquiesced. One is a high school sports shot with Terry sporting the ever fashionable mullet, while the other has him holding a teddy bear and is exquisitely sissy. Both are hilarious, and when I asked which of the two he’d like to use, he reconsidered saying, “We better wait. I should probably figure it out when I’m not hung over.”
“Rats!” said I.
“No,” he continued, “I have some really good shots of the openings and the place is packed, so you don’t see that a lot.”
“What?” I asked, “Crowded art galleries?”
“Exactly,” he finishes.
Rosalux Gallery is open to the public Saturdays and Sundays from noon to five. Their website can also be visited at rosaluxgallery.com. Telephone: 612-252-0124.