by Natasha Walter
The Minneapolis College of Art and Design’s exhibit Four McKnight Artists highlights work selected by the McKnight Foundation Fellowship Program for Visual Artists. The Foundation was established “with the purpose of identifying and rewarding outstanding Minnesota artists who are at a mid-level stage in their careers and have an established record of artistic success. Fellows receive a cash award of $25,000, which allows them the freedom to pursue their own work over a 12-month period.”
Ana Lois-Borzi rescues childhood objects from thrift stores and roadsides. As
beneficent as this enthusiastic mission may seem, she does not pretend to give
these objects a “better life,” rather she violates what was once
loved. In “You're Killing Me,” a small legless and armless mouse
lies limp in a sealed plastic baggie, an amorphous piece of clay resembling
vomit hangs mockingly beside it along with a small picture frame showcasing
miniature ink blots. Clearly a great deal of thought went into organizing these
objects in a way that was meant to be vague, yet evocative. Still, I couldn’t
help but feel cheated by the absence of both visual and narrative detail.
Marquette uses explosives, chemicals and other dangerous nontraditional art
material to create his sculptural installations. “Shed” is a shockingly
bright green, child-size dwelling constructed in log-cabin style, but with transparent
acrylic tubes filled with anti-freeze and plugged with rubber stoppers. The
shed looks uninhabitable (there are no doors or windows) and yet, being the
classic signifier for home, one can’t help but entertain the idea of walking
in. The most stimulating aspect of Marquette’s work, however, is that
he blurs the line between architecture, design and fine art.
Erika Olson’s work is arguably the most traditionally beautiful collection
in the show. In the spirit of decorative Japanese art, Olson uses ornamental
motifs, a vibrant array of colors and nature-inspired subjects. In “A
Certain Satisfaction from Unsubstantiated Worry,” a lilting wreath of
yellow flowers stretches across the painting’s glossy wood surface, while
gusts of black blow in from the edges. It is certainly a beautiful design in
and of itself, but add its provocative title and the deceptive but palpable
pleasures of anxiety bloom.
Joe Smith’s work is minimal to the extreme, elevating everyday objects
to the status of highbrow art. Using cheap synthetic materials, Smith creates
installations such as a platform on which the only decorative element is silver
tinsel streaming down from the stage to the floor. Out of the corner juts an
unidentifiable object, creating a loose and intentionally subjective narrative
that is either enraging or alluring.
MCAD’s Four McKnight Artists show is worth seeing for the plethora
of questions it raises. Parts of the show are less sophisticated than might
be expected, but bring a friend or two, sit down for a cup of coffee afterwards
and have some fun coming to your own conclusions. ||
Four McKnight Artists runs through Aug. 7 at MCAD Gallery, 2501 Stevens
Ave. S., Mpls. 612-874-3700. Hours are Mon.–Fri. 9 a.m.–8 p.m.;
Sat. 9 a.m.–5 p.m. & Sun. noon–5 p.m.